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| © Ben / Flickr
| © Ben / Flickr

11 Surprising Places Where You Can't Use Your Phone, Ever

Picture of Alice Johnston
Social Content Producer
Updated: 12 December 2017

Our phone are glued to our hands 24/7, and it’s the worst. Who knows what unique sights we’re missing because we’re too busy tapping at a screen to look up? Here are some places that take the temptation away and have banned phones – and they’re so beautiful and interesting, there’s no way you should be hunching your neck to stare at your phone anyway.

Green Bank, America

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Green Bank, America. The white dish is used to pick up sounds from space | © Ben / Flickr

It’s illegal to use a mobile phone in this small American town, and even using a microwave could get you a ticking off. Green Bank, a beautiful town in the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia, is surrounded by forest and is a base for researchers to listen to exploding galaxies at the edge of the universe. The noise emitted by them is so faint, it’s around a billionth of a billionth of a millionth of a watt. A mobile phone, even when it’s not being used, emits around three watts of sound and swamps the noise scientists are trying to pick up. Wi-Fi is also banned, and researchers often go door to door politely asking citizens to turn off appliances. Better go for a walk in the wilderness instead.

The Sistine Chapel, Italy

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The Sistine Chapel | © Shutterstock

The guards in this famous place of worship yell: ‘No photo! No video!’ at visitors with alarming frequency. It’s a definite no-no for you to pull out your phone and start ’gramming your travels here. Luckily, there’s some incredible beautiful artwork on the ceiling that you should probably be looking at instead.

On a plane

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Flying: not as boring as you think | © Jaku Arias / Unsplash

Yes, this one is obvious, but it’s necessary to repeat. Flying is incredible. You are travelling at hundreds of miles an hour through the sky, the Earth spread below you like a picnic blanket. Make the most of getting a bird’s-eye view and watch the world go by from your window, have a nap, or get some serious thinking done. You might as well stop griping about not being able to scroll aimlessly and properly unplug for a change.

The American desert

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The American desert | © Phillip Capper / Flickr

The government has yet to install cell phone towers in large swathes of the American desert, so it’s impossible to keep in touch when you’re travelling across them as your phone won’t work. In areas around Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City, it’s impossible to use your phone. Instead, watch the scenery roll by and enjoy the view of a horizon that isn’t interrupted by inane videos on social media. 

North Korea

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North Korea has a long list of restrictions on mobile phones | © (Stephan) / Flickr

If you’re lucky enough to get even the smallest glimpse of this locked-away nation, you shouldn’t waste it by staring at a screen. You can only bring your phone inside North Korea if it’s an approved model, you must get a North Korean SIM card and you can’t use it to contact anyone in North Korea. There’s only one mobile network and signal strength is unreliable.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam | © Will van Wingerden / Unsplash

Visitors to this famous museum are discouraged from using their phones and cameras, and instead are encouraged to sketch the artworks they’re gazing at rather than Snapchatting them. You can even get your hands on free paper and pencils to make memories in a non-digital format.

Pop concerts

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See a gig without phone screens in the way | © Daniel Robert / Unsplash

Artists are getting sick of gazing into a sea camera phones staring back at them. So they’re banning them. Alicia Keys goes even further, giving every concert attendee a sealed, lockable pouch they must place their phones into to gain access to the gig. The only way to check your messages is to exit and unlock the bag. Forget filming a wobbly video you’ll probably never watch again and concentrate on actually listening to the music you paid to see.

Caribbean beaches

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The beach should be peaceful | © Despo Potamou / Unsplash

Elite Islands Resorts, the owner of multiple Caribbean resorts, has banned the use of mobile phones on its beaches. They want to promote full relaxation and the enjoyment of the gorgeous, white-sand beaches and, as a result, phones and laptops aren’t allowed within a half-mile radius of the main beaches. Better grab a pina colada and watch the waves instead.

French restaurants

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Eat a meal without photographing it first | © Quentin Dr / Unsplash

At Petit Jardin, a restaurant in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, three hours northwest from Marseille, phones are completely banned. Rules are strict. A diner seen using a phone will be given a yellow card by a waiter, with a whistle blown loudly so other customers can see what they’re doing. Offend again and you’ll be given a red card and escorted from the premises. So eat your delicious French food without tap-tap-tapping on a miniature screen. Coca-Cola and ketchup are also banned in the restaurant.

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

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Watch the leopards, not your phone | © Robert Metz / Unsplash

Phones were banned in this famous nature reserve in 2015. The rule comes after guides were using their phones to notify each other when they had spotted a leopard or another interesting animal. The guides were then driving their vehicles at rapid speeds to try and get a look, which was distressing for the wild animal. Additionally, the frequency and sound of mobile phones often disturbs the animals, so visitors are asked to keep them on silent. Anyway, it’s pretty dangerous to be focused on your phone with a leopard just around the corner. Put your phones away!

Digital detox resorts

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Do some yoga and unplug | © Marion Michele / Unsplash

If you want to get serious about ungluing your phone from your hand, head somewhere where they physically take it away from you. From sailing trips to yoga retreats to trekking through the wilderness, you can finally experience the world without a phone clutched in your hand.