You better bite your tongue when you visit Middleboro, Mass. Last week, residents voted in a town meeting to impose a $20 fine on any publicly uttered swear words.
While this may catch some travelers to the community by surprise, it’s not the only place the uttering of curse words is illegal. Here are some of the wackiest local laws that visitors should be aware of before venturing out.
1. Be careful what you wear
Laws governing clothing are common and should always be checked before traveling abroad. Qatar forbids indecent or revealing clothes, defined as “not covering shoulders and knees, tight or transparent clothes.” The Vatican City requires shoulder coverings and skirts or shorts to the knee in order to enter museums and churches. And, Castellammare di Stabia, south of Naples, has outlawed mini-skirts, low-cut jeans and too much cleavage, with violators risking a 300-euro fine.
Thailand has a law demanding that you wear underwear at all times – also a good idea in general.
In Italy, where foreign beach-goers can offend the local sensibility, laws often require cover-ups over swimsuits. In Lerici, on the Italian Riviera, you’re not allowed to walk the streets in just a swimsuit. That’s also true on the island of Capri, which has gone further to protect the serenity of the vacation spot by banning noisy shoes, such as clogs or wooden-soled sandals.
2. The shoes on your feet
Carmel, Ca., where Clint Eastwood was mayor, has a famous historic ban on woman wearing high heels. Though the law isn’t enforced, tourists can purchase a commemorative permit allowing them to wear the shoes.
But, you won’t get away with that in the historic sites around Greece. After many of the country’s landmarks, like the Acropolis, were damaged in recent years by visitors, the government banned people from wearing high heels at the ancient locations.
Urban legend also has it that the city of Blythe, Calif., bans people from wearing cowboy boots unless they own at least two cows. However, even the city manager of Blythe has never heard of that rule being enforced, so you’re probably safe in those boots.
3. Pull up your pants
While fashions change, one thing hasn’t. People wearing their pants sagged below the top of their boxers has had public officials up in arms for years. Five metro cities around Atlanta have banned saggy pants, skirts and shorts – specifically those more than three inches below the wearer’s hips. In Forest Park, Ga., violators can even face a $1,000 fine.
Montgomery County in Alabama levies a $100 fine against juveniles and $150 fine against adults with the slogan: “Raise your pants, raise your image.”
Delcambre, La., was the first town to make it a crime to “show your underwear in public.” There you can face six months in jail for a violation.
4. No confetti or Silly String or Barbies
Gum isn’t the only thing you can get in trouble for owning. It is illegal to possess or use confetti in Mobile, Ala. The party fun has been found to be damaging to the environment and hard to clean up.
Mobile and our original law-happy Middlebourough, Mass., have also joined Ridgewood, N.J., Southington, Conn., and Huntington, N.Y., in banning Silly String. In Los Angeles, Silly String is banned – with a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail – but just on Halloween.
5. Watch your language
Virginia Beach, known as a family vacation destination, banned profanity in the early 1990s. Swearing can earn you a $250 fine and up to ten days community service.
The Australian states of Queensland and Victoria passed similar bans last year, which impose fines of $100AUD and $240AUD, respectively. Guess you’ll have to learn some Australian swear words just to make sure you don’t say them.
In Long Beach, Calif., public officials limited the swearing ban to a location known to cause more than a few curses: mini-golf courses. So, throw that golf club in silence.
6. Don’t spit
It’s more than just common courtesy not to spit in public, it’s illegal in many places. Face a fine and possible jail time if you spit on the public streets in Barcelona, Singapore, Vancouver, or Dodge City, Kan.
The best compromise, however, comes from Burlingame, Calif. In that West Coast town spitting is illegal, except, understandably, in its natural habitat: on the baseball diamond.
7. Or chew gum, or litter, or forget to flush the toilet
Singapore has a lot of laws. It’s known for its orderly, clean city, but that’s no accident. Littering will cost you $1,000 and not flushing a public toilet could cost $500. Don’t smoke in public. In fact, selling gum is illegal as well. Caning is still a form of punishment, so be careful to follow all local laws.
Thailand and the UK followed Singapore’s orderly example when it comes to gum. In these two countries, you can be fined for littering gum, but not for chewing it. Still, $600 is a steep price for bubble gum.
8. Seriously, don’t shoot the cactus
When visiting Arizona, resist the temptation to shoot or manhandle the cactus. The Saguaro cactus has become so endangered by people shooting holes in the plants, that damaging or cutting down a cactus can earn you up to 25 years in jail.
Of course, there are other reasons not to shoot the cactus. In 1982, a man in southern Arizona shot so many holes in the trunk of a giant 28-foot cactus that it fell on him and killed him.
9. No playing pranks
Many towns and states have no patience for your foolery, so before you start prank-calling people, know that you could face steep fines.
In Louisiana, ordering a good or service for someone else without them knowing can earn you a $500 fine or six months in jail. So, no ordering pizza to a friend’s house without their consent.
However, in Canada, as long as you don’t threaten anyone (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway!), there are no laws against prank calls.
10. Don’t hunt Bigfoot
If you’re planning a trip to find Bigfoot, also called Sasquatch, know that you won’t be able to hunt the elusive creature in some of its alleged natural habitat.
Skamania County in Washington enacted the Sasquatch Protection Ordinance in 1969, while nearby Whatcom County declared itself a Sasquatch Refuge and Protection Area in 1992. The law is primarily aimed at preventing eager Bigfoot hunters from accidentally shooting other people, who can be mistaken for the ape-like creature. However, if you did shoot a Sasquatch, you could face $1,000 fine or five years in prison.
That’s not true in Texas. The Lone Star state found itself in the news in May after decreeing that, because Bigfoot was not explicitly on the list of protected animals, it is legal to hunt a Sasquatch. Keep that in mind as you plan your next Finding Bigfoot trip.