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Strange Laws Abroad

When leaving the confines and the familiarity of home, travelling abroad on holiday or on a volunteering project gives us the opportunity to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves. However, it should be kept in mind that the laws which govern a particular country can vary drastically, and it is worth ensuring that nothing is done that may get you in trouble. This means not getting into fights, drinking in public places or doing something obscene; in essence don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home. However, on your travels around the world, there are strange laws that can get you into big trouble, and which you may appreciate to know about before travelling so that you don’t unwittingly get thrown into prison. Here is a brief list of the strangest laws you may encounter while abroad, which are somehow amazingly real:

Image courtesy of Chris Potter

Where? Indonesia

Law: If you supposedly and explicitly conduct an immoral behaviour – like exposing yourself in public or any similar conduct – it will be punished with imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years and 8 months.

This is in accordance with Indonesian Penal Code Article 281, and many other countries have similar laws, therefore it may not be too strange a law but the sentence is lengthy.

Where? Thailand

Law: It is illegal to step on money.

This is because the image of the King of Thailand is on the currency and Thais (and Buddhists in general) regard feet as being the dirtiest part of the body. Thus, putting feet on money with the King’s image on it is seen as an extreme show of disrespect. So, it is a good idea that if you drop some money and it is rolling or flying away from you, then you should just bend over to pick it up with your hands instead of doing the western thing of trapping it with your foot – I know that’s what I do!

Law 2: It is illegal to leave your house without wearing underwear.

Mothers the world over will be pleased to hear about this law, but they may question the lack of stipulation on the cleanliness of said underwear, as children are often cautioned not to leave the house without clean underwear!

Image courtesy of Josh Pesavento

Where? Singapore

Law: Selling chewing gum is forbidden; however, actually chewing gum is fine.

As long as you throw your gum into a rubbish bin once you’re done then you’ll manage to avoid hefty fines.

Law 2: If a person litters three times, then they must clean the streets wearing a bib that reads “I am a litter lout.”

On top of the forced community labour, a $1000 fine will be handed out. This law dates back to 1968 and is the country’s way of keeping clean.

Law 3: Much like other conservative countries, public displays of affection should be cautioned.

This means that you should think twice before hugging a loved one for too long, kissing someone or partaking in any other public display deemed overly affectionate. If you disregard this, it could result in being charged and sent to jail for outraging modesty codes.

Law 4: Now this one is for those of you who are high-tech travellers. Connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot is the equivalent of hacking.

This could lead to being given a fairly large fine, or worse – jail. Hence, if you just want some internet access to access your emails, reserve tickets or check-in online for a flight, it would be best advised to go to an internet cafe rather than use an unsecured network, otherwise be deemed a hacker!

Image courtesy of Jumilla

Where? China

Law: A recently enforced law, introduced in July 2013, made it illegal for adult children to not visit their parents “often” in China. They are also required to attend to their parent’s spiritual needs.

In an attempt to deal with the growing problem of lonely elderly people, its intentions are good, but enforcing the” Elderly Rights Law” is difficult in a country with over 1.2 billion people.

Where? Samoa

Law: It is illegal to forget your wife’s birthday.

So, if you plan to move to this particular Pacific Island, make sure you pen in your significant other’s birthday.

Where? Australia

Law: I kid you not, but in the state of Victoria it is illegal to change a light bulb unless you are a licensed electrician.

Where? Argentina

Image courtesy of Prayitno

Law: If you go into an Argentine nightclub that is not playing at least 50 per cent of tango music, then the nightclub that you’re in is breaking the law.

This is because it is required for Argentine nightclubs to play the same amount of tango music as all other forms of music combined. Talk about trying to differentiate yourself from the competition! Well, at least you know that you’ll need to spruce up on your Latin footwork.

Have you come across any strange laws on your travels or volunteering experiences? 

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