How to be a good tourist

I HATE bad tourists – I’m not just talking clash of the cultures.  I’m talking disrespectful, bad tourists – like this person, this person or these people. Every place I’ve gone I’ve received wonderful compliments that I and/or my group are some of their favorite tourists.  It has nothing to do with the money spent – there are tons of groups that spend more money than me but rather than my travel etiquette.

Top 5 Travel Etiquette Tips

  1. Research the culture BEFORE heading to your destination. Are they a democracy or monarchy (might give you a hint as to if they believe in a structured societal hierarchy or if they are fairly egalitarian)? Do people greet each other with a phrase, a kiss, a hug? Is the country a formal environment like Japan or more casual?  Try Kwintessential for the basics. Some countries include this on their tourism website as well.
  2. Along with the culture find out how the locals dress. You don’t want to  be the only one in shorts while everyone around you is in a dress or pants.  Putting the locals at ease will make your interactions a lot easier.  On my recent trip to Paris I took almost exclusively black clothes with only a few other neutral tops. However when I went to Thailand I wasn’t shy about wearing color or putting on shorts with a lightweight button down.
  3. Be kind.  Rude & demanding tourists are hated by everyone everywhere.  The first phrase I learn when I go anywhere is “thank you”.  Being able to say “thank you” in someone’s native language even if the rest of the conversation was in your language leaves a lasting impression.  When my friends & I were in Thailand, the Thais loved us because we were nice.  We treated them like equals unlike people from other countries – saying please and thank you, being polite when asking for things, taking off shoes when it was appropriate.
  4. Take time to learn how the locals handle service interactions & what tipping customs are.  As Americans we like everything done quickly – ask us as we walk in your store if you can help us, waiter should be at our table within a minute of being seated, and come by the table every 5 minutes so we know you haven’t forgotten us!  European countries have a slower approach and it is considered rude to rush someone.  If you didn’t know this you would assume that they are being rude.  Also, not all countries require tipping like the U.S., some places it is a nice gesture but you would never be expected to tip 15-20%.  Save yourself some hassel (and possibly some money) and know how what your tipping strategy should be.
  5. Smile. When interacting with people smile.  It’s one expression that internationally is considered friendly and well like my mama always said, “you’ll get more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.”

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll have the locals loving you by the end of your first day!  And for goodness’ sake please don’t damage or vandalize a national treasure!  Act like you have some sense!

What tips do you have for others traveling overseas for the first time?

2 comments on “How to be a good tourist

  1. Yes! Thank you! I’ve had contests with friends to secretly capture the most inappropriately dressed tourist at holy or sacred sites… Unfortunately there are lots!

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