Traveling is one of the most exciting things we can do on this planet. Seeing the beautiful nature of a different country, embracing another culture, and tasting foods we’ve never had before can all be amazing experiences. The logistics of traveling, however, can be a bit overwhelming. When you’re a tourist who doesn’t know much about the country or city you’re in, it can be easy to make embarrassing mistakes or fall into tourist traps.
Luckily for us, Reddit users have been sharing all of their tips for avoiding common tourist mistakes in their countries, so we’ve gathered a list of some of the best tips to help you be a more informed traveler. Whether it’s a way to save you some money, avoid an awkward interaction or ensure you’re not unintentionally rude, this list has got you covered. Keep reading to also find an interview we were lucky enough to receive from author and creator of the blog The Invisible Tourist, Alyse.
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And when you’re finished reading these tips, you can check out even more in Bored Panda’s last article on the same topic right here.
If you’re visiting somewhere like Auschwitz, somewhere that a degree of solemnity is required, don’t be a total c*nt. Don’t be the school kids that decide to practice a gymnastics routine. Don’t be the glitzy tarted up women taking pouty faced selfies in front of the glass cases filled with dead people’s belongings. Don’t be the d*ck who claims to the polish guide that she’d be speaking German it weren’t for his country. Learn a little about history and a lot about decorum before going to a place such as this
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An interesting thing about people who love traveling is that they often hate being perceived as tourists. They don’t want to “dress like a tourist” or go to the most “touristy spots”, and they’re desperate to look like they fit in (until someone speaks to them and realizes they don’t know the local language). We all know the type of tourist they’re probably imagining: proudly strutting around with a selfie stick in one hand and a map in the other, wearing a t-shirt with the name of whatever country their in splashed across their chest. While this person may sound cringey or embarrassing, is there really anything wrong with that type of tourist? They’re just enjoying their vacation!
But if you’re anything like me, you might be interested in some tips to be a more discreet traveler. I aim to be a tourist who finds myself at lesser known restaurants filled with locals and who researches the culture before going anywhere to try to avoid making a fool out of myself. Does it make any difference? Who knows. But I do love traveling, so I’ll be happy to learn a few tips from this list.
Worst mistake: not learning a little bit about the culture ahead of time so you are not accidentally rude.
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When it comes to international travel, it has been steadily rising since the end of World War II. According to the World Tourism Organization, there were 25 million international tourist visits in 1950, rising all the way up to 1.4 billion in 2018. While there are many factors influencing who is traveling abroad, certain destinations are consistently popular for tourists from all over the world. In 2017, France was the top visited country, racking in 87 million visitors. Of course, almost 70 million of them were from other European nations, but it’s still a popular destination for travelers from the Americas and Asia as well. After France, Spain came in next with 82 million visitors, then the US with 77 million and China with 61 million. Also high on the list were Italy, Mexico, the UK, Germany, Thailand and Turkey. And in terms of where all these visitors are coming from, China provides the most tourism abroad, with over 143 million journeys abroad in 2017. This is not surprising, given the country’s wealth and population, but it’s still an impressive amount of traveling.
Asians leaving their bags unattended in Europe. BIGGEST MOST FREQUENT MISTAKE EVER. Not just because their sh*t gets stolen but also in France every unattended baggage is considered as a bomb terror potential and blocks transportation, sightseeing, or frankly any kind of activities for anyone else there.
I know for a fact in Korea if you leave your bag at a metrostation corner and come back 3 hours later it’s still gonna be there, same thing as leaving them at cafes unattended but I swear to God, you do that in France, 5 mins later, poof your sh*ts gone or you’re brought to the police station for questioning because you become a suspect terrorist. I cannot stress this enough, DONT LEAVE UR SH*T ALONE IN EUROPE!
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People that don’t speak English also don’t speak slower and louder English.
And the insane mime work isn’t really helping.
Image credits: Beeftech67
While international travel has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s beginning to see a rise again. During 2020, the months of July, August and September saw tourism levels 64% lower than the same period in 2019. In 2021, however, the year’s tourism increased by over 50% during those same three months. Travel rates are expected to remain lower than they were pre-pandemic during 2022, but The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that arrivals in Europe have already increased 350 percent compared to last year. Restrictions easing up around the world is great for the global economy, but it’s also a plus for those who love traveling and have felt confined over the past couple of years. Now is the perfect time to receive some travel tips before planning out your next trip to one of the countries mentioned in this list.
For families traveling, spread out your packing.
