10 weird laws in Singapore that could get you in trouble

By |2017-02-15T22:34:53+00:00December 17th, 2014|Asia, Destination, Singapore, Top 10|44 Comments

10 weird laws in Singapore

Singapore is known for its low crime rate and impeccable cleanliness. It is also sometimes called the fine city, which has a double meaning. The label refers to the fine state that Singapore is in, but it also refers to the many fines that the country hands out.

LAWS IN SINGAPORE

If you’re thinking of heading to Singapore, you should be aware that the country has important regulations, some of which may seem harsh. For example, the rattan cane is legally used as punishment, not only for criminals, but also as a disciplinary measure in schools, the military and in the domestic scene.  Laws in Singapore are strictly enforced, and failing to abide by these customs could get you in serious trouble.

Now, don’t let this discourage you from visiting Singapore. This country is incredibly safe to travel in and it offers an abundance of activities, free sights and a mix of cultures. If you’re a respectful traveler you’re not going to get in trouble.

Here is a brief guide to some of the weird laws in Singapore.

1. SINGING

Penalty: <3 months in prison

According to Singapore Statutes Online, singing, reciting or uttering any ballad or obscene song in public is illegal. If you’re caught breaking this law, you’ll be punished with 3 months’ imprisonment, a fine or both.

Laws in Singapore

Photo by Chris Waits

2. CONNECTING TO ANOTHER PERSON’S WIFI

Penalty: <3 years in prison or $10,000 fine

According to Singapore’s Computer Misuse and Cypersecurity Act, using another person’s WiFi is defined as hacking. The penalty for this is a hefty $10,000 fine, 3 years in jail, or both.

Laws in Singapore

Photo by Scott Beale

3. FEEDING PIGEONS

Penalty: $500

Feeding pigeons might not sound like a criminal offense, but in Singapore it is. If you’re caught tossing your leftovers to the birds, it will cost you $500.

Laws in Singapore

Photo by Aimee Rivers

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4. HOMOSEXUALITY

Penalty: <2 years in prison

Same sex relations are forbidden in Singapore although this law is not nearly as strictly enforced as some of the other laws. It used to be under the umbrella of sex against the order of nature.

5. FLUSH! OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES

Penalty: $150

Failure to flush a public toilet after use may result in rather hefty fines according to laws in Singapore.

And don’t even think of urinating in elevators. They are equipped with Urine Detection Devices (UDD) that detect the scent of urine, sets off an alarm and closes the doors until the police arrive.

6. SMOKING IN PUBLIC

Penalty: $152 –  760

In Singapore, there’s a law against smoking in public places and in vehicles. This law was put in place to ensure a clean and healthy environment for the public and protect people from secondhand smoke. Although it’s not illegal to buy cigarettes or smoke in your own home, it is illegal to smoke in public and it’s considered an offense to enter the country with cigarettes.

7. WALKING AROUND YOUR HOUSE NAKED

Penalty: $1,000

While smoking at home is fine, walking around naked is not. If you break this law in Singapore, you may face pornography charges which can lead to imprisonment or big fines. So close the curtains next time you’re getting ready for shower.

Laws in Singapore

Photo by Yeowatzup

8. LITTERING

Penalty: From $300 – public service

First time offenders who throw small items like cigarette butts or candy wrappers are fined $300.

If you are convicted of littering three times, you will have to clean the streets once a week with a bib on saying, “I am a litterer.” It is admittedly aimed at publicly shaming the offenders to ensure that they won’t litter again.

Laws in Singapore

Photo by Epsos

9. SELLING GUM

Penalty: $100,000 – 2 years in jail

Chewing gum is okay, but selling it is forbidden. According to Singapore Statutes Online, the punishment for smuggling gum into the country is up to 2 years in jail or a $100,000 fine.

10 weird laws in Singapore

Photo by Punk Marciano

10. SPITTING IN PUBLIC

Penalty: <$1,000

Singapore is not a place for spitters. Reasonably, it’s illegal to spit in coffee shops and markets, but it’s also illegal on public roads, sideways and any other place that’s open to the public. If you break this law, you’ll be slapped with a fine of up to $1,000.

Laws in Singapore

Photo by Brad Hammonds

Have you ever been to a country with strange laws? Let’s talk in the comments.

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If you’re thinking of heading to Singapore, you should be aware that the country has important regulations, some of which may seem harsh. Here's a list of the 10 weirdest laws in Singapore.

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44 Comments

  1. Silvia @ Heart My Backpack December 17, 2014 at 5:06 am

    I remember reading through Singapore’s special laws before going and feeling quite a bit nervous, ha. While the situation is getting better, the ban on homosexuality is really depressing. For a while I was working at an NGO on a research paper on homosexuality in Burma, which is banned under the same law from British colonialism as Singapore. After reading so many case studies I was totally expecting Singapore to be a lot more grim when I went, but in person it felt like such an open country! Sort of bizarre.

