'I Can't Do What?' The Weirdest International Laws on the Books

Lena Katz / Yahoo Travel
Photo: Thinkstock

The world is a big, funny place. Practices and activities that are perfectly normal in one country might be verboten in another. Even in countries that have had a stable government for centuries, some absolutely archaic laws still stand, even though legislators and citizens alike know that they’re ridiculous.

Last week we ran a roundup of strange laws in the United States. While researching them, we found that most of the strangest were actually just urban legends. But elsewhere in the world, some of the craziest laws are on the books and stirring up debates in the courts. Try not to break any of these wacky laws on your next trip abroad.

1. Don’t infringe on the property of elves. In Iceland, modern road developments may not encroach on the traditional homes of … magical creatures. Actually this is still to be ruled on by Iceland’s Supreme Court. However, in 2013, an elf advocacy group called Friends of Lava halted the construction of a major highway project due to fears about disturbing the elf habitat.

'I Can't Do What?' The Weirdest International Laws on the Books

Shhh! They’re busy making cookies in there. (Photo: jpellgen/Flickr)

2. Leave your suit of armor at home. It is illegal to wear a suit of armor into the Houses of Parliament in England. Might we also suggest a ban on those barrister wigs made of horsehair? They were actually mandatory till a few years ago but are a definite crime against fashion.

What? We thought it was casual Friday. (Photo: SeRg10/Flickr)

3. Don’t eat mince pies on Christmas. In England, it is also illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas. This went on the books in the Oliver Cromwell era, is apparently broken en masse by British citizenry every holiday season, and placed near the top of a recent poll of “most ludicrous laws in the U.K.”

Sometimes it feels good to be bad. Just eat that mince pie. (Photo: Getty Images)

4. Get your pet a passport. In the EU, circus animals need passports to travel between member states. Circus mice can travel under a collective passport. It’s up to the veterinarian in the member state of departure to verify that all animals’ passports are up-to-date. We imagine that getting stuck behind a traveling circus at airport passport control would be the worst.

How do you get your chimp to smile for his passport photo? (Photo: Getty Images)

5. Don’t chew gum in Singapore. Pretty much everyone knows about the chewing gum ban in Singapore. It’s illegal to import it, sell it, or bring it into the country for personal use. Doubtful they’ll jail you for accidentally having a few pieces in your handbag, but … better to just leave the Bubble Yum at home when you travel here.

Would a world without chewing gum be so bad? (Photo: Cory Doctorow/Flickr)

6. Save space for the aliens. Brazil has had its share of bizarre laws. There is a municipal law on the books in the state of Mato Grosso that sets aside land in the town of Barra do Garças for an alien airport.

We support any and all laws reserving land for an alien airport. (Photo: Adilson Lopes Garcia/Flickr)

7. Diaper your donkey. In Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil, a peculiar piece of legislation requires that horses and burros wear diapers.

Where do you get Depends in his size? (Photo: Getty Images)

8. Listen to the ladies. Women make the laws in the all-female town Noiva do Cordeiro, located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. This made international headlines last month when the town issued a public invitation for suitable men to meet and hopefully marry some of the single female population. The important caveat is, men need to abide by the women’s rules. This makes a lot of sense, considering that Noiva do Cordeiro was founded by a woman who was excommunicated after leaving a forced marriage in the late 19th century, and populated over the generations by women who had nowhere else to go under some of Brazil’s more conservative and chauvinist family laws.

A town where ladies rule supreme. (Photo: Noiva do Cordeiro/Facebook)

9. Leave the pink hot pants at home. Women may not wear pink hot pants any time after noon on a Sunday in Victoria, Australia. So … yes, wear those fuchsia Daisy Dukes to church on Sunday morning, but put on something more modest for your afternoon barbecue. 

Our editor-in-chief Paula Froelich thinks you should never wear pink hot pants. At any time of day.(Photo: Leorex/Flickr)

10. Leave your medication at home. Visitors to Japan may not bring Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks, or asthma inhalers into the country. Check your toiletries bag! Nothing with pseudoephedrine or codeine shall pass!

What if you actually have asthma? (Photo: Jaypeg/Flickr)

11. Don’t go commando. In Thailand, it’s illegal to leave one’s domicile if not wearing underwear. Commando is a no-go! A Western mind immediately wonders, “How would the police know?” Visible panty lines are preferable to Thai jail.

How would they ever know? (Photo: Conrad/Flickr)