Heading abroad? Watch out for hefty fines (or worse) for peeing in the sea, wearing flip-flops or feeding pigeons
You've booked your trip, packed your bags and learned a bit of the lingo... but have you checked up on any local laws or customs that might catch you out on your holiday? While some may seem strange based on the culture here, they may of course be perfectly sensible based on cultures elsewhere – though we're not sure what to make of compulsory 'budgie smugglers' in some swimming pools in France.
We've used Gov.uk's travel advice (and the official tourist or council websites for popular holiday destinations), to round up some of the more unusual rules below. It's always worth checking the UK Government's country-by-country advice for the full lowdown before you travel.
While most trips abroad go without a hitch, if you're unsure of anything once you're there, it's best to ask at your hotel or a tourist information centre in the first instance. If you need emergency help from the UK Government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Each of the destinations listed below has a link to the Gov.uk advice for that destination.
It's a "no" to camo in a number of Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. It's an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing.
It's not always clear in each country what the penalties would be if you do don some camouflage clobber, but it seems to be prohibited because of its association with military uniform. For example, the Defence Act of Trinidad and Tobago states that if you wear anything resembling military uniform you could be fined and imprisoned.
Taking your shirt off or wearing swimming gear
Walking shirtless or in a swimming costume is frowned upon in some town and city centres in Croatia. Dubrovnik, for example, has signs to show that it's prohibited by law and offenders will be subject to on-the-spot fines – reportedly 1,000 kuna (£115), and Split has a similar policy. So be sure to take note of your surroundings, including signs, to judge what's appropriate.
Crossing the road in the wrong place
You can be fined if you attempt to cross a road or tram tracks within 50 metres of a designated crossing point (commonly marked by zebra-crossing lines or traffic lights). You can also be fined if you cross at a pedestrian crossing and the green pedestrian light is not lit. Reports suggest you can be fined 1,000 koruna to 2,000 koruna (£35 to £70).
Wearing swim shorts in the pool
While you won't be fined, many French pools won't allow men in unless they're wearing briefs-style trunks (commonly known in the UK as 'Speedos' or 'budgie smugglers'). It's worth checking before you visit a pool, but don't panic if you forget as you can often buy them once you're there from special vending machines.
The rule seems particularly prevalent in public pools, for example the Joséphine Baker Pool in Paris says "only swim briefs and boxers [tight shorts]" are allowed, but campsite firms Go Camp France and Eurocamp also warn that many park pools have the rule in place too, although don't always enforce it.
Visiting the City of Light? See our Paris on a budget guide for more tips.
Crossing the road before the light turns green
It's illegal to cross German pedestrian crossings when the red pedestrian light is on. Offenders risk a fine of €5 (£4) and having to pay all costs in the event of an accident.
Mooning, fancy dress... and other 'indecent behaviour'
Indecent behaviour, including 'mooning' (exposing one's bare bottom, for the more innocent among you), isn't tolerated in Greece. Some fancy-dress costumes may also be regarded as offensive and against decency laws. The police can make arrests and courts could impose heavy fines or prison sentences on people who behave indecently.
Wearing high heels
It's been reported that a number of historical sites, such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in Athens, ban high heels and stiletto shoes to prevent damage (many visitors recommend wearing sturdy footwear anyway).
Eating or drinking near landmarks
In some places (such as Florence and Venice) it's an offence to eat and drink near main churches, historic monuments and public buildings. In 2019, two backpackers were fined €950 (£820) and asked to leave Venice for making coffee near the Rialto Bridge.
Sitting on monument steps or entering public fountains
It can also be an offence to do either of these.
Taking pebbles from the beach
It's illegal to remove sand, shells or pebbles from coastal areas in Italy. Tourists have previously been fined €1,000 (£865) for doing this on the Italian island of Sardinia. It's also forbidden to collect various species of flowers, plants and herbs from mountainous and wooded areas.
Wearing flip-flops or open sandals
OK, so this is only banned if you're hiking in Cinque Terre National Park. But you can be fined for not wearing suitable footwear on the park's trail network, according to the official website. It's reported the fine can be anything from €50 to €2,500 (£45 to £2,155).
Walking around in a bikini or bare-chested in Sorrento
If visiting the popular tourist town of Sorrento, you best pack more than a bikini as walking around the streets in a swimming costume (or going shirtless) could land you a fine of between €25 (£21) and €500 (£423). The edict was given by the Mayor of Sorrento in July 2022 to put a stop to "indecent behaviour".
