Taking photos of women without asking permission, kissing in public and wearing togs away from the beach are just some of the ways unwitting Kiwi travellers can get into strife overseas.

Prompted by the story of the tourists from the UK, Canada and the Netherlands who were arrested, fined $2,298 and jailed for three days for stripping off on a sacred mountain in Malaysia last month, Southern Cross Travel Insurance chief executive Craig Morris is reminding travellers that seemingly innocuous activities can cause problems.

"If you do get into trouble with the local law, you may also run the risk of jeopardising your travel insurance. Ignorance is definitely not bliss."

He said every week the insurer heard of customers who had been fined for breaches of protocol.


One of the biggest pitfalls was clothing, Morrison said. "It's important to dress appropriately for the country you're in and be aware of their social expectations," he said.

In Barcelona, you can be fined up to €300 ($490) if you wander from the beach still wearing your bikini or boardshorts.

Other countries have laws that could catch out the unsuspecting.

If you are busted eating around monuments in Rome you can be fined €500 ($820). And if you sing loudly outside after sunset in Honolulu, you are likely to get a stern telling off.

In Canada and Britain, connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot is theft.

And in the United Arab Emirates, taking photos of women without permission is harassment and can lead to arrest or a fine of up to Dh5000 ($1960).

Until 2004, it was illegal to chew gum in Singapore, and one could be fined up to S$100,000 ($108,500) and sent to prison for up to two years for bringing it into the country.

Many countries also forbid public displays of affection: Indonesia fines up to 250 million rupiah ($27,000) for passionate kissing. A British couple caught kissing in Dubai served three months in prison.

"They have indecency laws and police can choose to enforce them if couples become a bit too touchy-feely. UAE is also strict on most forms of physical contact even between married couples."

Morrison said travellers should be aware of local protocols.

"Some of these laws may seem ridiculous but you need to abide by the local laws."