Strange Laws and Customs around the World

When we travel we’re leaving familiarity behind to explore unknown and occasionally unusual destinations. The further we travel, the stranger those destinations can become, with unique cultures, interesting people and bizarre environments to discover. Even so, it can be hard to leave our own beliefs behind, taking our sensibilities and our own perception of the world with us, which is why, when we land on foreign shores we can sometimes forget that their laws may not be the same as our own. Sure, the big ones will be…don’t hit people, it’s naughty to steal, and shouting and bawling is generally unacceptable wherever you travel. But in many countries, particularly in places where life is very different to your own, there can often be rules and regulations you’ve never heard of before. We’ve had a look around the world for some unusual do’s and don’ts to keep you out of trouble when you’re travelling abroad.


In 1992 a ban was placed on the chewing of chewing gum in public places, and in fact it’s become so difficult to find, with fewer shops selling the sticky stuff, that’s it’s a relatively hard ban to break. If you chew gum on planes to relieve sinus pressure, don’t be tempted to continue chewing when you land. The Singaporeans are particularly proud of their city’s cleanliness and you’re likely to receive a fine if you get caught.


Some particularly unusual laws still exist in various America States, some of which are so old their reasons for existing are no longer clear. In Minnesota, for example, don’t think about crossing a state line with a duck on your head, the punishment for doing so appears to be imprisonment. Still in Minnesota, you’re likely to be fined five US Dollars for abandoning your hooped skirt in the middle of the street, and teasing skunks is also likely to get you into trouble.


Drivers in Germany face hefty fines if they run out of petrol on the autobahns. With speed limits impressively high and an often noticeable absence of a hard shoulder, the authorities have made it illegal to stop if it could have been avoided. Spend your Euros wisely in the gas stations you pass and this is one law you can avoid breaking. While most drivers around the world take care to ensure their vehicles are in good working order, checking lights, wipers and brakes, in Denmark they go one step further with a legal requirement that they check beneath their vehicles for sleeping children before starting their engines. Although this law is still on the list, it’s so old it doesn’t attract a fine for not carrying it out. In Venice it’s illegal to feed the pigeons in St Mark’s Square. This law, which does still exist, is designed to prevent further damage to the buildings by the thousands of birds that roost there and feed on titbits provided by tourists. In a strange twist, it’s not illegal to sell bags of bird food to tourists, so next time you visit steer clear of the street vendors and heed the signs in place – it’s a 50 Euro fine if you don’t.


Walking on a footpath might not normally get you into trouble, but in Australia it’s illegal to do so if you’re on the right hand side. Like driving, this old Australian law was written to ease congestion on pavements by ensuring the free flow of foot traffic. And if you’re heading to Brighton Beach in Victoria, you’ll be safe from prosecution if you wear a neck-to-knee swimsuit in accordance with the original Victorian-era legislation.

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Written by Currency Today's chief travel writer.
Written by Fiona Galloway
Chief travel writer - Currency Today

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