During my travels, I have seen tourists do some stupid and inappropriate things. I watched an entire family miss a flight because the father was too intoxicated to make it through security. Not only did he embarrass his wife, his young children cried because they were so scared. I watched a Middle Eastern couple get very rude and demanding of a flight attendant, nearly making her cry. I have seen both Europeans and Americans ignoring guards at tourists sights and taking photos in places they have been asked not to. I feel strongly that as a tourist, it is my responsibility to learn about local customs before traveling to make the trip more pleasant for everybody. Here is a list of ten things I think are important not to do.
1. Do NOT carry a large amount of cash. Yes, credit cards are still the safest way to travel. However, some of the countries I have visited do not accept credit cards in very many places. For those situations, be prepared to visit an ATM to get cash as needed. You can go to a bank or currency exchange but the fees are usually higher.
2. Do NOT leave the country without leaving a copy of your passport and credit cards with loved ones. Also, keep an extra copy of those things in your hotel room when you are away just in case they get stolen.
3. Do NOT join protests or demonstrations or even hang around a protest area in a foreign country. This will most likely get you arrested and it may be years before you can get out of the country. Avoid any place where demonstrations will be taking place. You may be accused of inciting the riot just because you are a foreigner.
4. Do NOT disrespect foreign customs and dress. Read about the customs of the country before visiting. What you wear at home may be inappropriate in other countries, especially the middle east. Even in some Asian countries, you will invite trouble if you dress a certain way and may be inviting unwelcome sexual advances or even rape.
5. Do NOT wear or carry a lot of name brand clothing or accessories. You will set yourself up for thieves.
6. Do NOT leave the hotel without a card with the hotel address on it. Yes, I have been lost in a foreign city and it is very scary. I did have the hotel name and address with me, thank goodness, because I could never have found my way back on my own.
7. Do not carry valuables in the outside pockets of a backpack or leave valuable in plain site. I traveled with a group of teenagers as a chaperone to Europe once. The group was instructed not to do this, especially in the very crowded cathedrals. For those in our group who didn’t listen, they lost cash and cameras in a very short time. Try not to carry extra bags or items then you won’t tempt thieves in the first place.
8. Don’t expect everyone to speak English. I have traveled to several places where very few if any speak English. Hire a local tour guide if you have to.
9. Do NOT become so intoxicated you lose your judgement. This is one of the most serious problems I have seen with American tourists in foreign countries. Not only will it leave you vulnerable, it may cause you to lose your better judgement by becoming obnoxious and argumentative. I have seen tourists get beat up, miss flights, have to be carried back to cruise ships in shopping carts and the list goes on because of alcohol. Unless you’re in your hotel or on a cruise ship where you know you can make it back to your room, better to just leave it alone.
10. Stay away from places where Americans are known to congregate in hostile countries. These are the places that are targeted by terrorists.
Okay it was supposed to be 10 things but I’m adding one more.
11. Do NOT stay past your visa date or try to cross into a country without a visa. Some countries don’t require visas but it is your responsibility to check. Be careful about crossing into other countries, especially when the borders aren’t obvious. Americans have been detained and sent to prison for years for illegally entering countries they did not have visas for. Sadly, some of them were hiking and were unaware they had even crossed the borders. Be vigilant and hire a tour guide if adventuring out into the wilderness areas of a foreign country.
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