Written by Peter CarterJanuary 12, 2017
One of the great things about travelling abroad is the opportunity to have new experiences. Being exposed to a different language, sights, smells, people, and an entirely new culture can be both an exhilarating and overwhelming experience.
Through all the excitement it is important to be always be aware of the local laws.
There are many countries around the globe that although they share a border, their laws could not be more different.
Australia is unique in that it is surrounded by sea but even a short two-hour flight sees you lying on a beach in countries like Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is strict in terms of a few areas of law but quite lax regarding others. When in Vanuatu, a person must follow the local laws of Vanuatu.
According to the Smart Traveller website, the importation, possession, distribution, display or manufacture of ‘obscene publications’ in Vanuatu, including pornographic movies and magazines, is illegal.
Failure to obey this law will result in punishment with the possibility of jail. Australia, on the other hand is more liberal in terms of obscene publications.
Alcohol cannot be sold in Vanuatu supermarkets between midday Saturday and 7:00am Monday. However, clubs, bars and hotels can serve alcohol at these times. The sale of alcohol in Australian supermarkets is permitted in some states but not others.
Drink driving is a serious offence in Australia which is punishable in all cases. Drink driving laws do not seem to be enforced in Vanuatu. Rumour has it that drink driving is okay as long as the driver does not injure or kill anyone.
Another law connected to the road, refers to being able to ride at the back of a utility. In the past, riding at the back of utilities was allowed in Australia, but this is no longer the case.
On the other hand, in Vanuatu, it seems to be a rite of passage to ride at the back of a utility and it is quite common to see a utility filled with a dozen or more people at the back. Even police utilities can be spotted with passengers at the back.
In terms of drugs in Vanuatu, drug offences result in penalties such as fines, jail or both. Australia, is quite strict when it comes to drugs but punishments depend on the type of offence, the amount of drugs and the circumstances surrounding the case.
Vanuatu is well-known for its kava plant which is considered to be a type of drug taken for its relaxant properties. Locals drink kava regularly and enjoy the buzz it gives them. The legal age for drinking kava is 18 but this is not properly enforced.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Vanuatu but discretion should be exercised at all times. Vanuatu people are conservative when it comes to public displays of affection regardless of sexual orientation.
This applies to dress standards as well. Whilst not a law, visitors to Vanuatu should ensure their clothing is appropriate. Women, in particular, should take care to not expose their bodies as this can be offensive. Generally, the capital city Port Vila is more casual but smaller places are more traditional.
Generally in Vanuatu, there is introduced law and customary law. Doing something outside the parameters of the tribe, could result in punishment by the chief of the village. Many incidents can often be solved by the chief of the village or community elders without requiring any police assistance.
The laws in both Vanuatu and Australia may be different, but the laws work for each individual country.
Have you ever broken the law in a neighbouring country without realising?