Fall foul of local laws and risk being fined.
Even though Europe is a fairly small continent, it has a lot of countries that deal with many tourists–and some of them don’t always behave. It’s perhaps unsurprising that some errant tourist behavior, as well as overzealous officialdom, has resulted in some specific rules in popular areas.
One particularly bizarre rule was enacted this summer at Vigo, a popular beach resort in northwestern Spain, that decreed urinating in the sea as illegal. Just a little pee in the sea could land you with a hefty fee of €750 ($766), however, it is unclear how it will be policed.
Tourists can be fined thousands for falling foul of local laws. Here are 10 other European places where not knowing the rules could get you into trouble as well as destroy your holiday budget.
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Just north of Sicily is the beautiful isle of Sardinia, known for its stunning white sand beaches. However, the allure of its porcelain-colored sand proved too much of a temptation, as visitors took buckets of it home as a souvenir. As a result, it was made illegal in 2017 to take sand, pebbles, or shells from any of Sardinia’s beaches, with a hefty fine of up to €3,000 for rule breakers.
Airport staff now regularly check for and confiscate bottles of sand in order to stop the degradation of their beaches, as well as to prevent people from selling it online. Sand from the pink beach of Budelli, an island that became a national park and banned visitors, is known to be sold online by unscrupulous merchants.
In the city of Venice, it is illegal to swim in the canals. This may be another rule that may benefit tourists, as its waterways are far from clean. Unsurprisingly though, it does happen. In 2019, two tourists were fined around $3,320 for skinny dipping in the polluted waters close to Piazza San Marco. Cycling, rollerskating, and skateboarding are also not allowed in the center, as the streets are so narrow.
In Rome, it is forbidden to sit on the Spanish Steps that lead to the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. It’s a spot made famous by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, who sat there in the film Roman Holiday. Fines start at €250, but if tourists are believed to have dirtied or damaged the steps in any way then the charge can rise to €590.
Visitors are also not allowed to wade into the Trevi Fountain, where many gather every day to throw a coin over their left shoulder for luck. A paddle in this 18th-century water feature could land you a €450 fine.
On the Paris Metro, it pays to pay attention. This is because deviating from the strict one-way system can land you a fine for walking the wrong way in the passages. Going against the official route can elicit a €60 fine, a rule that provoked social media outrage when a pregnant woman was targeted for taking a shortcut in 2018.
Other finable offenses include smoking in stations, not validating your ticket, and putting your feet on the seats.
Cinque Terre is the collective name for five UNESCO heritage-listed colorful seaside towns on the Ligurian Coast in Italy. The famous picturesque walk through the towns takes six hours in total, but tourists need to consider their footwear before setting off on this hike.
Due to the mountainous nature of the trails, the authorities banned walking in flip-flops, pumps, or any kind of sandals. Failure to comply can cost up to €2,500, a figure as steep as the paths themselves. The reason behind it is to cover the costs of mountain rescue teams if someone is injured. For those who break the footwear rules but come off unscathed, the fine is a more affordable €50.
Hvar Island is the sunniest part of Croatia, so it’s no wonder that its beaches are so appealing. If you do take advantage of it by going for a dip in the sea, remember to cover up your swimsuit off the beach, as walking around the streets in just a bikini or trunks carries a fine between €500-600. The mayor also ordered a clampdown on drunkenness with a €700 penalty. He singled out British tourists in particular for bad behavior and stressed that Hvar should not be “a party destination only.”
Known for its famous Fashion Week, one thing that the Milanese authorities don’t consider to be trendy is the selfie stick, so much so that it is banned from the main tourist areas. This was part of a greater ban on “anti-social behavior” that also included glass bottles, food trucks, cans, and other containers in order to control litter in popular locations.
The Greek authorities took steps to ban the wearing of high heels in the capital’s famous ruins in 2009. At the time, Eleni Korka, Director of Greek Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, said that visitors “must wear shoes that do not wound the monuments.” She added that “these monuments have a skin that suffers and people must realize that.”
The ban also extended to food and drink, particularly chewing gum due to the amount of time cleaners spent scraping it off the ancient flooring. The ruling on stilettos may be a blessing for tourists as the slippery marble steps up to the ruins have seen many sightseers take a tumble, even in flat shoes.
In the Spanish Balearic islands, a six-drink per-day rule for all-inclusive resorts has been imposed in Magaluf, Playas de Palma, and S’Arenal in Mallorca and San Antonio in Ibiza. This is another law heavily influenced by some British holidaymakers’ penchant for consuming excess alcohol abroad. Authorities have also prohibited two-for-one cocktail promotions, happy hours, and the advertising of party boats in order to curb public intoxication.
If you must break a law in Europe, then jaywalking in Germany is the most budget-friendly with just a €5-10 fee for this transgression. Regardless of the rules, it’s very uncommon for Germans to cross the road when the light is on red or out of the pedestrian crossing zone because respecting traffic measures is part of the culture. This means it’s possible that even if you don’t get fined, you may still get told off!