Saturday 10 October 2009

How to be a Respectful Traveller

Updated 20 February 2012

General Tips for Tourists
Dressing like a tourist can be disrespectful to the local culture, cause you to pay more, and it can also make you a target for pickpockets. Here are some tips for traveling abroad. You should also check out reddit and journey women's what to wear where.

How to Blend in Physically
  • Clothing. Cargo pants, shorts, halter tops, and sleeveless shirts aren't the norm in many parts of the world. Women who show their legs might get whistles, stares and air kisses. When in doubt cover up.
  • Shoes. Ditch the flip flops and Birkenstocks; they’re beachwear. Opt for comfortable dress shoes.
  • Nix the guidebook and a camera. Copy the necessary pages of your guidebook and put your camera in a backpack or purse. As for money and ID just take what you need and leave the rest in a safe place. Your passport, valuables, plane tickets, the bulk of your credit cards, and money should be left in the hotel safe. Make a copy of your passport and carry that around with you.

How to Blend in Socially
  • Personal space. The personal space bubble is often smaller.
  • Greetings. Air kisses, shaking hands, and bowing are common ways to greet people. Learn which ones you should use.
  • Time. It may be more flexible than what you're used to.
  • History and culture. Make an effort to learn a bit about the country’s history and culture before you go.
  • Language. Try to learn a few simple phrases before you go abroad. Most people have a decent grasp of English so there’s no need to shout. If all else fails, try writing things down. People are often very helpful to foreigners.
  • Local delicacies. Snake, dog, and wiggly things all might find their way onto your plate. Try it. Don't make comments about how gross or weird it is since many people think eating beef is gross.
  • Use public transport. It tends to be cheaper and safer than taxis.
  • Cheap prices. Although things might be considerably cheaper than in your home country, keep in mind that salaries might be lower. Don’t say how cheap things are because for those earning money in the local currency they’re not really that cheap.
  • Remember the Thumper Rule. Remember you’re a guest. There are going to be some good things and some bad things. No one wants to hear how horrible their country is. If you don't like it, go home.
  • More tips. Here are some more tips for travelling abroad. 
Also published in . . .
This article was originally published in Boots N All and has been modified to create this version.



  1. Great post!
    I was living in Chile last year and can relate to everything written here. Can´t stress enough the importance of lowering your voice, nothing more annoying than a loud gringo. And when speaking in Spanish, using the polite form "usted" may seem too hard in the beginning, but saying "tu" to an old lady or your boss when you already speak decent Spanish is to be avoided, because even though people usually are understanding, this is one of the things that set you apart from the natives.

    Greetings from Iceland, will defenitely recommend this blog to people going to Latin America.

  2. Yep, people speak quietly here. Can be hard to understand. But shouting is normal on buses. Glad to help out.

  3. while I totally agree about the social/cultural tips in this post, I disagree about the "blend in physically" advice. Why blend in? If Ive worn flip flops all my life, why must I stop suddenly because Im in Peru? Do Peruvians get offended if they see people not dressing like locals? Is it really a sign of lack of respect?

    I just cant understand this advice. I think respect is shown in your manner and attitude, not your clothes. Blending in had its benefits in terms of not getting pick pocketed or ripped off,.....but that can be prevented by assertiveness, self awareness and good command of the language.

    (of course going to churches is a different matter alltogether)

  4. Blending in will make you less likely to be a victim of crime, especially those against tourists.

    And while Peruvians may not get offended, they will know that you're not from around here and you'll stick out like a sore thumb.

    And while you might have a great attitude, pickpocketers don't look at your attitude, they look at how you dress.

  5. Great post here! I'm planning on traveling to SA soon, and since I'm a woman traveling alone, I can use all the tips I can get. It's true that I should try and blend in more and not "show off" when it comes to cloth etc (I wasn't planning to anyway!). :)

  6. Glad to help. Be sure to tell a friend about TEFL Tips.


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