Here’s the list of countries where metal detecting is permitted or prohibited.
Australia. Any metal detecting is allowed. Prospecting for gold nuggets, as well as beach search, are favourites among locals. There are not so many archaeological finds in Australia – much less that in Europe and the U.S.
Austria. The use of metal detectors in archaeological contexts requires a permission issued by the Austrian Federal Monument Authority.
Belarus. Until 2013, metal detecting was prohibited only at archeological sites under state protection, WWII battlefield sites and on private land (without the owner’s permission). Since 2013, some laws and provisions restricting searching for historic artifacts have come into force. In actual fact, the use of metal detectors in Belarus can be considered forbidden.
Belgium. Private individuals aren’t allowed to look for archaeological artifacts. Beach search is permitted.
Bulgaria. The owner of a metal detector must register his device with the Ministry of Culture (otherwise he shall be punishable by a fine, or even jail time). Searching for archaeological objects requires permission. There are still illegal treasure hunters in Bulgaria, however – e.g., our commenter Кустарников ))
Note: Here’s a comment from Bulgarian treasure hunter Кустарников. “Actually, we have another situation – metal detectors are sold legally, and registration is required only if the buyer is an archeological museum and the device will be used during legal archeological excavations. Searching for archaeological finds in our country is permitted only for local historical and archaeological museums. It’s strictly forbidden for usual people to detect archaeological sites – not only already known places, but also still unknown ones. The problem is that there are lots of unknown sites in Belarus but the law doesn’t specify where in particular it is allowed to search – in other words, there isn’t such a list of places where it’s permitted to hunt freely. Thus, if you buy a metal detector, you can only perform air tests with it at home, and that’s all”.
Cambodia. Metal detecting is allowed only on beaches.
Canada. On the one side, it’s a country with a very poor history – it’s unreal to find a 200- or 300-year- old item. On the other hand, searching for historic artifacts is officially forbidden. It is the landowner who gives you permission to hunt with a metal detector. Or, you may metal detect in parks (there is also gold there) as well as on beaches.
Canary islands (Tenerife). Metal detecting is allowed without any restrictions.
Caribbean islands. Metal detecting is allowed without any restrictions.
China. Any metal detecting is forbidden.
Comoros islands. Any metal detecting is forbidden.
Croatia. Metal detecting is forbidden.
Cuba. Any metal detecting is forbidden. The very possession of metal detectors is equated with the possession of weapons.
Cyprus. Any metal detecting is forbidden, including beach search. If someone tries to take a metal detector through customs, it will be confiscated.
Czech Republic. To search for archaeological artifacts you will need permission. Metal detecting on beaches is allowed.
Denmark. Metal detecting is allowed. Very large and valuable items found must be given to the state.
Note: Here’s a comment from Italian detectorist Arne Hertz. In Denmark you can detect with landowners permission and must keep a 2 meter distance from protected sites. Most archeological finds, pre 1537 coins, any gold and larger silvercoins are gowerment property. And that is the short version. Also you cant treat Germany as one country. The different länder or states have different rules.
Dominican Republic. Metal detecting is allowed and encouraged without any sort of restrictions.
Egypt. Beach metal detecting is allowed, although permission will be required in some hotels with private beaches. According to commenter maxipim, there can be problems with getting the detector through customs. He shared his experience: while preparing for the trip to Egypt he packed the machine and coil separately – when dealing with the customs he said it was a crutch.
Ethiopia. Metal detectors are totally banned.
France. Searching for archaeological finds requires permission. Beach metal detecting is allowed.
Germany. Metal detecting is allowed but requires a license.
Ghana. Locals are permitted to metal detect without any restrictions. Tourists need to acquire a permit (license?).
Greece. The owner of a metal detector must obtain a license which is issued by the Ministry of Culture. Metal detecting on beaches requires the mayor’s permission. It’s prohibited to search for archeological objects – jail term of 10 to 20 years.
Hungary. The use of metal detectors requires special permission.
Iceland (southern part). It is totally forbidden to use metal detectors. By way of example, advertising of devices is equated with striptease ad. Looks a lot alike… Given that the country has a population of nearly 320,000, it’s even normal ))
India. Metal detecting is allowed. But any foreign treasure hunter evokes great interest from locals. Under favorable circumstances, they may even grab the machine from a foreigner or call the police.
Indonesia. Metal detecting is allowed.
Ireland. Historic artifacts can be looked for only after getting permission and approval from landowners. Beach metal detecting is allowed (so what are the beaches in Ireland?).
Israel. It’s forbidden to search for historic artifacts. Illegal treasure hunters are punished by jail time. But anyway, enthusiasts are still hunting there – the land of Israel is stuffed full of finds. Any construction, downpour, or great storm yields discoveries (without participation of detectorists). Metal detecting on beaches is allowed. Agent Mulder regularly recovers gold off beach.
Italy. All things of archeological interest, in and out of the ground, are the property of the state. Metal detecting by private individuals is allowed in some regions. A finder of valuable objects receives a reward. There are regions where the use of metal detectors is prohibited – e.g., Valle d’Aosta, Calabria, Lazio, Tuscany, Sicily.
