If you’ve done any amount of traveling at all, you’ve probably seen some of the worst tourists. With the number of people that are traveling, there are bound to be a few bad ones.
In the first half of 2015, international destinations received more than 538 million international tourists. That’s a ton of people! Unfortunately, there seems to always be people that have to push the limits or completely disregard the law. This results in the locals and city officials in popular tourist destinations having to put up with these people.
It’s actually quite easy to be a good tourist as long as you’re open-minded, follow local customs and act within the laws. I can’t tell you why people act the way they do, but I can help you not fall into one of these categories.
In this post, we’ll go through some different levels of the worst tourists. My process for organizing these in different levels is simple. The fewer people that are affected by the act, the lower on the list it will be. Also, I’ve taken into account how purposeful different acts are. If some people just don’t know any better, it’s lower on the list than people that go out of their way to do stupid stuff.
Alright, let’s see what tourists are doing these days to earn them a spot on this list.
1. Looking Like a Tourist
Obviously this isn’t the worst thing that someone can do, which is why it’s the first one on the list. People who dress like tourists just give tourists, in general, a bad image. Plus you stick out like a sore-thumb. You become a target to pickpockets, gypsies, scammers, etc.
You’re mostly just affecting yourself, but locals get annoyed as well. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to stop looking like a tourist. First, please take off your fanny pack.
Look up how the locals dress before you visit somewhere (see point number 5). If you do this, and at least make an attempt to wear proper clothing, you’ll fit in just fine.
Here’s a good rule to follow: if someone stops you and asks you for directions, you’re doing great! This means they think you’re from around there and look like you know where you’re going. Obviously this isn’t always going to be easy to do, but don’t embarrass yourself by going overboard with your tourist attire.
2. Making Yourself Vulnerable to Thieves
Do you think locals like seeing their city named on a ‘Worst Cities in the World for Pickpocketing‘ list? Definitely not. It’s their city and they want to be proud of it. Unfortunately, tourists make too easy of targets and pickpockets have a field day grabbing whatever they want.
Not only does it suck for you that you got your phone, wallet, or passport stolen, but it also creates a bad image for the city.
Is it your fault that pickpockets exist? No. Is it your responsibility to protect yourself from their prying hands? Yes.
If you follow rule number one, you should decrease your likelihood of being a target, but don’t stop there. Take proper measures to keep your belongings safe.
Remember not to put valuable items in the back of your backpack. Also, put your backpack in front of you when you’re in a crowded area. Thieves can slice open your backpack, or simply unzip it, and get the wallet you put there.
Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. It’s too easy for someone to steal your wallet when you’re in a crowded space. They simply create a diversion, bump into you, apologize, and walk away with your wallet. You don’t realize it until a few minutes later and they are long gone.
If you keep your valuables in your front pocket, you’ll be less likely to be a victim of this crime. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be 100% safe. Your best bet would be to put your wallet in your front pocket, and then put your hand in your pocket when you’re walking through a crowded area.
Also, as another security measure, make sure you split up your valuables. Hide some in one place and some more in another place. Don’t keep your passport, all of your money, debit cards, and credit cards all in one place. If a thief grabs it, it’s a gold mine. Instead, split it all up. If a thief gets one card, it’s way better than if they got all of them.
3. Not Trying to Learn the Language
If you live in an English speaking country, which language do you expect a visitor to speak to you in? English right?
Well, when you visit another country and need to speak to them, at least do them the courtesy of saying hello in their native language. We aren’t expected to learn the entire language when we visit, we only need to know a few phrases to get us by.
Compare that to people who visit your country and you expect them to speak English. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for us English speakers, many people in other countries of the world learn English. This makes it much easier on us when we visit their country.
If they have to learn an entire language, the least we can do is learn a few words or phrases. I’ve always found that saying “hello” in their language with a smile gets great friendly responses even if you start speaking English right after that.
Obviously it would be nicer if you asked them if they speak English, before hopping into it, but every little bit helps. There are plenty of apps that will help you translate words and phrases, however, they usually require an internet connection.
Look into downloading an app that can be used offline that gives you the common phrases of the place you’re visiting.
4. Bad-Mouthing a Place While You’re There
As you can tell, we are starting to get into the things tourists do that affect more people than themselves. When you start talking badly about a place you’re visiting, you’re not going to make the locals happy.
As mentioned in number 3, many people all over the world learn how to speak English. This means that when you’re talking badly about a place, the locals most likely will understand you. This doesn’t make the locals feel good about their city and it definitely doesn’t make them happy to have tourists there.
