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Atrocities of Tourism: 6 annoying habits of tourists

sunrise at angkor wat

The Atrocities of Tourism: Crowd watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat (this is only part of 1/5 of it)


No matter how much you’d like to selfishly keep good places from changing, development in the name of progress is inevitable. With growth and the popularizing of travel comes the stampede of  crowded tourist buses, over-worn backpacker routes, souvenir shops clamoring for the sell and then comes the irritating habits of tourists…

6 annoying habits of tourists:


1. Dude, put a shirt on it!

I don’t care if it’s a vacation, honeymoon or even it’s just too damn hot; there’s no excuse for inappropriate attire and bad etiquette, when you’re in a “conservative” country, like India.

Advice: Read up on the customs of the culture and show the locals of the place (and yourself) a little respect. For ladies, micro-skirts, stringy tank-tops, exposed boobies (even if they’ve got a tiny piece of fabric over them that you might call a bra) don’t fly, if the local women feel ashamed bearing their shoulders! Put a shirt or shawl on it. For guys, shirtless, man-boobies and you’re not even a mile near an ocean? Give me a break!

fat man on moped

2. Enter the paparazzi.

Paparazzi have infamously bad reputations. They’re always getting in front of people’s faces and shooting off high-beam flashes, such that their mere presence is an imposition. There’s nothing wrong with being a sentimental click-happy tourist, but “flash”-happy paparazzi tempt a slap.

I’ve witnessed solemn local ceremonies (i.e.  monks receiving alms in Luang Prabang), where travelers took snaps, but didn’t check their flash bulbs at the door. The locals were in the middle of their worship and clearly disturbed by the jolting intrusion, but were helpless to do or say anything.

Advice: There’s a time and place for flashes; solemn ceremonies and religious prayers aren’t it, unless your camera is invited. Learn how to turn off your camera flash (in many cases, the photos turn out much nicer and more natural). If you want a close-up; invest in a zoom lens or better yet, support local tourism and buy a postcard !

bad tourists


3. They have this thing called sunscreen…

Bronze may be beautiful but lobster red? Western tourists adore sun worship and thus, some trade in sunscreen for the quick crisp-to-peel. That’s one sure way to exfoliate.

Advice: It’s called SPF 30; SPF 50-75 if you’re Asian whose worried about getting darker.

sunburnt tourist, sunburn, bad tourists.

4.   I  own these two seats, though my cheap ass paid for one.

Nothing is more annoying than seat hogs! You’re on a 14-hour bus and lucky you, no one is sitting in the seat next to you. When more passengers board the bus, does that mean you have to move your bag and give up that free seat next to you? Of course, you do. Did you pay for one ticket or two? I was on a most uncomfortable bus ride, to the border crossing of  Cambodia. Everyone squeezed into compact spaces, as two travelers sprawled out to hog the extra space. GRRR!

We all know how it feels to give up that extra seat, but faking that there’s someone sitting next to you or refusing to budge with a pout, just makes you a first class jerk. That open seat next to you was never yours to begin with, unless you paid for an extra ticket!

Advice: Don’t be a jerk, give the seat up. Karma will be good to you in the next lifetime.


5.  I am experiencing this special moment… along with hundreds of others!

Okay, this really isn’t a habit of tourists per se, but the effects of tourism… Sometimes, you want to believe your travel experiences are personal, special… and they are! But these days, you’ll have to stray far off-the-beaten-path to escape the stranglehold of tourism; in fact, the trodden path has gotten so popular, it’s formed a queue!

Advice: Crop the crowd out of your picture and let your friends and family back home believe it was a quiet and revelatory moment for you. In some way, it still was!

ko tao

The Atrocities of Tourism: Arriving at Ko Tao, Thailand… with everyone else

6. It’s just SOOO cheap!

I was in a restaurant in Cambodia and a waiter handed a couple their bill. Apparently there had been 4-5 drinks to the tab but the bill barely made it to $4. The man, donned a haughty and smug attitude, “This is it?! This country is so cheap, things are practically free!” His megaphone mouth was earshot of the Cambodian waiter and nearby tuk-tuk drivers, who turned to notice.

What a creep.

In Cambodia, laborers work hard and live off an average of 40 cents a day. In Laos, many children are unable to go to school because $5 /year tuition is expensive. As a westerner traveling developing countries, prices can feel cheap compared to prices we’re used to paying in the west; I often have to bite my tongue. But to bullhorn it before hardworking locals is insensitive, obnoxious; not to mention, it parades the idea that all tourists are rich.

Advice: Try to curb your enthusiasm about things being “cheap” in front of locals.


What are some of your pet peeves about tourists and tourism?


  1. The Guy says:

    Excellent list. I can certainly identify incidents of all of these. Sadly the bare chested male is quite popular in a lot of places and as disrespectful as flash cameras at sacred points or moments for many places.

    As for the sunburn. Well I do try to protect myself with sun cream and even still I can burn too easily.

    Not sure if you mind (please remove if you do) but this is the most comprehensive list of annoying traveller habits I came up with:-

  2. Man, just thinking about all the annoying tourist habits makes my skin crawl. Excessive drinking. “Whooooooo”ing at the swim-up pool bar. Screaming out loud when spotting a wild animal on safari. Refusing to respect local traditions/ cultures. So many…

    • @Bret: How about we add all those to the list. I agree, there really are so many. People partially forget themselves on vacations and sometimes, they’re just plain insensitive. I’m sure I might have added to someone else’s list at some point.

