We all know how important it is to do a little research about our destination before taking to the road, but this vital step in trip planning gets put off all too often. "We’ll find out when we get there," right? Well the 5,000 cases of British citizens being arrested or detained last year in foreign countries shows that this way of thinking doesn't always work when travelling abroad.
The startling figure prompted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to encourage travellers to be aware of the laws and customs of other countries, and persuaded us to do a piece on the travel laws that you may not expect. Some are reasonable, others are unusual and then there are few that are downright bizarre.
USA state legislation is famously rife with strange or bizarre laws, yet it appears that in North America the US is not alone with a list of odd laws. Canada, not to be outdone, has a list of equally unusual laws.
When travelling to Canada you need to pick your reading material carefully since comic books that depict illegal activity are banned. Interestingly, it is also against the law to board an aircraft while it is in flight. Has anyone ever done this before? Canada is clearly not a safe space for flying superheroes or villains. To make up for this, the country has laws protecting seemingly mythical creatures. In the province of British Columbia it is illegal to kill a sasquatch, or Bigfoot, in the unlikely event that one should ever be discovered.
In case you ever thought of waking a sleeping bear, you may want to think twice about doing this in Alaska. Waking a bear to take its picture is illegal, but shooting and killing a bear is perfectly okay. In what appears to be an all-encompassing concern for animals, Alaska also deems it an offence to serve beer to a moose - apparently they get quite rowdy when drunk. And you're not allowed to push a living moose from a moving aeroplane, because, well, they can't fly.
A little further south you'll find New Jersey, the state that deems reckless walking an offence for which you can be fined. This law was implemented after distracted pedestrians kept causing accidents when they meandered into traffic.
Africa's laws are an interesting mix of conservative and almost unbelievable, which really just adds to the allure of this developing continent. It's guaranteed to be a most memorable travel experience - just make sure to get the lowdown on the laws first.
In Swaziland wearing a miniskirt or tank top can land you in jail for up to six months. Shockingly, this law only came into effect in 2012. It exists because apparently dressing seductively encourages rape. Understandably, the law faced a lot of backlash from women who considered it a violation of their human rights. Despite this, it still stands today - something to bear in mind if you want to strip down on a hot day in Swaziland.
If you find yourself driving around South Africa, remember to give right of way to any animals waiting to cross the road. Failing to do so can land you a £220 fine. It may not be common in the bigger cities, but on the quieter roads coming across an owner walking with his livestock is par for the course.
Africa is not the only continent concerned about modesty. Asia has its own set of rules about what is acceptable attire, which are strictly enforced - even in people's own homes.
Let's start with Singapore, a country where you're not allowed to walk around your house naked. As strange as this is, it's made even more unusual by the fact that someone can make a citizen's arrest if they spot you strolling around in your birthday suit. To discourage nosy neighbours from peeking at you, something that seems likely to happen, remember to keep your curtains firmly shut when necessary.
Thailand is not far behind with their unusual laws on nudity. The country deems it illegal to leave the house without underwear - no Britney Spears or Paris Hilton incidents here fellow travellers. Let’s just hope there is no way (or need) for authorities to check whether you are guilty of this particular crime.
Many of the more unusual European laws are directed at protecting their cultural assets. This is not really surprising considering that Europe is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and has a history dating back thousands of years.
Switzerland's desire for peace and quiet reached new heights when the country banned flushing the toilet after 10 pm to prevent noise pollution. In fact, any loud or disruptive noise after 10 pm is forbidden - clearly the Swiss really need their sleep.
Out of respect, you are not allowed to sit in courtyards or on steps, or eat in the proximity of public buildings and churches in Florence. Feeding the pigeons in Venice, once a very popular tourist activity, can now get you a £450 fine. Bear in mind, this is also for your own safety. Venetian pigeons are known to be quite aggressive, descending upon innocent pigeon feeding tourists en masse. In Greece, no high heels are allowed on archaeological sites - you can just imagine the damage done to historical sites by incessant high heel wearing tourists. Unfortunately nobody has banned tourists from climbing up mountains in high heels - and yes, these people do exist.
You may be rather surprised to find that you don’t have to go abroad to encounter unusual laws. Here are a few of our strangest local laws.
You are not allowed to die in the Houses of Parliament - although it remains unclear how you will be punished for transgressing this particular law. There's another law dating back all the way to the 14th century, which states that you may not wear armour to the Houses of Parliament.
In England, it is prohibited to sing profane or obscene songs on the street, more particularly bawdy drinking ballads. This law probably doesn't go down too well considering our very lively pub culture. On a similar note, in Scotland it is punishable by law to be found in charge of a cow, horse or steam engine while inebriated.more blog posts