Bad tourist behaviour: 12 things travellers need to stop doing

You wish there was a referee sometimes. You wish someone would go over to your fellow travellers, blow a whistle, reach into their pocket and produce a red card. Bang, you're off. You've been sent home. On your bike.

Travellers get away with so much that they really shouldn't. They get up to all sorts of things that they might not do at home, and no one says anything, no one holds them to account, because who would?

I had an email from a reader last week suggesting the red card system, and I like it. Any bad behaviour you see out there – red card. Go home.

If only…

Complaining that "x" thing is better at home

Any time you hear this: red card. Any time you're overseas and you hear that the beaches are better back home, or the coffee is better back home, or the people are friendlier back home, or that anything is nicer or more enjoyable in someone's country of origin, send them on back there. You don't travel to boast about your home. You travel to experience someone else's.

Taking the piss with your hand luggage

Assistant to the Duchess of Cambridge's Private Secretary Sophie Agnew (left) and the Duchess of Cambridge's PA and Stylist Natasha Archer carry items of luggage as they arrive at Tezpur Airport in Assam, India, on day three of the Royal visit to India and Bhutan.. Picture date: Tuesday April 12, 2016. See PA story ROYAL India. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire Excess hand luggage

Photo: PA

Yes, hand luggage limits are annoying, and we all try to nudge the boundaries when it comes to weight. However, don't take the piss. Don't try to lug a million bags on board and stuff them all into the overhead and deny everyone else a reasonable amount of space. That's a sending-off offence if I've ever seen one.

Marvelling at how happy poor people are

This smacks of Orientalism, the pervasive idea of the contented, wants-for-nothing poor person (check your Instagram feed, it's sure to feature), the condescending attitude that some Western travellers have towards citizens of the developing world. Just because people smile at you in greeting, doesn't mean they wouldn't enjoy, say, access to high-quality medical care, or clean running water.

Taking photos with your iPad

Straight red card. No warnings. No leeway. No one can see anything past your stupid iPad. Put it down, or go.


Getting obnoxiously drunk (in places where people don't get obnoxiously drunk)

If you're travelling in much of the Anglo world and you want to go out and get roaring drunk, you'll probably be in good company. If you decide you want to do that in, say, Malaysia, then you might find you're actually bothering a fair few people. Red card.

Haggling too hard

It's good to haggle. Everyone should do it in countries where it's common practice. The negotiation of price is a genuine cultural experience, and a challenge that can be enjoyable. What you shouldn't do, however, is get so caught up in the competitive nature of haggling that you find yourself celebrating knocking an extra dollar off something you could very easily afford and would pay far more for at home. You're not travelling to win; you're travelling to enjoy yourself and inject some money into the economy while you're doing it.

Reclining your seat during mealtimes

Though plenty of people who would argue, I'm all for passengers' right to recline their seat during a flight once they've been given permission by the crew. However, if you insist on keeping your seat tilted back while meals are being served, forcing the person behind you to attempt to lever food into their mouths while their tray jabs them in the chest: straight red. Go home.

Flying your drone

A remote controlled drone helicopter which can record video and photo's hovers above some sun bathers at Middle Park beach.

Photo: Jason South

Another piece of obnoxious tourist behaviour that should get you sent home, particularly if you're flying one of these in a wilderness area where it was – before you arrived – nice and quiet, or on a beach where people are trying to sunbathe without being filmed by strangers. As soon as you hear that now-familiar buzz: red card.

Climbing on things that shouldn't be climbed on

The world might be your oyster, but it's not your playpen. If locals ask you – nicely – not to climb on something, then don't climb on it. Obviously that means you don't climb Uluru. But it also means respecting locals' wishes at Mount Gangkhar Puensum in Bhutan, at Spider Rock in the US, and at Mount Kailash in Tibet, to name a few.

Rushing the baggage carousel

People crowding around the baggage carousel, airport.


If this actually was a red card offence, there would be barely anyone left travelling. But how good would it be? As soon as you get to the carousel, as soon as it starts whirring and everyone reflexively charges towards it, ramming their trolleys up against it, blocking other people's access when it could all be so relaxed and easy if everyone just took a few steps back… Bam! Red cards! Everyone's gone.

Screaming at anyone, "DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?"

This is one of those habits that seems to cross cultural boundaries, that applies to all of us lucky enough to speak the world's second language as our mother tongue, determined never to bother learning another language because why would you bother? And then there's the shock when someone doesn't speak English. Surely they really do, and they just didn't hear you properly? Red card.


FMJK8T Tourists at Anjuna,Market,Beach,hippy,hippie,Goa,India,Asia, Tourist in market India

Photo: Alamy 

There are plenty of daggy tourists out there who probably don't deserve a straight red card, people in Paris or Rome in zip-off hiking trousers and "I heart NY" T-shirts who should just get a warning. Those who do deserve to be sent off are the types wandering around cities like Bangkok in singlets or bikini tops, treating major hubs where people actually live and do business like they're on Koh Pha-Ngan. Tip for first-time players: always dress to the same standard as the locals. It's a form of respect.

What tourist behaviour do you think is worthy of a send-off? Post a comment below

See also: Think Chinese tourists are a pain? We're just as bad

See also: Eleven of the dumbest things Australian tourists say