Why You Need To Look Up Laws Before Travelling

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According to the World Tourism Organisation, we travelling now more than ever. And this supports a previous study that says experiences and doing things have begun to trump that happiness that comes from owning material things. But as it is with these things, an increase in travels also sees an increase in misbehaving travellers.

We see tourists arrested for “accidentally” breaking laws constantly and in 2017, the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) had to deal with over 23,000 cases of Britons falling foul of local laws.

You don’t want to end up a statistic, so read up on local laws before you travel. And if you don’t think it’s that bad, we’ve rounded up some customs and laws that could land you with a fine or, worse, in jail.

No Buddha tattoos or selfies in Sri Lanka

While there is no specific law banning Buddha tattoos, the mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence that has gotten tourists into trouble before. British nationals have been refused entry to Sri Lanka or faced deportation for having visible tattoos of Buddha.

It goes without saying that you should respect any ‘no photography’ signage, but you might want to shy away from posing for any Buddha selfies even if there are no signs, as turning your back against the statue is a sign of disrespect.

The dry state that is Brunei

Alcohol is illegal in Brunei, and cannot be sold or consumed openly. Foreign visitors who are non-Muslim above the age of 17 are allowed to bring in two bottles of liquor or 12 cans of beer within 48 hours, but you can only drink them in your place of residence.

No e-cigarettes in Thailand

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You can’t bring vaporisers or refills into Thailand. These items are likely to be confiscated and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted. The country has also banned smoking across 24 beaches in 15 provinces, including some of its most popular tourist destinations in an effort to protect its coastal environment. So definitely pay mind to where you smoke.

No mooning in Greece

Indecent behaviour, including mooning, isn’t tolerated in Greece, and could result in arrest and a fine, or even a prison sentence. Sounds like a joke? Tell that to the man who was sentenced to pay a €3,000 fine or spend year in jail, after drunkenly dropping his trousers on a busy street and mooning at no one in particular. Three tourists back in 2005 were also charged with indecent exposure and jailed pending a trial over their nude protest on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Have enough cash for your Vietnam trip

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Compelled to busk or beg-pack (people who travel backpacker-style on a beggar’s budget, and end up asking for donations and handouts from locals) your way through Asia? While there is stigma attached to it, it is important to note that it is flat out illegal in some countries. Vietnam, for instance, takes a strong stance on street begging, and the department of foreign affairs will direct foreign beggars to their respective embassies for assistance. In other words, don’t do it lest you want to be deported or banned from entering Vietnam again.

Don’t destroy currency in Turkey

It is an offence to insult the Turkish nation or the flag, or to deface or tear up currency. If you are convicted of any of offences, you prison sentence of between six months and three years.

Medication ban in Japan

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The use or possession of some medicine like Vicks Inhalers or painkillers containing Codeine is banned in Japan, and can result in detention and deportation. Some countries like Singapore require a written prescription for sleeping pills, as does Qatar with certain over-the-counter cold and cough remedies.

While we’re at it, commonly-prescribed medication can often fall under controlled drugs category in a country outside of your home, so check the regulations in the country you wish to visit unless you’re willing to risk a fine, detention, or imprisonment.

No smoking in public in Ukraine

Ukraine became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on 4 September 2006, and since then have made a gargantuan effort of maintaining a smoke-free environment. Smoking is only allowed in designated areas and most public places ban smoking altogether, including government establishments, public transportation, entrances to residential buildings, underground crossings, playgrounds, parks, and restaurants.

No camouflage attire in the Caribbean

In many Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, wearing camouflage clothing, is illegal, even if it is worn by a child. The law also restricts the wearing of any uniform – or part thereof – worn by any military organisation of any other country. Staff Judge Advocate of the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF), Orlando Michael, said that the move is to ensure that no one mistakes a civilian for a military person.

Don’t feed the pigeons in St Mark’s Square, Venice

You could face a fine for feeding pigeons in St Mark’s Square, Venice. The act was outlawed in 2008 when the tourist feeding frenzy made St. Mark’s the year-round home for many pigeons who set up nests in elegant cornices and other fragile spots.

No chewing gum in Singapore

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Some might view gum chewing as a social offence, but in Singapore it’s very much a criminal one. The laws have been in place since 1992 to maintain a cleaner Singapore. Exceptions has been made for therapeutic, dental, and nicotine chewing gum since 2004, but we’d still tread carefully with this one.

Don’t step on currency in Thailand

Thai baht carries an image of the much-revered King of Thailand, who has ruled the country for 70 years. Stepping on the currency, and therefore his face, is a criminal act. It’s also against the law to insult his majesty. If found guilty, you could face up to 10 years in jail so we’d recommend keeping your feet (and mouth) in check.

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Sue May
Whiskey drinker. Whimsy finder. Word writer. Sue May is a fan of big words and arcane definitions. Fascinated with stories, this honorary Geordie enjoys stumbling down well-trodden paths, roads less travelled by, and meeting new people. (Sometimes she writes about them.)

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