If you are a family of four and bringing two suitcases, spread the clothing for each person between both cases. (IE: Half of each person’s clothing should be in one case and half in the other.) That way if one suitcase gets lost, then everyone still has at least half the clothing that they need.
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Australia. Not putting sunscreen on the back of their knees while going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or just not wearing sunscreen full stop
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When it comes to blending in as a tourist, it requires a bit of research. Thankfully, nowadays there are countless travel blogs, vlogs, podcasts and social media accounts to help us along the way. One of which is The Invisible Tourist, a blog by an Australian woman named Alyse, which focuses on the idea of “invisible tourism”. Alyse features many travel tips on her blog and even has published a book titled How to Not Look Like a Tourist: Unlocking Your Hidden Power for Overtourism Solutions.
We reached out to Alyse to gain some insight from a travel expert and hear about any tourist faux pas she has made or witnessed. “The worst travel mistake I made was riding a donkey up the 500+ stairs from the port to Santorini’s old town,” Alyse told us. “My poor juvenile donkey was so exhausted half way up, tripped, and we both fell to the ground. From that moment I decided to walk the rest of the stairs myself, and vowed not to engage with animals exploited in tourism moving forward.”
Bringing their ‘bad manners’ with them and insisting on doing it because its what they normally do back home.
I.e. sh*tting in public, acting like they own the place, no idea how to form a line, causing a disturbance in the area by talking loudly, destroying public property due to ignorance
When I see these signs in a person, I immediately walk the opposite direction.
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Assuming the U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere.
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Make sure when addressing to someone in France to start with a greeting. Not saying Bonjour could be considered very rude.
Image credits: GrandsBoulevards
We also asked Alyse to break down her concept of “invisible tourism” for us. “Being an Invisible Tourist is about making a conscious effort to “blend in” as best as possible when travelling. Overall, the aim is to minimize the negative impacts tourism has on local communities, their culture, and the environment.” Alyse provided us with a list of ways to blend in as a tourist including: “practicing local customs, etiquette and dressing appropriately to demonstrate our cultural awareness; learning the basics of the local language to help preserve it and show respect; prioritizing local, regulated accommodation over international hotel chains to keep tourism money in the community; immersing ourselves in the local culture through food and experiences; seeking out alternatives to popular spots to dilute our tourist footprints; purchasing handcrafted souvenirs to support local jobs and keep traditions alive; packing reusable items for our trip to minimize waste; and opting for small, locally-owned group tours instead of larger ones when not travelling independently”.
“There are many more strategies to add,” Alyse says. “But helping to preserve the identities and culture of places we visit keeps them beautifully unique, whilst resulting in positive exchanges between tourists and locals. A win-win for everyone!”
Putting phones in their back pocket. You’re just asking to be pick pocketed.
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Walking slowly and stopping in the middle of a busy street to take pictures.
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In Sweden, drinking from your wine or beer glass before your host has made a toast. No matter how thirsty you are always wait until you hear “Skål!” then you’re good to go.
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When asked why international travel is an important experience to have, Alyse told us, “Travelling to other countries… can introduce us to new ways of thinking we haven’t been exposed to before. It’s an opportunity to extend outside our comfort zones and experience different cultures, sights, cuisines and more that we may never have the chance to at home. Exposure to these things opens our minds and also helps us gain a better understanding of cultural differences. Each is special in their own unique way, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Not do their research properly, I mean like average cab fares, average food costs etc. I’ve seen Caucasian tourists come to my country (Malaysia) and get out of a cab paying RM280 for a ride in the city, that’s idk $70 or more USD? The average 1 hour cab ride from my suburb to the airport only costs RM80, maybe 20-30 USD. Tourists get scammed so badly and they don’t even know
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US – Only visiting New York and/or Florida and then believing they’ve seen “America.”
Obviously you’re not going to be able to visit every state and eat in every rural diner, but don’t just come to Times Square and then believe you’ve formed an opinion about life in the US.
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Florida’s kind of an unfamiliar country, right? Protip: It rains in Orlando. A lot. Bring rain gear and don’t scream at your kids at Disney World because they’re tired and/or wet because you planned poorly.
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Lastly, Alyse wanted to add that, “Prior to 2020, more people were travelling than ever before. This resulted in overtourism issues in popular cities, leading to resentment of tourists. It doesn’t have to be that way! By looking back at mistakes of the past, we can learn from them. Tourists ultimately hold the power to drive change within the industry. I always like to say, ‘no one likes an annoying tourist.’ By changing how we travel and making decisions that leave a positive impact moving forward, we can be tourists the locals will love!”
