When planning a trip, you tend to think about what to pack, where to stay once you arrive, and what activities you want to do while you’re there. What you don’t often think about are the laws of the country you plan to visit. Many people assume that what’s legal in their home country is legal elsewhere. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, immigration lawyer and world traveler Jean Danhong Chen points out that certain destinations have some rather absurd laws that it’s important to be aware of when travelling. Though in most cases the laws might not apply to tourists, or even be enforced for locals, they’re something worth knowing when travelling abroad. Jean Chen has visited many of the regions below and on her trips has learned about a host of bizarre laws some countries have. Keep reading to discover 5 obscure laws to be aware of when travelling.
1. It is illegal to hold a salmon under suspicious circumstances in the United Kingdom
You read that right! There is a statute in the United Kingdom called The Salmon Act that came into effect in 1986. The intention of the act was to regulate salmon fishing; however, it’s frequently cited as one of the most unusual laws around the world owing to one section, Section 23, which states that it is illegal to “handle salmon in suspicious circumstances.” Jean Danhong Chen asserts that while the language used might sound a little ridiculous to some, the intention of the provision was noble. The section set out to crack down on illegal salmon fishing by effectively making it a crime to receive or dispose of salmon that was illegally fished. Beyond Section 23, the act covers a range of matters relating to salmon fisheries, such as trade regulations for salmon dealers.
2. It is illegal to chew gum in Singapore
In 1992, then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong introduced a ban on chewing gum that came into effect via the Control of Manufacture Act. The ban came as a result of a 1983 report that claimed gum was causing maintenance problems in public infrastructure, as well as after a series of incidents in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in which vandals were sticking gum to the door sensors of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit trains. This prevented the doors from closing, which delayed trains and was costly to fix. According to Jean Chen, the act of chewing gum technically isn’t against the law in Singapore, it’s just banned. However, since 1992, it has been illegal to import or sell gum in the country, which makes it extremely difficult to get your hands-on chewing gum. That said, there are some exceptions to the ban which came into effect in 2004, such as nicotine gum.
3. It is illegal to run out of gas on a motorway in Germany
Germany’s motorways (autobahns) are known around the world for having no speed limit. With cars zooming around you, it makes sense that the government declared it illegal to stop on a motorway for no good reason. Jean Danhong Chen shares that running out of gas is not considered a good enough reason to stop driving while on a German autobahn, since it’s easily preventable. Thus, if you find yourself with an empty gas tank in the middle of the motorway, you can be fined up to 70 euros. That number continues to rise if your stopped car causes any sort of accident or disruption.
4. It is illegal to let your chickens cross the road in Quitman, Georgia
Jean Danhong Chen cites this as one of her favorite obscure laws given how people tend to relate it to the famous “why did the chicken cross the road?” joke. It is true that there is a city ordinance in Quitman, Georgia, USA that prohibits domestic fowl from running in public. Section 8–1 of the Municipal Code of Quitman states, “It shall be unlawful for any person owning or controlling chickens, ducks, geese or any other domestic fowl to allow the same to run at large upon the streets or alleys of the city or to be upon the premises of any other person, without the consent of such other person.” The law is in effect to keep public areas clean and prevent domestic fowl from defecating on other people’s property and in public areas, like roads. Therefore, although the law doesn’t specifically use the phrase “cross the road,” it is the case that a chicken crossing the road is prohibited in this Georgia city.
5. It is illegal to change a light bulb without a license in Victoria, Australia.
Victoria — otherwise known as Australia’s second most populous state — had a rather strange law that made it illegal to change a light bulb without a valid license. This bizarre law was enshrined in the 1998 Electricity Safety Act, which considered the simple acts of changing a light bulb and removing a plug from a socket to be forms of electrical work. Under this act, electrical work could only legally be completed by someone with a license. A resident caught breaking this law could face a fine of $10 AUD. However, the state government soon realized that the law was rather unnecessary, and so a recent revision removed the acts of changing a light bulb or unplugging an electrical cord from a socket.