I’ve seen more than a few people behaving badly while traveling. And I’ve also done things I’m not proud of while traveling. It takes more effort for me to be a good person than a jerk so as a reminder to myself and hopefully to others as well, I’ve written up these rules on how to be a good tourist (or traveler, if you’d rather call yourself that).
Side note: Apparently, there are those who make a big deal out of the fine distinctions between a tourist and a traveler. I won’t get into that. Whatever we may want to call ourselves, we are all just visitors whenever we’re in another place. Let’s be on our best behavior. So here goes.
- When you climb a mountain or go camping, take all your garbage back with you and dispose them properly. The mountain is not a dumpsite. The proper garbage disposal rule applies wherever you go.
- Don’t vandalize historic sites, nature parks and other tourist spots you visit. Scrawling your name and phrases like “I was here!” on walls and rocks is not cool. It’s idiotic and disgusting and you are merely immortalizing your stupidity when you do it.
- Don’t feed the fish when you’re snorkeling. They have more than enough to eat in the ocean; overfeeding is harmful to them.
- Another snorkeling rule: don’t touch or step on coral reefs and don’t disturb the sea creatures. Be content with watching them at a distance. We don’t want strangers bothering us and invading our personal space when we’re just minding our own business. Extend the same courtesy to other animals which are also just minding their own business.
- Minimize your noise when visiting churches, monasteries, museums and other places where it makes sense to be quiet. There’s nothing more annoying than a group of loud, disrespectful jerks.
- Be respectful to the locals. It is their home and you are merely visitors so don’t walk around with a bloated sense of entitlement.
- Be mindful when taking and/or posing for pictures. If you’re in a place of worship, a museum or in a different cultural setting, ask for permission first before clicking away with your camera. Not everything is a photo-op.
- Don’t touch a tarsier. And be quiet when you’re around them. They are nocturnal creatures. Being on display during the day when they’re supposed to be asleep is a great stressor to them. Add to that being constantly disturbed by noisy visitors and no wonder they’d rather bang their heads until they die. (I once held a tarsier in my hand and I will forever regret it. I was ignorant and a big idiot. Don’t be like me.)
- Respect the local “lights out” routine of the place. If you want to party until 6am, go to Boracay or hang out in a bar in Manila. Most provinces and small towns in the Philippines have a much earlier bedtime so don’t wake up the entire neighborhood with your drunken antics at 3am. That’s the local drunkard’s job, not yours.
- In whatever situation, try your best not be an asshole. Being a good tourist (or traveler, if you’d rather call yourself that) really just boils down to being as decent of a human being as we can.