Local laws that can easily catch you out

Posted Date: 27 May 2015
Local laws

Travelling can be a great adventure but foreign countries can have some different laws, making it easy to get into trouble with the local authorities. As a rule, it’s better to stay out of trouble in the first place, so we thought we’d share some of the stranger laws you may encounter while on holiday.

What’s wrong with a thong?

Well it seem that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, so you might want to keep those budgie smugglers on the beach. Barcelona passed a law in 2011 to ban swimming attire that isn’t near a body of water. So please, no walking through the hot streets in your togs, no matter how comfortable they are.

Like Barcelona, wearing togs away from the beach in Dubai is against the law. Actually swimsuits in general should be modest. If you’re a bit of a naturist, watch out because any form of nudity even on a beach is not allowed.


The seemingly innocuous act of connecting to an unsecured WiFi hot spot can land you in hot water. In Canada and the UK, it’s considered theft, whereas Singapore see it as hacking. The USA also frowns upon unauthorised access to wireless networks, but each state has its own legislation. So as tempting as it may be, stick to hotspots you have permission to use and you’ll stay out of trouble.

Don’t pop my bubble

We have all heard about the strict laws in Singapore regarding chewing gum. It’s illegal to import chewing gum into Singapore and this includes bringing in boxes for your own use. In 2004 the laws relaxed and allowed chewing gum for teeth whitening purposes to be sold but you won’t find it at your local convenience store. Pharmacies can sell it and doctors can prescribe nicotine chewing gum.

Whatever you do don't spit it out on the streets, this can lead to a $500 fine.

Along with chewing gum, feeding pigeons and not flushing public toilets can also get you a hefty fine.

007 – licence to drink

Dubai has a thriving nightlife with many nightclubs and bars. The drinking age is 21 and drinking or being drunk in public is not tolerated at all. Technically you are required to have a licence to drink. They’re relatively easy to get, so it’s worth the effort, as the consequences of drinking without a licence can be anything from a fine to imprisonment.

So trashy

Like most countries, in Thailand littering is against the law.  If you are caught litering by the BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Authority) you could be fined up to 2000 baht.  But beware there are many scammers who pretend to be BMA and will try to ask for more baht.  If you think you’re being scammed just ask for their ID and watch them quickly walk away.

Don’t stop to stretch your legs

Have you always wanted to drive on the Autobahn? If so, make sure you have a full tank of gas because running out of petrol is illegal on Germany’s famous autobahn. The fine is approximately €80. If you do happen to run out of gas don’t think you can just wander off to the next gas station because walking on the Autobahn is also illegal.  So make sure you check the tank before heading out on the open road.

DIY breath test

If you’re in France and not sure if that drink has put you over the limit, fear not! In France, drivers are legally required to carry a portable Breathalyzer in their vehicle or motorcycle. If you’re caught without this gadget you could be expected to pay €11. While this law applies equally to tourists, enforcement has been delayed.

From dusk till dawn

Planning on driving in Sweden? Make sure you keep your headlights on 24 hours a day. We’re used to doing this when the weather is bad but in Sweden you’re legally required to keep your headlights blazing day and night even during their summer months. 

When in Rome?

Well the same goes for Venice, so make sure you don’t get caught out by a couple of these simple little rules. Feeding the pigeons in the plazas and eating on the steps of a church could get you unwanted attention from the polizia. Usually they’ll just tell you off, but they do hand out the odd small fine to tourists. 

Harassing women

Sounds logical really but you may be surprised what the United Arab Emirates consider this to be. It includes unwanted conversations and prolonged stares or even eye contact. Taking a photo of a woman without permission is illegal and can lead to an arrest or heavy fine.  

I kissed a girl

Egypt is another country that forbids kissing in public and holding hands isn’t appreciated either. They have indecency laws and police can choose to enforce them if couples become a bit too touchy-feely.

United Arab Emirates are particularly strict on most forms of physical contact even between married couples. In most cases the law is stringently enforced and can carry very tough penalties so we recommend you take a careful look at the local laws before you arrive.

Ignorance isn’t bliss

Some of these laws may seem ridiculous but when it comes to travel insurance it’s pretty simple really – you need to abide by the local laws. If you do get into trouble with the local law, you may also run the risk of jeopardising your travel insurance. Ignorance is definitely is not bliss, so have fun but stay sharp out there.

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