Know before you go: Travelers should be aware of unusual laws before heading abroad

Don’t get caught in high heels on the Acropolis

Between making sure your passport is updated and that you’ve packed the right necessities, international travelers should also check how unusual or unexpected laws might impact them while they’re abroad.

For instance, if you’re an unmarried couple, sharing a room in Dubai or Qatar could cause serious legal consequences — an unwed woman cannot share a room with a man unless he is her husband or father. LGBTQ+ couples, on the other hand, could face jail and extradition. According to Equaldex, at least 60 countries have laws that most Westerners would consider homophobic.

It’s not just laws about relationships you should watch out for. From prescription medications to the type of shoes you wear, tourists often find themselves at odds with local law enforcement over unexpected rules.

“At best, authorities could hand down a corrective warning for the prohibited behavior,” Travel Pulse wrote. “At worst, they could impose a fine, arrest, expel or even jail offenders.”

Shoes and cameras in Athens

If you’re planning a trip to Athens’ Acropolis, double check your choice of shoes. In order to maintain the ancient allure and protect the unique construction of the historic site, authorities banned high-heels in 2009. Big back packs, as well as tripods and other professional camera equipment are also banned.

When it comes to what to wear, sites around the world — especially churches, mosques and other places of worship — often require visitors to dress modestly.

Prescription drugs

If you’re traveling with medicines, be sure to check whether they’re legal in the country you’re visiting. Many common medications, including sleeping pills, ADD treatments and opioid painkillers, are forbidden in some countries.

Check the guidelines of the country you plan to visit to make sure it’s okay to bring your medications. If you must travel with medications, Travel Pulse suggests keeping them in their original container along with a copy of the prescription from a medical professional.


In larger cities, it’s easy to get around using public transport and taxis, but if you plan on driving while you’re abroad, be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road. In Scotland, for example, even the simplest fender-bender will likely result in an arrest and an order to appear in court.

In most countries, it’s illegal to turn right on red — a law that’s likely to take an American by surprise. In Thailand, you can be arrested for driving without a shirt, even if you’re just buzzing around town on one of the city’s popular scooters. In Germany, pulling over on the Autobahn for anything except a serious emergency — which does not include running out of gas — will get you in trouble.