Not so much a mistake but something I thought was just obnoxious. At a pub in Ireland and, as they do, a bunch of guys whipped out instruments and just started jamming. It was the type of spontaneous session that perfectly captures the experience of a true Irish pub.
This very American couple, at the close of a song, got up to leave. The woman reached over to give one of the musicians some money. He declined as if to say, we aren’t buskers looking for handouts, this is just us having fun. She insists, leaves the money in front of him, and says, “it’s customary.”
My buddy and I, also Americans, were so embarrassed. While her intentions were obvisouly good,her gesture just struck us as arrogant. It was if she was saying her customs are superior to the locals. It has stuck with both my buddy and me for almost 20 years. To this day, saying “it’s customary” is a way to say someone is being obnoxious.
Throwing a piece of fruit at a giant tortoise.
I was vacationing in the Galapagos years ago and hanging out with a friend and her study-abroad host family. For most of us, since we were kids we’ve been building up internal strength to resist the urge to throw things at wild animals. But this family hadn’t spent much time in zoos or around wild animals, so that internal strength was a bit lacking.
Soon after we arrived in the Galapagos and we encountered on a few wild giant tortoises on a guided hike. As I was marveling at their glacial pace and truthfully hilarious stature, I see something moving in the corner of my eye. I look up, and…is that a passionfruit flying across the sky? Right towards that tortoise?
It splashed about a foot in front of the tortoise, who forgot all about his relaxed, leisurely demeanor and sprinted away from us. My friend was mortified. The tour guide was too shocked to deliver the tirade he so clearly wanted to. And it took a solid 10-15 seconds for the mom who’d tossed the fruit to realize that throwing passionfruit at tortoises is frowned upon in the Galapagos Islands.
Europeans coming to America and not leaving a tip to the servers, just because it’s not the custom in Europe.
Image credits: Top_Wop
When it comes to tourists, some countries are more notorious than others for being obnoxious. The United States is a particularly divisive nation. Despite the millions of travelers who visit the country every year, many people around the world don’t love it when Americans come to them. Keep in mind there are over 320 million people in the US, so it’s hard to make generalizations about them all. But if you are an American (nothing wrong with that, I’m one too!), we’ve gathered some things to be sure to avoid doing while traveling from Best Life’s list of “20 Countries That Hate Tourists from the United States”.
Walk into tourist trap restaurants.
Do a bit of research first.
It’s especially bad in London, stop walking into Angus Steakhouse and Bella Italia people.
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My friend telling locals in a poor part of the Dominican Republic that he has a Mercedes-Benz S550 back in NY on top of showing all the most luxurious pictures of what he does in America which then lead people to believe me and him were super rich americans. This may not be the worst but telling people you have a car like that when your a poor country is never a good idea as some of these folks basically will look at you like a walking atm
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Not being aware of things like public holidays and try and researching what will be open or planning ahead and be aware that locals may also be travelling. I’m from New Zealand and used to work in the tourism industry – no one seemed to be aware that although the Christmas/New Year period is over summer, the entire country shuts down for around two weeks.
That also being said, one thing I came across a lot was that because NZ is a small country, you could get through it easily and quickly by road. It’s small, yes – but very rugged terrain mean that distances can be so long, especially in the South Island.
If you’re looking to visit the beautiful nation of Australia, be careful how you refer to their beloved, furry koalas. One Australian notes, “I find the most annoying thing that [Americans] do in Australia is to call our wonderful koala by the wrong name. DO NOT add ‘bear’ to the name. It is simply a koala.”
People from other countries are also not usually fond of the American ego. This is in stark contrast to a mindset in Scandinavian countries, that all our equal and nobody is better than anyone else. One Dane complained about Americans, “They feel better than the rest of the world, but in reality we are as good as they are. They simply don’t see us as their equal … but we are. Sometimes we are even better than them. But don’t tell them.” Coming from a nation that has consistently been rated one of the “happiest countries in the world”, I would have to agree with their point that sometimes Denmark is even better than the US.
Using the money exchange at the airport.
I had a picture somewhere of a rates at Stanstead. 20% spread _each way_. Selling Pound for 4 PLN, buying for 6PLN.
