7 deadliest sins of traveling (worst tourist behavior revealed)

worst tourist behavior

Tourists with bad behavior are constantly making headline news these days.

In the past 15 years, I’ve been to 113 countries, flown almost a million air miles and stayed in over 600 hotels… so you can bet I’ve personally seen plenty of tourists go bad, wild and crazy. Yes, I’ve seen the worst tourist behavior right before my eyes!

Some bad tourist behavior still haunt me today. I was on a boat in the Bahamas, cruising on the gorgeous, crystal-clear sea, when I saw a young millennial throw a cigarette butt in the water. Once, I was in my villa in the Maldives when the guests next door suddenly blasted music at their pool. I was in Copenhagen, and I witnessed tourists throw rocks at a famous statue. Online, I saw a traveler I know post a video from inside Giza Pyramid in Egypt with the caption “we were told not to take photos… they never said video!”. Rude.

Bad tourist behavior is not happening in only destinations. I’ve been on countless flights where passengers mistreat flight attendants (conversely, I’ve seen flight attendants overreact to situations and kick passengers off for no reason at all). I’ve seen drunk passengers, passengers sneak dogs on board… you name it, I’ve seen it.

While travelers around the globe can be ridiculous and do horrible things, there’s nothing worse than these 7 deadly travel sins. OK, they’re not literally “deadly” but they’re wrong to do and tacky. Travelers should be aware there’s a line you don’t cross, especially if you’re thinking of dipping into these faux pas below. In my opinion, these are the worst things a traveler can do while on vacation… as well as simple solutions to avoid them.

7 Worst Tourist Behavior Revealed!

1. Hogging the hot tub with your family 

After a long flight, it’s nice to head straight to the hot tub at your hotel to relax — until you see it’s been invaded by an entire family.

Sure, it’s fine when two parents and a kid are calmly relaxing, but when Mom, Dad and their four kids in goggles are clogging the hot tub, it’s awkward. Most hotel guests use a hot tub to relax, not as a playground.

Most hotels don’t have rules about families taking over hot tubs; parents should just be mindful. I think it’s fine if families are in the hot tub for a reasonable amount of time, but I’ve seen them literally camp out all afternoon with magazines, a basket of toys, etc. The solution for parents? Be mindful of other guests and make room for them when you see they want to go in. 

Another reason why families (or anyone, for that matter) shouldn’t stay in the hot tub for extended periods of time… the longer you’re in them, the more you’re susceptible to bacteria. Not cool! Either way, that’s one of the worst tourist behaviors revealed!

2. Posing nude in sacred places

I don’t need to elaborate here. 

With the hopes of getting attention on social media, which is a competitive landscape, travelers have been posing nude at famous attractions, which, sure, whatever, do it, but some people cross the line at sacred places, like shrines, temples and churches, especially in Cambodia for some reason. 

A gay couple from San Diego were actually arrested in Thailand when they exposed their butts in front of a famous Buddhist temple. Luckily for them, they were fined and let go. 

A Belgian tourist was arrested in Egypt for taking a nude photo at a famous, ancient landmark in Luxor. She spent a night in jail, and she took a nude photo at the Vatican in Italy, too. She’s clearly trying to make a statement, but she forgot the rules of respect.

There’s a lot of information online on how to respect sacred places, and if that doesn’t help, travelers should get in the habit of practicing common sense when visiting them. 

Nudity is fine, and some Instgarammers have accounts dedicated to full nudity, which is great, but remember that it’s not always acceptable at sacred places around the world. So if you want to grab a selfie stick, make sure you grab clothes, too!

3. Bare feet on planes

Many people know I have pet peeves on a plane (put that window shade down! 🙂 ).

But the one thing that goes viral is when passengers expose bare feet.

I love walking around barefoot, but I won’t do it on a plane. Not only are planes known to have a lot of germs, I want to be mindful of other passengers. Not everyone likes a barefoot passenger, especially if they’re wedging their bare feet through the seat rest, planting them high on the bulk head or, deadliest of all, swiping through in-foot entertainment with their toes. 

There’s a simple solution to avoid this worst tourist behavior: wear socks or shoes. This helps minimize stress levels of passengers, which are already pretty high, so it’s just a matter of consideration for your flight mates. 

