Unusual Laws and Customs

Unusual Laws and Customs

Every year, holidaymakers are caught out by local laws and customs which are common in the UK, but can carry serious consequences abroad. By researching your travel destination in advance, and checking notices and warnings issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), this can be easily avoided.

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What to watch out for

A recent report from the FCDO identified some of the more unusual local laws and customs to watch out for, and stated that more than a quarter of cases requiring consular assistance from the FCDO were for arrests or detentions, many due to British nationals being unaware that local laws applied to them.


Don’t carry or use drugs. While the Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of so-called ‘soft drugs’ this exists only for designated areas. Possession of prohibited substances or buying them can carry a prison sentence.

Arrest, detention


Feeding the pigeons is against the law



It is illegal to take some commonly available nasal sprays containing pseudoephedrine into Japan



It is against the law to wear a bikini, swimming trunks or to go bare-chested away from the beach front area in Barcelona



Chewing gum on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Singapore is strictly prohibited



It is illegal to import more than 200 cigarettes into Thailand

Large fines and confiscation

Italy (Florence)

It is an offence to sit on steps and courtyards or to eat and drink in the immediate vicinity of churches and public buildings in Florence

Large fines

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia photographing government buildings, military installations and palaces is prohibited

Arrest and detention


It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing



It is illegal to take mineral water into Nigeria

Fines, confiscation


Sunbathing topless is prohibited



Public observance of religions other than Islam is prohibited for non-Maldivians and visitors

Arrest, detention


Some prescribed and over the counter medicines available in the UK are considered controlled substances in Egypt and can’t be brought into the country without prior permission from Egypt's Ministry of Health; if you arrive in Egypt without this permission and the required documentation, the medication will not be allowed into the country and you may be prosecuted under Egyptian law; if you're travelling with prescription medication you should carry a medical certificate from your GP confirming that the medication has been prescribed for a medical condition.

Prosecution under Egyptian law

For more information

More country specific laws and customs can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. The FCDO are also now on Twitter at @FCDOtravel

This information provided by the FCDO Travel aware campaign. Details at travel aware.

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