Please sign in to post.

What Laws Did You Unintentionally Break

What laws did you unintentionally break when traveling in another country, and what were the consequences and lessons learned?

Posted by
2628 posts

ZTL! When visiting Paestum in December when there are no tourists around, I wanted to check the location of parking, entry point to the Ruins and the museum. After dinner, I cruised right through a ZTL sign that was illuminated with flashing yellow lights. DOH! Europcar emailed me about my transgression but never charged me for providing the authorities with my personal info. And I never heard from the authorities. Unlike zooming through the same ZTL in Rome on a Christmas Eve about 17years ago and getting demands for payment. Sorry, don’t condemn me, but I didn’t pay them!

Posted by
884 posts

On advice of counsel I am invoking my 5th amendment under the Constitution and the Agreement of Extradition.

Posted by
2104 posts

You mean like driving the wrong way in a bus lane while eating an ice-cream cone? People yelling at you while stopped at the light, obviously not in English, and cars honking at you and still not realizing until you see the bus coming toward you?

Posted by
1918 posts

Well, intentionally broke the law. Burford in the Cotswolds. After parking our car we saw some pay toilets and decided we should take advantage. It turns out we didn't have the right change, and so as a person came out I grabbed the door before it shut and all three in our group took our turn. I'm sure MI5 won't have me on their security threat list but I do still feel a bit of shame because for a moment, I felt like that ugly tourist. Luckily on the trip most people assumed we were American, so the good Canadian reputation is intact ;).

Posted by
155 posts

Not wearing my upper part of the bikini in a beach in Mexico. I was so ashamed! Not fined, but ashamed! (There were signs advising about that, but I did not saw the signs,so it was unintentionall).

Posted by
186 posts

We were driving through a small town in Germany. I forgot the name or maybe I just blocked it from my memory! There was a fair with lots of interesting, delicious food booths, a carousel and it looked like fun. And "amazingly" there was a parking space right in front just right for our minivan. Meant to be, right? We had a great time eating ourselves silly, mingling with the crowd, checking out the gifts and so on. Then it was time to go. The minivan was gone. Maybe we parked somewhere else? Nope. It was gone. Someone nearby who spoke a little English told us the minivan had been towed and we had to go to the nearest police station. Cabbed it there, filled out a bunch of forms, paid a significant fee. Cabbed to the impound yard. Looked all over for our minivan. Finally found it and back on the highway. What a way to spend half a day of our precious vacation! But it made for great stories back home years later.

Posted by
186 posts

Oh, and lesson learned? Translate all the parking signs before parking!

Posted by
1189 posts

Driving in the wrong direction on a country road in the early morning in Ireland. A car coming in the opposite direction was frantically flashing its lights at us and we quickly corrected. It is an easy mistake to make. Luckily we have never made that mistake again anywhere in Ireland or the UK. Lesson learned.

Posted by
423 posts

Recycling laws in Holland - luckily, a friend stopped over and explained the system, so it was only one week's worth of mis-sorted trash.

All sorts of import regulations of the US (for instance, had no idea Czech Absinth was banned and brought in 3 bottles. No repercussions - never got stopped for a baggage check. They did confiscate an open bag of cat food on the same trip, though, so it was a close call).

No trespassing laws in Crimea: took kids on what was supposed to be a day hike through Ai-Petri range, got lost, wandered deep into the protected national park, overnighted on the plateau trying not to get mauled by the biggest freaking wild boars I've ever seen. Got spotted from a park service heli and later picked up by park rangers. Lessons learned - get a decent topo map (ours was not good), don't rely on GPS or cell phones.

Fun times:-)

Posted by
12560 posts

I was hoping this would be fun.

So, a few years back in Budapest (of course), I bought a book of ten metro tickets. I gave my wife one, i took one and we got on the metro. We both properly validated our tickets, took the ride and got off about 3 stops later. About 100m from the stop I noticed we were being chased by an angry looking man yelling in Hungarian. I just ignored him and kept walking. Finally he caught up and grabbed my shoulder, not hard, just enough to make me understand I needed to stop. I turned, gave him a go to hell look, and he pulled out a BKV armband and put it on. A metro cop. I showed him my ticket, but he wanted to see my wife's ticket. She held it up and he said with a very heavy accent "No Ticket". Sure it is I argued. He took it and held it up to my face. Sure enough the top ticket on a book of tickets is a receipt, but it looks just like a ticket in almost every regard. "8.000 forints" he demanded. What the hell? How do I even know ... then he pulled out an official ID card (in Hungarian of course). Then an officicial looking card with the fine structure on it. Pay now, 8.000 ft, pay at the office 16.000 forints, pay a few days later 32.000 forints. I smiled, laughed, broke the ice. He had tried to be polite once he knew we were tourists who didnt have a clue. I paid, thanked him, shook his hand and we went on our way.

