These Common Touristy Travel Photos Are Actually Pretty Damn Illegal

7 Illegal Yet Common Travel Photos

There are many stupid things a person can do on holidays to get themselves in trouble. Usually, they involve a whole lot of ignorance or protests of sorts. But every now and then even the wisest of travellers make a little blunder, and it turns out a lot of travel photos that are snapped by pretty much every visitor are one of these illegal blunders.

Some of the pictures you take can lead to pretty serious trouble, like the UK tourist who was arrested for taking a video as his plane landed in Egypt that happened to have a military helicopter in the background.

Now, sure we all know we’re not supposed to photos inside security parts of the airport or walking on the tarmac. Right? If you didn’t know it then take note now! And most of us probably also know it’s safest not to take photos of anything to do with the military because Egypt isn’t the only place where this is illegal. But how many times have you taken a photo out of an airplane window? And before you try to claim you never would, have a quick squiz at the Instagrams of even professional travellers to see an abundance of videos and snaps of their plane landing.

Besides that it’s pretty common sense and decency around the world not to photograph inside religious buildings, government buildings, as well as a lot of art galleries and museums, but I’ll bet most of you have or would have taken some of these also pretty dang illegal travel photos:

7 Travel Photos That Are Actually Illegal

1. Pandas In China’s Sichuan Province

You cannot take pics of or with the cute little Pandas! Ok not little, quite bear-sized. Look, at first glance, this one seems a little odd, but they actually brought in the rule to stop tourist from getting to close to this endangered species.

I haven’t been to this part of China, but I sure did see how tourist act with the wildlife in Canada and HOLY CRAP tourists can be so stupid! See also, tourists on safari in various African countries. Seriously, guys, these are wild animals. Getting too close puts yourself in danger and isn’t nice for the poor animal! So I thoroughly approve of this rule.

2. Emirates Palace Hotel

Oh sure this is a modern-day hotel looking stunning with its marble from around the world, and not a museum or some sort of grave, but it’s still a definite no-go for travel photos. In the United Arab Emirates, the law is such that the subject of the photograph and not the photographer themselves who has rights to the photo. I get that it seems odd and as you’ll see below plenty of Instagrammers still get away with it, but someone was put in jail last year for ignoring the warning signs so probably just don’t.

In fact, the UAE, in general, has a lot of places to be aware of no photo rules. A lot of palaces, bridges and government areas are on the list, with a lot of tourist being arrested for taking photos, so do your research before you snap.

3. The Sistine Chapel

Right off the bat, one that I’ve definitely…never ever done. Then again, Instagram is literally chock-a-block with Vatican selfies so I feel like it’d be hard to pinpoint just one person on this. But the thing that qualifies it for this surprise list is that I, and probably most people don’t realise is that the no photo rule has less to do with protecting the art, though no doubt this also factors in, and more to do with a Japanese TV company.

When the Vatican started some major restorations from 1980 to 1994, they needed a sponsor to help with the costs. Nippon Television Network Corporation won the bid and the exclusive rights to film and photograph the newly restored art. Sure, that deal expired 3 years after the artwork was restored, so it’s more about protecting art now, but that’s what started the whole thing.

4. The Eiffel Tower At Night

Uh…exCUSE me? I mean it wasn’t any good because I was a poor student with bad cameras so I didn’t keep the photos but hasn’t every Paris tourist (and probably a bunch of locals) taken this iconic travel photo?

Why is night a problem if day is fair game? Because while Gustave Eiffel who designed the tower died in 1923, artist Pierre Bideau who added the lights in 1985 is still kicking. Under European copyright law, works like these are under copyright for the life of the artist plus another 70 years. So day shots became fair game in 1993, but we’ll be waiting a while for night shots to become legal.

5. Tokyo’s Golden Gai District

This hotspot right in the middle of Tokyo‘s Shinjuku district is perhaps the most famous nightlife area in the city. About 200 mini bars – seriously, there’s only room for about 4 people besides the bartender – are crammed into one block with not a lot of room to move around between them. As cramped as it sounds, all reports say it’s a guaranteed good time and the perfect people watching spot.

Just make sure watching is all you do because multiple signs warn revellers photos are very much banned. There doesn’t seem to be a widely known reason for this, so maybe they’re just being really good mates and making sure none of your drunken antics ever leave the area?

6. North Korea

Just about everything in North Korea had better stay off your camera. Seeing as this country only opened its borders for outsiders quite recently and you can still only get in with state-approved travel groups, you’ll want to take this one very seriously.

Speaking to, Getty Images photographer Carl Court recalls the strange and strict rules, particularly around photos of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il statues and iconography, “You can’t crop the feet off the statues. You can’t cut a bit of the corner off“.

If you do go visit, your safest bet is just to not take a photo unless you’re specifically told it’s ok. Definitely don’t even think about sneaking a cheeky shot in, because there’s a very real chance your phones and cameras will be searched.

7. Amish Communities

While not illegal as such, this does fall strongly into a ‘should not do’ category, especially without permission. Amish people have such a strong aversion to having their photos taken that they often won’t even have pics on their IDs. Why? Well for starters, how would you feel if a bunch of nosey tourists kept sticking a camera in your face? But also photos, particularly any posed photos, are seen to be a show of pride, according to Amish America.