10 Ways to Be More Respectful When You Travel

If we lose love and self-respect for one another, this is how we finally die.”

Maya Angelou

I’ve been traveling for over half of my life and the one thing that really bothers me about tourists is how disrespectful they can be. So many people leave home and left their manners and humanity with them.

Whenever I travel, I like to treat everyone with as much respect as possible. We’re guests in a new place regardless of how far or close to home that may be. If you find yourself in a situation where you would be horrified if someone did the same thing in your home, it is time to take a deep breath and eat a slice of humble pie.

Here are a few tips to help you travel more respectfully. Everyone deserves to be treated well. One day they will travel and remember how they were treated. Set a positive example. There’s too many negative vibes in the world today. Be different. Make an impact.

Learn the Language

This is quite possibly one of the most decent things you can do. I’m not asking anyone to become fluent in another language before their international trip. Learning common phrases like “thank you” or “where is” or even just “hello” can go a long way.

It shows you made an effort to show the local culture enough to respect to not expect them to speak your language when you are a guest in their country. There are tons of free apps to help you on your journey.

I use Memrise and it helped me learn enough Spanish in 2 months to be able to go to Peru and have genuine conversations with locals. There wasn’t a day that went by that someone wasn’t surprised that an American learned their language just for the trip. I wish I wasn’t the minority in that situation.

Talk to Everyone

The man on the right was our guide in Machu Picchu. While I can’t remember his name (I’m horrible with names) I do remember that he spent years getting certified to become a guide. He knew everything about the site. Why? It was his job, yes, but he said he had a huge passion for history and wanted to work in an important place and teach others about it.

And I mean everyone. Did you thank you cab driver? The person you stopped to ask for directions? Did you say hello to the janitor? Housekeeper? Chef?

Everyone matters. Put yourself in their shoes. Yes they might just be doing their job or they gave you simple directions, but they are human and took time to do something that benefited you personally. That deserves acknowledgement.

Even at home I say thank you to the people most people over look. Today I started a conversation with the cleaning lady while she was cleaning the bathroom. Everyone else walked by her and said nothing. That’s fine and nothing says you have to, but it’s a nice thing to do. Caring about others doesn’t take much effort.

Leave the Country Cleaner Than You Found It

My dog adores playing with plastic bottles. As soon as we were ready to go inside we picked up our trash and even some of the trash the neighboring family had left on the beach.

Raise your hand if you have gone to a country and complained about litter? I bet there are a lot of people with one hand in the air. Tourists are very guilty of littering, just as much as locals if not more.

Most people will have a plastic bag from a recent purchase. As you walk around try to fill it up. Take a few extra steps to throw your cigarette butt in a trash can. Recycle your bottles. I even bring a bag when I scuba dive to pick up trash from the sea floor. We can make a difference. Let’s help keep our destinations beautiful and show that we don’t think their country is a giant garbage bin.

Dress Appropriately

In high school, I went went to the Vatican on a trip. Several people decided to wear booty shorts and wanted to visit despite very prominent signs stating legs must be covered. They threw a fit. In public. Loudly.

Do some research and see what is acceptable in public and private spaces. Churches often require everyone to cover up their shoulders and knees. This should be respected. It is their space, their rules. Some countries require women to cover their heads. Please respect the local culture and take 2 seconds to pack an extra layer of clothing.

Be Open to Diversity

There are no two places that do the same thing the same way and believe the exact same things. Things might seem “weird” or different. Keep those thoughts internal, please.

Diversity should be something we embrace. We are living in a world that breeds hate through headlines. I’m optimistic enough to believe that these people are a minority. Look closely and you can see incredible people doing extraordinary things regardless of their location.

Remember that every way of living has its merits and drawbacks just like yours. Be open to new experiences, new ways of living, and even new foods. Dare to try something out of your comfort zone. You’re going back to your normal life afterwards. Live a little, but live respectfully.

Follow the Rules

Did I want to touch the sharks? Hell yes. Did I? No. As a nature lover and scuba diver, I have a major respect for wildlife. I will get as close as I’m safely allowed and admire it from there.

Countries have laws for a reason. To some, they might seem idiotic. There’s a locked gate there for a reason. There’s a danger sign for a reason. It’s possible to experience everything a country has to offer and still obey its laws.

