Curious Laws and Customs Around the World


When travelling around the world, it’s important to be aware of local laws and customs by checking travel advice before you go, because certain things that we do every day and see as completely normal in this country can actually be a criminal offence abroad, punishable by a fine or even a prison sentence. 

You don’t just encounter these differing laws when you travel far and wide, there are actually many things that you may not realise could get you in trouble in Europe. For example, in the last couple of months, flip flops, pumps and sandals have been banned for tourists who choose to walk the steep, winding trails of Italy’s beautiful Cinque Terre coastline. Ignoring this new rule could leave you with a fine of up to £2,500, which could well ruin your holiday!

Another thing you might not have known is that in some parts of Spain it’s against the law to be in the street wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts/trunks. Being bare-chested has also been banned! You could be fined if you’re caught wearing swimwear on the seafront promenade or the adjacent streets, so check if this applies to your holiday destination, and think twice before you leave the beach to go and get an ice cream! In France, it’s worth noting that concealing your face in public places is illegal and is also punishable with a fine. This includes balaclavas, full veils and any other garment or mask that hides the face.

If you travel out of Europe, you may meet laws that carry heftier punishments, and the crimes are often far more unusual. For example, not only is it illegal to chew gum in Singapore, but it’s also against the law to bring it into the country – who’d have thought?! That’s definitely one to remember if you’re someone who always has a packet of gum lurking at the bottom of your handbag! Another one, which may appear strange to us Brits, is in Japan, where it’s illegal to bring some common medicines into the country, such as Vicks inhalers, medicines for allergies and sinus problems, cold and flu medication containing Pseudoephedrine and even some over-the-counter painkillers like those containing Codeine.

In Thailand, a common destination for student travellers, fines or even prison sentences can be handed out to those who use, sell, or try to bring electronic cigarettes into the country. In many countries you might travel to for a relaxing summer holiday, such as Fiji, topless bathing is forbidden and you should cover shoulders and knees in rural villages. Rules like this are common in many countries if you travel further afield, particularly those in the Middle East, where you have to be especially careful. It’s important to know that cross-dressing is illegal in the UAE. 

As interesting and comical as some of these laws and local customs are, it’s worth taking note of them to avoid complications on holiday. These are only a few, so make sure you do your research and check the FCO site each time you go abroad, as ignorance is rarely considered an excuse!


Fourth year English Lit and French student. 2018/19 Lifestyle Editor.

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