One of the more important lessons gleaned from Locked Up Abroad is respecting foreign customs and laws (especially the laws). What you may consider normal might actually book you a one-way ticket to the gallows. Yes, it’s the 21st century, and some people are still sent to the gallows.

Still, who has the time to read an entire country’s laws? You’ve probably never even read all your country’s laws. How are you going to stay out of jail, if you don’t know the legal code of the land?

For example: if you’re strolling along England’s coast and come across a whale’s head, are you going to keep it? I mean, a whale’s head is one hell of a cool souvenir. Why wouldn’t you keep it? Well, guess what? That whale head is legally the property of the King (the tale belongs to the Queen), and history has proven time and again stealing from the monarchy will land you in bad trouble (usually death).

Now I doubt Queen Elizabeth will cut off your head if you tried to make off with a bunch of whale bones, but here’s the point: there are some wacky international laws out there. If you’re not careful, you could earn a fine or, like some of the interviewees in Locked Up Abroad, daily torture for years. So just to be safe, here’s a list of strange laws from around the world. Try not to break any, OK?

  • In Beijing, you are forbidden to stop for pedestrians if you are driving a motor-driven vehicle.
  • In Saudi Arabia, it is illegal for a woman to appear in public without a male relative or guardian. On top of that, they aren’t allowed to drive, either.
  • Unless you’re chewing gum with therapeutic value, it is banned in Singapore under the “Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations.”
  • Noisy sandals are outlawed on the Isle of Capri.
  • Drunk drivers can be executed by firing squad in San Salvador. If you want to legally drink and drive, go to the US Virgin Islands instead.
  • It is illegal to leave your house in Thailand if you are not wearing underwear.
  • In Canada, any public debt over 25 cents cannot be paid in pennies.
  • The mayor of Eraclea (a town near Venice) has banned the building of sandcastles and the collecting of sea shells.
  • A pillow is considered a “passive weapon” in Germany, so it may be a good idea to keep it locked in your hotel safe while you’re out.

Have any hellish travel stories of your own? Ever broke a silly rule and got in trouble? Visit the To Hell and Back interactive for more troublesome tales. A new season of Locked Up Abroad kicks off tonight with Locked Up Abroad: From Hollywood to Hell featuring Erik Aude  at 10P et/pt. Erik will be live tweeting, so be sure to follow @lockedupabroad on Twitter!


  1. Michael S Goodman
    Madison WI
    April 27, 2012, 5:07 pm

    I have read somewhere that El Salvador does not, in fact, execute intoxicated motorists by firing squad.

    It is a widely circulated “urban legend”, but one without actual substance!

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