So here you go, 21 activities to avoid while traveling in Europe. These activity could get you heavily fined or jailed, hence read up, better safe than sorry.
1. Taking photos of officersOutside the Buckingham palace, tourists are happily taking photos with the royal guards and they seem cool with it. But it doesn't mean that you should do it anywhere else! I've been living in Russia for 5 years, and I've seen tourists being ordered to delete their photos by police officers. The same issue arose when I was in Paris. I adore candid photos so I intended to take one, of my friend asking direction from an officer. I got flagged down immediately.
Actually, if you put yourself in their shoes, do you allow random people to take photos of you? This law makes sense. Although people are still doing it everywhere.
2. Taking photos of monuments.Yup! You see it right! Monuments, even those that are frequent by tourists! In the Moscow subway station, I've seen a police officer shouting "Zapresheno!" ("Not allowed") to a foreigner carrying an extensive camera bag. But this is quite confusing because no one said anything about me taking pictures with my compact camera (there were police officers around too). In some other countries like the Vatican City, taking photos of the Sistine chapel is a crime as it violates the law of copyright.
3. Taking selfiesI recently came across an article on the DailyMail about the new EU legislation prohibiting selfies in front of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge, Colosseum etc.... Stop, I don't really understand the nature of this one too... so... the buildings need to be blacked out for? Copyright?
While I am not sure about taking selfies in other places, I am sure about this one: Disneyland had announced a total ban on selfies, and selfie-sticks are no longer allowed in the park.
4. Making certain gesture.You might think it's fun to pose for a photo in Germany giving the Heil Hitler! salute. It's NOT. In modern day Germany, doing that could get you arrested.
5. Eating at monumentsYou've seen people taking Instagram photos of gelato in front of some monuments. While I can't say it's all a lie, it largely depends on your luck, whether a police officer is near. Eating and drinking around monuments are prohibited in some European cities, especially in Italy. That explained why I had to retreat to a side street to finish my gelato. I personally didn't realize that until someone told me about this law in the train towards Vienna.
6. Feeding pigeonsWait what?! I know, most tourists had done it for Instagram. This scene sounds familiar: Someone fills his/her hands with breadcrumbs, attracting the pigeons, then while they are happily enjoying the feast, she stomp her foot and as the pigeons spread their wings, the other person snaps away. In some places, this will get you heavily fined... I am talking about hundreds of euro. Why? Because pigeons pose a threat to the monuments, especially its acidic excrements.
7. Buying the wrong train ticketNo matter who is in the wrong: you yourself, the ticket counter or miscommunication, you'll have to pay the fine. We once got a wrong ticket in Belgium (same destination, wrong stopovers), we were fined 6 euros each. Not a big sum but still a fine. The ticket inspector keeping saying "Sorry I know I am a bad person but this is my job". He actually does not need to be apologetic at all.
Read more: How to refund a SNCF ticket
8. Traveling without a valid ticketThis actually happens very often. Especially on SNCF trains during peak hours, people tend to skip the line and jump onto a train without a ticket. Budget travelers do this to cut cost, some actually admitted doing it. But if you decide to take the risk, you better pray that you won't get caught, or else it might be the end of the trip for you.
I lost a return metro ticket once without realizing it. I was caught while coming out from the station in Greece and was issued a €60 fine. Don't be an idiot like me.
9. Not validating your ticket!You bought a ticket but forgot to get it validated? It is just as bad as if you are traveling without a ticket. If you are caught by the ticket inspector, expect a (not less than) €50 fine in cash, and if you fail to pay on the train, you'll have to pay €100 instead. Why such a big deal? Because an unvalidated ticket can be reused, and there are people who do that on purpose, in order to save money.
But what if you forgot to validate? I know, I've been there too. Back to my first time on Europe rail, I did not realize that tickets need validating. The ticket inspector was kind enough to let me off. The second time it happened, I ran to the front of the train searching for the ticket inspector and when I've finally found him, I explained the situation by adding 2 "sorry"s per sentence. He just smiled and wrote the time on my ticket.
I've seen people making a scene on the train because of this validation fine and things will get worst when the police gets involved. So, please, Validate. Your. Tickets.
In Italy, you have to validate your ticket at a green small Trenitalia box located on the platforms, as for SNCF in France, ticket validation can be done at the yellow ticket box.
10. Sleeping in a train station or airport.I was too used to sleeping in American airports, I failed to realize that it is actually prohibited in some European airports. Two police officers woke me up in Berlin airport telling me that this is not a hostel; officers in Barcelona checked around for valid boarding passes; while officers in Amsterdam airport kept checking on us every 60 minutes (after 5am) to make sure that we were awake... And they have a valid reason. They are afraid that your things will be snatched away while you are sleeping.
