How to be a good traveller.

Travellers seem to come as 2 types of people.  Those who embrace travel and get involved in the environment they go to, and those who probably should have stayed home.  There are the people who will try that new fandangled food even though they’re a bit wary of it, and then the people who complain that the McDonald’s in x town isn’t as good as the one at home.

On my recent holiday I thought about some things travellers can do to make the most of their holidays.

  • Figure out what side of the footpath people walk on.  Or what side of the escalator people stand on.  You’re not at home now Toto, and locals can get annoyed with travellers who can’t be bothered noticing that different rules apply.  There’s a reason Londoners don’t spend a lot of time on Oxford Street and New Yorkers steer clear of Times Square.  It’s the same in many major tourist destinations, lots of people not thinking.  It’s not that hard, if you can do it at home, you can do it on holiday.
  • Never compare.  A long time ago, I think this was the best piece of travel advice I ever received.  If you spend your whole holiday comparing where you are to where you live or to where you’ve been, you’re not making the most it… And you will probably sound like a douche.  Appreciate what you’re seeing and doing for what it is…or if nothing can ever beat home…don’t  go anywhere.
  • Malls are not tourist destinations.  Sure on my last trip I spent a significant amount of time at a mall, but I also saw the town I was visiting.  A mall is a mall is a mall.  You’re enclosed in a false environment with shops that you probably have at home.  Did you really pay all that money for your holiday to see something that you have at home?  See the local markets, walk to high streets, find the laneways, there is always something better to see.
  • Do you really need to barter?  I’ve not been to Indonesia, India, Vietnam  or any of those places where you hear holiday makers saying things like ‘Oh you know, you’re supposed to barter, the locals love that.’  Really?  Do they?  Those locals who probably earn just a few dollars a day, love it when you try to bargain down the price of a tee-shirt from the equivalent of $5.00 to $4.00.  If you can afford to travel in the first place, chances are that $1.00 you saved is not going to make any difference in your day, but it could well do in someone else’s.  In my opinion, a good traveller should think about the lives of the locals in the place they’re visiting and act appropriately.
  • Explore.  This sounds obvious, and if you’re on an adventure holiday there’s every chance that will happen.  However, if you’re visiting somewhere you’ve been to before or if you’re visiting a big city or someplace that has tourist attractions on tap, sometimes it’s easy to forget there are other things to see.  Check out guided walking tours of places for some background information you may not have known.  Throw away your street map and go for a walk.  Enjoy the journey instead of just the destination.


3 thoughts on “How to be a good traveller.

  1. Aren’t you the sensible one?! I love every one of these suggestions. I have never been able to barter just for these reasons (even at neighborhood garage sales). Most importantly: Never compare. Live in the moment!


  2. Funny, I thought of you when I write that one too.
    I remember your blog about paying to have a photo with foreigners…and I agree, you made a lot of sense… but I’m probably thinking at a lower, if that’s possible, scale.


  3. Oooh, the second last one is a conentious one for me. Tourists paying inflated prices damage the economy. If there is not bartering then a)it sets a new standard of pricing that locals expect from tourists, b) creates an unhealthy draw to and overreliance on tourism rather than local trade and c) creates imbalance in the economy between those in tourism and those providing local services. Tourists are naturally quoted much higher prices than locals, usually double, triple or up to six times the amount a local will pay. I think it’s fair to cut a price in half for the sake of economic stability in the region. An extra dollar or two to one seller will not help support community initiatives; rather it will just provuse a bit extra for a day. It’s unsustainable and I would quickly compare it to the ‘teach a man to fish’ parable…. just my two cents.



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