Over the years I have discovered myself riding the metro on an expired Travel Card on at least two occasions. So I figure I owed the fine anyway.

A few weeks ago I went to a ticket machine at a commuter train stop to buy a ticket. The machine burped half way through and reverted to Hungarian. I was lost. So I purchased the most expensive ticket thinking I would be safe. Understand the most expensive ticket was about $1.25 so who cares. I got on the train and before long the inspector showed up. I showed him my ticket. He began complaining in Hungarian. Before things escalated a young woman sitting nearby got involved and told me the ticket I had purchased was for the return trip and asked where the ticket for this ride was. It was the only ticket I had. She and the inspector spoke for a few seconds and then she told me to give him 310 forints (about a buck twenty five). Which I did. He gave me a new ticket for the ride I was on and she told me to save the one I had for the return trip. He could have fined me 8.000 forints if he had wanted to.

On the return trip when asked I pulled out the first ticket. No good. I had already validated it when I tried to use it on the way up. I was preparing to pull out another 310 forints (hoping that would work instead of the fine), when the same young lady appeared and explained the whole thing to the inspector. He patted me on the shoulder and said something that sounded like enjoy. Or maybe Hungarian for lucky you. Not sure.

Now when riding the metro i wear this old beat up flat cap. Makes me look like a Hungarian pensioner. They ride for free so the inspectors walk right past me and hit the other tourists instead.

Posted by
3314 posts

Speeding ticket in Melide, Spain for accelerating to 5 kph above the limit before the speed change sign when leaving the town. Had I waited 20 more yards I would have been fine. Was never notified by the rental agency but did receive the citation in a mail months later. I DID pay it.

Posted by
3541 posts

I don't know if it was a law or just common sense custom, but I was standing in the bike lane in Amsterdam. I didn't quite have the grasp of bike lanes yet. It took just a moment of practically being run down by angry bikers to figure out I was making a mistake somehow..... I learned my lesson and became way more self-aware of where I was standing in terms of bike lanes.

Posted by
1165 posts

Ummmm, see my trip report on learning how to pay parking tickets online in Croatia? Lessons: 1. Don’t make assumptions. 2. Pay more attention. 3. It’s cheaper if you pay fast. Plus gained new internet skills!

I guess technically Oklahoma isn’t another country, so we can’t count my warning today for accidental speeding.

Posted by
4556 posts

I operated a television in the UK without a television licence.

When I was working in London, I bought a tv for my flat and had no clue that I needed to buy a television licence. About 2 months later, I got a notice in the mail indicating that no tv was registered at my flat and if I had a tv and was watching it without a license, I could be fined. I quickly bought a license.

In case you are curious …
https://www.gov.uk/tv-licence

Posted by
2841 posts

Pre-Covid I usually left my passport in my hotel room. I only recently learned that, I think it's Italy, requires that you have it with you at all times.

Posted by
1329 posts

I was a victim of stalking and hid from the guy who came to my office to harm me. The police came and took him to jail for four months.
Since that incident I carry Pepper Spray in my purse. It was never found when I boarded my flight to Europe.
Apparently, and I was unaware, it’s forbidden to carry it in several countries in Europe that I visited. I wonder what the penalty would have been if I got caught with it in Europe?

Security screening missed it leaving and returning.

Posted by
7947 posts

Illegally brought a buckeye into the US from Germany. It was in my coat pocket and I forgot it was there.

Posted by
1918 posts

Pre-Covid I usually left my passport in my hotel room. I only recently
learned that, I think it's Italy, requires that you have it with you
at all times.

Up until the past few years I didn't know I'd been breaking the law when I visited the US. Several states still require visitors to have passports with them at all times. I had no clue until I heard on the news a few years ago that the law had been amended so Canadians didn't need to carry it at all times. If I remember correctly the change came after a Canadian student enrolled at a university in a southern state was jailed for a few days for not producing a passport when pulled over for speeding.

Posted by
202 posts

I was in Edinburgh, we didn't realize that the parking sticker actually sticks to your window, we are used to throwing it on the dash and that being ok. So we threw it on the dash (apparently it was not the right side up- so that didn't help) and got a nice 60 pound ticket. We were able to contest it and not have to pay but it was amusing none the less. Recently in Germany I parked the "wrong direction" apparently and got a hand written note on my car from the structure attendant saying how "i parked in a dangerous method please do not do that again." It thankfully was not a ticket. Many years ago in China the security at a subway station thought my tri-pod was a weapon and had me pull apart everything in my bag until they inspected the tripod - i decided to not do that again- just leave it out!

