Essential holiday tips: Don't pee in the sea
It’s miserable outside, seriously miserable, and with no sign of summer in sight. It doesn’t look much the arrival of the Olympics is going to bring much cheer either as the security debacle rumbles on and the brand police start fining businesses using the words 'gold', 'summer' or 'London' in their advertising. You can’t even go and let your hair down for a weekend as music festivals are being cancelled all over the place and there is no chance of anything so traditionally summery as a picnic. So let’s all go on holiday.
If you are throwing economic caution to the wind and jetting off somewhere where the temperatures remain in double figures for more than 3 hours at a time and you don’t need to wear a jumper and scarf while eating breakfast, you will, I am sure, have a glorious time. You are probably very sensible, don’t do drugs or carry knives and won’t attempt to take photos of any military installations, ensuring you have a happy holiday and come home on your appointed flight.
There are, however, some far less well-behaved travellers because it seems more Britons are being arrested abroad. There were 6,015 cases in 2011-12, an increase of six per cent on the previous year, including a two per cent increase in drug cases.
When it comes to intent, I would imagine holidaymakers are just as likely (or unlikely) to commit a crime abroad as they are at home, particularly if it is connected to drinking or taking drugs. But there will undoubtedly be some hapless individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of the, depending where you are, police, polizia, poliisille, polis, policje or Pirihimana because they didn’t know they couldn’t pee in the sea.
So here, to keep you out of the jail cell on your summer break, are some things you really ought to know:
It actually is, apparently, illegal to urinate in the sea in Portugal. Mind you, I have no desire to know how anyone would find out if you did. You will also need a strong bladder in Switzerland where I am ‘reliably’ informed you cannot flush the toilet after 10pm if you are in an apartment block. The idea of the ‘loo police’ on patrol is possibly the most amusing thing I can think of about Switzerland.
Despite being something of a shoe-fan, I’d really rather just wear flip-flops and I can’t remember the last time I took a pair of heels on holiday with me. But just in case you can’t be parted from your Louboutins, don’t wear them on ancient Greek monuments, although why you’d be climbing to the Acropolis in five-inch heels is beyond me.
And don’t take them to Carmel, California, either as you can’t wear them without a permit. Originally intended to prevent accidents on the city’s cobblestones, which might lead to personal injury claims, this is one to gladden the hearts of insurers everywhere.
One of my pet hates is seeing people, generally tourists, although in the UK it can be anyone, wandering around without a full complement of clothing when not on the beach. Fortunately there are now several places where it is illegal to do just that, but where I don’t have to cover up from top to toe to avoid getting arrested myself.
In Barcelona, Spain, it is now against the law to be in the street wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts/ trunks. Being bare-chested or going fully nude has also been banned unless you are on the beach or the seafront promenade. You’ll also have to get fully dressed when you leave bathing areas in Monaco.
If you go to Thailand, make sure you take plenty of underwear, as it is illegal for anyone to leave a building without wearing their pants (how do they know if they’re yours?). It is also worth knowing that there are several islands in the Caribbean, including Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, where it is illegal for anyone, including children, to wear camouflage clothing.
While we’re over there, of course cannabis isn’t legal in Jamaica. In fact, there really isn’t anywhere you can ‘legally’ indulge in drugs, at least not anywhere you’d probably want to go. Even the Netherlands, the source of many a dull anecdote about ‘the time I got stoned in Amsterdam’ is banning tourists from cannabis cafes. I don’t blame them, it must be like letting the kids run riot in the sweet shop.
But beware, it is not just ‘illegal’ drugs that can get you arrested. Don’t go to Japan if you’ve got a cold, an allergy or sinus problems, or if you do be prepared to suffer for the duration of your stay, because the use or possession of Vicks inhalers and some other common medicines, are banned under their anti-stimulant drugs law.
Even if you haven’t been there, everyone knows it’s illegal to drop litter in Singapore, but bet you didn’t know you can also be fined for dropping litter in Venice and Florence. And don’t think the church steps or courtyard would be a lovely place to eat your lunch in Florence, because that’s an offence too.
Perhaps the greatest hazard of all is attempting to drive when abroad, and not just because of the apparent lack of any sort of due care and attention shown by the locals. In Germany, because there is no speed limit on the autobahn, it is illegal to stop, so don’t run out of petrol. It is also illegal to stop for pedestrians in China, so you’re probably better off driving everywhere.
Insurers will find their spiritual home in Honduras, where you can be held in custody after a road accident even if it isn’t your fault! In Denmark, the law states you must check for children hiding under your car before you set off. In Japan it is against the law to splash mud or water on a pedestrian (just as well it’s not illegal here) and in Moscow you can be fined if your vehicle is dirty.
Don't forget your breathalyser in France, your fire extinguisher in Turkey, or your spare pair of glasses in Spain. And don’t take your dog to Alaska and tie it to the roof of your car.