Your first step in not being a bad tourist is to follow the rules of the country and culture you are visiting. No matter how weird or annoying you may find them, these rules have been established by people who know what they’re doing. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
If you’re visiting a specific place—whether it’s an exhibition at a museum, a hotel room, or restaurant—you must also follow their rules and guidelines. If you don’t know what they are, just ask someone! This can be especially important when it comes to things like museums because many museums throughout the world want to preserve their items for future generations; therefore, any kind of touching or eating is prohibited. Breaking these kinds of strict guidelines can lead to hefty fines and even imprisonment!
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s important to leave your trash in actual trash receptacles. Even when you think that a place has no garbage bins, there probably are some hidden nearby—city planners have thought of this. Be an informed traveler and check out local resources that outline where and how to dispose of your waste.
While you’re researching, it’s also good to know what kind of items can be recycled or composted—and where you should put those things. In a lot of cities, each type of recycling has its own container, so it’s worth knowing which is which (and what goes into each bin) so that you don’t make any mistakes.
If you can’t find any garbage cans and really need to get rid of something immediately, pack it out with you until you reach one. For example: if you bought food at a grocery store and then ate it on a bench but now need to throw away the wrapper, just keep it with you until you get to a trash can. Littering is not an option.
3. Have respect for your hosts’ culture and beliefs
As a tourist in another country, one of the worst things you can do is disrespect the culture and beliefs of the people you are visiting. If you have taken time out to visit another country, you should take the time to find out about their traditions and customs.
It’s also important to respect any religious practices that may be completely different from your own. If you’re in doubt on how to behave appropriately, ask lots of questions.
4. Always ask before taking pictures of someone
It can be very tempting to snap a picture of someone who is dressed in traditional clothes, lives in a unique home, or is just generally interesting-looking, but this temptation must be resisted unless permission has been asked and given. It’s always better to ask first. Taking pictures without permission is not only impolite, it can also get you in legal problems. As a result, always make sure you have permission.
If your subject doesn’t speak the same language as you do, use the international sign for “taking a picture,” which involves holding your hands up to your face like you’re looking through a camera lens. Then point at the person or group you’d like to take a picture of and look at them quizzically, like “May I?”
5. Don’t overstay your visit
Your visa will expire, and it’s not okay to stay over that time. Though some people do try to prolong their stay beyond the amount of time allotted on their tourist visas, it is disrespectful to the host country and can have serious consequences. You may be fined or banned from re-entering the country for a certain period of time if you are caught.
It’s also important to note that your actions as a tourist have a direct impact on other tourists and potential visitors; when you overstay your welcome, you make it difficult for the host country to consider future tourists from your region.