Strange Laws That Can Get You Locked Up Abroad

feeding birds venice
F Delventhal, Flickr

Getting arrested is probably far down the list of most people’s travel concerns. After all, we’re usually focused on checking museums and monuments off our bucket list — not engaging in illicit activity. But seemingly innocuous behavior can get you into trouble in many parts of the world, including things like wearing bikinis and chewing gum.

The British Foreign Office has released a warning about strange foreign laws after a report revealed that nearly a third of Britons seeking consular assistance were arrested or detained abroad. They say many travelers don’t realize that activities that are perfectly legal at home could get you locked up or fined in another country.

A few of the unusual foreign laws they highlighted include:Venice: It’s illegal to feed pigeons here.

Nigeria: Taking mineral water into the country could land you in hot water.

Singapore: Chewing gum on public transit is a big no-no.

Japan: Watch out if you have allergies. A lot of nasal sprays are on this country’s black list.

Wondering what other laws could get you locked up abroad? Here are a few more we rounded up:

Dubai: Kissing in public could land you in jail in this conservative country.

Thailand: Stepping on the local currency — which bears the image of the king — is seen as disrespecting the monarch and could get you arrested.

Greece: Wearing stilettos at archaeological sites in Greece will get you into trouble. The pointy shoes are banned because of the damage they cause to the historic monuments.

Germany: It’s against the law to run out of gas on the autobahn. Stopping unnecessarily on this fast-paced high way is illegal, and that includes those who forget to fill up their tank.

What other unusual foreign laws have you come across?

Given A Map, A Lot Of People Have No Idea Where They Traveled (Or Where They Live)

world map
Glyn Lowe Photoworks, Flickr

While early explorers may have spent countless weeks plotting their journeys on maps and charting the best course to get to their destination, it seems many modern day travelers don’t have a clue about where they’re actually going.

A new study has found massive numbers of travelers can’t find their vacation destination on a world map. When asked where Cyprus was located, 53% of respondents were stumped, pointing to countries like Greece instead. This is despite having traveled to the Mediterranean island within the past year. Turkey also had recent visitors scratching their heads, with around half of those surveyed hard-pressed to locate the nearly 1,000 mile long country on an atlas.What’s most bizarre, however, is those people who seemed to have trouble locating their own country on a map. When asked where France was, a surprising 14% of French respondents pointed to their northern neighbor Belgium.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be so hard on the French. After all, remember this famous gaffe a few years back, when a Miss Teen USA contestant was asked why a fifth of Americans couldn’t locate the US on a world map?



But it’s not just beauty pageant contestants that are stumped by geography. Even politicians can get tripped up, like in this interview where John McCain refers to the problems at the Iraq/Pakistan border…which doesn’t exactly exist.


And then there was the time that President Obama managed to visit all corners of the US, including “about 57 states”.



Do you think it matters that so many people are confused by world geography? Or is understanding maps irrelevant in this day and age of GPS and technology?

The Best Vacation Spots For Smokers

Smokers might have a hard time finding anywhere to light up these days in the United States, but across the world smoking doesn’t always come with a stigma. As big tobacco companies find new frontiers, Asia is the hottest market. This is especially true in Indonesia, where awareness on health hazards is low and advertisement push to make young people brand loyal (see the documentary above for more on that).

In New York City, a pack of cigarettes will set consumers back almost $15. In other places in the world, however, cigarettes come at a fraction of the price-at least at first look. The cost of a pack of cigarettes in Indonesia is only $0.64 — a price that also would buy about 44 servings of rice. Yikes.Some of the cheapest places in the world to find smokes include:

  1. Indonesia: $0.64 a pack
  2. Turkey: $0.77 a pack
  3. South Africa: $0.87 a pack
  4. Malaysia: $1.00 a pack
  5. Panama: $1.20 a pack

Of course, cost might not be much of a factor for smoking jetsetters. Instead, finding a country that is generally accepting of this “bad habit” might be a more viable option (you know, somewhere that you can smoke in a bar without getting the stink eye).

Here are the top countries by annual per capita consumption of cigarettes:

  1. Serbia: 2,861 cigarettes per adult per year
  2. Bulgaria: 2,822 cigarettes per adult per year
  3. Greece: 2,795 cigarettes per adult per year
  4. Russia: 2,786 cigarettes per adult per year
  5. Moldova: 2,479 cigarettes per adult per year (and lots of wine, too!)

And in case you’re curious, the United States clocks in at position 51, with an estimated 1,028 cigarettes per adult per year.

Will people start traveling to certain destinations in search of cheap cigarettes and like-minded smokers? Probably not. But it is interesting to know where big tobacco companies still have — or are forging new — strongholds across the world.

Why Do We Give Countries Different Names?

Endonym map of country names
EndonymMap.com

You booked a trip to Germany, so why does your passport stamp say Deutschland? Your name didn’t change from John to Johann, so why should the country’s name change? If you’ve ever wondered why countries go by different names in different languages, you can check out the Endonym map, that displays each country by their own name. Endonyms are a country’s name within its own borders (see: United States of America, Detschland, Estados Unidos Mexicanos), while exonyms are what it’s known by in other languages (a.k.a. Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika, Germany, Mexico). Many of them are similar-sounding cognates that are easier to say or spell in our native language (Brazil/Brasil or Italy/Italia), or some are descriptive and sometimes derogatory names for a place (see this literal Chinese translated map of Europe, like Italy/Meaning Big Profit).

Can you figure out some of the more difficult English exonyms with a hint?Elláda: You might recognize this name better from its ancient pronunciation: Hellas, named for a famously beautiful resident.

Hrvatska: Such a combination of consonants might be familiar from one of their famous islands: Hvar.

Miṣr: You’ll read this name now in Arabic, not hieroglyphics.

Suomi: The more commonly known name for this country was found on rune stones in nearby Sweden.

Zhōngguó: Our name derives from Persian and Sanskrit, and now also describes a certain kind of porcelain dishes.

*Answers: Greece, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, China

Greece Plans To Keep Rowdy Tourists Out Of Town

Greece club signs
Roger Price, Flickr

Disrespect the locals a few too many times and they may decide to shun you from the local enclaves and relegate you to tacky tourist ghettos. Unfortunately, that may be exactly what’s in store for visitors headed to the Greek islands.

Locals there say they’ve had enough of debauched tourists who have been wreaking havoc in the otherwise beautiful and peaceful Mediterranean region. Their solution? Set up segregated tourist zones to keep the riffraff out.The drastic plan is under consideration after a recent spate of incidents involving bar brawls, rowdy behavior and the stabbing of a British teenager on the island of Crete. The Greek islands attract huge numbers of young pleasure-seekers who are eager to party, much to the unhappiness of locals. To get around the problem, they’re looking at establishing “tourist strips” far from town where foreigners can go wild without bothering anyone.

If the Greeks do agree on the plan, it’ll be a sad day for travelers who actually want to experience everything the islands have to offer. Visiting a city that’s split in half — with locals on one side and tourists on another — is not really visiting the city at all. Think of the tourist strip in Cancun, which is nothing like the real Mexico, or Times Square in New York, which is far from representative of the Big Apple. Do we really want all of our travels to feel like a trip to the Vegas Strip? If we want to continue having authentic travel experiences, it’s time to step up and treat the locals and their way of life with respect.