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Travel Faux Pas and How To Avoid Them

Familiarising yourself with local cultures and understanding their way of life is essential if you want to become a more responsible traveller. Many people who regularly travel to other countries can unwittingly cause offence by not being conscious of the traditions and practices of the region before they arrive. This can cause upset to local people, which in turn means that those living in these countries can become less welcoming towards tourists.

To ensure that you become a more responsible tourist, the first step is identifying what is expected of you when you arrive, either by researching your destination beforehand or by speaking to one of our Adventure Travel Experts for tips on travel etiquette.
Whether it's learning about the etiquette for dining, tipping or engaging in conversation, or abiding by religious and cultural practices of the place you're visiting, aim to get to know your destination a little better before you hop on the plane.
Below are the most common travel faux pas made by tourists when travelling abroad, with some Explore advice on how you can avoid making them yourself on your next trip.
 

Using Your Left Hand

A number of Asian and Middle Eastern countries such as India and Indonesia use their left hand for cleansing and hygiene, so be careful not to extend out your left hand for a handshake or use it for eating at the dining table. Statistically, left-handed people are rarer in this part of the world, so left-handed travellers should be especially mindful when travelling around the region, and lean towards using their right hand where possible for greeting and dining so as to avoid unwittingly offending their hosts.
 

Displaying Your Feet

It can be considered rude to put your feet on a table or use your feet to point at or pick up something in certain parts of the world. This is because in regions such as Thailand, the feet and lower legs are considered the least sacred part of the body, meaning that 'displaying' your feet in a public setting can be considered rude and disrespectful.
 

Forgetting To Remove Shoes

Not removing your shoes can also be considered a faux pas when invited into someone's home, or when visiting a religious site such as a church or mosque. Public buildings will usually be signposted, asking tourists to remove shoes, however, be sure to check with your Explore Leader on whether this is required for entering the homes of locals you might be visiting or staying with. This is common practice in many cultures across Asia, including Japan, China and India. Some accommodation may advise you to bring a pair of indoor slippers to wear, however, these will also need to be removed for rooms with carpet or tatami mats.
 

Not Learning The Language

This travel faux pas is universal, as it can be considered disrespectful across a number of cultures to not properly engage with the language by at least attempting to learn some select phrases. While nobody expects perfect pronunciation or fluency, it is considered polite to try to learn simple phrases such as 'hello' and 'thank you' when abroad to communicate with those around you.
Those travelling in France will find that locals appreciate a friendly 'Bonjour!' when entering a shop or restaurant, while if you're taking part in one of our Explore homestays, you could put your new-found knowledge into practice by striking up a conversation with your hosts to broaden your language skills further.
 

Failing To Dress Appropriately

Packing for a holiday can often feel like a challenge, but it is important to pack responsibly so that you can be sure that you are dressed appropriately when visiting somewhere new.

Revealing clothing may be fine for a private pool or coastal trip in some of our Explore destinations, but many countries encourage subtle, demure dressing from tourists. Save your swimsuit for the beach and instead favour light cotton t-shirts and long trousers in place of shorts, vests and shorter dresses. Take care to bring sensible walking shoes and a shawl or jacket, which will allow you to cover up feet and bare shoulders when needed.
 

Hand Gestures

In most of the UK and the US, hand gestures are big part of explaining things more clearly, however, when travelling, you should be mindful of how and when you are using your hands. For example, pointing with your index finger is considered rude in many cultures, while a raised fist or the 'okay' signal can get you into trouble in the likes of Brazil.
A thumbs up is positive in places like Australia, Canada and Russia, but in Latin America, Iran and Iraq, this is interpreted as a deeply insulting gesture.. Ask your Explore Leader if there are any gestures you should be careful about using during your trip, and if in doubt, keep your hands to yourself!
 

Not Obeying Local Laws

The one key rule to remember when travelling is that the rules within the country you are visiting should be treated with respect and taken seriously. Avoid any unpleasant surprises by carrying out a little bit of research before you depart, or by talking to our expert Adventure Travel Consultant.
Whether it's to check what items you're allowed to bring into a country - for example, chewing gum is banned in Singapore! - or taking care about drinking or smoking public spaces, it's always a good idea to stay within the law and avoid bringing unwanted attention, or legal action, upon yourself. We provide trip notes for all of our Explore trips so that you can read up on all the important stuff well ahead of your arrival.
 

Littering

While littering in prohibited zones is illegal in a number of countries, other destinations may have a persistent litter problem which can be worsened by inconsiderate travellers. Don't be tempted to contribute to litter, and instead hold on to your rubbish until you get back to your accommodation to put it in a bin, or better yet, take it back to the UK. This small act can help by reducing the amount of litter in any destination, therefore improving the appearance and environment of the place you're visiting.


Stay safe and respectful on your next trip by avoiding these faux pas so you can kick back and truly relax when travelling.

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