Cultures around the world vary, and so do laws. Due to sacred beliefs, long-running traditions, and overall socio-cultural diversity, what may seem totally normal here may be offensive—even criminal—in another land.
Below are some laws you have to strictly observe when traveling abroad, lest be prepared to pay a stiff fine or, worse, do some jail time.
1. Taking that prohibited snap in Kazakhstan
Although most establishments don’t post notices, taking photos of airport facilities is illegal in Kazakhstan, and so is taking snaps of government, military, and other official buildings. Doing so might have officials mistake you for a spy, for which you could face imprisonment.
2. Spitting in Singapore
It’s illegal to chew gum in the premises of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in Singapore. It’s an offense as grave as smoking in unauthorized areas. There was even a time when selling and importing gum was banned in the country, due to excessive vandals in public transport. Today, however, chewing gum is allowed but regulated in Singapore. Spitting on the streets equates to a fine of SG$700.
3. Bringing that one book in the Maldives…and a few other countries
It’s offensive to bring the Bible in the predominantly Islamic country. Other countries such as Somalia, Morocco, Libya, and Uzbekistan–as well as North Korea, where it is a capital crime–also observe the same law.
4. Paying barya in Canada
As per Canada’s Currency Act Section 8(2), retail establishments can legally refuse excessive amount of coins. The exact provision is as follows:
(2) Payment in coins referred to in subsection (1) is a legal tender for no more than the following amounts for the following denominations of coins:
(a) Forty dollars if the denomination is two dollars or greater but does not exceed ten dollars;
(b) Twenty-five dollars if the denomination is one dollar;
(c) Ten dollars if the denomination is ten cents or greater but less than one dollar;
(d) Five dollars if the denomination is five cents; and
(e) Twenty-five cents if the denomination is one cent.
• Coins of denominations greater than ten dollars
(2.1) In the case of coins of a denomination greater than ten dollars, a payment referred to in subsection (1) may consist of not more than one coin, and the payment is a legal tender for no more than the value of a single coin of that denomination.
5. Feeding the pigeons in San Francisco, US
Pigeons are said to spread disease and damage properties, so it’s illegal to feed these birds on the streets in SanFo. Citizens are even encouraged to report those who are caught feeding these squawkers.
6. Giving your kid a non-Danish name
Planning to have a baby in Denmark? The country has official child-naming guidelines to be followed. Under the Law on Personal Names, children’s first names should be picked from approved 18,000 female names and approved 15,000 male names. Other than that, you’re going to have to wrestle with the government for your rights to naming your little one “Alden.”
7. Wearing high heels in tourist spots in Greece
Going on sightseeing in the historic places in Greece? Don’t wear stilettos because the government is preserving the ancient monuments and high heels might damage them. Eleni Korka, Director of Greek Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, explains that these ancient shrines “have a skin that suffers.”
8. Driving a dirty car in Russia
Driving a dirty car is against the law in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Driving a dirty can cost you 2,000 rubles, or around $62, as fine. What a way to keep your ride spic and span.