Posted by
1050 posts

Sister and I a few years ago rented a car to drive around Tuscany. This was before we were savvy with GPS, and were relying strictly on paper maps. We entered Siena just before dusk, and were desperately trying to find our hotel. They had emailed us printed instructions and, following them, we found ourselves driving all the way across the Piazza del Campo. Yep. No other cars there, just two brainless tourists gawking at the tower and the public palace, and wondering vaguely why there was no other traffic in this beautiful piazza. Eventually we found a street leading out of the piazza, finally ended up at our hotel and (miracle of miracles) never received a fine in the mail. Ah. Good times.

Posted by
580 posts

Walking in the bike lane in Vancouver, BC and getting yelled at as a result. On the same trip, inadvertently bringing fresh blueberries into the US. US CBP was more interested in whether we were carrying Cuban cigars and how much liquor we had.

Posted by
1102 posts

On the Flam Railway in Norway. We had gotten tickets and waited at the station with several large tourist groups. When the train came, we got into one of the cars and looked for empty seats, eventually finding some. All the rest of the car was filled with a large group of Japanese visitors. Their guide came up to us and told us angrily that we might not sit there. We did not quite get what she was so angry about since everyone from her group had been seated, and these seats were definitely not taken.

We said so, trying to stay quite friendly, and eventually she gave up and let us stay. We enjoyed the trip. The only thing we were surprised about was that the info TV program on the train was in Japanese.

Later, we found out that these rail cars apparently were booked completely by one tour group each (and the TV program was in the language of that tour group). We had never before been on a train where vacant seats were not available to just anyone looking for a seat, so that thought never even crossed our minds.

I can't say that this experience burdens my conscience permanently though. :-)

Posted by
3899 posts

We drove in a no go zone in Paris - and I think up a bus lane - but it was a Sunday - and we never received any tickets in the mail. And I forgot to validate our train tickets when going between villages in Cinque Terre - luckily, the train rides are short! So again - didn't get caught.

Posted by
1449 posts

Staying with my friend in Edinburgh when she still had two small kids at home.
I said I would go and get fish and chips for dinner, and rode her bike.
Took me a few minutes to wonder why all the car drivers were so mad that evening, but it was about me riding the bike in the wrong lane going the wrong way.
i did get the fish and chips eventually, without being killed en route.

Posted by
42 posts

Well, maybe not unintentionally, because I did intend to jaywalk in Germany. Here, no problem if there's no traffic. There, they'll yell at you even if no cars are anywhere in sight.

Posted by
1102 posts

Seriously? People do it all the time... and I've yet to hear anyone yelling at someone else for doing so.

Posted by
843 posts

I unintentionally break laws here in the US let alone when traveling abroad. Who knew you can't make a right turn on red in Manhattan?

Posted by
2104 posts

Not in Brooklyn, queens, Staten Island, or the Bronx, unless there is a sign. We always forget this rule when we are out of the city and get honked very often.

Posted by
12560 posts

So, you are driving up a fairly major street, when up ahead you see a much smaller street intersecting on the right. No yield or stop signs. Who has the right of way? You or the guy that wants to turn to the right out of the intersecting side street?

If you don't know, don't drive in Hungary.

Posted by
1165 posts

So if I know the answer, can I drive? 🤣 As long as I don’t drive in Budapest?

Posted by
12560 posts

Its the most bizarre thing to be tooling down a major street and see people turn right out in front of you from side streets so narrow and with views so limited you have no way of knowing. They don't even have to stop or slow down before they turn. Its unnerving.

Posted by
2284 posts

Sorry, don’t condemn me, but I didn’t pay them!

I will condemn you. I am to be honest tired of tourists driving like idiots. If you can't bother learning the rules and looking at the road signs, don't drive. Every summer I see a couple of cars doing stupid things, like driving the wrong way on one way streets, driving in bike lanes. Although the worst thing I've seen was a coach full of tourists that got stuck in an underpass after driving the wrong way down a one way street.

Apparently, and I was unaware, it’s forbidden to carry it in several
countries in Europe that I visited. I wonder what the penalty would
have been if I got caught with it in Europe?

I don't know which countries you visited, but that is a pretty serious crime in many countries. At least in Sweden pepper spray is considered a weapon and penalty for walking around with one in public could have been up to 3 years in prison. Although for a first time offender doing it by mistake I guess the penalty would have been a fine and/or a shorter suspended sentence.

Posted by
6857 posts

I flew from AMS to CPH with a half a spiff leftover that I forgot was in my carry on and that the baggage screeners did not see or did not say anything about. I threw it away before getting on a connecting flight CPH to ORD. In this age of legalized stuff in one place that is illegal in another remember to throw it away before crossing borders is the lessoned learned.

