Traveling the world is all about seeing new spots and creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But even the most adventurous travelers probably don’t want their exotic excursions to end in a courtroom or jail cell, no matter how memorable those detours could be.
Laws aren’t always logical to visitors, though. And offenses that might be ignored or equal a tiny ticket at home could be a travel budget buster in other countries. Here are 10 weird laws and foreign fines that could catch tourists unaware and empty their pockets.
Driving Through Austria Without a Vignette
A fine of at least 120 euros
Eileen Gunn and her husband flew into Zurich and drove to Germany, passing through about 10 miles of Austria en route. What they didn’t know is that they needed a Highway Toll Sticker, or Vignette, even for their short trip on Austria's roads.
“The Austrians know no one is going to bother with this for the 10-mile stretch we were on," said Gunn, a journalist and founder of the travel site FamiliesGo! "We got caught in a sting and were fined 150 euros or so for not having it.” The detour ended up costing them the equivalent of about $18 per mile.
“The pass itself is less than that, but more than you want to pay to drive 10 miles — maybe 25 or 50 euros? And yes, we deeply resented it,” she said.
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Feeding Birds in Vienna, Austria, and Other Cities
Fines vary by location
Venice has prohibited tourists from feeding the pigeons populating Piazza San Marco since 2008, and in 2014, Vienna, Austria, instituted similar measures to help keep the city clean and prevent overpopulation. Ignoring the rules can cost visitors a lot of bread, with fines surpassing hundreds of euros according to AFAR magazine. And, just this year, authorities in East Devon, England, and San Diego, Calif., instituted similar fines to discourage folks from feeding seagulls and other beach birds in some areas. East Devon is levying fines of as much as 80 pounds (about $109) and San Diego charges $50 for running afoul of the rule.
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PDA in the UAE
Fines, deportation and/or jail time
Two visitors to Dubai, a male and a female, were recently sentenced to a month in prison for violating public decency laws in the conservative Sheikdom of the United Arab Emirates. A gas station employee observed the couple kissing in the station’s public restroom, and the service station’s manager reported the incident to police, landing the kissing couple in court. And public displays of affection aren’t the only affront to public decency. Flashing the middle finger or peeing in public are just a few other costly mistakes you can make while traveling here.
Hanging Out at Home in the Buff in Singapore
A fine not exceeding 2,000 Singapore dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both
As is the case with many places, appearing nude in public can cost you in Singapore. But so can being nude in your own home — if you’re exposed to public view. For the purposes of the statute, nudity is defined as being “clad in such a manner as to offend against public decency or order.” So exhibitionists should plan to keep those shades drawn when they visit the Asian island.
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Fountain Funny Business in Rome
Fines start at 40 euros and vary depending on the specific offense
Tired of too many tourists frolicking in the city’s famous fountains, Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said people caught eating or lounging on the fountains’ pedestals, dipping their toes in the water or going for a swim would be fined up to 240 euros (around $287). The fines are valid for the summer season, through Oct. 31. Fortunately, tossing a few coins into the fountains won’t land visitors in hot water with the law.
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Visiting Historic Hvar in a Swimsuit
A fine of 600 euros
The mayor of this holiday hot spot in Croatia instituted several fines this year to rein in rowdy tourists. Parading around Hvar’s city center in a swimsuit could cost visitors. Going with just a swimsuit top for ladies or trunks for guys, even if they are more modestly covered below the waist, could cost 500 euros ($595). And the fine for drinking alcohol or sleeping in public is a hefty 700 euros. It’s also hard to claim ignorance of finable offenses, as authorities have erected warning signs, complete with illustrative stick figure drawings, around town.
Bringing Some Common OTC Drugs to Japan
A fine of up to 5 million yen
Before you pack your medication for your trip to Japan, be sure to check the drug laws, as many perfectly legal and common over-the-counter medications are banned there. For instance, any product that contains over 10 percent pseudoephedrine — like Sudafed — is prohibited in Japan. Even some common prescription drugs are banned as well: Any sort of amphetamines and methamphetamines, including the common ADHD prescription drug Adderall, are strictly illegal in Japan. If you are staying in Japan for longer than a month, bringing many other common prescriptions, and even some over-the-counter drugs, require visitors apply for an import certificate called a “Yakkan Shoumei,” so it makes sense to mull over your medicine cabinet well in advance of any trip there.
Wearing Camo in the Caribbean
Non-military personnel are banned from sporting camouflage clothing or gear in many parts of the Caribbean, including Barbados and St. Lucia. And, at least in Barbados, the rule applies to even the tiniest travelers, so it’s best to just leave the kids' cute camo cargo pants at home.
Running Out of Gas in Germany
A fine of up to 70 euros
Germans take the rules of the road seriously. On the Autobahn, for instance, you can be fined up to 70 euros for running out of gas, as it’s illegal to create obstacles to traffic. No matter where you’re driving, drivers can also land on-the-spot fines for everything from failing to switch to winter tires when required, to using mobile phones while behind the wheel. Before hitting the road, double-check the rules of the road to prevent an unpleasant ticket and fine. If you love cars, the Autobahn is an affordable destination you need to visit.
Swearing in a Public Park in Toronto
A fine of more than 200 Canadian dollars
The city’s municipal code prohibits “riotous, boisterous, violent, threatening or illegal conduct or using profane or abusive language” in its city parks. It’s also worth noting public bus drivers across Ontario can refuse to transport 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.” So, keep it clean in Canada.