  3. You really nailed some of these things. With each one my grin grew wider. The dude with the shirt seems to be in every country. Have you come across the old men with white socks pull half way up their shins yet? Shudder.

    Ditto the Angkor photos with no tourists … Can we throw the Taj in there too?

    As for the seat dwellers on buses. I guess I make myself the resident psycho these days as I usually don’t take that sort of behavior and just barge over and quite loudly shuffle in next to their heads and make lots conversation. It usually freaks them out into huddling in a corner far away from me 🙂 Yea, I know. But, like you said, I can’t stand that sort of person taking up all that room .

    • @Dave: Haven’t seen the old men in white socks yet, but I probably don’t notice them as they don’t break the excessive skin rule. 😉 Also, I’ll take the Taj if we can also take photos in front of the Taj or take that photo where they’re pretending to pinch the Taj between their fingers! Those are the only pics I ever see of the Taj. Enough already; find another shot! .. j/k

      As for being a resident psycho, by all means, drill sargeant.. out-jerk those jerks! Do your best to put some of those seat hogs in line! ha ha..

  4. Laura in Cancun says:

    Living in Cancun, my main complaint about fellow “gringo” tourists would be these:

    1. Yes, the sunscreen. (Ladies seem to forget this more than men)

    2. Shouting in public… I’ve heard some pretty juicy stories about people I’ve never heard of while on public buses or at resorts.

    3. Also agree with the public shirtlessness bit. If you’re not on the sand, cover up a little.

    4. Don’t expect to be able to drink massive amounts with no consequences. It’s a safe city with great nightclubs, but if you pass out on the street at 2 am, your wallet may get stolen. Common sense, people.

    • @Laura: I was wondering… Cancun and spring break must be a little tiresome at times. I can envision #2 & 4 happening a lot. Hand in hand in fact!

  5. John Larkin says:

    Wonderfully illustrated post Christine. I love flying. There are couple of things however that can rob me of that enjoyment. The first is fellow passengers who engage in loud conversations and, secondly, those who seemingly forget that the flight crew are serving a diverse range of customers at 39,000 feet. How would they cope if their roles were reversed? Many travellers lack dignity.

    Thank you for the follow on Twitter as well Christine. Your kind follow has allowed me to find and subscribe to your informative and entertaining blog.

    Cheers, John

    • @John: Loud passengers. Thank goodness the airplane hasn’t introduced cellphone usage yet! I guess as tourists and travelers, we all occasionally dip into the realm of feeling/acting over privilieged. Maybe it comes from the idea of ‘taking a vacation’, people become self-indulgent. Or maybe, they just bring their bad habits along for the ride? Thanks for dropping by to post a comment and for the kind follow on Twitter! 😉

  6. Gray says:

    Great list! Flash photography, especially when there are signs or announcements saying not to use it, drives me up a wall. Seat hogs are the worst though. I even see them on my local city bus, so it’s not exclusive to travel, that’s for sure. In defense of the fair-skinned, though, I have to add that some of us burn even when we do use sunblock. Sad, but true.

    • @Gray: Oops, don’t know how I missed a reply here. Yeah, using flash when there’s a clear sign saying NOT to use it or when you’re watching a performance/concert and they specifically say no flash allowed. I suppose people could always use the language barrier as an excuse for some of these but still… Most of the people who do this, I feel, know they’re not supposed to.

  7. I love the photo of the bus to Poipet 😀 So hate it, too when people just do not want to move a bit to give place to others! And hate overcrowded places…

    • @crazysexyfuntraveler: Crowded transportation is the worst. I find only western tourists on tourist buses have that problem of being consistent space hogs. Being on a crowded ‘local bus’ I’d probably fare differently. Locals push in and maximize the space. All cultural, I guess.

  8. Andrea says:

    Great examples – I always hope I’m not guilty of anything too obnoxious but it’s probably bound to happen at some point or another. I actually would love to make a list for things that annoy me about people in their host countries and how some of them treat visitors – seen more shocking examples of that this year than tourists behaving badly (though I know they do!) =)

    • @Andrea: You should totally write an article on that; it’d be an interesting read! Oh, we’re all guilty of these things; what’s bad is that these habits are often so unconscious (and we take them for granted). It’s not until you see locals or other travelers reacting uncomfortably by it that it starts sinking in. I’m sure this list might be to many of us, the equivalent to a smoker, trying to quit smoking

  9. Jeannie Mark says:

    Haha! Great list. I do have to fight you on the sunscreen though. Some people just forget to apply it (like me!).

    I know, been ages since I’ve commented! Here I am in China, commenting. 🙂

    • @Jeannie: Great, I can now say Ni Hao without it sounding like an Asian pickup line. ! Okay, I’ll let you go on the sunscreen. Maybe it’s the fact I’ve been subliminally brain-washed into Koreas paranoid skin care regimen, but sunscreen is generally the first thing that goes on my face! haha.. But you know, I’m also from Hawaii; you don’t know how many tourists I see who are so torched they can barely walk. It’s painful to look at.

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