Travelling is pretty much synonymous with adventure (or in some cases, misadventure). It’s an exciting time of visiting unfamiliar places and cultures, sampling exotic foods and generally trying new things. We each have our own styles and ways of getting around the globe, but I think we can all agree on one thing—we don’t want to get into (too much) trouble, especially in foreign lands with different rules.
It’s not that difficult to be a good tourist, generally stick to “good people” etiquette and listen to common sense. However, it’s good to bear in mind that different countries have laws and customs that are not necessarily logical to visitors.
Offenses considered tiny in your country could be big infractions in other countries. It’s always smart to research the laws and customs of the places you are planning to visit. It’s about staying out of trouble and being respectful to other cultures.
The Independent previously published a piece on Venice’s new tourist rules, of which there are many, such as no swimming in any of the canals and no snacking or eating food by any historical monuments or bridges.
Check out these five violations (and resulting fines!) that you definitely want to avoid on your travels:
1. Don’t engage in public displays of affection in the United Arab Emirates
The penalty: Fines, deportation and/or jail time
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is very strict about public decency. In 2017, two tourists—a male and a female—were sentenced to a month in prison for violating public decency laws in Dubai.
The couple were kissing in a public restroom in a gas station, where they were caught by a member of staff. The incident was reported to the station manager, who then alerted the police.
Besides engaging in public displays of affection or anything considered “indecent”, urinating in public and flipping someone the middle finger are other violations that will cost you dearly (in the form of fines, jail time and even deportation) while travelling in the UAE.
2. Don’t bring over-the-counter medication to Japan
The penalty: A fine of up to 5 million yen
Japan has some pretty strict laws on the medication that visitors can bring into their country. Be sure to check Japan’s drug laws before you plan a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun as many over-the-counter medications in the United States, for example, are banned there.
For example, it is worth noting that any drug or product that contains over 10 percent pseudoephedrine is strictly illegal in Japan. Even some of the more common prescription drugs aren’t allowed into the country, like those containing amphetamines and methamphetamines, including common medication for ADHD, such as Adderall.
For those planning to travel to Japan for longer than a month with important medication, you might need to consider obtaining an import certificate called a “Yakkan Shoumei” for your prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.
3. Don’t swear in public parks in Toronto
The penalty: A fine of over CA$200 (S$205)
Canadians are famous for their extremely polite, peace-loving attitudes and ways. It comes as no surprise, then, that in Toronto, the municipal code prohibits “riotous, boisterous, violent, threatening or illegal conduct or using profane or abusive language” in its city parks. Public parks are for respectful, well-behaved, non-swearing citizens, so if you’re a potty mouth, rein it in while in Canada.
Also, might as well take note that public bus drivers across Ontario are allowed to refuse transport to anyone who is in an “intoxicated condition or conducting himself or herself in a boisterous or disorderly manner or is using profane or obscene language.”
Good behaviour goes a long way in Canada.
4. Don’t run out of gas on Germany’s Autobahn
The penalty: A fine of up to 70 euros (S$106)
This might seem like a really weird violation. Can you really get fined for running out of gas on the Autobahn? Well, yes, because when you run out of gas, you stop, and you become a traffic obstacle.
Despite being a highway system known for its lack of speed limits in certain ares, the Autobahn’s got rules, and Germans take the rules of the road very seriously. On the Autobahn, anyone who runs out of gas can be fined for illegally creating obstacles to traffic flow.
Be careful when driving in Germany, because drivers can also be penalised for things like using mobile phones behind the wheel and not using winter tires when necessary. If you’re planning to drive on holiday in Germany, be sure to check the rules of the road first.
5. Don’t be nude in public or at home/in a hotel in Singapore
The penalty: A fine of up to S$S2,000 or three months in jail
Singapore is another successful country known for its discipline and rules. Being naked in public is illegal in Singapore (as it is in most places) and will land you some sort of punishment, but here’s something interesting to add—if you’re naked in a home, a hotel room or an AirBnB and someone outside sees and reports you, you will face a fine and possibly jail time.
While that doesn’t seem right, it’s all about being naked in the view of the public. You may be on your hotel room balcony, which is your private space, but if you’re sunbathing in the buff and someone sees you, that’s violating the law. For the purposes of the rule, nudity is defined as being “clad in such a manner as to offend against public decency or order.”
For those who enjoy being in their birthday suit, make sure you’re safe—draw the curtains, shut the blinds, and keep your nudity to yourself when visiting Singapore. /TISG