Vacation can be expensive, but we’d bet you don’t want to add a hefty fine (or bail money) to that total. Check out these seven weird laws before your next overseas trip.
1. Chewing Gum In Singapore
When heading to Singapore, be sure to leave the Hubba-Bubba at home. After its independence from Japan and Great Britain in 1965, Singapore’s then leader, Lee Kuan Yew, hatched a survival plan hinged on efforts to turn the city-state into a “first-world oasis in a third world region.” The first order of business? Creating and enforcing laws and rules to keep public spaces clean — apparently, a ban on chewing gum would do just that.
And perhaps he was right because before long Singapore was outstripping other more developed countries in terms of cleanliness and efficient transport systems. It’s hard to say if a chewing gum ban alone changed that, but it’s likely that the gum (and the laundry list of other banned substances) played some role in Singapore’s spotless reputation. And though you won’t be thrown in jail for chewing gum in Singapore, you will be asked to pay a (quite hefty) fine. If you really need a breath freshener, opt for an Altoid.
2. Wearing Camouflage Clothing In Barbados
Unless you’re a member of the military, it’s best to leave any camouflage clothing at home when headed to Barbados (or any other Caribbean country, for that matter). This ban, created by Prime Minister Tom Adams, prevents impersonation of a BDF soldier, either by would-be rebels or flippant tourists. This includes camouflage of any color — not just khaki. And though some police are a bit lackadaisical about the ban, a majority of them still enforce it. People found in contravention of this law could be faced with a heavy fine from the court, and failure to pay may result in a jail sentence.
3. Talking About Royalty In Thailand
Thailand takes their royalty very seriously, and it is important to note that any foul language or defamation of the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent can land you up to 15 years in prison. The lèse-majesté law has been on the books since 1908 and has been described as the “world’s harshest lèse majesté law” and “possibly the strictest criminal-defamation law anywhere.” So, what consists of defamation? This includes things like speculating about the king’s health, discussing his successor, and a myriad of other seemingly innocuous conversational topics about the royal family. If you’re in Thailand, it’s best to avoid the subject altogether.
4. High Heeled Shoes In Greece
These boots were made for walking, just as long as they don’t have heels! Certain places in Greece, specifically ancient monuments, have banned high-heels. This rule was created in 2009 after it was concluded that sharp shoes were only adding to the wear and tear of protected ancient and religious sites. Many preservationists refer to these national treasures as having “skin,” and wearing sharp-heeled shoes creates wounds on this skin. While we’re on the subject of banned substances, make sure not to bring in any outside food or beverages while visiting these protected monuments.
5. Taking Painkillers In The UAE
Travelers headed to the United Arab Emirates are advised to familiarize themselves with common banned substances, including medications they can and cannot bring into the country. For example, anything with codeine inside is a hard no. Even possession of common over-the-counter remedies may be considered as serious narcotics in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. It is best practice to carry your medications in their original packaging, accompanied by a doctor’s letter and a note as to what is in your prescription (with your name on it.) The UAE has a very strict, zero-tolerance anti-drugs policy and possession of even tiny amounts of illegal substances may result in severe punishments.
6. Feeding The Birds In Venice
If you’ve ever visited St. Mark’s Square in Venice, you’ll know how any pigeons call that fabled piazza home. You may be tempted to win the favor of your new feathered friends by offering them some bread of birdseed. But that would be a bad idea. Those acting as bird waiters can be fined upwards of $700, as in 2008 a municipal ordinance banning people from feeding the birds in the square went into effect. This was met with a slew of complaints, from tourists and locals alike, who claim that this will end centuries-old traditions of feeding the birds. But the city continued with the ban, citing the birds as a health hazard and bad for the monuments. Makes sense. You don’t want to bring home avian flu as a Venetian keepsake.
If you’re traveling abroad to any of these countries, make sure you don’t wind up facing an unnecessary fine (or winding up in the pokey). That’ll really ruin your vacation!