Some archaeological sites prohibit people from wearing high heels. They don’t care about your fashion statement. They care about their cultural heritage. Some laws and rules might seem mundane or bizarre but that does not give anyone the right to disregard them.

Purchase Locally Made Goods/Services

Supporting the local economy had incredible results. You’re helping the people who actually live, work, and eat in their country. Buying from large corporations isn’t a bad thing, but try to spread your spending.

Think of it this way. Spending $100 at a large corporation, let’s say a large fast food chain, gives money ultimately back to the company’s headquarters/CEO and some to the locals. Buying a meal at a local restaurant that was opened by a couple to live down the street goes towards their children’s education or hobbies.

Put a face on your spending. Who would you rather have your money go to? For me, I would much rather buy from locals so the money stays locally where it is needed, not to a faceless company that does not give back to the community. If it does make efforts to help locals, I’m much more inclined to spend money there.

Don’t Treat Locals Like Sightseeing Objects

I hate this so much. I also hate how common it is. Picture this… you’re walking down the street and someone spots you, looks at you like you’re an exotic and endangered species, and makes a beeline towards you and asks to take a picture of you.

Is my hair crazy? Am I giving off the world’s most awkward vibe? Nope. You’re just different than them. People PLEASE stop acting like other humans are objects. I’ve seen people bragging on Facebook about how they got pictures with “the crazy looking African bush people”. There’s so much wrong with that sentence that I don’t even know where to begin.

If you read that and thought what’s wrong with that? then please, pretty please treat humans like humans. Embrace their differences and sure take a picture (if they consent) but do it because you love their culture. Do it because you want to learn something from them. Do it because you respect them as people not photos to collect to prove you were there.

Remember You Aren’t Entitled to Anything

Was I exhausted and grumpy…yes. Did I expect the world to stop turning because of it? No. I made the most of the uncomfortable chairs and travel delays by taking a very awkward snooze.

This should be common sense. Unfortunately, it’s not. Hopefully you aren’t still raising your hand… Raise your hand (your other one if you still have one in the air) if you’ve ever seen someone be grumpy with a flight attendant.

Their job is to make sure 180 people land safely and don’t do something stupid. Believe it or not, when you get on a plane these people did not magically become your servants. They are at work. They probably just want to go home and not have to explain to you why you cannot get up when the seatbelt sign is on…during take off.

The moral of the story is: treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s the magical and innovative new idea that actually works! Unless you were just crowned emperor of the universe, you are still required to remember and exhibit basic manners in public. Please and thank you.

Be Polite

Saying please will not cause you to spontaneously combust. I promise. Be your sassy, fabulous self, but remember that other people have feelings. Every single person on earth has insecurities. Let’s lift others up when we travel. You never know, you might become a better person and leave a lasting and important impression on someone.

What tip was your favorite?

Let me know! There are so many ways to be respectful even if you’re just traveling to the grocery store. Forget your attitude (unless it’s the good kind) and show people your best side. Trust me, it makes a huge difference.


Published by Emma Browning

Hey everyone, my name is Emma Browning. Thanks for stopping by. I like to think of myself as a modern day renaissance woman since I basically do a little bit of everything. Here's a few of my jobs/hobbies in case you're curious: Group Fitness Instructor (Zumba, BodyStep and BodyPump), small business owner (string art& travel photography), archaeologist/anthropologist, actress, SCUBA dive master, reading addict, dog mom, cellist, and of course travel enthusiast. I've traveled to over 21 countries and speak French fluently and am learning Spanish. Traveling is one of my all time favorite things to do whether it be a day trip with my dog or a massive international adventure. I created this blog to help others see the world vicariously through my wanderings and also to give useful tips and essential information that will hopefully inspire more people to travel. Hopefully you have as much fun reading these posts and get a lot of useful information from them!

8 thoughts on “10 Ways to Be More Respectful When You Travel

  1. I was in a bit of a hurry to get to work on time this morning, so I didn’t have time to write this: Not only is it fun to learn the language, it’s also fun to see the look of appreciation on the locals’ faces. Even if you mess up a bit (or a lot), they are so grateful for the effort.

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