Tourists often get a bad reputation. The idea of visiting a place to see the sights and take in the culture may seem noble enough, but the act itself can sometimes be far from it. Over-tourism can cause commercialization and put a strain on the infrastructure of a popular destination. So, it’s understandable if locals have issues with tourists. But there’s another issue: the typical ignorance and attitude of many tourists that can rub anyone the wrong way. There are things like stopping in the middle of a busy sidewalk without realizing that there are others behind you or loudly complaining about how something is better back home. Behavior that doesn’t take into account the people and culture of wherever you’re visiting — even if it’s within your own country — is disrespectful. But there are some simple steps you can take to being more considerate to the locals on a trip.
Here are 9 things you can do to be a more respectful tourist when you travel.
Research Before You Go
Find out the laws and customs of a new place ahead of any visit. Knowing the regulations surrounding tourism and basic traffic laws can save you from wasting valuable time dealing with local law enforcement, who likely have more pressing matters to attend to. Researching an area can let you know the dangerous parts of town to avoid, as well as help you find the best and most authentic things to do on a trip. Everyone wants to experience the real food and culture of a destination, attend cool events, and the most out of their trip. You can invest in a map, talk to travelers who have visited the area, strike up conversations with locals, and of course, use the internet to read up on where you’re going in travel blogs, magazines, and other websites before you leave.
Don’t Be Pushy Getting Off the Plane
How you arrive at a destination can set the tone for the rest of your trip. By making the effort to be a respectful tourist as soon as you land, you can put yourself in the proper mindset and attitude. Granted that can be easier said than done. Getting off a plane can easily become a boxing match of elbows and luggage in faces. When the seat belt sign goes dark, it’s tempting to join in the mad dash for the aisle and try to get off the plane by pushing your way to the front with everyone else. But simply waiting your turn to de-board or even letting others who may be in a rush to make a connection go ahead of you can be very calming.
Consider How You’re Dressed
It can be disheartening as a tourist, exploring and discovering a new city, to receive nothing but scowls from locals. Is it something you said? No, it might be what you are wearing. Tourists are often ridiculed or targeted due to looking the part of being from out of town, but not following the local customs and rules on how to dress in certain settings can also be offensive. If you do some research about your destination’s code of dress and pack your clothes according, you’ll likely be treated better by locals and get better service.
Support Local Small Businesses
Try to go to locally-owned outdoor or indoor markets, stands, and stores for all your shopping needs. You can look them up online or as at your hotel. It’s the sign of a considerate and respectful tourist because spending money at such places instead of large chain stores supports the surrounding communities who depend on tourism for income and livelihood. Plus, it’s the best way to find an authentic souvenir, like something handmade from locally sourced materials, to remind you of your trip. Even just grabbing a bite at a local eatery can be a memorable experience that supports the economy.
Lower Your Voice
There’s nothing that connotes a disrespectful tourist like someone speaking loudly at a waiter who speaks another language. It accomplishes very little, besides drawing all the eyes in the restaurant to your table. If you have a naturally loud speaking voice, you should learn to keep it down when you travel. If you lower your voice, not only do you draw less attention to yourself but show respect for any service people you may encounter.
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Avoid Animal Attractions
Animals have always drawn in a crowd. Zoos and aquariums worldwide are well-known tourist attractions. It is in our human nature to be curious about the wildlife and may even want to see them in person or get the opportunity to feed or pet creatures we likely would not get to meet at home. But many such attractions usually aren’t the most ethical in their treatment and it’s best to avoid them wherever you go on cheap flights. A good alternative is a reserve or national park that offers tourists the chance to observe the local wildlife from a safe distance without disturbing the habitat.
Keep Walking or Step Aside
Ask anyone who lives in a big city, they appreciate out-of-towners who don’t hold up foot traffic on narrow sidewalks or paths. It’s how most locals will recognize you as a respectful tourist. So if you’re lost and need to look at your map, step out of the way to a spot that’s away from other pedestrians or keep walking until you find one. It may seem like no big deal, but being conscious of where you are walking shows consideration for the lives that live your destination day in and day out.
Be a Considerate Photographer
Taking amazing travel pictures is the sign of a great trip, but it shouldn’t be the justification for inconsiderate behavior. No one wants a stranger walking about their property, so get permission before you enter privately-owned land to get any shots of a sunset over the mountains. And don’t trespass if you can’t find anyone to ask. You should also ask permission to photograph any people as well. They may not take kindly to ending up on our social media page or being in a frame on a stranger’s wall.
Be Sure to Say ‘Hello’ & ‘Goodbye’, Along with ‘Please’ & ‘Thank You’
Incorporating basic greetings and simple phrases of politeness when you talk to locals is a major way to show you’re a more respectful tourist. Besides, it’s good manners. Even if the receiver doesn’t seem to reply in the cheery disposition you may be expecting, you will leave the bigger man or woman for practicing simple courtesy. If you are traveling to a place where you don’t speak the native language, be sure to learn how to say them and spend some time practicing.