    • Miriam December 18, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      I know what you mean. Other than the on metro, I didn’t feel restricted by Singapore’s laws either and it felt like a very open country. I spoke to a local though who shared his disagreement with the government and some of these laws. I sincerely hope they lift the ban on homosexually soon; it’s just wrong.

  2. Jub December 17, 2014 at 5:27 am

    I can’t help but get happy with no.8, the amount of times gum has ‘mysteriously’ ended up on bottom of my shoes is – blah!
    Weirdest rule for me was in Brunei. Alcohol is a no no there yet the expats goto this one hotel. Think its the 2nd floor, at the end of the corridor you enter and it is a bunch of expats having some beers. Apparently, authorities know of it and turn a blind eye. Was pretty cool being ‘naughty’ 🙂

    • Miriam December 18, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      I respect that, I really do. Although they have a ban on alcohol, they turn their blind eye to foreigners drinking. I think that’s mighty big of them.

  3. Emiko December 17, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Super interesting! I can totally see some of them – littering, using pedestrian crossings – and expected some of the others (no homosexuality) but the ones like walking around naked I wouldn’t never guess. I’m assuming they don’t give some wiggle room to foreigners who don’t know any better, so thanks for sharing this!

    • Miriam December 18, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      I wouldn’t count on it. To my knowledge, Singapore enforces many of these rules strictly, and being a tourist isn’t a ‘get out of jail’- card. However, I didn’t encounter any issues during my stay there and I’m happy to return in the future. It seemed like a truly open country.

  4. Sand In My Suitcase December 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Interesting! We had thought chewing gum was against the law (not just selling it). Janice remembers having gum in her mouth on the metro the first time she visited Singapore – and being petrified she was going to be arrested! (But she couldn’t find a garbage bin on the train to throw away the gum.) The thing is, Singapore is such a clean, safe place to visit – the laws are harsh, but the place is a pleasure to visit.

    • Miriam December 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      I absolutely agree. It’s probably the cleanest country I’ve been to and it was truly a pleasure to be there. I remember as a child hearing stories about how chewing gum or spitting in public in Singapore would result in a serious whipping. I’m not sure if it was just stories, but I know that many rules have been changed within the last decades. Maybe chewing gum was actually illegal at one point, too.

  5. Ashley December 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Some of these laws are so strange- like not being able to walk around naked in your own house?! I like the idea of strict laws on littering and flushing public toilets, though! Haha

    • Miriam December 18, 2014 at 10:38 pm

      I know, it seems so crazy 🙂 I think they should have a law on washing hands after visiting the restroom. That law would really make sense!

  6. Nicholas December 18, 2014 at 5:15 am

    Here comes a wet blanket!

    4. I still encounter toilets that haven’t been flushed.
    5. People still smoke and walk – it’s legal as long as they’re not within 6 metres of a shelter.
    10. It’s really only a concern when one’s eating with fingers in a Malay setting.

    No arguments about the rest. Here’s hoping No. 3 changes soon.

    • Miriam December 18, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks for an insider’s view, Nicholas! I’m glad to hear your opinion on this. This only proves to show that although Singapore has strict laws, they’re not nessesarily strictly enforced.

  7. Elena@Elena's Travelgram December 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I knew some of these, but had no idea cuddling is prohibited in public. That’s kid of sad 🙁

    And now I wonder how do they fine people for going naked at your home? Is there any special authority controlling it? Or how do you get fined and reported after all? 🙂 That’s super bizarre.

    • Miriam December 18, 2014 at 11:00 pm

      I think people tell on each other, but I’m only guessing. I know that in UAE, this happens a lot. When I visited Dubai a couple of years ago, a British couple were sent to prison for kissing in public, and this was reported by a concerned citizen.

  8. S Singh December 23, 2014 at 9:05 am

    This list is wildly inaccurate, while eating/drinking is not allowed on the train, there’s nothing against taking photos. There’s also no law against cuddling in public, it’s always about public indecency, which exists in many places/countries. Nobody is going to arrest you for cuddling in public, but if you start having sex in public, you might be arrested. The rest are pretty pedestrian, what’s weird about laws against littering, jaywalking?

    There are weirder/archaic laws in many other developed countries to be honest.

    • Miriam December 28, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      I got this information from the Singapore Ministry of Law, a law firm and the MRT’s own website so I can asure you that it is all accurate. I agree that there’s nothing weird about having littering laws – we have them in Denmark as well – what’s weird is the penalty, which is very different from many other Western countries.

