Hoiday Etiquette: How Gwynnie in a bikini offended the local Italian men. . .
Steven Spielberg was fined for dropping off Gwyneth Paltrow from his yacht on to the beach. John Costello reports on the blunders of holiday-makers
Whether you are spending a penny or strolling to the beach, remaining on the right side of the law while holidaying can prove harder than you might think.
Even the rich and famous, like Steven Spielberg, have fallen foul of the plethora of bizarre rules that are enforced abroad. The Oscar-winning director of Jaws, Saving Private Ryan and Jurassic Park was nabbed by the long arm of the law while soaking up some holiday sun just last week.
The 64-year-old was living the high life off the northern coast of Sardinia on his 280ft-long super-yacht, 'Seven Seas', when he decided to drop some friends, including a bikini-clad Gwyneth Paltrow, off at the beach.
However, under local laws, boats with engines are not allowed within 300 metres of the sandy shoreline. A legal-eagle-eyed local spotted the infringement and promptly phoned the coast guard, who slapped Spielberg with a fine of €172.
Even though it is a drop in the ocean for a man with an estimated fortune of $3bn, the Hollywood heavyweight was left red-faced and apologetic. Once he paid the fine he was happy to set sail on his $200m yacht (which is equipped with a helipad, two swimming pools, a spa, massage room and two home cinemas) to avoid unwittingly getting caught up in any other criminal-type behaviour.
However, vacationing abroad can prove a minefield of weird and wonderful ways to fall foul of the authorities.
If you happen to be lounging around in Lerici, on the Italian Riviera, for example, make sure you wear more than swimwear if you want to avoid a fine on your way to and from the beach.
Indeed, if you thought the Italians were not prudish, just take a trip south of Naples to Castellammare di Stabia where low-cut jeans and too much cleavage can land offenders with a €300 fine.
The southern town of Eboli is an even bigger passion-killer for unsuspecting tourists, as having a quick kiss in the car can set you back €500. While in Eraclea, near Venice, it's against the law to build sandcastles on the beach, because apparently they "obstruct the passage".
The mind boggles at the size of the sandcastle that prompted local authorities to pass such a law.
But it is not just the Italians who have weird laws that can provide tourists with overnight accommodation in the local slammer.
Earlier this year, a 30-year-old Canadian thought he was being game for a laugh when he stood on the steps outside the former Nazi HQ in Berlin and gave a Hitler salute.
The prankster, who was being photographed by his girlfriend, didn't realise that any Monty Pythonesque joke about Hitler and his henchmen is illegal anywhere in Germany.
He learnt the error of his ways in a matter of seconds when he was swiftly handcuffed and led away by police.
Hundreds of tourists fall foul of this law every year in Germany and risk being jailed for up to six months. However, the Canadian funny man was let off with a fine and a warning after spending several hours in police custody.
But Australian author Harry Nicolaides wasn't so lucky when he visited Thailand in 2009. He was arrested and sentenced to three years in jail for insulting Thailand's royal family in a novel he had written four years earlier.
Thailand enforces a prison sentence of between three to 15 years for "whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent".
In fairness, Nicolaides was probably secretly happy someone had actually taken the time to read his 2005 fictional book Verisimilitude, as it sold only seven copies.
But luckily for him, the king had a change of heart one month later and decided to set him free. The lesson for us all is: when in Thailand, never bad-mouth the royals.
While not so many tourists are unfortunate enough to go to prison, they do regularly rake up fines for breaking a bounty of bizarre by-laws.
Take Singapore, where the locals are flushed with pride at the cleanliness of their pristine public loos. So much so, in fact, that if you leave one without flushing you will be fined $100, even if you thought you were only going to be spending a penny.
However, this is not the only destination that requires a little toilet training before travelling.
In Switzerland it is illegal to flush the loo after 10pm if you happen to be staying in an apartment, while in Portugal it is actually illegal to pee into the sea.
But how they enforce that one is anyone's guess.
Being behind the wheel, no matter how good a driver you are, can also be fraught with fines.
Regardless of whether it is night or day, you can be landed with a €100 fine the moment you put your foot on the accelerator in Denmark, as it is illegal to drive without your lights on.
Apparently, this is to distinguish moving cars from parked cars. The question is, just how slowly do people drive in Denmark if the only way to distinguish a parked car from one on the move is if the headlights are on?
But this motoring madness is nothing compared to the major cities of the Philippines.
There the rush-hour regulations mean driving is far more of a mathematical equation.
If you decide to borrow a car from a local, be warned that you can only drive a car on certain days, which are determined by the last digits of the car's licence plate. So be prepared for some number- crunching if you want to get behind the wheel.
Finally, think twice before sitting down to a baked-bean supper if you're travelling to Malawi.
The tiny African nation has attempted to promote public decency by banning the breaking of wind in public.
However, locals fear miscarriages of justice as they are well aware finding the felon behind a fart can prove difficult.
Indeed, once the locals got wind of the law, it caused a very big stink indeed.