World’s most bizarre laws that could land you in jail – from feeding pigeons and accidentally touching a stranger to sitting on church steps


MILLIONS of Brits are jetting off abroad this summer for sun, relaxation and wild parties – blissfully unaware that one seemingly innocent act could land them in jail.

From feeding pigeons and kissing in public to sitting on church steps, there are plenty of bizarre foreign laws that could get you in trouble… or even see you BANNED from countries altogether.

Les Bragg, pictured right with pals, faces up to three years behind bars after swearing at an Oman airport
Triangle News
Tourists have been banned from sitting on Rome’s Spanish Steps
Rex Features

We revealed last week that British diving instructor Les Bragg is facing up to three years behind bars in Oman after swearing in an airport while flying home to see his critically ill mum.

It is understood Les swore when he heard his connecting flight to Heathrow had been delayed – but it’s also possible cops smelled alcohol on his breath after he had a drink on the plane.

In Oman, the use of bad language or rude gestures is forbidden because it is considered an “obscene act. Drinking or being drunk in public is also an offence.

Now, as Les’s worried pals try to raise the thousands of pounds ‘needed to free him’ from jail, we look at the world’s strangest laws… and the tourists who’ve got on the wrong side of them.

GERMANY: Running out of petrol on the Autobahn

Running out of petrol is stressful enough.

But if you’re unlucky (or disorganised) enough to experience this on Germany’s famous Autobahn highway system, you’ll find yourself facing more than stress.

Although you’re unlikely to be jailed, you’ll probably be fined for stopping without good reason.

The idea is that if you failed to sufficiently fill up your tank before taking to the highway, your breakdown was your own fault and you should face the punishment.

Difficult for drivers to stomach – but fair.

Getty – Contributor

You can drive as fast as you want on the autobahn – but running out of petrol will get you in big trouble[/caption]

DUBAI, UAE: Touching a stranger’s hip

Dubai is a popular destination among Brits thanks to its scorching temperatures and impressive skyscrapers – but its strict laws have proven a nightmare for some holidaymakers.

Tourist Jamie Harron, from Stirling, Scotland, was arrested for public indecency in July 2017 after touching a man’s hip in a crowded bar – which he claimed he did to avoid spilling a drink.

The 27-year-old electrician, who insisted the seemingly innocuous incident was a “cultural misunderstanding”, ended up being stripped of his passport and sentenced to three months in jail.

However, he was fortunately freed just 24 hours later after United Arab Emirates ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum intervened in the case.

Jamie, 27, was arrested for alleged public indecency after touching a man’s hip in a crowded bar
SWNS:South West News Service

PA:Press Association

Jamie insisted the seemingly innocuous incident was a “cultural misunderstanding”[/caption]

The electrician gives a thumbs up as he arrives back in Scotland after his release from a Dubai jail
SWNS:South West News Service

SRI LANKA: Having a Buddha tattoo 

Buddhism is accorded the “foremost place” in Sri Lanka’s constitution, with around 70 per cent of the island’s population said to be Buddhist. Because of this, the country’s authorities take strict action against people who are perceived to have insulted the religion.

Although there is no law banning Buddha tattoos, British nurse Naomi Coleman was held for four days during her Sri Lanka holiday because of the huge Buddha tattoo on her arm.

She was even deported from the country after the tattoo caused offence.

The mental health nurse took legal action against the Sri Lankan authorities after her unceremonious return to the UK – and ended up being awarded £3,600 in compensation.

A court ruled there was “no legal basis” for her arrest and admitted that Naomi had been subject to “degrading treatment” by some officers and a prison guard.

AFP or licensors

Naomi Coleman was held for four days during her holiday after her tattoo caused offence[/caption]

EGYPT: Climbing a pyramid

The Great Pyramid at Giza is one of the Seven Wonders of the World – but if you’re caught climbing the monument, it’s likely you’ll never step foot in Egypt again.

German tourist Andrej Ciesielski, 18, was detained by police and later banned from the country for life after he filmed himself illegal scaling the ancient pyramid.

It’s against the law to climb Egypt’s monuments, to protect them.

However, Andrej, from Munich, wrote in a blog post that police decided to free him after looking at his camera while he was detained, Egyptian Streets reported in 2016.

The teen could have faced three years in prison for his actions. However, despite his release, he has been banned by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities from ever returning to the nation.

Andrej Ciesielski filmed himself scaling the famous Egyptian pyramid
The teen, from Germany, is seen climbing the massive monument

SAUDI ARABIA: Engaging in a PDA

Engaging in a PDA (public display of affection) is a big no-no in Saudi Arabia.

The country, which follows strict Sharia law, forbids PDAs regardless of whether you’re a tourist or a local. Unmarried couples could even be jailed for meeting in public or private.

