13 Funny International Laws You’d Never Know Were Real

You might want to remember these 13 surprising and strange laws next time you're traveling to avoid embarrassment, fines, or worse!

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Culture clashes can occur anytime you travel, but every once in a while they happen in some truly unexpected ways. From a harmless hug to lighting up a cigarette outdoors, these are the strange travel faux pas any globetrotter would do best to avoid.

1. Vicks inhalers are forbidden in Japan

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In Japan, over-the-counter allergy/sinus medications that contain the ingredient pseudoephedrine such as Vicks inhalers and Sudafed are banned under Japan’s strict anti-stimulant drug laws. Medications that feature codeine are also prohibited and shouldn’t be brought into Japan.

2. Don't eat on church steps in Italy

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Be careful where you consume a relaxing lunch or refreshing beverage in Italy. It’s an offense in Florence to eat or drink while sitting on church steps or within a church courtyard. The same law applies to eating near public buildings. Snack elsewhere and avoid the fine.

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3. Keep your top on in Fiji

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Fiji is a beautiful tropical paradise where sunbathing and swimming are part of daily life, but don’t get caught with your pants (or top) down. Public nudity and topless bathing are illegal here. Stay covered up and out of jail.

4. Feed the pigeons and you'll break the law in San Fransisco

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It’s illegal to feed pigeons on the streets of San Francisco. The city famous for the Golden Gate Bridge blames the ubiquitous birds for spreading disease and damaging property. If you’re caught providing food to San Francisco’s pigeons, you could face a hearty fine. Citizens are even encouraged to report pigeon feeders to the city’s police department.

5. Leave your bible at home in the Maldives

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In  the Maldives, public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited, and it’s an offense to import bibles into the country. To ensure that you don’t upset the locals or run foul of the law, don’t bring a bible along on your trip.

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6. Watch your camera in Kazakhstan

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Want to capture one last snapshot of your family in the airport before you board the plane? In Kazakhstan, it’s against the law. Photography in and around airports is illegal, and taking pictures of military and official buildings is frowned upon as well.

7. Don't smoke in Jamaica, mon

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Tourists may be surprised to discover that marijuana is outlawed in Jamaica. Since 1913, Jamaican law has stated that the cultivation, use or possession of marijuana is illegal. People caught with even a small amount of the plant can face a lengthy prison sentence.

8. Pack a breathalyzer in France

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In France, drivers are legally required to carry a portable Breathalyzer in their vehicle. If you’re caught without this gadget in your car, you’ll be expected to cough up 11 Euros tout suite. Tourists behind the wheel, this law applies to you too.

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9. Pucker up at your peril in the United Arab Emirates

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Public displays of affection—kissing, hugging, holding hands—should be avoided while traveling in the United Arab Emirates. Tourists have been arrested and thrown in jail for kissing in public. Reserve all amorous moments for private occasions behind closed doors.

10. Butt out and chew carefully in Singapore

iStock/Robert Herhold

Smoking laws are more severe in Singapore than they are in North America. Lighting up in public—in restaurants, on the street, in a park—will earn a stiff fine in this Asian country. Gum chewers aren’t exempt from tough regulations either. It’s illegal to chomp gum while riding on Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, and like smoking, this offense is punishable with a fine.

11. Keep your pants on in Greece

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The Greeks and indecent behavior don’t mix. If you’re the type of person who gets a laugh out of mooning other folk, you might want to keep your pants up and your belt buckled. Dropping your drawers is a chargeable offense in Greece that can bring with it a steep fine or jail time.

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12. Bathing suits are for the beach only in Barcelona

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Don’t wander away from the Barcelona seafront dressed in just your bikini or swim trunks. In this Spanish city, it’s against the law to wear swimming attire on public streets. Cover up or change out of your bathing suit if you plan to leave the beach or promenade—failing to do so will result in a financial dent in your wallet.

13. Don't empty your piggy bank for purchases in Canada

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If you’re shopping in Canada, don’t expect cashiers to accept stacks of coins as your sole method of payment. According to Canada’s Currency Act, stores can legally refuse excessive amounts of coins. With pennies, for example, customers' payments may be rejected if they try to use more than 25 one-cent coins at one time.

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