One of the joys — and struggles — of traveling is adapting to local cultures. Part of the process involves learning the local laws so you don’t do anything offensive and illegal. That’s not always easy, as some countries have some incredibly strange laws that travelers won’t know about until it’s too late.
The End of Bird Feeding in Venice
Venice is one of the tourist capitals of the world, as more than 20 million people visit the famous Italian city annually. On any given day, there are more tourists than residents on the island. The massive number of visitors is a headache for people with environmental and quality of life concerns.
One way that the city has tried to improve things is by banning the feeding of pigeons from St. Mark’s Square. Feeding the birds had long been something of a tourist attraction before the ban started in 2008, but the bird population needed to be reined in. People who feed the pigeons these days are subject to a fine.
Hitting the Road in the U.S.
There’s nothing as American as a road trip across the U.S. If you’re planning to see the world’s third biggest country by car, however, you need to be aware that there are tons of strange driving laws in the U.S. Every state seems to have antiquated laws on the book and nobody’s really sure how these bizarre laws came to be.
In Nevada, for example, it’s illegal to ride a camel on the highway. If you were planning to do that, take it off your bucket list right now. Washington, meanwhile, discovered a way to end crime: Any driver with criminal intentions is required to stop outside cities and tell the police chief that he or she is entering the town.
A License to Drink in India
Most countries have unique drinking laws, from a variety of different drinking ages to distinct open-container laws. The Indian state of Gujarat takes things a step further.
The state became dry in dedication to Mahatma Gandhi and punished alcohol producers with the death penalty. The prohibition has loosened up over the years and now anyone there who wishes to buy alcohol must simply have a permit to do so. Fortunately, the permit is free for tourists and can be printed out online.
Don’t Forget the Breathalyzer
When it comes to drinking, France is much more liberal than the strict Gujarat. Considering the quality of the wine that the country produces, their openness to drinking is definitely a good thing. While drinking in public is legal, driving while intoxicated is a big no-no. They recently lowered the drunk driving BAC limit to a modest .02 percent, but that’s not the only law on the books used to deter drinking and driving.
What makes France unique is that all drivers are legally required to have a breathalyzer in their vehicles. The law is on the books with a penalty of 11 euros, yet enforcement has been postponed for now.
Avoid Chewing Gum in Singapore
Singapore is as pristine as a city could be, and that’s partly because of strict laws designed to prevent everything from jaywalking to spitting. Keeping the city clean is also why chewing gum is banned. You can’t buy it and you can only bring in small amounts to use privately. Anyone caught chewing it or spitting it out is subject to a fine.
Beginning in the 1960s, Singapore began implementing a series of laws to help modernize the city-state. People who stuck gum in public places especially irked authorities. As the former prime minister recently said in an interview, “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”
The law has been relaxed a little over the years to allow nicotine gum and similarly therapeutic types with permission of a doctor.
No matter where you travel, you’re bound to run into a strange law here and there. The best way to avoid being penalized for laws you’re unfamiliar with is to simply research your destination before arriving. Do that, and your adventures are much more likely to go smoothly.
About the Author
Kayla Matthews is a wanderlusting writer whose work has appeared in Afar Magazine and The Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter to read her latest posts.