Last year, it was reported that a couple had been arrested after a man filmed himself giving his girlfriend a peck on the cheek during a driving lesson in Saudi Arabia.

The clip was posted to Snapchat by the man who posted the caption “teaching her how to drive” It quickly went viral, with furious Saudis blasting the pair for a lack of morality.

This clip of a man pecking his girlfriend’s cheek sparked outrage among Saudis

DUBAI: Calling your ex-hubby’s new wife a “horse”

Just like Jamie Harron, UK tourist Laleh Shahravesh was detained by Dubai cops.

The Surrey mum was taken into custody and had her passport confiscated under the UAE’s strict cyber crime laws for calling her ex-husband an “idiot” and his new wife “a horse” on social media.

These laws state that a person can be jailed for making defamatory statements online.

Laleh faced up to two years in jail and a £50,000 fine – but her case ended up being settled with a AED3,000 (£625) fine.

Laleh Shahravesh, pictured right daughter Paris, faced up to two years in jail for social media comments
PA:Press Association
Mum Laleh grins as she arrives back at Heathrow from Dubai
Doug Seeburg – The Sun

INDONESIA: Masturbating

Tourists who are caught masturbating in Indonesia will be brought back to Earth with a bang – as they’re hauled off their feet and thrown into a jail cell.

Rumours claim that anyone found pleasuring themselves in the Asian country will be beheaded. Fortunately this isn’t true – but you could be jailed for up to 32 months.

THAILAND: Stepping on money

Be careful where you step when you’re in Thailand. If you end up treading on a 20 baht banknote, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the law… and the royals.

This is part of wider, and incredibly serious, laws in the country that criminalise any display of disrespect to the highly-revered Thai royal family.

Because the ruling monarch appears on Thai banknotes, it follows that stepping on that banknote would be considered very offensive — and criminal.

With punishments of up to 15 years in jail for defaming or insulting the royals, Thailand’s so-called ‘lese majeste laws’ are worth knowing about.


Don’t mess around with money in Thailand – standing on it is illegal[/caption]

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Feeding pigeons

Pigeons are a common sight in cities across the world. But in San Francisco, California, feeding the birds on the city’s streets or pavements could leave you out of pocket.

Offenders can be “cited and fined”, according to the San Francisco Public Works website, which encourages people to “report pigeon feeders” to the city police department.

“Please join in on the efforts to keep San Francisco clean and beautiful by NOT feeding the pigeons,” states the site.

Feeding pigeons in San Francisco could get you a fine
Getty – Contributor

POLAND: Winnie the Pooh

He’s been adored by British kids for decades.

But in Poland, the small town of Tuszyn has actually banned Winnie the Pooh from the playground.

The beloved character isn’t actually illegal, but he could get you in trouble with local officials who have ‘outlawed’ him because of his “dubious sexuality” and “inappropriate” dress.

One local councillor even calling the bear a “hermaphrodite”.

“The problem with that bear is it doesn’t have a complete wardrobe,” Ryszard Cichy said. “It is half naked which is wholly inappropriate for children … [He’s] only dressed from the waist up.”

So if you’re a big Winnie the Pooh fan – or your kids are – you might want to steer clear of Tuszyn (or at least, not take a Winnie the Pooh suitcase or backpack along).


Winnie the Pooh isn’t one for kids in the Polish village of Tuszyn[/caption]

FLORIDA – Twerking in front of kids

This is probably an obvious one – but when in Florida, don’t twerk in front of a school bus.

The provocative dance – made famous by singer Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards – got 27-year-old Valerie Dixon into trouble in the US state six years ago.

Dixon was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in Lake County after she allegedly bent over and started twerking, with one hand on her ankle and the other on her genitals.

Her display, in front of a bus filled with kids, was described as “vulgar”, MailOnline reported.

Valerie Dixon was arrested after allegedly twerking in front of kids
Lake County Sheriff's Office

DUBAI: Having sex on the beach

The Dubai justice system unsurprisingly came down hard on a British couple who had sex on a beach just hours after meeting at an all-you-can-drink champagne brunch.

Michelle Palmer, 36, had been living in the UAE for more than two years before she was caught romping with fellow Brit Vince Acors, 34, on Jumeirah Beach.

The pair were caged for three months for violating indecent behaviour and sex outside of marriage laws, with the judge also handing them a 1,000 dirham (around £200) fine.

They were also ordered to be deported.

Michelle Palmer, 36, was jailed after romping on the beach

JAPAN: Using a Vicks inhaler

Suffering from a summer cold and about to head to Japan? You might want to think twice about taking a Vicks inhaler with you – because you could be locked up.

