In prison for a pebble

In prison for a pebble

Take only pictures, leave only footprints

Year after year, many travelers feel the need to bring home a rock, a shell, a branch or some sand from their beach vacation. Those mementos all too often end up collecting dust on a shelf or in a closet. At the same time, they are missing in the beautiful places they came from. Collecting rocks and even sand can also get you in trouble with the law! Here are a few examples.

In prison for a pebble

A beach full of pebbles

On Chesil Beach is the title of an acclaimed novel — and recent film — by writer Ian McEwan. In an interview after the book's publication, the author said he had picked up a few pebbles from said beach in southern England and taken them home. He didn't realize that taking the stones was prohibited and punishable with a fine of up to £2,000 (€2,220). He later apologized and returned the stones.

In prison for a pebble

It's not the rocks, it's what they might be

Taking home rocks from Turkey can get you fined and even jailed. A few years back, a German man spent several weeks in jail because his son tried to take home a plain rock as a souvenir. Why the fuss? Turkey has strict laws protecting its cultural and natural heritage and it was (and is) virtually impossible to prove that the rock in your suitcase didn't come from an ancient archaeological site.

In prison for a pebble

Sand on eBay

It doesn't have to be rocks that you're collecting — sand can get you in trouble as well. Online trading site eBay recently took down several listings offering sand from America's 50th state, Hawaii. While legal until 2013, taking even small amounts of sand from beaches there now can lead to fines of up to $100,000.

In prison for a pebble

Sands of Sardinia

Visitors were so fond of Sardinia's beaches that many of them collected sand as a souvenir. In the summer of 2015 the authorities confiscated 5 tons of sand in the luggage of tourists in just three months — at just one of the island's airports! Now taking even small amounts of sand can cost you between €500 and €3,000 ($580 to $3,500).

In prison for a pebble

Don't even pick it up!

The rules are even stricter on Boracay in the Philippines. Forget taking sand home — on this gorgeous tropical island, you're not even allowed to collect it. Punishment for a first offense ranges from a €50 (€58) fine to three months in prison — depending on the mood of the judge.

In prison for a pebble

Don't move it around — too much

South Africa has a broad range of regulations governing how visitors may enjoy its public beaches. Fishing, open fires, bringing dogs: there are detailed rules for everything. It's forbidden to remove rocks or sand from the beaches as well as to "excavate, or tunnel in the sand or cause any substantial movement of sand." But, "reasonable digging of holes by children or beachgoers" is OK, though.

Taking rocks or sand home after a beach vacation may seem harmless but can destroy your holiday paradise. It's often illegal, too. In some places, the fines are huge and you could even go to prison.