No Selfies Allowed: Social Media Bans at Landmarks

In the age of social media ubiquity, some popular destinations are instituting selfie (or, more specifically, selfie stick) bans. This interesting piece is for Conde Nast Traveller.

Oceanfront, Mumbai


While not a full-on ban, Mumbai police are instituting patrols in zones where selfie mishaps are most common, like the city’s oceanfront promenade, a popular pedestrian area. Most recently, two teenagers drowned while trying to get that perfect aquatic backdrop, the latest in a string of snap-related deaths around the country. India leads the world in deaths-by-selfie: Of 49 globally recorded fatalities over the past 3 years, nearly 40 percent have occurred there.



All Disney parks have banned selfie sticks on their grounds as of July 1, 2015. Previously, Disney had banned the sticks in rides where they were the most dangerous, but after complaints from visitors and employees alike they extended the ban. “We strive to provide a great experience for the entire family, and unfortunately selfie-sticks have become a growing safety concern for both our guests and cast,” a rep for The Mouse told the Washington Post.


Courtesy Lollapalooza

The annual summer music festival in Chicago (this year it’s happening from July 31-August 2) is the first major music festival to ban selfie sticks and other similar devices. The festival organizers have added these sticks to the list of banned items, which also includes skateboards, aerosol cans, and illegal drugs.

The Palace Museum, Beijing

Cin Paradiso WOM

The Palace Museum, usually referred to as the Forbidden City, is a hugely popular tourist attraction in Beijing, but it’s also extremely delicate. For that reason, Chinese officials have banned selfie sticks there, saying they pose a risk to the antiquities and also to other people, particularly in the most crowded sections. The museum’s director said that the ban will be strictly enforced: “Our staff will stop visitors using such devices when necessary.”

South Korea

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty

South Korea hasn’t passed any laws related to selfies, but they recently passed one about “selfie sticks,” a popular device that can hold up your phone and snap the photo for you. These devices make it easy to snap better selfies from different angles, but they’re connected to your phone via Bluetooth, which means that the sticks could be used to access your personal data. South Korea is cracking down on unregistered knock-off selfie sticks and will now regulate them via a government agency that monitors telecom devices.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

Debra Behr / Alamy

Staff at Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border, are asking visitors not to take pictures of bears, especially selfies that have them turning their backs to said bears. A recent uptick in the number of selfies with bears in the background are “presenting a safety issue,” according to a spokesperson for the park. It’s possible that they’re thinking about a 2013 incident where a couple on safari were gored by rhinos after their guide suggested they get closer to the animals for a better photo.

The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Hemis / Alamy

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has a contentious relationship with social media and photography. The institution had a photography ban, repealed it in May 2013, then re-instituted the ban in March 2014. The museum said that photography there, one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist sites, “caused tension between those wishing to photograph and those wishing to view the paintings.”

Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Art Directors & TRIP / Alamy

The hajj, a trip to the holy city of Mecca, is one of the most important requirements in Islam. But the rise of technology is causing conflict as younger Muslims use social media to document their pilgrimages. Several prominent clerics and scholars have asked people to refrain from posting selfies, especially of them visiting or touching holy sites, claiming that such photos go against Islamic principles of modesty.

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Nic Cleave Photography / Alamy

The Sistine Chapel has banned photography, including snapping shots of its famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo. This rule has nothing to do with overcrowding or trying to move people along more quickly, though. The ban dates to 1980, when the Vatican raised $3 million in necessary renovation funds from Japan’s Nippon Television Network in exchange for exclusive photo and video rights to the art within. Though the ban is still technically in place, enforcement isn’t very strict and plenty of tourists have been able to snap pictures.

Garoupe Beach, France

Hemis / Alamy

Leave it to the French to treasure their exclusivity, even on vacation. The southern French beach Garoupe banned selfies, which it calls “braggies,” claiming that constant photo-sharing was ruining the true beachgoing experience. “The Garoupe beaches are among the most glamorous and pristine beaches in all of France,” said a spokesperson. “We want people to be able to enjoy our exclusive beach in the moment, not spending the majority of their time bragging to their friends and family back home.”

Running of the Bulls, Pamplona

Alan Copson City Pictures / Alamy

Running while selfie-ing doesn’t seem very safe. And selfie-ing while running away from bulls seems even less safe. Authorities in Pamplona, which hosts the annual Running of the Bulls, have imposed a no-selfies rule and are fining violators. This summer, a British man was fined €3,000 (about $4,000) for taking a picture of himself participating in the run, prompting one Spanish newspaper to ask “Is this the most dangerous selfie ever?”

New York state

Patti McConville / Alamy

New York became the first state in America to outlaw people having direct contact with—or taking pictures of themselves with—dangerous cats like lions, tigers, and leopards at places like zoos. Although the politician who sponsored the bill claims that social media wasn’t the only motivation behind the law, a growing trend of “tiger selfies” on social media did play a major role. Now, people caught violating the law face $500-$1,000 fines, and the Tinder Guys With Tigers tumblr is out of material.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Some of the country’s most popular museums are taking a stand against selfie sticks, including the National Gallery, the Getty Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (pictured). These museums have all cited issues with selfie sticks causing injury to works of art or other museum patrons, but they haven’t gone for full-on photography bans just yet.


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