While there’s nothing wrong with packing your bag and traveling to a distant destination you’ve never heard of, it’s always a good idea to go through their local laws to ensure that you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of their prison. Many things we consider normal or totally harmless in our own country are outright banned in other places around the world, with punishments ranging from minor fines to full-fledged jail sentences.
10. High Heels, Greece
Athens, Greece is always a great travel destination to explore, though if you’re planning a trip there anytime soon, you might want to leave those high heels at home. Since 2009, the city has banned visitors wearing high heels around its ancient monuments – a rule that applies even during concerts and other live events. According to Greek lawmakers, heels pose a direct threat to the integrity of historical sites in Athens, as they can potentially scratch or damage their surface and cause long-term damage.
The rule applies to historic sites, like the Acropolis and Parthenom, and doubles up as a safety precaution due to the slippery surfaces found in ancient monuments across Athens. It’s not really a strict law, however – if you’re caught wearing heels around these sites, you might be asked to remove them or leave and return later with appropriate footwear.
9. Durian Fruit, Southeast Asia
The durian is also known as the ‘king of fruits’ in southeast Asia. It’s a unique species native to few countries in Asia, with around 30 individual species and hundreds of varieties growing across countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It could be identified by its spiky exterior, with a creamy, custard-like flesh comparable to buttercream or silky almond paste. One could even turn the fruit into wine due to its high sugar content. What makes it really famous – or rather infamous – however, is the extremely strong and pungent odor of its shell.
The smell has often been compared to things like sewage, vomit, skunk spray, and other similar things, making it one of the most divisive foods around the world. Thanks to that, the durian is outright banned in public places across southeast Asia, especially in hotels and public transport in countries like Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In Singapore, for example, the durian is prohibited on all types of public transport, and taxis often refuse passengers carrying it.
8. Snowball Fights, Colorado
While many parts of Colorado are perfect for a winter vacation, don’t even think about starting a snow fight when you’re there. According to state laws, throwing snowballs around is a violation of local anti-missile laws. One notable case from 2018 involved a nine-year-old boy named Dane Best, who successfully convinced his hometown council in Severance, Colorado, to overturn the century-old law that banned people from throwing snowballs at people, animals, buildings, or trees.
The law remains in effect In towns like Aspen, Boulder, Fort Collins, and others, however. The severity of the penalty varies according to the municipality, with some places only imposing minor fines for the infraction. In the town of Boulder, special exceptions have been made for professional jugglers, who can toss snowballs but not knives or anything on fire.
While it may sound unreasonable, the ban is aimed at maintaining public safety and preventing harm or damage to others, as snowballs have caused criminal charges for assault or harassment in the past.
7. Goldfish In Bowls, Rome
In October 2005, authorities in Rome enacted a ban on goldfish bowls across the city, describing them as cruel and unsuitable as living environments for the fish. This by-law was part of a broader effort to improve animal welfare within the Italian capital, including mandatory dog walks for all dog owners in the city to ensure adequate exercise for the pets, and a blanket prohibition on the practice of giving away animals as fairground prizes.
The decision to ban goldfish bowls came after years of concerns raised by animal rights activists and fish experts, as some studies proved that these bowls caused the fish to go blind and provide insufficient oxygen for their daily well-being.
The legislation also included a by-law providing legal recognition and protection for individuals who cared for colonies of stray cats found throughout the city. These efforts were part of a broader initiative to address the issue of pet abandonment, with estimates indicating that thousands of dogs and cats were left homeless in the city annually.
6. Ketchup, France
In 2011, France introduced restrictions on the use of ketchup in school cafeterias, citing protecting its culinary heritage and promoting healthier eating habits among its youth as the primary reasons behind the move. The ban includes all kinds of foods served in school cafeterias, except French fries.
In addition to that, French schools are also encouraged to reduce the consumption of fatty foods and incorporate more vegetables, fruits, and dairy products into their menus. With the move, the authorities want to discourage consumption of American-based food items and instead promote Gallic cuisine.