  9. Monique December 28, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I never knew about these laws, thanks for saving me embarrasment (and possible jail time 😉 ), I’d love to go to Singapore some day.

    Love the rest of your blog by the way!

    • Miriam December 28, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      Thanks so much, Monique! I highly recommend Singapore and I’m sure you wouldn’t get in trouble 😉

  10. Mike Travelforlosers December 29, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Some of those laws I kind of like. I was in Singapore and I remember that there was such a nice and clean athmosphere. Nobody bothered you. The metro had no nasty spots on the seats. In other words: There were never any negative surprises. Unless of course you were throwing a cigarette on the ground and police happened to see it. 🙂

    • Miriam December 29, 2014 at 1:29 am

      I absolutely agree with you, Mike! I got a lovely impression of Singapore as well and I loved how clean it was – it was almost sterile. I haven’t heard of any travelers getting in trouble other than with drugs so there’s nothing to worry about really. Unless you throw cigarette butts on the ground 😉

  11. Franca December 30, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Some of these laws are crazy. I went to Singapore and I knew about some of these, but there are few completely new and that really surprise me.

    • Miriam January 1, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Me too! I knew about the gum law, but I was very surprised to learn about the law against homosexuality!

  12. Ani January 4, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    hahaha, this is crazy! Amazing post, Miri! 10 Things to remember for my next 1-day layover visit to Singapore 🙂 Cheers!

    • Miriam January 5, 2015 at 12:34 am

      Thanks, Ani 🙂 I was pretty stunned by some of these laws as well!

  13. Nikita February 14, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Wow, a lot of these (like being naked and looking suspicious) are definitely not things I would have guessed! Good to have a heads up. In an alternate universe, I probably end up in a Singapore prison for something ridiculous!

    • Miriam February 15, 2015 at 1:26 am

      Me neither 🙂 Some countries have really strange laws – earlier today I heard about this country (I didn’t get which one) that has a law against obese children. So if your child is fat, you receive a fine. Now, that’s weird!

  14. Layla February 17, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Oh my goodness I have been to Singapore and wasn’t aware of the majority of these rules!! Glad we weren’t fined for drinking water on the metro!! Like a lot of people have said Singapore feels very safe, I felt very comfortable while we were there and not restricted at all. Even in Dubai I didn’t feel threatened by the laws which deters a lot of people from going!

    • Miriam February 17, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Me neither. I didn’t feel restricted at all in Dubai or Singapore. We did unintentionally break the law in Dubai by kissing in public, and although nothing happened, it could have easily been the other way around. Just two weeks after we left, a British couple were arrested and jailed for public affection. We were lucky.

  15. roni April 10, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    this hard rules

    • Miriam April 16, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Yes, they are.

  16. John M April 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Very Strange glad I seen this. I work for the Airline and maybe will go one day. About the drug thing though I see it on there customs forms that Drug Trafficking is punishment by death…. Scarry hopefully no one tries to do that….

    • Miriam April 16, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      I hope you do because Singapore is a lovely country. I knew about a few of these rules when I visited, but it’s not something I felt restricted by.

  17. XJ Lim July 29, 2015 at 3:52 am

    I’m Singaporean and I’ve never heard of the law ‘no cuddling in public’. I think hugging without permission because someone may accuse you of groping is a more likely scenario. We have young teens and adults cuddling in public and kissing all the time, some in their school uniforms too! Of course, it is frown upon as they make the people around them uncomfortable.
    Homosexuality is forbidden but nobody has banned the gays and lesbians in Singapore. However, I wish other people would stop hoping that No.3 will change soon. We should be able to keep our age old beliefs and not be held against to change just because. If you want your rights, then what about mine? Just saying.

    • Miriam July 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      Hi XJ Lim, I understand your point of view and that this is part of your culture. But imagine being a homosexual knowing that your country is against who you are – that you are not accepted or don’t have equal rights. What about Singaporean gays and lesbians.. What about their rights?

  18. Sheena July 30, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Hey Miriam!

    I’m a Singaporean and some of these laws made me laugh because I didn’t even know they existed! I’m curious as to how you came across them because they must be buried in the law books somewhere, only used when someone does something extreme. Things like kissing in public and using your left hand are very subjective.. the latter mostly applies to the Muslims because they consider it rude, but they are unlikely to chastise you if you do it anyway out of ignorance. Taking photos on the MRT is also not a problem because people do it all the time, although they are pretty strict with food and drinks.. As for walking around in your house naked.. I honestly think that’s fine as long as you’re not doing it to exhibit your birthday suit to the rest of the world :p

    • Miriam August 2, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Thanks for your input, Sheena. You prove the point that there’s a difference between the written laws and how they’re enforced. Denmark has some pretty weird rules, too, but like in Singapore, they are not noticed in everyday life.

