International Etiquette Guide: The Top 10 Worst Tourists

by GoAbroad Writing Team

It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual traveler, a global explorer, or someone who’s only dreamed of going someplace new; everyone has witnessed obnoxious tourists. Whether in your home country or abroad, you’re bound to run into tourists who will make you cringe at the things they say or do.

Understanding cultural etiquette around the world can be a challenge, but it’s a worthwhile task that goes a long way when you’re learning how to be a good traveler. Invest in some cultural notes, travel with a purpose larger than expanding Instagram accounts, stay aware of meaningful surroundings, and see travel as an educational opportunity. Otherwise, you might just end up one of the worst tourists ever

Girl checking her phone
The Friend-Requester just met you and already has their phone out to follow you on Instagram.

Here are 10 of the most annoying tourists you might meet while traveling abroad, but please, don’t ever be one of them:

10. The Friend Requester

It’s good to be social and make friends with locals, but this guy is a little too eager. He wants to exchange contact information with each person he meets. He includes himself in everyone’s plans. Because he’s foreign, he feels entitled to friendship. After all, who wouldn’t want to learn all about his home country?

9. The Traffic Violator

This person probably won’t be driving a car, but he doesn’t realize that traffic laws also apply to pedestrians. To him, crosswalks merely suggest where to cross the street. Traffic lights are only to be obeyed by vehicles. This person’s life motto is “pedestrians have the right-of-way.” And if he or she rents a bicycle, you’d better just stay inside.

Push button for crosswalk
Remember that traffic laws always apply, even to travelers.

8. The Avid Photographer

Taking photos is a large part of any travel experience. Some people understand when it is appropriate to take pictures, but this guy does not. He will stop traffic to snap a photo of a bridge. He will ask locals at a restaurant to take a picture of him with his food. When this person visits historical buildings, he ignores signs that forbid cameras. Apparently, no trip is successful unless at least 3,000 pictures are taken.

7. The Fashion Fiend

This person doesn’t take the dress code of her host country into account when choosing outfits each day. She’ll dress as she pleases, without giving the slightest effort of blending in with the locals. Shorts in the Vatican? Why not? Sweatpants to the grocery store? Of course! Whatever is acceptable to wear in this person’s home country is acceptable anywhere, right?

Women taking photos on their phones
The Avid Photographer takes travel photography to an extreme, only seeing beautiful things through the filtered lens on their iPhone.

6. The Home Nation “Rep”

Similar to the fashion fiend, this person ignores local fashion. He takes things one step further by only wearing clothing representative of his home country. He has national pride and shows it off with a wardrobe consisting only of brands or teams from his home land. Armed with Liverpool jerseys, United States of America tees, or gear from whichever region tickles his fancy, this person makes sure everyone knows what country his obnoxious antics are associated with.

5. The Etiquette Ignorer

This person did not do his research on local cultural etiquette before venturing out into the world. Maybe he stands a little too close or too far away during conversations. He might greet with a kiss in a situation that calls for a handshake. He starts to eat before everyone is at the table, and his shoes never come off in the household. Clearly, some lessons need to be taught.

Man in the clouds flashing a double thumbs up
Remember to do a little research. Thumbs up isn’t actually a universally good symbol.

4. The Oblivious Offender

Giving the “thumbs up” sign is not a positive gesture in every country, but this guy never bothered to learn that. He’s flashing peace signs and thumbs up like there’s no tomorrow, completely unaware of how offensive this may be. But this doesn’t matter to him; his only concern is looking good (goofy?) in photos.

3. The Country Comparer

This person can’t enjoy anything about the current country he’s in without comparing it to how things are back home. Rather than basking in a new culture, she needs to constantly remind everyone of how amazing the culture is in her own country. Bureaucracy, cuisine, transportation, traditions, you name it. Think her rants are bad now? Wait until she has grandchildren.

2. The Ignorant Traveler

Usually when people go abroad, they take time to research the country they’re visiting and the monuments they plan to see. Not this guy. He doesn’t know anything about his host country’s history, government, or even which languages are common. He makes his ignorance audible with offensive comments that could have easily been avoided by doing a quick Google search on the country he’s visiting.

Old man in head to toe union jack clothing
This guy might be an extreme example, but maybe limit yourself to one patriotic item of clothing – if that.

1. The Monolinguist

Learning a new language isn’t the easiest ambition in the world, and applying it into the real world with locals is even more difficult. Rather than giving it a try, this person expects everyone to communicate using his native language. She is bewildered when she comes across someone who cannot understand her, but she didn’t even bother to learn basic phrases in her host country’s native tongue. Didn’t someone say that English was the new global language?

Unfortunately, there are always travelers who cross into the dangerous territory of being an ignorant, annoying tourist. Often, categories overlap, but, whatever the crime, no one wants to hang out with the worst tourists ever: not the locals, not fellow travelers, not friends, probably not even their little pug whose photo gets shared at every conversation.

Believe it or not, there’s more to visiting a country than taking selfies and finding a slice of home abroad.

Whether you are a first-time traveler or a certified globe trotter, use the characters above as your own international etiquette guide of what not to do as a tourist abroad. Avoid embarrassment and rise above the annoying tourist stereotype by simply researching a little bit before heading abroad. Get to know local customs, pick up a few common phrases in a new tongue, learn to observe, listen, and adapt, and leave those white tennis shoes at home.

Ready to prove you’re a real traveler and not the worst tourist ever? Save and compare programs side by side with MyGoAbroad and find your next great adventure today!