The ban applies to all school cafeterias across the country, serving about 1 billion meals a year. Schoolchildren are also not allowed to bring home-prepared meals to school, and can only eat in the cafeteria or go home for lunch.
5. Jogging, Burundi
If you like jogging, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from the east-African state of Burundi. In March, 2014, the country’s sitting President, Pierre Nkurunziza, outlawed the seemingly-harmless activity on the suspicion that it was being used as a guise for organizing political protests against his government. The ban was part of a broader crackdown on opposition groups and civil liberties ongoing in the country at the time, largely thanks to Nkurunziza’s attempts to secure a third term in office despite constitutional term limits.
The ban came into effect in the backdrop of growing political tensions and protests, with opposition parties and activists pushing back against the President’s efforts to consolidate power. It applied to all group sports and exercises, making it illegal for people to jog together in the streets of the country’s capital. Violating it carried severe penalties, including but not restricted to imprisonment.
4. Baby Walkers, Canada
Baby walkers are a common sight around the world, except in Canada. Back in 2004, the country banned the sale, advertising, and import of baby walkers, becoming the first nation ever to impose such a prohibition. It was in response to growing concerns surrounding the dangers posed to infants in these devices – according to studies, baby walkers often led to accidents and injuries like concussions, burns, and even fractures.
The ban didn’t just apply to the commercial sale of baby walkers, but also to the resale of baby walkers at private events like garage sales and flea markets, and ignoring it can still lead to fines of up to $100,000.
Despite the ban in Canada, baby walkers remain freely available in the United States. Further research indicates that they don’t necessarily aid in a child’s development in any way, either, and may in fact hinder it in some cases.
3. Feeding Pigeons, Venice
Like many other cities around the world, pigeons had been a growing problem for the city of Venice in Italy for quite some time. To combat the menace, the government decided to ban the practice of feeding them altogether back in April 2008, citing concerns over the birds’ contribution to the deterioration of the city’s historic monuments. The ban extended to the sale and distribution of grain used to feed the pigeons, effectively putting an end to a long-standing tradition that attracted tourists to St. Mark’s Square – a famous pigeon-feeding spot in the city.
It was a bad day for both pigeons and pigeon-feed sellers on St. Mark’s Square, and many were seen protesting the move for weeks after the ban came into effect. The move was initiated by Mayor Massimo Cacciari, who blamed the winged creatures for spreading filth and damaging the city’s iconic monuments. According to an estimate, cleaning and repairing the damage caused by pigeons would have caused every Venetian some 275 euros annually.
2. Lacy Underwear, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan
Lacy underwear was banned in Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in 2014, thanks to a regulation passed by the customs union formed by post-Soviet states. The union, established in 2010, aimed to create a European Union-style trade union among member countries.
It stipulated that clothing in contact with the skin should contain a minimum of 6% cotton for safety reasons, supposedly to protect consumers against synthetic garments that don’t adequately absorb moisture and could potentially lead to skin problems.
The ban was met with resistance despite claims about its health benefits, particularly in Kazakhstan, where several women were reportedly detained for protesting against it. Many protesters posted pictures of themselves in lacy underwear on social media, though it did little to convince the authorities.
1. Lip-Syncing, Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is one of the last few absolute monarchies in the world, with its President Saparmurat Niyazov famous for his strict regulations on random things and his cult of personality. Back in 2005, he issued a countrywide ban on lip-syncing, largely due to his personal belief that the practice harms the development of singing and musical art within Turkmenistan. He first expressed his concerns during a cabinet meeting, before proceeding to ban the practice altogether.
The prohibition applies to all cultural events, concerts, television broadcasts, and private celebrations. He has also expressed strong opinions on other seemingly-harmless things in the past, like his ban on opera and ballet dating back to 2001, and his longtime opposition to young men wearing beards and long hairstyles.