This is because medication containing pseudoephedrine – a sympathomimetic drug used in the popular decongestant stick – is banned in the country, The Telegraph reports.

The Foreign Office has even warned Brits to be cautious when packing medication for their summer holidays, in case they end up behind bars or deported. Offenders can be locked up for months or even years, and handed hefty fines, for breaching drug regulations.

Travellers who have inadvertently done so in the past have been known to spend weeks behind bars.

Vicks inhalers – popular among Brits with stuffy noses – are banned in Japan
News Group Newspapers Ltd

GREECE: ‘Breaching sexual decency’

London travel blogger Adebola Sowemimo was recently arrested by Greek police and accused of ‘breaching sexual decency’ at a tourist spot in the country.

She has since slammed guards at the Acropolis of Athens as “racist” and claimed she was “pushed and shoved” out of the historic site “for doing nothing wrong”.

In a tweet at the time of the incident, she wrote: “I went to the Acropolis in Athens today and I was pushed out of the museum because I was apparently wearing inappropriate clothing.”

She also said: “I was screamed at and pushed out of the building while being screamed at in Greek.

“Police were called and a false testament was made against me that I was lifting my skirt and flashing my body to the public. This is a LIE.”

Adebola was cleared of the allegations against her in court .

Adebola Sowemimo classed the incident as “racism at its finest”
Twitter / @mybreakingviews

PORTUGAL: Peeing in the sea

It’s illegal to urinate in the sea anywhere in Portugal. So if the water you’re swimming in suddenly becomes warm, take a good look around – someone’s broken the law.

And if you feel a sudden urge to go during a swim at the beach, you’d better jump out and find a toilet quickly – or risk potentially being pulled up by police.

However, we imagine it’s pretty difficult to enforce this particular law. It’s not clear whether anyone has yet been arrested over it, or what their punishment would be…


Peeing in the sea is frowned upon in Portugal[/caption]

ROME, ITALY: Sitting on church steps

Going to Rome? You may want to think twice about where you sit down – because Italian officials have prohibited people from taking a seat on the city’s famous Spanish Steps.

Local authorities recently imposed the ban, saying too many people sit down for too long, obstructing the steps for others, or stop to eat lunches from nearby fast food joints.

Municipal police officers were seen patrolling the steps last week – with fines for those who do not obey the new rules ranging from 160 to 400 euros (£148 to £371).

But not everyone’s happy.

“I think it’s ridiculous, silly,” said one American tourist, as he watched police blow whistles to move people on.

“You’re only going to rest for a little while on the stone anyway and you eventually move along.”

Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi called the move “Fascist-like.”

Municipal police officers patrol the Spanish Steps last week

MALDIVES: Carrying a Bible

Sun-seeking Christians should probably leave their Bibles at home if they’re heading to the Maldives – because publicly observing any religion aside from Islam is prohibited.

However, while the importation of material considered contrary to Islam is an offence, it is reported that tourists are usually allowed to bring a Bible to their resort for private use only.

You can’t openly observe the Bible in the Maldives
Getty – Contributor

GIBRALTAR – Falling over drunk in front of kids

Many tourists have been known to enjoy a holiday tipple before getting on a flight – particularly if they’re a nervous flyer.

But drunk mum Kim Morley, from Hailsham, East Sussex, recently found herself getting arrested after falling over in Gibraltar Airport in front of her young kids.

The 53-year-old bank worker was ordered to pay a £250 fine after pleading guilty to a charge of being intoxicated while in charge of two children under the age of 13.

She blamed her behaviour on her “fear of flying”, and also claimed she fell over in the airport’s departure lounge because one of the straps on her shoes broke.

Kim was arrested with her husband Dean, 54, on July 28. Dean also appeared in court after being charged with the same intoxication offence, but prosecutors withdrew the charge against him.

Kim Morley was arrested after falling over drunk at Gibraltar Airport while with her young children


Kim, from East Sussex, was fined after blaming her behaviour on her fear of flying[/caption]

SINGAPORE: Bringing in too much chewing gum

British tourists visiting Singapore can’t rely on chewing gum to keep their breath fresh (or not for long, anyway) – because it’s illegal to import and sell the substance.

Holidaymakers are reportedly allowed to bring a maximum of two packs of gum each into the country. But if they run out, they’ll struggle to get any more.

The sale of chewing gum has been banned since 1992 to help keep Singapore clean, with people known to discarded used bits of gum on pavements and the side of buildings. However, since 2004, pharmacists and dentists have been permitted to sell “therapeutic” gum to patients.

It might seem like a weird law to us… but the UK itself isn’t immune to wacky rules.

Brits enjoying a staycation this summer might want to read this before they lie down in parks, knock balls around and cool off in swimming pools…


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