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Where Feeding Pigeons Can Get Expats Arrested

Expats eating lunch near a church or feeding pigeons seem innocent activities – but they fall foul of unusual laws in some countries.

Chewing gum on a train in Singapore, taking too many cigarettes into Thailand and having certain kinds of nasal sprays in your luggage in Japan could all land expats with a hefty fine, according to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The FCO warns that hundreds of unwary expats and tourists are fined for doing things overseas that they take for granted at home.

More than a quarter of cases need the help of a British consul to resolve.

The FCO has also pointed out that authorities in Italy, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands are cracking down harder than expats than ever before.

Innocent victims

Charles Hay, Director of Consular Services at the FCO said: “British expats and tourists unexpectedly find themselves breaking the law when they are abroad all the time, often because what they are doing is perfectly normal at home but an offence in the country they are visiting.

“When travelling overseas, remember laws and customs vary between countries and innocent actions can easily lead to arrest or even detention.”

The FCO recommends expats and travellers should familiarise themselves with any unusual laws abroad before they leave the UK.

“A British passport won’t keep you out of jail,” said Hay. “Consular staff will help anyone in trouble as much as they can, but cannot interfere in another nation’s legal processes.”

Unusual laws and customs

Country Law Penalty
Netherlands Don’t carry drugs – some areas are designated as soft drug friendly, but the rest of the country has strict anti-drug laws Arrest, detention
Venice Don’t feed the pigeons – it’s banned Fines
Japan Over-the-counter nasal sprays containing pseudoephedrine are banned in Japan Fines
Barcelona It’s illegal to wear a bikini, swimming trunks or to go bare-chested away from the beach front Fines
Singapore Chewing gum on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is banned Fines
Thailand Visitors cannot take more than 200 cigarettes into the country Large fines and confiscation
Florence Eating or drinking on the steps, in courtyards or near churches and public buildings is forbidden in Florence Large fines
Saudi Arabia Photographing government buildings, military bases and palaces is banned Arrest and detention
Barbados Dressing in camouflaged clothing is against the law – even for children Fines
Nigeria Visitors cannot take mineral water into the country Fines, confiscation
Fiji Topless sunbathing is banned Fines
Maldives Visitors cannot observe any religious activities other than those related to Islam in public Arrest, detention


Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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