Strange Laws That You May Not Be Aware Of

What happens when a mere cultural faux pas turns into breaking the law?

You just might get yourself thrown in jail in a foreign country – and all for breaking a law you didn’t even know existed!

Be sure to brush up on your destination’s laws the next time you travel abroad, especially if it’s to one of the following countries:

Italy: Birds And Smiles

Don’t get caught feeding the pigeons in Venice. Even a single bread crumb can get you fined.

In order to curb the growing pigeon population, the Italian government made feeding the birds illegal throughout Venice, initially exempting iconic St. Mark’s Square. But now even St. Mark’s is off limits, so beware of any desperate birdseed sellers still trying to hawk their illicit pigeon snacks.

And in Milan it is law that you should smile at all time, not that there's is much to frown about in this Iconic Italian city, however on those low days you could be hit with a fine.

Spain: No Baring All in Barcelona

This Barcelona law takes “No shirt, no shoes, no service” to a whole new level.

If you’re near the beach in Barcelona, make sure to cover up – unless you’re physically on the sand or swimming in the ocean.

Yep, that’s right – swim trunks, bikinis, and scantily-clad beachwear of any kind is illegal to wear unless you’re actually at the beach.

Are You An Accidental Criminal?

Thailand: Some Old Laws Still Apply

Thailand, with its beaches, islands and cultural attractions is not surprisingly one of the most visited countries in the world for Westerners.  However few visitors would know that there are a few old laws that still apply and are very enforceable when it suits the local authorities.

For instance, it is illegal to leave your house (or hotel) without underwear, so if you like going commando, think twice. Avoid stepping on any Thai currency, if caught, you will be charged for an offence against the King, not something that is taken lightly in the Kingdom, as the Kings images appears on all notes and coins.

And when on your Thai island holiday keep your shirt on when riding a motorcycle it remains a crime to operate any motorized vehicle bare chested (for both genders).

Singapore: Less Chewing, Please

Fresh breath may be legal on Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit system, but chewing gum isn’t.

Go ahead and pop a mint if the person squeezed next to you on the train is cute, but steer clear of chewing gum. In fact, since 2004 the only gum that can be legally purchased in Singapore must be prescribed by a doctor.

The fine for conspicuous chomping? $500! Then, if you happen to drop that piece of gum on the ground you’ll get an additional $300 fine for littering.

If you think chewing gum penalties are tough, resist any desire to leave your mark on Singapore with a little graffiti. Not only is it illegal, any damage to public or private property, including graffiti carries a potential sentence of jail plus a caning of up to 6 stokes.

Australia: How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take?

In Victoria, Australia, the only person who can change a lightbulb is a certified electrician.

It’s not clear how the police enforce this law in the homes of private citizens, but luckily the fine isn’t steep for breaking it at just AU$10.

United Kingdom: Thou Shalt Not Die

If you happen to be visiting the House of Parliament in London, take care not to have a heart attack and die. If you do (um, die, that is), you’ll be breaking the law.

It’s not known how the consequences of the transgressions of the deceased are enforced, what with them being dead and all, but better safe than sorry – if you’re feeling a bit under the weather, steer clear of the Parliament tour!

Are You An Accidental Criminal?

Japan: Criminal Waistlines

In 2008, the Japanese government passed the Metabo Law in order to curb obesity in that country.

While it’s not exactly illegal to be fat, it is illegal for men and women between the ages of 45 and 74 to skip their annual waist-measuring doctor’s visit.

If at that visit, a person’s waistline exceeds the government’s national limits (35.4 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women), they may have to undergo medical treatment. I wonder how that bodes for Sumo wrestlers.

Learning about the laws of your travel destination is a great way to understand the culture – and the best way to protect yourself from fines and potential jail time!

Keep in mind that things that seem “normal” or “polite” to you might be considered abnormal and downright rude in other countries.

Do your research, tread carefully, and be sure to apologize profusely if you happen to make a mistake (especially if that mistake is made in front of a police officer).

Rebecca Anne Nguyen is a freelance writer and the Founder of, an inspiration site for solo female travellers.