If you’re bad mouthing a place in front of locals, you’re starting to make other tourists look bad as well. This results in locals treating tourists poorly because of how they were treated in the past.
First, you shouldn’t be talking badly about a place to begin with. If you have a problem with a destination you’re visiting, you should first think about the local customs. As I mentioned above, just because the locals don’t do things like you, doesn’t mean they are wrong. Take a minute to try and appreciate their perspective before you talk badly about it.
And, if you absolutely must talk badly about a place, do it in privacy where no one else can hear you. This will keep you from negatively impacting the locals and the other tourists that are trying to have a good time.
5. Disrespecting People By Dressing Inappropriately
We talked about not looking like a tourist, which is a very simple thing to fix. When you dress in a way that offends people, you’re taking it too far.
Remember that famous monuments, churches, and buildings were built for a purpose besides shuffling tourists through them. This means that you should be wearing proper attire when you visit these places. If they have a dress code, follow it.
Just because you don’t follow the religion that built a famous cathedral, doesn’t mean you don’t need to follow their rules. Show respect by dressing appropriately and everyone will be happy.
Furthermore, if you visit a country with a more restrictive dress code, remember that you are a visitor and it would be disrespectful not to follow the local customs.
6. Going Too Far to Get the Perfect Picture
We get it, you want an amazing picture for your Facebook or Instagram account. However, some people take this way too far.
For example, one guy wanted a selfie with a statue, so he climbed up on it and completely destroyed the 19th-century work of art.
When some people try to keep up with the internet trends they completely lose site of the historical or religious significance of places. One of those trends is taking nude traveler photos. A couple of sisters that were really trying to stay on top of their social media game got arrested for doing so.
The two sisters attempted to take nude photos at Angkor Wat, a sacred temple in Cambodia. They were arrested, fined $250, banned from Cambodia for 4 years, and immediately deported to Thailand. Instead of getting trendy Facebook photos, they got mug shots.
Disrespecting people with the wrong clothes is one thing, but taking your clothes off completely is a whole other level of insult to these sacred buildings.
Also, remember that if a place says “No Photos,” then don’t take photos. Respect the place so you don’t ruin it for other tourists.
7. Getting too Drunk
Hey, you’re on vacation, have a little fun! There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks and enjoying your time while you travel. Just please remember your limits.
Besides the fact that getting hammered in a foreign place probably isn’t the smartest decision for safety reasons, you can also get yourself in some serious trouble.
In Barcelona, some locals actually set up a protest because of how fed up they are with drunk tourists. They say this type of tourism is making it unbearable to live there and many residents have already moved. Tourism should be an economic positive for cities, not a deterioration of the locals’ way of life.
Some people just lose all sense of right and wrong when they’re drunk. A couple of drunk tourists stole a penguin from an Australian Sea World. They woke up and were surprised that the penguin was in their room. I’m sure the penguin was surprised to be there too!
Have fun when you’re traveling, but don’t get so drunk you decide to steal a penguin.
8. Purposefully Defacing Historic Monuments
When people are drunk and do stupid stuff, you can at least blame part of it on the fact that they were intoxicated. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it puts this last level of the worst tourists in perspective.
People that are perfectly sober are purposefully defacing historic monuments and buildings. You can’t blame that on them being drunk. You can only blame it on their sheer lack of respect for the place they are visiting.
A recent example of this is people carving their initials into the Colosseum. That place is already falling apart, it doesn’t need help from someone digging a coin into the ancient stone. Fortunately, when people are dumb enough to act this way they get punished accordingly. The guy who did it was charged 20,000 euros for the act.
I’m sure when most of us visit these ancient sites the last thing we want to see is a fresh carving.
I’m sure most of us don’t have a problem with the people that do dumb things and embarrass themselves. If it doesn’t affect us, then it doesn’t really matter. But, what really irritates people is when the bad tourists ruin things for the rest of us.
Over time, more rules are put in place, barriers are enhanced, and it’s not as natural or surreal as it would have been in the past. It’s unfortunate that people do the stuff listed above, but all we can do is be responsible for ourselves.
Next time you’re a visitor in a different city or country, don’t forget your manners. Treat people with respect, smile at the locals, and act as normal as you can. We all need to understand that not everyone’s culture and language is the same as ours. This doesn’t make our way the right way. When we are visiting somewhere else, their way is the right away and we should do our best to fit in.
So please be a good tourist and traveler out there!
What’s the worst thing you’ve seen a tourist do?