Banned Abroad: These Everyday Items Are Illegal to Bring Overseas
If you’re returning to the U.S. from a trip abroad, make sure you leave behind ivory trinkets, absinthe, and other items that are banned in America. But if you’re traveling internationally, you also need to pay attention to what you pack before you leave. It’s not surprising you can’t bring a handgun or illegal drugs abroad. But some everyday items you may own are actually banned abroad.
To avoid an unpleasant scene, leave the following items at home if you’re traveling to certain countries. For example, the U.K. will not allow one common device into their country (page 9).
1. Baby walkers
If you’re visiting Canada, don’t bother to pack your baby walker. This product can help babies who haven’t quite mastered walking yet. But Canada has banned them since 2004 for safety reasons. Babies using walkers can fall, tip over, or crash into objects, according to experts. And though the devices are still legal in the U.S., pediatricians advise parents not to use them. Pack your baby sling or stroller instead.
Next: This common spice is too closely connected to illegal drugs.
2. Poppy seeds
Don’t stash a poppy seed bagel in your carry-on bag if you’re traveling to Singapore, as well as the United Arab Emirates. The seeds, which come from the plant used to make opium, are illegal in those countries. In 2015, an Indian woman was prosecuted in Dubai for importing poppy seeds she planned to use in her home kitchen. You’re also not allowed to bring poppy seeds and poppy seed flour into Mexico.
Next: A haircut may be required before traveling.
3. Your haircut
Okay, so Iran has prohibited a lot of things — that’s not shocking. But one ban they implemented in 2010 did surprise many. Iran chose to ban mullets, stating they are too “decadent” and “too Western.” Travelers are advised to simply clean up the back of their heads in favor of a speedier process through this country’s customs. Those who arrive with mullet intact may raise red flags with customs agents. For the sake of everyone, just get a trim.
Next: Do as the locals do — and forego your reading material.
4. Fashion magazines
Many travelers know bringing liquor or pornographic materials into ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is not okay, but they may not realize how far the ban on items “incompatible with religion and Islamic faith” goes. Fashion magazines, such as Vogue or Cosmopolitan, could be confiscated if the customs officer believes they contain risqué images, warns the U.S. State Department.
Christmas decorations, anything related to gambling (such as dice or poker chips), and even binoculars might also be confiscated, according to Blue Abaya.
Next: Stale breath is an easy trade-off for leaving this item at home.
5. Chewing gum
Singapore has a longstanding ban on chewing gum, and bringing packs of Wrigley’s Doublemint or Big Red into the country is a no-no. The only exception is for versions with medicinal purposes, such as nicotine gum or dental gum. Pharmacists and dentists are allowed to sell gum in Singapore if you really need your fix.
Next: A doctor’s note may not be enough to get this item abroad.
6. Over-the-counter medications
You might have to suffer through a stuffy nose on your next trip to Japan. Over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed and Vicks inhalers, are banned in the country. OTC medicines with codeine, which are sold in Canada and some European countries, are also illegal.
You may also run into trouble with a bag full of medicine if you visit the United Arab Emirates, which has a strict anti-drug policy. You’ll need a doctor’s note and other documents if you want to bring prescription and certain non-prescription meds into the country. Possessing even small amounts of illegal drugs could lead to jail time, noted Emirates Air.
Next: It won’t be “pleasurable” to get stopped at the border with these items.
7. Sex toys
Those planning a romantic getaway to the Maldives should leave their sex toys in their bedside drawers. Along with all pornographic materials, vibrators and similar items are against the law in the picturesque island country known for its romantic honeymoon spots.
The country also prohibits idols for worship and religious materials offensive to Islam, the country’s official religion.
Next: It may just be easier to quit this habit altogether.
Beware, nicotine addicts traveling to Sri Lanka. Bringing cigarettes into the South Asian country is illegal. It’s not the only country with strict tobacco laws. Bhutan bans the sale of cigarettes entirely, and only small numbers are allowed into the country for personal use.
Singapore not only has laws against smoking in many public and communal spaces, but it also has steep fines for littering, including tossing your cigarette butts. The country fined one man nearly $20,000 after tossing his butts out his apartment window.
Next: Protect yourself in the U.K. by not bringing this defensive device along.