4. Disrespecting cultural landmarks and attractions 

We can likely credit the rise of defacing and abusing tourist attractions and landmarks to social media. It wasn’t even a thing pre-Instagram, and it became rampant when people were trying to get likes on their social media. Worst tourist behavior ever? Possibly.

Just last month, a young millennial couple desecrated a 425-million-year-old rock formation in Starved Rock State Park (Illinois) and posted it on Instagram. With the swift backlash, they deleted the photo.  

In August, a Czech couple, Sabina Dolezalova and Zdenek Slouka, went viral for disrespecting a Hindu temple in Bali (they have since apologized).

I genuinely believe their intent wasn’t to disrespect. I think they got caught up in the moment, and their inexperience with other cultures, especially with such a sensitive nature, showed. For this reason, I think any traveler, especially young social media people, should always ask locals on proper etiquette when visiting sacred landmarks, attractions and places, if they’re relatively new to travel. If you can’t have respect for other cultures, or don’t want to take time to learn, you shouldn’t be traveling. Honestly, this is one of the worst tourist behaviors, and every culprit should be penalized fully!

5. Not tipping housekeeping

Worst tourist behavior ever? Not tipping! Tipping is part of the travel DNA. While I can’t tell you to tip the deli guy for ringing you up, I can tell you that tipping a valet or housekeeper is part of their salary. It’s easy to identify the people you tip in travel because it almost includes anyone who offers a service or performance. 

Housekeepers do a lot of physical work, and they only make about $11 an hour at a hotel in the United States.

Tipping housekeeping has always been customary; nothing has changed. Depending on the type of hotel you stay at, you should expect to pay between $2 to $5 a night. Even if you never see housekeepers, they are coming into your room while you’re away and making it look fabulous. 

Always budget in tips for housekeepers when you travel, and don’t forget to tip the valet, room service and concierge. 

6. Paying full price

Never pay full price in travel… it’s a sin!

Through my 15 years of travel, I learned there will always be a better hotel rate, a cheaper flight and negotiable tour price. 

I did a YouTube video on how to travel the world for cheap, and I talk about hacks for travel. One of the things you can do for a good hotel rate is calling up the front desk manager and asking for a cheaper rate than what’s published online. For flights, always use Google Flights to get the best, real-time airfare, and definitely book off-peak dates. 

Also, when you go to developing countries, or even any place that has markets, they expect you to haggle down the price, like Egypt, Thailand and Morocco. In some countries, I learned, they actually hike the price up high because they know you’re going to negotiate, and you’ll land at the realistic price they want. It’s part of the culture. 

You can always get cheaper prices one way or another, so start getting in the habit of negotiating, as well travel hacks I mentioned. 

7. Not enjoying the moment (put down your phone) 

We are all guilty of going to a destination and documenting our entire experience through photos, videos and live streaming. I’m not going to lie. I do this too. It’s how our generation has shifted. If there’s an incredible sunset, I’m more focused on getting the best shots rather than enjoying it. If I come across a popular tourist attraction, I look for the best angles for photos or video and think about how it will be appear on social media. It’s truly bizarre. You get a sense of anxiety if you’re not filming.

I even wrote a story for CNBC on how smartphones affect the way we experience things now. I posted a photo of Tiger Woods golfing ten years ago and the crowd watching, then one from last year with the entire crowd having cell phones raised. 

Thankfully, I’ve worked on enjoying the moment and putting away my phone. I rarely do it now (I’ll take a photo then put my phone away and enjoy the rest of the moment without electronics).

While I can’t tell you to pocket your phones, I can tell you that the attraction you went to visit didn’t survive because it was Instagram friendly. It has history, appreciation, legend and impact.

So next time you’re vacationing, try to enjoy your moments rather than feel pressed to share it with the world. Because, at the end of the day, it’s your memories, not theirs… and you don’t want to be victim of one of the worst tourist behaviors!

Do you know some of the worst tourist behavior you’ve witnessed? Let us know in the comments below!

More stories:

This couple in their 20s quit their job to travel the world on a sailboat

7 positive predictions for travel after coronavirus pandemic

13 most overrated tourist attractions to avoid

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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