Posted by
1102 posts

Apparently, and I was unaware, it’s forbidden to carry it in several
countries in Europe that I visited.

I am surprised that you got it to Europe in the first place. They tend not to like having passengers carry weapons on planes. Flooding an airplane cabin with pepper spray, even by accident, should something go wrong with the pressure, might not be appreciated by everyone either.

Posted by
42 posts

In response to Anna's reply to my comment about jaywalking in Germany, I should have been more specific, the "they" who yelled at me was a police officer. What he said exactly, I don't know, as I don't speak German, but he was clearly unhappy about what I had done.

Posted by
1329 posts

Anna… that’s how bad the screening at airports can be. They certainly don’t catch everything. I now empty my purse before heading to the airport.

Posted by
1202 posts

On three separate trips I forgot to validate my train ticket, twice in Italy and once in Pest. The second time my sister and I flirted with the guy and fortunately he gave in; the two other times I paid fines.

Posted by
12560 posts

Than reminds me. The first time i rode a train in Europe was Florence to Rome. We got there early, sat down and a few minutes later a young lady who said she was from Moldova sat next to us. Mol-what? Anyway, she said she always forgets to validate her tickets and almost forgot this time too. To which i replied, vali-what? Her eyes got big she grabbed our tickets out of my hand and flew out the door. She returned just as the doors were closing (on her) and gave me our validated tickets. Then explained ....................

Posted by
60 posts

Three and a half decades staying out of bike lanes in Amsterdam, looking left not right in the streets of London, validating my tram ticket upon boarding in Lisbon. In general keeping my nose clean and abiding by the rules. Then it happened just a few weeks ago. My first brush with the law on foreign soil. For that much, sovereign soil short of a traffic ticket. I’m certain Europol has me in their database now.
It started innocent enough. We found the platform easy enough for the morning high speed train that would whisk us from Gdańsk to Krakow. Fifteen minutes to spare, plenty of time for a smoke (don’t judge). Knowing it’s not allowed on the platforms, I asked my travel partner if she would mind me running out front of the station for a quick one. She obliges and I slip of my backpack off nestling it next to her roller bag. Back in five I promise. I dash through the relatively small station to the street out front. Pulling a smoke out of my day bag, I light it. Deeply inhaling, I feel the tightness in the back of my throat moving down to my lungs. My heart rushes pushing away the jet lag I’m feeling on day four of a 9 hour time difference. I relax a bit; nicotine to the rescue. Blowing the blue smoke into the crisp October air, I hardly notice the policeman approaching. He says something to me in a language I’ve only mastered yes, no, good day and thank you in. I smile. He says something else and I make out the word passport. Oh yes, he wants to check my passport. I oblige. He points to a sign a few hundred feet away. It includes a sign emoji of a smoking cigarette with a line through it. Now I understand, I’m in a non smoking zone. Ok, I gently stub it out before depositing it into a trash receptacle regretting the lost opportunity before a 4.5 hour train ride. Lesson learned. I go back to retrieve my passport but he motions me to follow him to a police van. Gulp. Okay. An exchange takes place between him and his partner. I’m relieved when his partner speaks to me in beautiful English. Regardless of the discreet signage, I am in violation of the law and must pay a fine, thirty zloty. I quickly calculate that to be about $7.50. Mea culpea. My bad. I quickly pull out some zloty. My mind races. What must my travel partner be thinking? Surely its been at least ten minutes since I left. What will she do when the train pulls into the station and she’s standing there with both our bags? Gdańsk is our entry city on a three week adventure she has trusted me to plan. All ready I’ve failed her. I try to express my urgency completing the ticket writing / financial transaction but decide pressuring the officer to write quicker might not be the best tactic. I tap my foot. Only myself to blame for the situation. Egad. Ticket signed. Zloty exchanged. I hit high gear before the ticket is even torn from the policeman’s book. I dash down the stairs under the train platforms expecting to see the end of the train leaving the station as I re-emerge above ground. Low and behold its still crowded with passengers. I push through the crowd to find my travel partner slightly wide eyed looking incredulously at me still standing guard over our luggage. “Where were you” written all over her face. I’m red faced, out of breath from my Olympic sprint and completely flustered. Sheepishly I offer her a “you’ll never believe” as I try to regain my composure. Sounds of our approaching train give me reprieve to assimilate what has just transpired. The train had been delayed five minutes granting me the grace to not fail my friend on our very first leg of ground travel. We find our assigned seats, stow our bags and settle in for the journey. Only then can I confess to her I’ve had an altercation with the police. She laughs thinking I’m joking. I slip my copy of the ticket from my pocket displaying it as proof. She laughs harder insisting she takes a mugshot of me with it. She’s a great travel partner.