9. Pepper spray
Fourteen percent of Americans say they carry mace or pepper spray to protect themselves from crime, according to a Gallup poll. Some may want to stay safe by bringing it along on a trip abroad. But pepper sprays are banned in many counties, including the United Kingdom.
Next: You may be lost without this device, but you still can’t bring it.
10. GPS devices
Traveling to Cuba has become a lot easier for Americans in recent years, but those visiting the “Pearl of the Antilles” shouldn’t rely on a GPS device to help them get around. They’re banned in Cuba.
Although the GPS function on your phone won’t be a problem, you’ll need special permission if you want to bring a stand-alone GPS into the country. Travelers who’ve tried to bring the devices into the country have had them confiscated. Try the smartphone apps Waze, Google Maps, or Apple Maps instead.
Next: Forego this item; you’ll want to wear comfier shoes anyway.
11. High heels
You may get through customs in Greece with high heels. But you won’t get through entrances to the country’s ancient ruins. The city of Athens will make you tour the historical sites barefoot before they let you potentially harm the surface of these places with your stilettos.
The same goes for the Parthenon, sanctuary at Delphi, and many of Greece’s outdoor amphitheaters. You’ll be happy you wore comfy shoes for all that walking anyway.
Next: You can’t keep this beautiful ocean souvenir.
12. Conch shells
A conch shell might seem like a lovely souvenir of your island vacation, but you may not be able to bring it home if you live in Switzerland. Conches are one of a number of souvenirs banned in the land-locked country. Many countries also have laws prohibiting the collection of shells from beaches, so think twice before you tuck a sandy souvenir in your suitcase.
Next: Surrendering this item at customs may make you want to “disappear.”
13. Camouflage clothing
Leave your camo-print bikini at home if you’re traveling to Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica, and certain other Caribbean countries. Camouflage clothing is banned because of concerns about people trying to imitate police or military. The laws are strictly enforced, and if you show up wearing your camo pants or shirt, you might be asked to change.
Next: Don’t even hint that you gamble when you reach customs.
14. Playing cards
Playing cards seem innocent to U.S. citizens, who use them for much more than actual gambling (drinking games, euchre, magic tricks… ). But you need to forego all card-related fun when you head to Myanmar or the United Arab Emirates.
Both destinations enforce strict bans on gambling. Any item customs agents consider a “gambling device,” like playing cards, poker chips, or dice, will be confiscated.
Next: Service dog or not, your beloved pooch may need to stay home.
15. Pit bulls
Bring your pet pit bull along with you on your trip to New Zealand, and you may have to turn around at the border. The country is one of several that ban the breed. American pit bull terriers are also not permitted in Australia, France, and Denmark, and some other countries.
Bans sometimes extend to other dog breeds considered dangerous, such as the Japanese Tosa or the American bulldog. If you hope to travel with your pet, make sure you understand your destination’s restrictions before you leave.
Next: Just grow a beard instead.
16. Japanese shaving brushes
Guys, don’t try to bring your Japanese shaving brush with you on your getaway to St. Lucia. Any shaving brush made in or exported from Japan is against the law on the Caribbean island. The ban likely goes back to the first decades of the 20th century, when some Japanese shaving brushes made with horsehair bristles were found to be infected with Anthrax spores. Ew.
Next: Consider your reading material before boarding.
17. Occult books
Jamaica bans certain occult books, specifically those published by the de Laurence Scott and Company of Chicago that relate “to divination, magic, cultism or supernatural arts.” De Laurence sold books on Obeah and other spiritual or occult topics in the early 20th century. Although the publishing company no longer exists, the books are still illegal in Jamaica, as is the practice of Obeah itself.
The country of St. Lucia also bans “all publications, articles, or other matter associated with black magic, secret magic obeah, witchcraft, or other magical arts and occultism.”
Next: If you own this odd ’80s collection, leave it at home.
18. Garbage Pail Kids cards
Anyone who was kid in the ’80s probably remembers Garbage Pail Kids, a series of trading cards featuring gross-out images of weird or deformed characters. The cards, which spoofed the then-popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, were pretty controversial at the time, and some schools banned them. At least one country did, too. In Mexico, it’s still against the law to bring your collection of Garbage Pail Kids cards into the country.
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