7 Random Rules That Could Land Canadians In Trouble On A Vacation Abroad

Know before you go!

​A woman poses at the Acropolis in Greece. Right: Tourists gather at the Trevi Fountain in Italy.

A woman poses at the Acropolis in Greece. Right: Tourists gather at the Trevi Fountain in Italy.

Are you planning a vacation abroad? While you'll want to remember your passport and your travel essentials, you'll also want to familiarize yourself with the customs and laws of the country you'll be visiting.

It may come as a surprise that some countries have rules and restrictions around things that might otherwise seem mundane in Canada.

There are plenty of bans and laws that you could unknowingly be breaking and the penalties can range from a simple slap on the wrist to possible jail time.

To avoid any issues on your trip, here are seven laws and rules in overseas countries that you'll want to take note of.

Having gum in Singapore

Fancy chomping on a piece of gum now and again? If you're travelling to Singapore, you'll want to leave the Double Bubble at home.

According to the government, Singapore has strict laws and penalties against a number of actions that may not be illegal or may be considered minor offences in Canada, such as bringing gum into the country.

The import of chewing gum into Singapore is "absolutely prohibited under the Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations," according to Singapore Customs.

There are some exceptions, including for those bringing in medicinal chewing gum and traders who have obtained a permit to bring gum into the country with the intention of exporting it, but for general holidays, you're likely better off leaving it behind.

According to Assistant Professor Benjamin Joshua Ong of Singapore Management University's Yong Pung How School of Law, the law doesn't necessarily restrict the act of chewing gum itself (except on railway premises), but just bringing it into the country could land you with a hefty fine (of a maximum of $100,000) and possible jail time.

Feeding fish in Thailand

As cute (and hungry) as they may look, refrain from feeding fish when you visit Thailand.

According to the government, feeding fish in the ocean in the country is illegal, and could land you with a 100000-baht (about CA$3,781) fine and up to a year in prison.

"Do not feed fish in the ocean and avoid boat tour operators who encourage tourists to do so," says Canada's travel advisory for Thailand.

According to tour company Easy Day Thailand, feeding fish in the ocean, such as those that graze among coral reefs, can result in the fish not consuming algae, allowing the algae to bloom and destroy the coral around it.

In 2017, a tourist in Thailand got themselves into trouble for doing just that. Olga Smirnova, a visitor from Russia, was arrested for allegedly feeding breadcrumbs to fish near an ecologically sensitive coral reef, according to the Daily Mail.

To avoid any issues on your trip, just remember — don't feed the fish.

Wearing a swimsuit in Spain

Heading to Spain for a sunny holiday? If you're planning on hitting the beach, it's important to be aware of the regulations around wearing swimwear.

According to a travel advisory for Spain issued by the Government of Canada, some cities, including Barcelona, have banned beachwear outside of local beaches, and those caught could face on-the-spot fines.

So if you're planning on walking around the city after sunbathing on the beach, be sure to cover up. If you don't you could be subject to fines of as much as 300 euros, as Time Out reports, which works out to be about CA$433.

Public behaviour no-no's in Italy

Italy is a hot-spot tourist destination, but you may not know that there are a number of seemingly normal behaviours that could land you in trouble in the country.

According to the Government of Canada, certain municipalities in Italy, especially those with a high number of visitors, like Rome, Florence and Venice, have put in place "strict public conduct rules," that you'll want to be aware of before your trip.

These include things like sitting, eating or drinking on a monument or an archaeological landmark.

So if, for instance, during your visit, you were thinking of enjoying your lunch on the Trevi fountain, you may want to think again — not only is it against the rules to sit on the fountain, but, according to Sightseeing Tours Italy, you also can't eat "messy" foods around it, including things like pizza and gelato.

You can also get in trouble for things like walking around an Italian city in your swimsuit and putting locks on bridges or monuments, so if you and your sweetheart were planning to do this cute tradition in Rome, you may want to reconsider.

The City of Venice also outlines a number of restricted behaviours, including feeding pigeons or seagulls, which carries a fine of 25 to 500 euros.

Wearing camouflage clothing in Barbados

If you're the kind of person who enjoys wearing camouflage clothing, you may be surprised to learn that just wearing the print could get you into trouble in a few countries.

One such country is Barbados, where it's actually an offence for civilians to wear camouflage clothing or to carry items made of camouflage material.

According to the Barbados Police Service, in the country, camouflage pattern material is reserved solely for members of the Barbados Defense Force.

The rule doesn't just cover your typical green camo clothing, but can also include patterns of blue, black and grey or any style used by any military or paramilitary organization in the world, says the police service, and it also applies to children.

According to police, those found guilty and convicted of this offence could see a fine of $2,000 or one-year imprisonment (or both).

So, your best bet is to leave behind any camo-style clothing or accessories if you're heading to sunny Barbados. The print is said to be out of style anyway.

Online behaviour in U.A.E.

It's not just your physical behaviour that could land you in trouble — in some countries, there are also laws relating to what you do online.

In the U.A.E., for instance, laws around online behaviour, which also apply to social media, are strict, according to the Government of Canada.

"Comments or behaviours considered defamatory, antisocial, culturally insensitive, or contrary to morality may be punishable by fines, imprisonment [or] deportation," it says.

According to the U.A.E. government, prohibited media content includes that which doesn't respect the regime of the United Arab Emirates, its symbols and the political system, and also prohibits any act that would be considered as "insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards."

Social media influencers will also want to take note. Influencers receiving compensation for product placement or ads in the U.A.E. require a UAE influencer licence. Operating without one could result in fines or being detained, according to the government.

In other words, think before you post.

Wearing heels in Greece

Did you know you could get into trouble overseas for wearing high heels?

In Greece, high heels are a no-go when visiting archaeological sites, such as the Acropolis, a popular spot for tourists that you'll likely want to include in your trip.

According to Visit Greece, high heels are prohibited for the protection of Greek monuments.

The rule has been in place since 2009, according to the Independent, as the pointed heel can actually wear and chisel away at the architectural sites.

It's also just not practical, and you're probably better off with some sneakers anyway. Headout, a partner of the Acropolis site, recommends wearing shoes with a firm grip sole to avoid slipping on uneven terrain and for comfort as you'll probably be walking a lot.

It's not the only rule you should keep in mind when visiting Greek archaeological sites. According to the Government of Canada, there are strict laws in Greece regarding cultural heritage and antiquities.

To avoid any trouble, when visiting archaeological sites, the government says you should avoid filming or taking photos unless it's clearly allowed, stay on the dedicated paths and respect off-limits areas, and avoid touching statues, monuments or artifacts found on the site.

Now you know!

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

Katherine Caspersz
Katherine Caspersz is a Creator for Narcity Media focused on evergreen travel and things to do, and is based in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario.