The A To Z Of Southeast Asia – X

X – Stands For Banned

Beware when travelling in Southeast Asia.

Many of the things that you may take for granted at home, or wouldn’t even think about, are not allowed in parts of the region.

Main picture credit Formm Agency on Unsplash

Images of the Buddha

Walk around any tourist area or market in Thailand and you will see hundreds of ornaments, pictures, t-shirts made in or featuring the image of the Buddha.

However most people do not know that there are restrictions on what can be taken out of Thailand.

Any Buddha images larger than 12cm must have written permission and export permit from the Fine Arts Department. The smaller items common in tourist areas are ok but people are limited to five items per person.

Buddha figure. Credit Jan Kopriva on Unsplash

In theory approved Buddha images will have an official tag confirming they are ok for export, in reality I can’t remember ever seeing one of these.

The other factor to consider is that many Thais find the use of the Buddha image offensive to their religious beliefs.

Smoking in Public

There has been a smoking ban on Thai beaches since January 2018 with fines of up to 100,000 Baht (approx £2,267, US$3,212).

On 27th March 2020 the Thai Department of Disease Control linked smoking with the impact of COVID-19. Thailand banned smoking in public with fines of up to 5,000 Baht (Approx £113, US$160) for offenders.


You are not allowed to smoke so you decide that vaping is the next best thing when you next visit Thailand. Unfortunately not, vaping has been banned in Thailand since 2014, this includes e-cigarettes and e-baraku and their refills. Using an e-cigarette anywhere in Thailand, even in private, could lead to a heavy fine or even imprisonment for up to 10 years.

E-cigarettes were banned in Singapore in 2011 when Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) stated that e-cigarettes could be a gateway for people to graduate to tobacco products. Under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act it is an offence in Singapore to sell, use, possess for sale, import or distribute imitation tobacco products. In September 2019 a Singaporean man was fined SGD$99,000 (approx £52,791, US$74,808) for selling electronic vaporisers.

There are also bans or restrictions in place in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.


Known as the “King of Fruits” in some parts of Southeast Asia, Durian is also incredibly healthy, packed with iron, potassium, vitamin C and dietary fibre.

Durian Fruit credit Jonny Clow on Unsplash

If you have ever come close to this Southeast Asia favourite you may have a better understanding why there are restrictions. The smell is…. distinctive and unpleasant and can linger for many days.

Banned on public transport in Singapore and in many public buildings and hotels around Southeast Asia. You also can’t take a whole Durian out of Thailand without an export license.


It is illegal to bring in, or take out, of the country pornography in any form throughout Southeast Asia.

However it is also illegal to possess or view pornography while in the country. Also be careful what you view on your smartphone while in Vietnam.

Nudity at Home

A strange one.

In Singapore you need to make sure that no-one can see into your home or hotel room if you are naked.

If someone looks through your window and sees you nude you could face a fine or up to 3 years in jail.

Going Commando

You have made sure that you are not seen naked in your room on your Southeast Asia travels and then head out to view the sights.

Just make sure that you are wearing underwear in Thailand however as it is illegal to leave your house without it.

Driving Without A Shirt

You are wearing underwear and have rented a jeep or convertible, the sun is beating down and you want to top up that tan or just cool off.

Off comes your shirt and away you go, exploring Thailand under your own terms.

Until of course you get stopped by the police and get a fine.

Under the Thai modesty laws it is illegal to drive a car, tuk-tuk or bike without a shirt on.

Chewing Gum

Banned since 2004 in Singapore unless it is for medical purposes e.g. nicotine gum.

Crossing the Road

Jaywalking is not something we really have in the UK whereas in the USA it is far more common and enforced.

In Malaysia if you try and cross the road within 100 metres of a pedestrian bridge or crossing you could be hit with a RM500 (approx £85, US$121) fine.

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Published by flyingdogtravel

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