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Derek Coleman: You might want to research your destination’s laws

December 19, 2018

It’s coming up to Christmas and everywhere you look, there are ads for the latest in gift ideas and ways to celebrate. I don’t watch a lot of TV here, but when I was back in England it was very noticeable that immediately after Christmas Day the ads changed. What did they change to? Vacations. It appears the advertising industry thinks that in the period after the holiday people’s thoughts are on where they were going to spend their next summer vacation.

The world is a much smaller place these days, people travel all over the world and, if you’re one of them and your thoughts are drifting to visiting exotic foreign shores, there are one or two things you might want to bear in mind.

Japan is a country I’ve always wanted to visit. It’s a long trip, though. More than 14 hours in the air and flying tends to give me the sniffles. There are remedies for that of course, inhalers and Sudafed for example. If you’re like me and you go there whatever you do, do not take these with you. They are strictly illegal in Japan along with any other medication containing pseudoephedrine or codeine, and you could get arrested for drug smuggling.

Given that, perhaps a shorter trip is more to your taste? Let’s think about Italy. A beautiful country, full of history with plenty of good food and fine wine to enjoy. The only thing is you need to be very careful where you enjoy them. Eating or drinking on church steps, within church precincts or near public buildings is strictly forbidden. If you’re caught you could find yourselves being escorted to jail by the Carabinieri.

How about moving on to France, to Paris in fact. My family and I were there back in the summer of 2015 and we saw no restrictions about eating and drinking. In fact we had lunch at the Eiffel Tower along with hundreds of other tourists. Everyone was taking pictures and I believe I shared a couple with you at the time. They were day time shots, we didn’t see the tower lit up in all its glory at night but, even if we had and we’d taken pictures I couldn’t have shared them with you. It’s actually illegal to take pictures of the tower at night and definitely illegal to share them.

Why? You may well ask. It has to do with international copyright law.

Copyright on the tower itself ran out in 1993 and so that’s why there are replicas in Las Vegas and at King’s Island, in Ohio, but the lights were not fitted until 1985. European law deems the lights made the structure into a work of art and so its nighttime appearance is covered by copyright until 2055.

Still in France you could decide to go for a drive. If you do, then remember to pack a breathalyzer because if you’re stopped by a traffic cop and you don’t have one you can get an on-the-spot fine of around $12.

Turning south you might want to enjoy a few days at the beach in the beautiful, ancient, Spanish city of Barcelona. When you do make sure you have a large bag to take on to the golden sands with you because you’re going to need a change of clothes. Wander away from the beach in a bikini or swim suit and you’ll find yourself getting a nice $150 fine.

Next door to Spain the Portuguese also have a strange law. It’s illegal to pee in the ocean there. How anyone would know is difficult to understand, but the law is there.

One of my favorite European vacation places is Greece. The islands are beautiful but, if you go there, ladies should be sure to pack some flat shoes. Many of the historic sites ban the wearing of high heels for fear they’ll damage the ancient stonework. Also be sure to eat before you go sightseeing, food and drink are now forbidden in many places because the authorities found more than 60 pounds of chewing gum stuck under the stone benches of a theater that was nearly 2,000 years old.

Speaking of chewing gum, let’s move to the east, to Singapore in fact. If you’re thinking of stopping off here and you chew gum, then don’t. It’s illegal to possess gum other than that used to stop smoking or for dental hygiene. Oh, and while we’re at it, if you’re a smoker you can only indulge in private. Lighting a cigarette in public, in the street, restaurant or park will earn you a big fine.

While we’re in the area, if you go to nearby Thailand and you happen to see a banknote lying in the street don’t even think about stepping on it to stop it blowing away. If you do you won’t get a fine, you’ll find yourself in jail because Thai money has pictures of their royal family on it and stepping on it is considered disrespectful.

In the same corner of the world you shouldn’t be tempted to sunbathe topless in Fiji and you shouldn’t take your bible with you to the Maldives, both of these acts will see you in a not very pleasant jail for a considerable time. And if you visit Cambodia don’t take your child’s water gun, the import or owning of them is illegal.

It seems you need to be careful in some of the more distant places so let’s move a little closer to home. How about Jamaica in the Caribbean? I guess quite a number of you will have been there on cruises etc. If so it might astonish you to know that the growing, possession or smoking of marijuana is strictly illegal and, if the law was enforced, could earn those caught a big fine.

While we’re at it remember not to swear on the nearby island of St. Kitts. It’s against the law and they impose it too, as the rapper 50 Cent found out when he let slip a naughty word at a concert in 2016.

You can’t take your feet off bicycle pedals in Mexico or pay with more than 25 coins in Canada, both are illegal and by law Canadian radio stations also have to play 35 percent of their music by Canadian artists.

I guess by now some of you are thinking foreign laws are strange so it might be better to stay right here in the good old USA for your vacation. If you do, and you happen to choose San Francisco as your destination, don’t throw your left-over food to the pigeons. It’s actually not only illegal, the citizens are encouraged to report violators to the police.

Derek Coleman is a part-time writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at tallderek@hotmail.com.

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