However, I must say, some officers are just plain rude. I remember the day when railways were affected due to hail and all trains were delayed. My new friends and I decided to take a nap while waiting for the train along with other passengers. A staff stepped out from the control room and threw some papers on a traveler's face while shouting "do not camp here!" Completely R.U.D.E. and this incident destroyed my overall impression on this particular country.
11. Wearing heelsVisiting ancient theaters wearing high heels not only will cause damage to these ancient wonders it also poses danger to yourself. Hence if you arrive at the meeting point of your tour with heels, your tour guide would most certainly ask you to take off your shoes.
12. Leaving your passport at the hotelI used to do this too before becoming a Europe resident: carrying a photocopy of my passport around and leave the real one in the hostel, locked away safely in the locker. This doesn't always work. In some countries, if officers demand to see a government ID and you couldn't provide it, you'll receive a fine.
However, beware of scammers pretending to be police officers! Read about 22 Travel Scams to avoid in Europe here!
13. Making noise on weekend.This might get you arrested. For most young people, Saturday and Sunday nights mean party. But in the part of the world where I live in, people reserve the rights to call the police if they think that you are making too much noise, disturbing their rest. In Switzerland, you can't flush the toilet after 10pm, it's against the law. Doing indoor exercise? Look at the time first or else your neighbor downstairs will come knocking on your door with or without police officers. I've seen people get chased out from their apartment so please don't play with fire.
14. Picking up stones as souvenirsWhen visiting a new place, what kind of sovenirs can be more authentic than those offered by mother nature?
When traveling in autumn, I love to collect fallen leaves and make them into bookmarks. When visiting beaches, I love to collect stones and seashells, making them into bracelets or paperweight. However, in some places, you could be violating the law without even knowing. For example, those who steal rocks from Sicily Stair of the Turks will meet with a €500 fine.
15. Buying fake goods on the streetDo not buy counterfeit goods from street vendors, no matter how much you like the Prada or LV lookalike. Or else, you will be facing heavy fine starting from €3333. This is part of European country's fight against illegal street trade.
16. LitteringThink again. In 2014, a Danish tourist was fined €600 for throwing away a cigarette butt on an Italian beach. I don't think this point needs any further explanation so let's move on to the next point.
17. Flying a droneYou may think flying a drone over iconic monuments is harmless, and what's more, you will be able to snap some rad aerial shots that will make your facebook friends green with envy. Hold it right there, you might be violating the local law of piloting remote aircraft.
While visiting the lavender fields in Provence, we saw a couple flying a drone over the Lavender fields, my friend (a French) told me that it was illegal, I didn't quite get the point until I came across this law. For those who own a drone, please read the city guidelines about filming and if necessary, obtain a permit before flying your device. The fine could get up to $170,000 and you really won't want that to happen on a vacation.
18. Going into the fountainsWhen I visited America last Summer, I was surprised to find out that people are walking in fountains to cool down, even in Washington DC! While I am not sure if going into the fountains is legal or not in America, it seems that everyone is doing it, including my favorite travel blogger when she visited New York City. The photo got onto Instagram and no one spoke up, so I guess it is okay in the States?
However, when the same thing happens in Europe, it becomes a serious illegal offense. Yes, there is a law since 1999 to keep tourist out of the water in Italy.
19. Carving initials on anything!Taylor swift did it on a tree in her Chateau garden, so why can't we? Well if you decide to carry on, be ready to serve your time in European jail staring into Blank Space!
I bet you've seen those initial carvings too, on a tree, on the bridges, on some random walls... even on the bus windows. Guys, this is called vandalism. I remember reading this news back in 2014: a Russian tourist was fined €20,000 by carving his initial on the Colosseum in Rome. While you may be able to get away doing this in other parts of the world, I highly recommend sparing Europe (and also your bank).
20. Saving a spotIt means a €200 fine if you get caught trying to save a spot on the public beaches. In order to grab the best spot on the beach, tourists had been reported leaving their gears or towels overnight. Now that the coastguards have decided to interfere, you'll be considered as a criminal for leaving your gears unattended on the beach before the beach is opened to public at 8/8.30am.
21. Kissing on train platformsIn 1910, France announced a ban on kissing on train platforms, and this law is still around to help prevent train delays.
Read more: 10 Things To Avoid While Traveling To Japan
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Thank You for Reading!
I am not an expert in law, this post is written based solely on my research and personal experience.
If you think I've something explained wrongly, feel free to enlighten me by commenting below!