Atrocities of Tourism: 6 annoying habits of tourists

Last Updated on November 9, 2011 by Christine Kaaloa

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?

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