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 “1 world cup & two world wars!” 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. Nicely written and very informative.

    You’ve captured the mindset and thinking of the BAD tourists.

    Sadly, there are very few ways to deal with these and make people responsible and accountable, for themselves even, at the very least!

    Hope to avoid such people and experiences, but its not always possible.

  2. The worst tourist I have ever seen were college kids in the Holocaust memorial in Berlin playing Marco Polo between the structures. It was just plain stupidity, like why would you do something like that?

  3. Yes there are bad tourist. However, it is nearly impossible to enjoy Asia with my wife of twenty years because she is Asian and I am white. Countries such as china, and Malaysia are the most disrespectful assuming I am running around with a prostitute. Heads are spinning, fingers pointing, laughing, and making mean faces are common on every street. Ask Maury Povic his experiences.

    1. I am sure that is a really big problem. I actually met a few couples experiencing this phenomenon during my backpacking trip- they faced issues from both the tourists and the locals.

  4. I’ve met some very nice germans, but many more rude and disrespectful. That “this wouldn’t happen in Germany” is a classic.

    I even heard some at an internet cafe here in Venezuela complaining because the computers were in spanish and not in GERMAN!!! I mean, if you feel safe complaining in german because nobody (or so they thought) can understand you, how in the hell will the computers be in german!!!

    Some are disrespectful, but it can be worse, some are also stupid.

  5. Love this! Too bad you’re probably preaching to the choir. Hopefully a few of those floor-peeing temple sunbathers with stumble across this and take copious notes!

    Not sure how people can carry on like that. It really is a pity, you might as well just sit at home watching TV if all you’re going to do on your vacation is complain how it’s not like home!

  6. All types of people get let out of their country and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these characters get up to similar things back home. But the S-21 thing tops it all off! The mood there is sombre… it’s just the way it is and I can’t imagine that you could be in a sombre mood and then sunbathe on the lawn! Maybe they just didn’t get it or just didn’t care. Maybe they were just in southeast Asia to party and Phnom Penh just wasn’t doing it for them…

    1. Yeah I have a hard time imagining the psychology there. The older Cambodian people visiting the museum just shook their heads in disbeleif.

  7. I’ve seen all of the above (and worse) during my two years in Korea. I agree that all of the above are certainly the lowest of the low kinds of behavior, but I do feel for people (women in particular) with the ‘flaunt your sexuality’ one. Korean culture, for example, indicates that showing shoulders is considered inappropriate for women. No tank tops in summer has caused more than a few of my female friends some very uncomfortable days.

    1. It’s something I struggle with sometimes too- the boundary between personal comfort and appropriateness.

  8. It’s what happens when you put young people and old people who are deluding themselves that their still young (yes I’m talking about you long hair old man dressed like a 22 year old guy in Bangkok) into a place without rules…etc. I must say my pet peeve for bad tourists are the ones who dress like hobags wearing barely nothing, prancing around and area that is pretty much all temples, monks and old locals. If I find it extremely offensive I can’t even imagine how offensive it is to the locals. I wish those girls would confine their slutty outfits to Khaosan road!!!

  9. Being obnoxiously needy. I overheard this in Pai, Thailand:

    French tourists: We would like a bus ticket for tomorrow.
    Thai travel agent: Ok, we have 8:00, 10:00, 11:15…
    FT: 10:00 is too late. Don’t you have one at 9:00?
    TTA: It’s sold out. How about 8:00?
    FT: No! We must eat breakfast!

    It was a short exchange, but their attitude struck me as “we are rich tourists so why shouldn’t we get whatever we want?” They bought the 8:00 bus ticket, but made sure to tell the travel agent, as if it were a big sacrifice on their part, that they would take their breakfast early.

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