There’s always a good excuse to pack your bag and hit the friendly skies. Whether you’re searching for a new breathtaking place to visit or hoping to trade in chilly temperatures for a warm travel destination, a new adventure awaits. But you might also be worried about sticking out like a sore thumb.
Traveling to a different city or country might seem daunting at first, but as long as you avoid falling into the classic tourist traps, you’ll blend in with locals. Before you head out the door, check out the few things tourists do that locals hate and how to avoid doing them.
No matter where you go, there will always be traffic laws. And just because you’re walking to your destination rather than driving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t abide by those rules, even if you’re used to breaking them back home. Don’t jaywalk and interrupt traffic. Walk when told to and wait for the signal to give you the go even if there aren’t any cars in sight.
According to the cycling advocacy group PeopleForBikes, more than 100 American cities have protected bike lanes. And in other locations like Europe and Asia, cycling is a primary source of transportation. That being said, bike lanes are meant for bikes, not walkers in a hurry hoping to walk around others. And if you hear the jingling of a bell, move out of the way of oncoming bike traffic. Cyclists can spend a hefty amount of money on top bike brands. Crashing their investment into an unsuspecting walker would be a shame.
It’s normal to see a site that mesmerizes you when visiting an unfamiliar place. Everything is new and you might be visiting specifically for some of these sites. But if you’re traveling down a busy street, stopping unexpectedly in the middle of a sidewalk is a travel no-no. Locals have places to go, and stopping suddenly can lead to someone falling or bumping into you. Move to the side and out of the way of traffic to gaze at the wonders of the world without disrupting others.
Be bold when traveling. Restaurants like McDonalds and Starbucks are safe bets, but chances are you can find better fare elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to taste new dishes, visit important local restaurants and eat iconic street foods every traveler must try. It shows locals that you are willing to learn more about the location’s culture and food values. And who knows, you might even find a novel dish that becomes an instant favorite.
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Using your inside voice when out and about is etiquette 101. That shouldn’t change just because you’re in a new location. Surviving a family vacation can be tough at times, but don’t argue with family in the middle of the street. And if you’re on the phone, be polite — plug in a pair of headphones rather than using the speakerphone and don’t shout if you can’t hear. Move to a quieter area.
Before heading to any new country, do your research before you pack your bags. Tank tops, shorts and a pair of sandals might sound like the ideal outfit when visiting a warm-weather destination, but it can quickly become disrespectful if it doesn’t match the cultural values of your travel destination. Abide by the fashion rules and you’ll eliminate the chance of being rude.
It’s OK to not be fluent in the language primarily spoken in the area where you’re visiting, but knowing keywords is a must. Assuming that everyone will speak English or your native language is a quick way to anger a few strangers you’re asking for help.
On the flip side, you also shouldn’t assume that locals don’t speak English. Prior to speaking with a stranger, ask politely if they speak English. If they do, but it’s not their first language, don’t scream your question or statement at them. Take things slowly and stay patient. It’s all part of the experience.
If you’re planning a vacation for the entire family, you might have a strict itinerary in mind to make sure everything stays in order. But when you’re heading to your must-see destinations, avoid traveling in a swarm. Locals will find it difficult to maneuver around your large group and will quickly become annoyed. If walking in a single-file line sounds undoable, at least keep your group to one side of the sidewalk.
Before traveling to any new country, brush up on some of the laws. Just because it’s OK to do one thing back home doesn’t mean your travel destination will let it fly. Something as simple as littering or loitering could result in a ticket or a fine and annoyance for those around you. Just don’t do it.
Touring the ancient city of Pompeii or viewing the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt are just a few of the things Americans should do abroad. And if you get the chance, it’s normal to want to snap a photo or two that you can pass down for generations. But certain locations should be observed, not used as the background for a selfie. Be conscious of the site's history and significance and make sure to behave accordingly.
Whether you’re in a new city or your local supermarket, staring is rude. Cultural differences can alter someone’s standard clothing or food choices, but goggling at anything that is new to you is inappropriate.
One thing locals hate to hear is how hot or cold their hometown is when someone is visiting during a time when it is seasonably hot or cold. International Falls, Minnesota, for example, is one of the coldest cities in the world. If you’re visiting during the winter, you should expect freezing temps and not be surprised by the weather conditions, which are always readily available.
You should treat any new destination like you would your home. That means being conscious of the mess you make, cleaning up after yourself and leaving spaces how you found them.
According to a survey conducted by creditcards.com, men and millennials are believed to be the worst tippers in the U.S. And a common stereotype is that Americans are the worst tippers abroad. Defy that stereotype and tip your servers for their hard work. Not only are they providing stellar service, but they’re guaranteeing your delicious food reaches your plate. Tipping more than 20% is appropriate for good dining service, and if you’re ordering a cocktail, a $3 tip is perfect.
Cultural values differ by location. If you’re asked to abide by a cultural norm while touring a new destination, do what’s asked of you. And before you head on a trip to a location where cultural norms differ widely from what you’re used to back home, do your research. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but if it is, follow the rules.
Your phone is the holder of all things. The weather, directions, reviews and more are all available on the small device. But walking or driving around oblivious to the world around you with your phone glued to your face is rude and a recipe for disaster.
We get it, your social media game is top-notch. But no one wants to have to maneuver around someone with a selfie stick who keeps stopping to take a photo in front of every new spot. Capturing moments that’ll last a lifetime is important, but taking in the new experience you’re immersed in and only sticking to a picture or two for Instagram might be your best bet.
Consuming a copious amount of alcohol is never good for you, and as much as you’d like to go wild and party until the sun comes up, locals aren’t likely to be sympathetic to a tourist that had one too many. Overdrinking is also risky. Losing the inability to control your actions in a foreign place can have serious consequences.
The No. 1 rule when traveling to a new place is to be open-minded. Be free, have fun and let the good times roll. Partake in your new location’s cultural activities in a respectful manner and be open to enjoying new opportunities as they come along. Being spontaneous is just one of the many ways you can explore any city like a local.
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