How to be a BAD Tourist

It’s apparently a lot easier than you’d think.

Last spring when I was facing the annual DC tourist onslaught, I wrote an article about how to be a GOOD tourist, from the perspective of a local. In it I called out some of the most annoying behaviors I’ve witnessed from tourists: talking too loudly, blocking traffic etc.

I now realize this was only the tip of a very, very large iceberg. Traveling around South East Asia has opened my eyes to the vast and embarrassing world of bad tourist behavior. I wrote once that there was no wrong way to travel, but I have to amend myself. If you are doing any of these things (all of which I have, honest to go, actually witnessed), you are traveling WRONG.

How to be a BAD Tourist:

  • Talk Down to the Locals: They don’t speak English, at least not well, so they’re probably stupid right? I know, maybe if you raise your voice they’ll understand you better.
  • Throw Your Trash Everywhere– Someone will clean it up, right?

  • Flaunt your Sexuality:- Hey- you’re in Luang Prabang and it’s HOT out! Why not walk around in a bikini top everywhere? Oh, because the locals are very conservative and find this offensive? Whateves.
  • Mess with the Animals: Silly monkeys! Actually this one is usually punished swiftly:

  • Cheat Desperate People– People in SE Asia are often very poor. Why not take advantage of that by bargaining them down to beyond ridiculous prices. Make desperate people jump for your money, just because you can.
  • Treat the Locals Like Prostitutes-Yes, there are a lot of prostitutes in SE Asia, so of course that means that all Thai women are sex-workers. You should definitely proposition that random woman on the beach at 7am, then call her a bitch for blowing you off. No idea why she looked so pissed.
  • Disrespect National Monuments– I can’t even be facetious about this. When I wandered into the courtyard of S-21, struggling with all I had seen, and saw these girls sunbathing INSIDE THE MUSEUM, I was just speechless.

  • Pee on the Floor of the Hostel– I swear to god- I don’t even know what frame of mind you can be in to think this is okay. I don’t care if it IS the full moon party and you are totally obliterated on happy shakes and booze. THIS IS NEVER OKAY.

I observed almost all of these things in South East Asia, which as become a mecca for younger twenty-something backpackers (although I saw many older people acting equally ridiculous). It seems that this is what happens when you get a bunch of young people together in a place with no rules or regulations and a bunch of locals too polite to tell them to back off. It’s a shame and it’s embarrassing for the rest of us backpackers who strive to travel responsibly.

Other examples of bad tourist behavior, volunteered from Twitter:

DtravelsRound: Get a group pic (smiling) at a killing yard in Auschwitz

ManVsClock: A fellow Brit shouting โ€œ1 world cup & two world wars!โ€ in a packed German bar. I died inside, truly. He actually sang it… over and over again. Until the big Turkish bouncers sorted him out.

Travtar: Urinate on a famous landmark.. It was in the Roman Forum… I think they were a bunch of drunk university students on holiday.

I am not one of those people who considers the word tourist to be a bad word, in fact I think we are all tourists once in awhile. But the people who act that way give ALL travelers a bad name.

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen a tourist do?

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73 thoughts on “How to be a BAD Tourist”

  1. It’s shocking how often I encounter this ‘bad tourist’ behaviour. I think some tourists just think, ‘hey, I’m on vacation. I can do whatever I want’, but it really gives locals a bad impression of foreigners.

    And the peeing on the hostel floor…WOW. Can’t believe someone actually did that! Nasty, but kind of funny to hear about it from someone else.

  2. Another bothering thing is when you meet in your vacation people that let their kids do anything: scream, throw things. The parents act as if everything is ok . Who cares if you are in a vacation to relax and not have a headache?

  3. Thanks for the post. I don’t think I fall into any of those categories, but i’m pretty sure at some point i’ve done something to upset the locals.

    Traveling toa new place, culture is a luxury. We need to remember that. Not everyone can. But when we do go, the whole point is to be that silent observer in the community, and if we are lucky enough, someone might just let us in and we can have fun with them….

  4. Wow, some pretty ugly tourist moments! I don’t like haggling anyway, but I well remember pointing out to some fellow Americans in Egypt that the price difference they were fighting for in a market was PENNIES back home. Seriously!

  5. I think one of the greatest crimes of tourists in general is the way they dress that sometimes the locals think that is inappropriate to their culture or customs.

  6. Yes! S-21. I think people are uncomfortable when confronted with tragedy.

    I saw a German guy swilling beer while looking a photos of S-21 intakes. He swayed and laughed. Can we say IDIOT?

    It can be horrible the way people behave, they believe it has no impact because, hey, I won’t return to this place again and who cares? So wrong.

  7. I agree. Being a tourist isn’t bad, but some tourists can really make you cringe. I hate, hate, hate when people assume that locals don’t speak their language and go on a rant about whatever bothers them at the time only to have the local actually understand them. Unfortunately, most locals are too polite to tell these terrible travelers off ๐Ÿ™ Whenever I witness something like this I feel a huge wave of second-hand embarrassment and want to apologize for the bad tourist.

    1. Definitely, In SE Asia the locals are usually very friendly and meek, and tourists walk all over them.

  8. In Egypt, I saw a girl walking around in a cropped tank top and the teeniest hot pants I have ever seen in my life. They were so small they didn’t even really cover her behind. I know it was really hot, but come on! How does someone not realize that it’s inappropriate attire?

    1. Oh, and another pet peeve – people who *touch* paintings and other artwork in museums and galleries. I mean really?! As if flash photography isn’t bad enough, get your grubby finger acids all over those priceless paintings, why don’t you!

  9. They are all pretty stupid behaviors, I think disrespecting the local culture is the worst one ever. Unfortunately I’ve had to deal more than once in SE Asia with the wrong opinion that locals have about Western women. Not pleasant at all, but kind of understandable when you see some examples of fellow Western travelers.

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