Possibly one of the most disheartening things about traveling is dealing with disrespectful tourists. I’m sure you can picture it, hordes of them stepping off a tour bus, talking loudly, walking in the middle of the street with their selfie sticks as cars honk at them to move.
As someone who lives in a heavily touristed city (Washington DC) I expect tourists to be respectful and courteous. Don’t be those people – traveling with respect and compassion can go a long way. Here, we’ve outlined our top 15 ways to avoid being “that obnoxious tourist.”
1. Dressing inappropriately
Any self-righteous tourist would read this and scoff, saying, “I can dress however I want.” However, when you’re in someone else’s territory, it is polite to adhere to their traditions and customs. If the culture is conservative, keep your shoulders and knees covered. If all of the women wear headscarves, you should too. It’s not about trying to force you to conform to their norms, it’s about blending in with the locals and respecting their customs.
2. Flashing around expensive electronics and jewelry
Having your flashy electronics and jewelry out, especially in poorer countries where most people can’t afford them, can be really rude. Not only that, but waving your expensive things around can also make you a target for theft or robbery. Have a case or backpack handy for your phones, cameras, iPads, etc. to avoid hard feelings.
3. Walking without looking
There are so many times I’ve seen tourists run head-on into locals who are carrying heavy things or late for work. When you’re on the streets, watch where you’re going. It’s as easy as that. You can’t really navigate properly around the streets if you’re too busy looking at your phone or managing your selfie stick, and the locals will probably hate you.
4. Talking loudly
In many tourist sites, especially museums and churches, speaking loudly can be seen as rude or disruptive. Be respectful of your fellow tourists and others in crowded areas by keeping your voice volume in check.
5. Not tipping where appropriate
It’s really important to determine whether a country’s culture mandates tipping or not. This could mean the difference between whether a server gets paid or not. To find out what the tipping culture is, it takes five seconds to make an easy Google search, and can save you from being incredibly rude.
6. Aggressive bargaining
A few days ago I saw a video online of a Nepalese woman who was throwing rocks at a British lady for bargaining. At first I was shocked, but the more I looked into it, the more I understood why. The British woman was being a TOTAL jerk. She was aggressively trying to bargain the price of a cup of tea, which was less than $1.50 USD. Are you kidding me?! That woman makes her livelihood transporting tea and other goods to the mountain and selling it there, and the British tourist had the nerve to aggressively bargain the price. It really just made her look like an entitled prick.
7. Drunk idiots
Tourists who rage through the streets belligerently drunk vandalizing things and peeing places give the rest of us a really bad name. I get that you’re at Carnaval, or the Full Moon Party, or whatever, but you should still be coherent enough at all times to navigate around properly and behave like an adult.
8. Playing music without headphones
What on Earth compels people to play music aloud on public transportation, on hiking trails, and even in libraries?! Please be respectful of other people who are minding their own business by plugging in headphones. It’s really that simple.
9. Out of control selfie sticks
Sadly I’ve barely avoided injury by selfie stick several times on my travels. There’s really nothing to say here except that those selfie sticks quickly become weapons when used incorrectly. Watch where you’re going with them and, for goodness sake, DO NOT hit people with them.
10. Not following written rules
This is arguably the worst habit of an obnoxious tourist. We see headlines of tourists vandalizing historic sites, mooning people in conservative countries, and falling into boiling hot springs because they simply did not read the written signage. Don’t be the person who spray paints something on the Coliseum. Everyone else in the world will think you’re delusional.
This should be a no-brainer. Dispose of your trash in the proper places. ALWAYS. The world is so beautiful and we should take care of it. There’s no worse way to disrespect a beautiful place than by leaving your dirty crap behind, polluting and littering the environment for years to come.
12. Complaining publicly
Complaining about how dirty, poor, or uneducated a certain place might be is one of the most ignorant and rude things you can do while visiting that place. Doing it publicly? Even worse. It is so disrespectful to hear people saying, “The food in this country sucks so bad!” or, “There are too many poor people here!” when visiting foreign countries. Even if you’re thinking those things, keep them to yourself. Don’t be an asshole. For some people, these countries are all they’ve ever known.
13. Being generally ignorant
Traveling is a HUGE privilege. As tourists, we have a certain responsibility to be respectful of local customs and traditions. We are guests in the places we visit, and we should treat them as our gracious hosts. By thoroughly researching a country’s customs and norms, we ensure that we aren’t intruding on everyday life for the locals. Avoid being ignorant, be kind to others, and, for everyone’s sake, open your eyes.
Featured Image Credit: Dalibor Tomic (Flickr)
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