lead-passport-travel-stampsTaking off to new destinations has undeniable charm. But just to be on the safe side, be mindful of some surprising laws that, to the unwary, could lead to embarrassment, fines or worse.

Culture clashes may occur at any time. From a harmless hug to lighting a cigarette outdoors, there are strange travel faux pas globetrotters would do best to avoid.

Granted, most of us can rest easy on the plane ride to our destinations knowing that we won’t run afoul of such rules. Plus, many reported laws are just urban legends, and in other cases, anomalies on the books that no one has the time or interest to enforce. But others — no matter how bizarre they sound — all too often mean business.

napoleon-pigFor example, in France, it’s illegal to name a pig Napoleon. In Florida, single women can’t parachute on Sundays. And in England, you may urinate anywhere in public, including inside a policeman’s helmet, providing you’re also pregnant.

Other laws — such as keeping your headlights on at all times while driving in Denmark — are in equal parts surprising and real. Get caught with your lights off and the resulting fine could run about $100 (and the entire EU may adopt the law).

Here’s a rundown of some other local ordinances you should know about and heed:

Don’t dine on church steps in Italy — or within the church’s courtyard for that matter. The same goes for snacking near pubic buildings. Fines can be higher than an average meal in a local trattoria.

do-not-feed-pigeonsFeeding pigeons is a law-breaker in San Francisco. The city blames the ubiquitous birds for spreading disease and damaging property. Providing them with food nets you a hefty fine.

Get caught smoking weed in Jamaica, Mon? Surprisingly, marijuana is outlawed on this island paradise. And there are hefty fines for cultivation, use or possession.

Pack a breathalyzer if you plan to drive in France. Tourists and residents alike are legally required to carry this portable gadget in their cars. Caught without one? Expect to cough up at least 11 Euros tout suite.

lipsPucker up in public at your peril in the United Arab Emirates. Along with kissing, ditto goes for hugging and holding hands. Take this warning seriously since tourists have been arrested and thrown in jail for being outwardly amorous. Save displays of affection for private occasions behind closed doors.

Although regulations in different cities and foreign countries may seem unusual, remember you are guests on their soil and to paraphrase the old saying, when anywhere away from home, do as the natives do.

Undoubtedly, being in a strange place can be invigorating and eye opening. Regardless of what type of trip you’re on — business or strictly pleasure, there are several steps you can take to ease an overseas journey.

hotel-biz-cardsTake a business card from the hotel’s front desk
That way, if you get lost, you have the name and address of the hotel in the local language. Large populations around the world speak English, but having something in a local language to show locals and taxi drivers is an extra bit of insurance.

Be aware of the six-month passport rule
The expiration date on your passport is actually a bit deceiving. The U.S. lets you use your passport up to the date inside the cover.

However, several countries will deny travelers entry if the passport expires in less than six months. Why? If for some unexpected reason you get stuck overseas longer than planned, that country wants to ensure that you have a valid passport to eventually travel back to the United States. To avoid any problems, always renew your passport during a downtime in travel, about nine months prior to the expiration date.

Fraud alerts
Notify your credit card company’s fraud department of what countries you will be visiting and on what dates. This way, they won’t think your card is stolen and shut it off just when you need it the most. Be mindful of any countries you might be changing planes in; you might need to make a charge during your layover, especially if there’s a delay.

Equip a medicine bag with items such as Advil, Nyquil, Imodium A-D, and Tums as well as essential prescription medications. Yes, even the most historic European neighborhood has a drugstore. But do you want to be running around Germany late at night, trying to translate “diarrhea”? If you’re heading to third-world countries, stocking up in advance on hard to get prescription or over the counter meds is key.

Data roaming
Set up your cell phone to avoid international data roaming. Many business travelers have an international calling and data plan. But infrequent travelers don’t. The biggest costs can come from transmitting data overseas.

Unwanted local currency
Figure out how much cash is necessary for your last night in a country and then set aside the amount from your leftover local money. At checkout time, ask the hotel to apply it to your bill and then pay the remaining balance with a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.

us-dept-of-state-sealTravel alerts
Lastly, but perhaps most important in these uncertain times, when planning an overseas journey, it’s a good idea to check the U.S. Department of State website for travel warnings and alerts that pertain to the countries you’re visiting. It’s also smart to print out the address and contact information of the local United States embassies and consulates. All, adding up to enjoying a truly bon voyage!

U.S. Department of State
When planning overseas trips, it’s wise to check the U. S. Department of State website for current information, warnings and travel restrictions in foreign countries
All travel books are available at Click on titles or authors for purchase.
Personal Security: A Guide for International Travelers
by Tanya Spencer
Wendy Perrin’s Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
by Wendy Perrin

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