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I wouldn’t say it was a bad mistake or anything, but I was in O’Hare (worst airport ever, IMO), in the ladies’ room when an Indian woman in a beautiful sari was trying all of the closed stall doors (ignoring the open ones). She had a coin in her hand and was trying to insert it into the locks, because (as I had learned while in Europe), they often have pay toilets there. So I gently redirected her.
Wearing mariachi hats.
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Another mistake Americans sometimes make when abroad is not understanding the drinking culture. One woman from Greece said, “Americans go out and get college-girl drunk—it’s a big cultural difference. In Greece, we care a lot about what people think, so we grow up trying to do everything in certain ways. Plus, there was never a drinking age here [until recently when they made it 18], so as teenagers, we never felt the need to get wasted because we easily could if we’d really wanted to.” I understand wanting to have fun while traveling, but it’s also great to be able to remember your vacation the next morning…
Trying to speak the language by making up what they think a word is by adding an inflection. For example, passport to passporta instead of pasaporte.
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Not knowing how to use a stick shift in Europe
Not thinking in relative monetary terms. What might sound ‘cheap’ to you might be some great pay for a local.
Case in point: get to the Bangkok airport, look around for a taxi, get quoted 500 baht by a driver. You’re smart, of course, and you do the math: that was like 15 USD at the time, so sure. Heck, that’s a long way to go for 15 USD, so you sit back comfortably, thinking you got yourself a slick deal.
The taxi driver knows what that route costs, of course, and he’s smiling because he’s making three times what the meter rate would have been. In Thailand, at least, the bigger they’re smiling, the more of a ride you’re about to be taken on.
While it’s impossible to know the customs of every single country, it’s very easy to do a little research before traveling to avoid embarrassing moments. These tips can help you stand out a little less and may even keep you safer during your travels. Enjoy reading the rest of these cultural faux pas, and don’t forget to upvote your favorite examples. Then let us know in the comments what the most common mistakes are that you see tourists make in your country!
I was flying to Switzerland. Within EU countries there’s a flat data roaming rate, so I’m not paying more if I use my phone in Portugal, Finland or Czech Republic, BUT as Switzerland is not a part of EU (even though they have border regulations connected to the Schengen Agreement), their data plan rate is crazy high. I knew about it and remembered to switch off data roaming, but behind me on a plane there was this obnoxious, supreme wearing kid swearing like hell to his mom that they will miss their connection. I didn’t payed much attention, but the shriek he let out when he turned off the airplane mode after landing (while still seated), and after 15 seconds got a text message from his provider that he exceeded his spending limit for more than 70 EUR was a truly one that only a really tortured soul could made. Remember to check your roaming fees, guys.
When you see tourists being taken in by those street games that are clearly just to get you to stop and be off your guard so someone else can pickpocket you. Worst I saw was in Paris on a bridge, where the guy with the game was at one side of the bridge, you could very clearly tell which person in the group of watchers was the plant who wins some money because he wasn’t dressed like a tourist, and you could also very clearly see another sketchy man standing on the other side of the bridge who was watching and waiting for the tourists to get involved in the game so he could slip in and take their wallets.
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A lot of older trains (Europe mainly) the toilets discharge directly onto the tracks. I’ve seen plenty of plucky canadians, australians, and americans take a poop while the train is at the station and make everyone stand around smell and view their pile o poo.
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Cracking a nazi joke with Germans you aren’t familiar with.
Germans do however love cracking nazi jokes, but only with people they know and trust.
Confusing the small Catholic parish church in Canterbury for the Cathedral, and complaining it wasn’t as impressive as he expected, and it didn’t ‘look old enough’.
Living in Japan for over a decade, the most consistently embarrassing thing for me is overhearing tourists in bars who only know the words “Kawaii” and “Sugoi” finding ways to repeat them ad nauseum no matter what the context.
Women Wearing shorts or showing a lot of skin in a Muslim country… please, people, do your due diligence and then be respectful of other peoples religions/cultures especially if you are in their country.
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I live in New York and every time I see some guy wearing an “I heart NY” hat giving money to a panhandler with one of those dumb cardboard signs with obviously fake stories on them I cringe internally
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Had all his cash and credit cards in his wallet and did not keep anything as a backup in the hotel.
Lost his wallet and immediately called all his banks and cancelled all the cards. Only after this was done did he call the restaurant he was last in and they said they had found the wallet with all cash and cards in it.
Got his wallet, but now all his CCs and Debit Card were cancelled and he had a hard time getting replacements sent out from his foreign bank.
It saddens me to see tourists eat in Times Square.
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