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Laws you need to know to stay out of trouble abroad

by Sharron Livingston

Last week a Brit was jailed for posing naked on a sacred mountain in Malaysia. It wasn’t that long ago when a couple kissing publicly in Dubai faced a similar fate. Indeed, if you even swear on WhatsApp while in the Emirates you could be fined £45,000. And if you are contemplating debauched drunken behaviour in Magaluf this summer you may end up forking out €3000 for the privilege.

The message is loud and clear. Your behaviour could cost you more than you bargained for so before heading off it’s worth paying heed to etiquette and the culture of the place you are visiting if you want to stay out of trouble while abroad. Here is a round up of laws you should know about – even if they are a little bizarre.


You are legally bound to drive with a breathalyser in the car and it is illegal to carry any device that can detect speed cameras, like say a sat nav. Incidentally, if you happen to be in Paris at night, you may find the Eiffel Tower lights beautiful, but it is illegal to capture this photographically.


The futuristic looking Atomium, a monument comprising five spheres over eight levels, was built for the World Fair in Brussels in 1958. It is probably one of the most visited attractions in Belgium and the symbol of Europe’s capital, yet as it is a protected image, you will have to keep your camera under wraps.


Tourists who wonder the streets of Barcelona clad only in their swimming costumes face fines of £265. Authorities have banned bikini wearers from areas away from the city’s beaches. In Majorca, holidaymakers who stray from the beaches in swimwear or speedos face £500 fines. The laws are part of Palma City Council’s Ordenanza Civica, otherwise known as the Good Citizen Plan.


It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, churches and even aircraft. Cast your mind back to 2001 when 12 plane-spotters were jailed for espionage after allegedly taking photos of a military air base. Also, be aware that indecent behaviour including mooning or wearing offensive fancy dress costumes could be deemed to be against decency laws. Incidentally, the drug Codeine is classes as an illegal drug in Greece.


You are not allowed to honk your horn when near to a hospital.


Since 1992 it is illegal to chew gum in public. The only exception is nicotine gum which is only available on prescription. You may also find yourself in trouble if you publicly display national flags or emblems.


It is illegal to criticise the King or any member of the royal family – even deceased monarchs. The crime is known as Lèse Majesté and is punishable by a prison sentence of three to 15 years, or longer.


It is illegal to wear camouflage clothing on this Caribbean island.


In the land that brought us sumo wrestling, you are forbidden to be fat. The law states that men over 40 should not have a waist measuring more than 80cm and women over 90cm.

Read also: Things NOT TO DO when travelling abroad

Are you aware of any other laws one should watch out for when travelling? Leave a comment!

Image credit: Houston DWI Attorney

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