Traveling to new places is a rewarding experience. Traveling also helps you grow as a person. However, you need to remember that just like in your home country, there are rules to follow when abroad. Your trip will be a more rewarding adventure if you try to follow certain travel etiquettes that would make locals appreciate your enthusiasm for their country and culture.
Don’t be that tourist who the locals would rather not be involved with. If you notice that locals don’t seem to be welcoming when you ask for directions, or any kind of aid, maybe you are making them uncomfortable in some way. You might even be disrespecting their culture or breaking some rules already and don’t even know it.
Here are some travel rules to keep in mind to ensure that you not only have a memorable travel experience but leave behind pleasant memories for the locals you encounter too.
1. Learn about your destination
Aside from planning out your itinerary, make sure to learn about the local culture, history and traditions. You might come across interesting trivia that are unique to that culture or locality. You can use this information as a conversation starter to interact with the locals.
Your interest in their culture might endear you to the locals you approach. You might even make great friends.
2. Learn basic conversational lingo + practices
One of the things you should learn is how to converse with the locals for basic information. Learn how to say “Thank you”, “Hi”, “Please” and “Goodbye”. Also learn to ask questions for finding a restaurant, your hotel, how to get to a bus terminal, etc. and don’t expect everyone to understand English.
While you’re at it, learn how the locals greet each other. In some nations, shaking hands is the norm while in others a bow or a kiss on the cheek is expected. This way, you won’t be surprised yourself (or feel offended) when a local greets you with a gesture you’re not used to.
Learn other important customs such as tipping in restaurants. In some countries, there is a customary percentage for how much to tip while in other countries, doing so is considered rude.
3. Don’t forget you’re just a visitor
When you go to another country, you are essentially a visitor and the locals are your host. So, just as you don’t want to interrupt your host’s regular activities; don’t expect local folks to make way for you in daily situations such as in public transport or in ticketing lines to a local amusement park for example, just because you are obviously a foreigner visiting their country.
Also, follow the rules in the places you are visiting. Rules exists for a reason and you may not need understand why but the locals do. Remember that ignorance is not an excuse to break the rules. So be aware of certain prohibitions in the places you will visit and follow them, not only as a form of respect to the locals but also to avoid landing yourself in jail.
Be friendly and respect the people and their rules and practices as you would in your own country. Locals would rather engage with a courteous and respectful stranger than someone they feel is demanding and disrespectful.
4. Dress accordingly
Part of respecting the local culture is to observe proper dress codes in the places you’re going to. If your itinerary includes going to a church or temple, dress accordingly. Don’t show up in shorts and a sleeveless shirt and expect to be accommodated. Similarly, if you’re going to a museum, make sure to wear something not too casual and don’t wear slippers.
Don’t be an obvious tourist by wearing sneakers all the time. If you’re not doing a lot of walking and hiking anyway, leave the rubber shoes at your hotel and wear comfortable day shoes that will still be appropriate when going into a local restaurant or a church.
Avoid wearing fanny packs (belt bags) as you might just attract pickpockets. Wear a cross-body bag instead. Also, try not to hang your camera on your neck at all times. Stash it inside your bag after taking pictures.
5. Be mindful When taking pictures
Aside from standing out like a sore thumb when you’re carrying a selfie stick around, you might also be disrupting locals on their way to their own destinations. Take a selfie using a selfie stick only when and where appropriate. Don’t disrupt foot traffic for example. Find a less busy spot instead. In places where elbow room is scarce, just use your mobile phone instead.
Also, selfie sticks might not be welcome in some museums and in other places, a camera flash might not be allowed either. So mind the rules and the situation when taking pictures so you don’t end up disrupting other people, breaking the rules or worse, damaging your camera equipment.
If taking pictures is not allowed, then respect the rule and just enjoy the experience. It’s better to take back great memories of your trip than a blurry picture that you took in secret, anyway.
6. Avoid comparing and/or constantly complaining
You travel to a new place to experience new things so be open to the new experience instead of comparing it to what you’re familiar with and complaining about it. Just because their traditional coffee doesn’t suit your taste buds doesn’t mean their coffee is inferior to what your country produces.
Learn to appreciate what’s different and try to understand why it’s different based on the local culture. It can be an interesting conversation starter that will allow you to learn even more about the local culture and practices.
If you have a controversial point or a strong opinion about certain topics like politics or religion, keep it to yourself. Discuss them privately with your travel buddies and don’t voice them out in public places. Locals might be sensitive to these topics and you might end up offending everyone who hears your opinions on these topics.
7. Be a nice human being
No matter in what country you go to, be a nice human being by respecting the place where other human beings live. Keep these in mind wherever you go:
Only bargain where appropriate. Don’t haggle for a bargain to the point that you embarrass and/or get into a fight (verbal or otherwise) with the local seller. Understand that some of these sellers depend on tourists buying their items to earn their livelihood. So as much as possible, don’t haggle too much. Especially if local artisans themselves are selling their hand-made crafts, pay your respects for their time and effort by buying their items at a reasonable price.
Follow the same consideration when it comes to booking local residents as travel guides, renting boatmen and their boats, etc.
Don’t leave behind your trash. Whether on the beach, on a mountain trail or in your hotel room; don’t litter. Dispose of your trash appropriately. Not only will the local residents appreciate you, the environment will benefit too.
Observing travel etiquette is an important part of your travel experience. By observing these rules, you can be a well-mannered tourist that locals will welcome in any country you visit.