For most travelers, learning about and following quirky or obscure rules and customs of their destinations is not usually a problem. A few quick google searches or a read of a blog or guidebook typically answer the question of do’s and don’ts. However, some of those may be so strict or so obscure that some people question their logic and very existence. Let me assure you that many of these laws do exist, and people suffer the consequences of breaking them all the time. Here’s a few laws that are best left untested.
Conversion in Malaysia
Malaysia is a relatively devout Muslim country, so many of its laws are similar to those in the Middle East, otherwise known as Sharia Law. Sharia Law most commonly restricts Muslims from drinking alcohol, engaging in premarital sex, etc. However, if a Westerner is found to have influenced a Muslim to break Sharia Law, or a person of another faith attempts to distribute literature and/or engage in an attempt to convert Muslims away from their faith, arrest and imprisonment are bound to follow. It’s best to keep your personal beliefs as just that… personal.
Stoned in Singapore
Many people still remember that American student who got caned in Singapore back in the 90’s for tagging a car. Yes, that was a really dumb thing for him to do, but it should have also opened the eyes of many travelers to Singapore’s very strict laws. Especially concerning drug laws. Singapore mandates the death penalty for smugglers, and a smuggler is anyone possessing more 0.5 ounce of heroin or 1.0 ounce of cocaine is considered a smuggler. Marijuana possession is a little more lax at more than 17 ounces, but it’s still a good idea to leave your stash at home, since Singapore hanged 400 smugglers between 1991 and 2004.
With the very pervasive drinking culture embraced on all sides, it’s strange to think that Japan would have some of the most strict drunk driving laws in the world, but they do. A driver only has to have a blood alcohol content of between to .03% and .05% to be convicted, and a prison sentence of one year to three years is common, although a fifteen year sentence is not unheard of, and is sometimes accompanied by deportation. It’s probably wise to stick to taxis and trains when the Sapporo and sake come out.
Getting Amorous in Abu Dhabi
The UAE is a glitzy country known around the world for its sexy nightlife and lavish accommodations. Although it is a Muslim country, it is legal for foreigners to drink at hotels and clubs, but don’t get carried away. Emiratis get very offended at the shenanigans of drunk foreigners, especially when the PDA pops up. Tourists have been arrested, jailed and deported for getting frisky at a beach, in the back of a taxi, and in restaurants. This can also include an adultery charge if the offenders are not married. When visiting the jewel of the Arabian Sea, try to keep it clean, or at least private.
It’s not often that a traveler crosses a border unknowingly, but it does happen, typically for hikers. The plight of the US hikers arrested by Iranian officials for allegedly crossing the border from Kurdistan illegally in 2009 was well known around the world and very important to the travel community. The Middle East has incredibly strict immigration laws even you cross the border properly. Crossing illegally or even accidentally will land you a heap of trouble. The same can be true for other parts of the world such as Southeast Asia and Africa, as well.
Travel doesn’t have to be dangerous or frightening, and it rarely is. By following a few simple rules and customs and staying on the right side of laws, your trip will be everything you wanted, and probably more. Unless you wanted to be featured on Locked Up Abroad, in which case, simply ignore everything you’ve just read.