Camping or swimming in Venice
The city's official website says: "Venice is a city of art: it is forbidden to camp, walk about in swimwear, dive and swim." You're also not allowed to feed the pigeons, or attach padlocks to bridges.
Off to Rome? See our 21 cheap Rome tips.
Disputing your bill
In some places, prices can be high, and disputes over bills can lead to arrest.
Showing your tattoos
Many swimming pools, hot springs, beaches and gyms refuse to admit anyone with tattoos. Other places may ask that tattoos are covered up. This is because tattoos have a historical association with organised crime, though attitudes towards them are becoming more accepting.
Possessing a Vicks inhaler or allergy meds
While it's common for some over-the-counter painkillers to be illegal in certain countries (such as those containing codeine), Japan's strict laws also ban Vicks inhalers, medicines for allergies and sinus problems, and cold and flu medication containing pseudoephedrine. The Government says foreigners have been detained and deported in the past for these offences. If you need to take medication with you, check with the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate before travelling.
Crossing the street where there's no crossing point
Jaywalking is an offence in Poland. You should only cross at recognised crossing points such as zebra crossings. If caught by the police you can be fined – reports suggest this can be up to 500 złoty (£90), though Forumite Doshwaster was let off with a warning...
I was stopped by the police for jaywalking in Warsaw for crossing the road directly outside my hotel. I was very apologetic (I had just arrived and really hadn't a clue that it was illegal and, unlike other countries, was actually enforced). They took my details but let me off with a warning.
Playing or watching an unlicensed game of bingo
You may not want to shout 'bingo!' too loudly in Portugal. As it's a game of chance, it falls under gambling laws, meaning you can only take part in (or watch) government-licensed games – whether playing for money or not.
The penalty can be a fine and up to six months in prison. In 2013, a group of British and Irish expats were fined after being caught playing bingo for biscuits and drinks. The BBC reported the organiser was fined €700 (£595 at the time) and even those who weren't playing but witnessed it were slapped with a €150 fine (£125 at the time).
Taking too much chewing gum into the country
It's been illegal to sell and import chewing gum in Singapore since the 'gum ban' 30 years ago, with the exception of dental and medicated gum. While tourists can bring chewing gum into the country, it can only be for personal consumption – have too many packs in your bag and it could raise suspicion.
You can legally chew gum in Singapore, but if you leave gum remains in a public space you can be fined. You won't be able to buy gum when you're there, except for 'therapeutic' chewing gum, such as nicotine gum and tooth-whitening gum, which can be purchased from pharmacies in Singapore.
It can be a common sight in the UK, but you should think twice about throwing some old bread to pigeons in Singapore – doing so could land you a fine of up to $500 (£296).
Not flushing a public toilet
Forgetting to flush could get you in hot water, as it goes against Singapore's environmental public health regulations, and you can reportedly be fined about $150 (£89).
You can't bring vaporisers (such as e-cigarettes, e-pipes, e-cigars) and refills into the country. These items are likely to be confiscated, and there's a fine of up to $2,000 (£1,180) just for possessing one, or up to $10,000 (£5,900) and possible imprisonment if you're seen to be importing them.
Drinking in public places
Some areas have banned drinking alcohol in the street and in public places such as beaches, and on-the-spot fines may be issued (for example up to €3,000 (£2,585) in Mallorca).
Peeing in the sea
The city of Vigo has introduced a ban on performing a "physiological evacuation at sea or on the beach". Infringing the ban will see you sanctioned with a €750 (£645) fine, although sadly the city council doesn't provide details of how the ban is enforced...
Taking your shirt off
In some parts it's against the law to be in the street wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts/trunks. Being bare-chested has also been banned. Some councils will impose fines if you're caught wearing swimwear on a seafront promenade or on adjacent streets.
Off to Malaga, Marbella, Torremolinos or elsewhere nearby? See our 40+ Costa-cutting tips.
Smoking on beaches
There's a smoking ban on some beaches, including on the islands of Koh Samui and Phuket, in the city of Pattaya, and in Chon Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Songkhla provinces. Those caught smoking in non-designated areas face a 100,000 baht (£2,330) fine or up to a year in prison.
Vaporisers (such as e-cigarettes) and refills are illegal in Thailand. These items may be confiscated and you could be fined (reports suggest as much as 30,000 baht, or £700) or be sent to prison for up to 10 years.
Tearing up bank notes
While MoneySavers are unlikely to do this, it's worth knowing it's an offence to insult the Turkish nation or national flag, or to deface or tear up currency. If convicted of any of these offences you could face a prison sentence of between six months and three years.