And one more thing… According to local detectorists, beach search in Italy is controlled by mafia and the police. There is division into areas which are under control of different clans. Mafia treasure hunters ))
Note: Here’s a comment from Italian detectorist sergio. “Metal detecting is allowed on public beaches. But there is nothing to dig there. Private beaches are watched over by guards – it’s possible to make a deal with some of them, but some will be against, and it’s better not to argue with them. The police, carabinieri and mafia – this is a mere fable. The competition among detectorists is rather high… You can also hunt in the regions where it’s prohibited to, but not in the areas of archaeological importance – on private land and in the mountains. But there is nothing to search for in the mountains, too, as everywhere there are shot and shells the hunters left behind”.
Jordan. Metal detecting by private individuals is forbidden. Note that detectors are not allowed through Jordan customs as well.
Kenya. Metal detecting is allowed without any restrictions.
Latvia. Metal detecting is allowed on beaches and privately owned land (if you have permission of the owner). In all other cases, it’s prohibited to search with a metal detector. Special attention is paid to war relic hunters. Latvian police is said to keep an unofficial record of such hobbyists. Do you believe in it? ))
Libya. Any metal detecting is forbidden.
Lithuania. Since 2010, there have been changes in the country – some restrictions to using metal detectors have come into force. At present historic artifacts can be looked for after getting permission from the Department of Cultural Heritage. Metal detecting on beaches is allowed.
Maldives. Metal detecting is allowed without any restrictions.
Malta. Any metal detecting by individuals is forbidden. However, there are options when local authorities give permission for reasonable pay-off.
Mexico. Metal detecting is permitted. BUT (and it’s extremely important) detecting in Mexico is the prerogative of mafia clans. Apart from archeological finds, mafia has put their hands on beach search.
Moldova. Since 2011, metal detecting in the country is forbidden. The possession of metal detectors is also prohibited.
Mongolia. Metal detectors are totally banned.
Morocco (Agadir). Metal detecting is officially prohibited. But there are quite many treasure hunters in the country.
Namibia. Searching for archaeological finds is forbidden. Beach metal detecting is allowed.
Northern Ireland. Metal detecting is allowed on privately owned land (after getting permission from the owner). I wonder where things stand with beach hunting in Northern Ireland ))
Norway. Metal detecting is allowed only after getting permission.
Philippines. It’s forbidden to search for archaeological objects. Beach metal detecting is allowed.
Portugal. Metal detecting is officially prohibited. But there are treasure hunting clubs in Lagoa and Portimao districts that obtain permission to use metal detectors. Plus, it’s very rare that beach search is allowed by special permission from authorities (for locals only).
Romania. Metal detecting requires permission. There is the cultural property police in Romania (Politia de Patrimoniu).
Russia. It’s almost forbidden to search for historic artifacts. Beach metal detecting is allowed.
Saudi Arabia. All things, in and out of the ground, are the property of the Emir. If someone disagrees, he will be executed. Metal detectors are totally banned.
Slovakia. The use of metal detectors requires permission.
South Africa. Metal detecting is permitted only on beaches.
Spain. The use of detection devices for the purpose of searching for archeological finds is not allowed unless you get permission. However, there is a fair amount of illegal treasure hunters in Spain. Several years ago there used to be even private treasure hunts for foreign tourists.
Sri Lanka. Metal detecting is forbidden. Police react quickly to any reports on treasure hunters.
Sweden. Metal detecting on privately owned land is allowed. Beach search is permitted, too.
Switzerland. Metal detecting is officially not forbidden. But each canton, or even a district, has its own rules. Thus, it may be forbidden to metal detect only on archeological sites. However, there are examples when it’s allowed to search even there. On the other hand, in some areas, collecting scrap metal does require permission from the district authorities. Moreover, you will need double permission at that: a metal detecting license plus the landowner’s permit.
Thailand. Metal detecting is allowed without any restrictions.
Tunisia. Metal detecting is forbidden. Nevertheless, there are treasure hunters on some of the beaches.
Turkey. To search with a metal detector, including beach hunting, you will need to get a permit. However, you shouldn’t rely on verbal permission from hotel administration – the police will come and will take your metal detector away (they can also put you to prison at that).
UAE. Beach search is allowed in some areas (on a very limited basis).
Uganda. Metal detecting is allowed without any restrictions. Is this the country you are dreaming of? ))
UK (England). Archaeological finds can be looked for only after getting permission (it’s not a problem to receive it). Considering that most land is privately owned, you will require additional permission from the owner. Any valuable object found shall also be shared with the landowner. The museums have a priority right to acquire finds. Concealment of a discovery is fraught with punishment. In England the value of the find is determined in a rather interesting way. For example, a Roman lead plate isn’t viewed as a valuable find, although it costs $363,625.
Also, in England beach metal detecting is allowed, although there are places where you are required to obtain a permit or to pay fees. For instance, if you wish to metal detect on a public beach, you will need to ask local authorities for permission. Detecting on the River Thames beaches, within the boundaries of London, does require payment of a few dozen pounds fee.
As a matter of fact, England takes first place in Europe, followed by Poland and France, in terms of the number of hobbyists involved in metal detecting.
Ukraine. Metal detecting on official archeological sites is forbidden. The rest of sites – you can search where and with whom you like )) But well, it’s only for the time being. There will probably be some restrictions in the future.
USA. Metal detecting is allowed without any restrictions. To search on privately owned land you will need to obtain permission from the owner.
Vietnam. Metal detecting is allowed. Tourists prefer beach hunting. Anyone with a metal detector is a great spectacle for locals – children gather together in a crowd and are tagging along behind him. Local detectorists search for war artifacts a bit.
The list of countries is being updated. Do you have anything to add? Lots of treasure hunters will be grateful to you.
Image and list credits: http://md-hunter.com