  19. KC September 24, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Hi! Singaporean here, 23 years old, lived here all my life – and I would like to point out that I’ve never heard of many of these laws. Some I’m sure are not actually in the books, while some might be in the books, but are not enforced.

    1) “Suspicious” is used generically and in perhaps a less than ideal fashion. No one actually presses the intercom/emergency button just because someone was making shifty eyes at them. Taking a photo for your blog is not against the law as far as I know. If it is, it’s probably generally because of privacy – no harassing people by taking unannounced photos of them and uploading it online.

    IMO there are way too many public images of people on the MRT anyway – people eating or drinking sometimes get their photos taken and posted online for doing so, as do people who choose not to give up their seats for someone else needier, and anyone being inconsiderate on the MRT by doing something like taking up more than one seat. Some agree with this practice of taking photos, some don’t, but it definitely not illegal.

    2) I’ve heard of this one but never seen it in action. I’m not sure of the exact wording, but I believe it applies to unsolicited displays of affection when an unwilling party is involved, or when the act crosses the line of what is decent in public. Public of displays of affection, especially the small ones like chaste kissing, holding hands, hugging are perfectly acceptable in public. Going around offering free hugs… I’m 99.9999% sure that’s okay too. In comparison, things like groping in public (willingly or unwillingly) crosses the line, and sex in public definitely does as well.

    3) Is true, though honestly speaking it’s not even “not enforced strictly” – it’s just not enforced (unless, again, you do it publicly or blatantly). The government really isn’t in the business of caring about what goes on in people’s bedrooms.

    4) True, but most new urinals are fitted with auto-flushing devices anyway, and it’s really not enforced. There’s no legion of toilet-cleanliness enforcers and CCTV’s to shame those who don’t flush or anything like that. But I can get behind this one – people have no business not flushing the toilet after they’re done, if anyone doesn’t flush the toilet after you’re done, especially in public, I might not want them in my country either 😛

    5) This one is just false. It’s only not legal to smoke in certain areas, such as in pubilc buildings, within 5 metres of public spaces such as bus and train stations, and the like. In general, smoking is legal, and almost every 7-11 and other small, independent shops and coffeeshops/hawker centre sells cigarettes.

    6) True, although a better way to put it is “Don’t walk around naked in a place where someone who could potentially be offended by seeing your naughty bits and decide to call the police.”

    7) True. Wait, why wouldn’t you have laws against littering? Why is this law even weird?

    8) I’m surprised that you actually got this one right (that was meant as a compliment, really!) This one seems to be the one which very few gets right – even Singaporeans, sometimes. The rationale behind it is there was a period in the 80’s where chewing gum resulted in disgusting – and sometimes downright dangerous – situations – for example, gum stuck on the pavement is unsightly, under someone’s shoe is annoying, in lift doors or train doors could possibly cause an accident and/or cost thousands of dollars if any damage is done or delay is created.

    9) The rule is within 30 metres, not 50, I believe, though I might be wrong on this one. It’s for your own safety, as well as the safety of the drivers. But few people actually care, and generally if the road is empty many people just cross it anyway. We’re a nation of lawbreakers.

    10) Totally false. I’m a leftie. Maybe in some religions (such as Islam) it might be considered rude (though I’m not entirely sure about this), but I’m not Islamic and I’ve never actually met any resistance or any form of discrimination just because I do many things with my left hand, even from Muslims. I’ve never seen anything here that tells me that Singapore isn’t a place for lefties.

    • Miriam September 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Hi KC,
      As I’ve mentioned earlier, I got this information from the Singapore Ministry of Law, a law firm and the MRT’s own website so I can asure you that it is all accurate and it IS in fact in the books. However, as in all other countries, I’m aware that not every single law is enforced, but the point of this post was to show the laws – not how they are enforced.

      I hope you don’t take this post as negative against your country, because I actually liked Singapore a lot! Every country, my own included, has weird laws, but that doesn’t mean that the country can’t be a wonderful place.

  20. Hitchy October 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for the tips! 😀 Thats a great help! 😀

    • Miriam October 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      I’m glad you found it helpful. Happy trails 🙂

  21. dude October 16, 2015 at 6:14 am

    chewing gum is not allowed. There is no gum allowed except special prescription dental gum from a doctor or dentist.

    • Miriam October 16, 2015 at 10:22 am

      That’s right. Thanks for commenting.

  22. brendan November 4, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    thanks for this site lol some of them are pretty funny in doing a report for my school this info comes in handy thanks again 🙂

    • Miriam November 6, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Hey Brendan, I’m glad you could use my post for your school report. Best of luck with it 🙂

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