If you’ve ever lived in a tourist town, then you know that clueless visitors are often more trouble than they (or their wallets) are worth. And because you’ve likely tripped over enough clueless clods, you probably already know how NOT to be one when you’re the out-of-towner.
But in case you don’t know, we’ve enumerated these 10 easily avoidable vacation pitfalls to help you enjoy your next trip without looking like a jerk.
1. Making no attempt to blend in/trying too hard to fit in
We are only telling you this for your own good. (Photo: robby-T/Flickr)
There’s a fine line to tread when visiting someplace new: you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, but trying to avoid being “that tourist guy” can make you look like a foolish wannabe. If you simply must wear your Mets cap and dress Asics, at least follow these two basic rules: shirts with the name of the place you’re visiting should only be worn once you’re home, while American flag tees shouldn’t be worn… at all.
2. Taking pictures of everything
Sometimes a mental memory is enough. (Photo: Matt Kowal/Flickr)
While it’s always nice to enjoy vacation photos, it’s even nicer to enjoy the actual vacation. If you spend the entire trip trying to capture the absolute best shot of the Taj Mahal, it cheapens the whole experience. Not to mention, it can drive your travel partner(s) insane. Take the photo and put the camera down.
3. Skipping local restaurants for the stuff you eat at home
Does it taste the same as the one at home? Yes. (Photo: Rob Young/Flickr)
Even if you’re not a diehard foodie willing to try anything once, there’s really no excuse for dining at the Hard Rock Cafe in Florence. Unless you collect the pint glasses. Ok, still no. You’ve already spent a boatload to fly miles away from the local Cracker Barrel, so why not give the regional specialties a try? If you don’t like ‘em, you can at least feel justified when you tell people that fresh pasta and Chianti are totally overrated.
4. Breaking the law
Seriously? (Photo: Jonathan Wagner/Flickr)
Being an American abroad, you’ve already got one strike against you. Don’t add fuel to the fire by starting a fight, relieving yourself on a statue, or flaunting your Buddha tattoo. If you’re lucky, you’ll spend an hour in a holding cell before paying a fine. If you’re unlucky, the arresting officers might opt to give you a wood shampoo instead, or worse.
5. Expecting every shop to take credit cards
They don’t take high-fives either. (Photo: José Manuel Ríos Valiente/Flickr)
You might think plastic should be an acceptable form of payment in every Mumbai shirt peddler’s back-alley stall, but think again. Not only is it impractical in some places, but not all shops want to pay the fees that accompany accepting credit cards. Be smart and keep cash on hand, or else you might not get to take that hilarious “Ayatolla Assaholla” tee home with you.
6. Complaining about how expensive/weird everything is
Sometimes it is best to say nothing at all. (Photo: Nick Richards/Flickr)
Getting upset because prices in England are outrageous is something you do while planning your visit to London, not while sitting down to dinner in Mayfair. Vent your frustrations/argue with your girlfriend before the trip, budget for the increased prices, then suck it up and pay the damn bill. The same goes for culture shock and etiquette: everyone knows “this isn’t how it’s done it back home.” That’s why it’s not home. Do some research on local customs and try your best not to offend.
7. Expecting everyone to speak your language
English is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, and, unfortunately, this leads many a sunburnt American tourist to simply talk louder and slower when traveling abroad. Look, you don’t have to learn the whole language before your trip, but at least give a few phrases a shot — hell, there are even apps that’ll do the work for you.
8. Over-sharing on social media
Don’t be that person. (Photo: Kolin Toney/Flickr)
Remember that bit about taking photos? It applies here too. By posting selfies as you bike through Amsterdam, or checking into a Tibetan 7-11 on Foursquare, you’re sending a message to the people who follow you: “I’m more interested in letting you know that I’m here than I am in actually being here.” You might be surprised how little people care about the minutiae of your vacation.
9. Going someplace amazing and never leaving the resort
Try to get just a little out of your comfort zone. (Photo: Alan Light/Flickr)
Sure, the San Juan Marriott is pretty awesome, but if you’re going to spend every waking moment at the pool (or in the casino), you may as well have just stayed home. Stop cheating yourself and see what’s out there, like the world’s highest zipline, or Bioluminescent Bay, or something else, if you’re not in Puerto Rico. You might not save any money in the end, but at least you’ll have a legit experience you can tell your friends about at the pool (or casino) back home.
10. Being an oblivious pedestrian
Sometimes we wonder if life was just better before smart phones. (Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr)
If you’re used to walking around one big city, you can probably navigate them all. But if you’ve never been to a place where walking is the main mode of transportation, here’s a free piece of advice: stopping abruptly on a busy sidewalk is a great way to get body checked into a lamppost. Treat the sidewalk like the road, and the people like cars, and everyone’ll be better off. Also, taking photos in the middle of the street’s probably a bad idea just about everywhere.
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