I decided to go to Singapore on a whim. A friend had just booked a trip to Singapore with her husband, and couldn’t stop raving about the amazing deal they’d scored. She was right— it was a bargain, so I hopped online and booked a two-week vacation in Singapore, knowing very little about the country.
It was September when I arrived, and it was stifling hot, even at night. It was late, so a shuttle bus took me straight to my hotel, and I went straight to sleep. I’d booked a bus tour for the first half of the day, as I like to see as much as I can of the local area, and learn about the best places to go. We had a fun tour-guide, a small Singaporean man who not only showed us around China Town, Little India and some great hawker stands, but he warned us of some more unusual laws we would need to be careful of. Some of these are pretty awesome in my opinion!
Chewing gum is illegal and it carries heavy fines and the possibility of a jail sentence. Not only can you not chew gum, but you cannot buy it or sell it. Even if you do manage to get some on the black market, do not even think about spitting it out— that is considered even more serious than chewing it. However, nicotine gum and sugar-free gum can be purchased from pharmacies, but be very careful about where you dispose of it!
Leaving a public toilet unflushed carries a fine of $150. Officials will randomly check that toilets are flushed and if you’re caught out, you will be fined. I for one hate being faced with someone’s dinner in the bottom of the bowl, because they were too lazy to flush. Seriously— how hard is it to press the button on top to remove your waste? The fine should be heavier in my opinion.
It’s illegal to urinate in an elevator, which to me, is 101. Why would you need to urinate in an elevator? Unless of course you’re stuck in one for a couple of hours, but that’s not the point of this law. Many lifts in Singapore are fitted with devices to detect urine, and once urine is detected, an alarm goes off and the elevator doors will remain closed until police arrive. That’s serious stuff.
It is considered indecency to be seen by another person, walking around your house naked. If reported and prosecuted, you can fail jail time and a fine of $2,000 as you are considered a public nuisance. You can forget about no-pants Fridays in Singapore.
Littering is a serious offence which can attract fines of $300 for a first offence of a candy wrapper or the like, but throwing a drink can or bottle will have you in very hot water. Singapore is one of the cleanest countries on earth, and in order to keep it this way, they take littering very seriously. People caught throwing a drink can are considered defiant and have to appear in court. Punishment normally involves a Corrective Work Order in which offenders have to wear a fluoro green vest and clean up trash. Public shaming works wonders!
Penalties for vandalism, including spray painting, and affixing placards or banners without owner’s consent, both for public and private property come in the form of fines, jail and public flogging with a cane. This includes damaging and stealing property as well.
Caning is widely accepted as a form of discipline in Singapore and canes are sold in grocery stores for 50c. Discipline is important in Singapore, as is corporate punishment, so if that’s something you disagree with, then stay away. These laws don’t just apply to the locals, they apply to visitors and tourists as well. Singapore is a beautiful, clean, and safe country to visit. I went out every evening on foot, dining at hawker stands, like Newtown Circus, and wandered around the night markets. The people were friendly and helpful, and couldn’t do enough to make my visit special.
Even though these Singaporean laws sound amusing and in some cases, harsh, they are not difficult to obey, unless urinating in elevators is a hobby of yours. Every country has some laws that seem unusual and unnecessary to visitors, but it’s another one of the joys of travelling. The important thing to remember here is to do your homework before you visit another country (unlike me who went in totally clueless), and be prepared.