8 Unexpected Laws That Could Turn Your Vacation Time into Jail Time

OK…so you think you already know the basics for staying out of trouble when traveling abroad, right? You’ve seen “Locked Up Abroad,” and you’re not interested in following in their footsteps! You know better than to smuggle drugs, obviously, and you are aware that observing the customs of the country or countries you are visiting is courteous and appreciated. But did you know that breaking some “unexpected” laws in several countries could impact your wallet … or even send you to jail! Here are several of the craziest and most unexpected activities that could get you in trouble when you’re abroad … you might thank me later!

  1. Not Flushing a Public Toilet in Singapore

    Singapore likes to keep its streets and facilities clean — I’m sure you’ve heard about the gum thing — but did you know that neglecting to flush could cost you $500!? And littering could cost up to $1,000. Breaking the infamous bubble gum law can cost you $600! While the only penalty is a stiff fine, it’s probably a good idea to respect the city’s wishes and keep that gum at home … and remember to flush! (But you do that anyway … right??)

  2. Stepping on Money in Thailand

    Thai currency, called the Baht, has the likeness of the Thai royal family on it, and defacing any image of the royal family is against the law and could land you in jail. So keep an eye on your cash and treat it well!

  3. Bringing Sudafed into Japan

    In Japan, over-the-counter allergy and sinus medications that contain the ingredient pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, are banned under Japan’s anti-stimulant drug laws. Medications that feature codeine are also prohibited and shouldn’t be brought into Japan. In addition, many prescription medications that are legal elsewhere are illegal in Japan, so be sure to do your homework!

  4. Water Guns in Phnom Penh

    In 2001, Governor Chea Sophara banned the sale and use of all water guns in the Cambodian capitol because of potential accidents or even malicious use of the water guns, specifically during the Khmer New Year in April. Water guns probably aren’t a must-have in your luggage, but you never know!

  5. Bringing a Bible with you to the Maldives

    In the Maldives (home of breathtaking overwater bungalows), public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited, and it’s an offense to import Bibles into the country. To ensure that you don’t upset the locals or run afoul of the law, don’t bring a Bible along on your trip.

  6. Kissing or Holding Hands in the United Arab Emirates!

    Public displays of affection (kissing, hugging, or even holding hands) should be avoided while traveling in the UAE … even its main city of Dubai. Tourists have been arrested and thrown in jail for kissing in public. And, did you know that it is technically illegal for non-married couples to share a hotel room? A little harder to enforce, but a law, nonetheless!

  7. Topless Sunbathing in Fiji!

    Fiji is a beautiful tropical paradise where sunbathing and swimming are part of daily life, but don’t get caught with your top (or pants) down … Fiji is an extremely conservative nation and public nudity and topless swimming or sunbathing are illegal. So stay covered up and out of jail.

  8. Going “commando” in Thailand

    Thailand has a bunch of strange laws, but perhaps the most difficult to enforce (and a personal favorite to imagine how it might be enforced) is the law prohibiting leaving your house without underwear on. Make sure you take that into account when packing or plan on washing your unmentionables frequently so you don’t run out! It’s unclear to me exactly how this could be enforced, but I don’t think I’d want to find out what the inside of a Thai prison looks like ….. would you?

So, be sure to familiarize yourself with some of these strange and baffling laws before you travel … a good travel professional can help you navigate the process. I appreciate my customers greatly, but I really don’t want to add “arranging bail” to my list of services!

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