The Ultimate Travel Etiquette Guide for Your World Trip
Other countries, other manners! Everyone might know the saying. But what exactly does it mean? We want to clarify this question for you in this guide to travel etiquette so you can avoid unpleasant faux pas during your trip around the world. After all, sometimes it’s just not enough to listen to your gut. Therefore, we pick out some helpful tips that can be used everywhere!
What is Travel Etiquette?
Travel etiquette is another way to say the set rules that tell us how to behave when in a new culture and country. It’s important to take a few minutes the evening before your arrival on what the cultural norms are. Particularly because at the beginning of your big journey, you could suffer a little culture shock. But don’t worry, after a little time it will be easier for you to take in and interact with these new experiences.
These travel etiquette guidelines should be an integral part of your journey. Especially as a tourist, it is critical, to be respectful to the locals as it’s just part of good manners. This way you can avoid uncomfortable situations and concentrate on the essentials, like the fun of traveling. If you cannot think of any rules right now, we will give you a few exciting examples.
You should obviously be nice and respectful in any country, but there are some ways to do this that are better than others. For example, you can learn simple phrases. It is not only polite, but also adds to your vocabulary. The words “Please” and “Thank you” are always useful. It would be great for you to rehearse a greeting and a farewell, too. Just make sure that you pronounce them correctly.
Though, every country is different! Thus, there are a few things you should consider, as not everything verbally expressed but equally important. For example, in China, people do not always say “thank you” but instead tap the table with their fingertips to show their gratitude. In India, on the other hand, there are several ways to say “thank you”. They differentiate between more formal ways and everyday language. And, if you are going on a trip to Japan, do some research on bowing. These can have different meanings depending on the version.
Every country has different cultures, which means different ideas of social dress codes; some are perfectly fine with revealing outfits and others it’s best to dress conservatively. So, you should definitely take this into account on your world trip, as it shows a certain kind of respect and appreciation.
As a principle, you can remember the following: It’s better to wear too much than too little. Though as a quick overview, your shoulders and knees should not be visibly shown in Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Also, keep this in mind when visiting churches or Buddhist temples. So, for example, when you are in the Vatican, revealing shirts and hot pants are considered taboo and should be avoided.
You should also consider the etiquette rules that you know from school. Avoid wearing casual sunglasses or cool headgear in buildings. If it’s for health or religious reasons, it’s fine, of course.
Would you like to swim naked on your trip? Then you should definitely inform yourself about the rules in the respective countries, as it is not allowed everywhere. In some places, you can even face jail time!
Germans, for example, are known for dressing revealingly. In many regions, it is common to go to a nudist beach or swim naked from the waist up. In other European countries, like Spain and Italy, you can also lie in the sun topless without any problems. However, in Egypt, Thailand, and the Maldives you should rather leave your swimsuit on, as here you can be punished for nudity.
If you think you can’t go wrong with your good table manners, you are mistaken. What is not welcome in Europe is quite normal in Japan. Specifically, here, people slurp and burp while eating and that is actually a good thing. In China, you should make sure to always leave a little left over from the meal, as it shows that you are no longer hungry and is considered polite.
When you travel to India, you will eat a lot by hand. You should only use the right one, as it is culturally purer than the left one. Perhaps you would think things remain pretty much the same in Europe? Well, think again! In Italy, pasta is eaten without a spoon typically whereas, the French have a strong emphasis on their cutlery; except when eating bread as this must be broken.
It is not common to consume alcoholic beverages everywhere in the world. Muslims do not drink alcohol for religious reasons, so it is forbidden in many Islamic countries. At least, that is how the rules are in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
In most African countries, you can buy alcohol when you are 18 years old. Ethiopia is an exception, where it is allowed from the age of 15. But, if you are in the USA, even beer is only legal from the age of 21. Though, there are even stricter rules in India, where alcohol can only be purchased from the age of 25 in some regions.
So, keep age in mind when going out to get a quick drink, and remember that it may not be so readily accessible as back home.
In many countries, it is customary to leave a tip after a meal in a restaurant. Tips can vary depending on the country, too. Some countries already include it in the bill, while others want you to show initiative and pay five to fifteen percent more on your own. And since that’s not confusing enough, tips can sometimes even be seen as impolite.
As a rule of thumb, five to fifteen percent of the bill is reasonable. In France, Italy, and Norway, it is customary to deduct tips immediately, which means they are already included in the final amount.
In China and Japan, though, it is completely different. It can even be very unfriendly there to leave a tip. This is because good service is seen as a basic requirement, and therefore, not specially rewarded.
Another important piece of advice is that you should always have a few coins with you. This way, the money goes directly to the service staff. If you pay with a card, the money may not reach them, but that depends on the restaurant.
Gifts for a party are a nice touch most of the time, but there are a few small things you should consider here as well. If you are currently on a trip through China and your new friends have invited you, it is best to bring a dessert or delicious fruit with you. Please don’t give a watch, as they associate it with the funeral of a person.
In contrast to China, it is inappropriate in Brazil to gift something in dark red color. This color is associated with negative emotions there. The same goes for bouquets of white and yellow flowers in Russia. You shouldn’t give alcohol as a gift in Africa, whereas Scandinavians and Russians would be very happy with a good bottle.
Especially in poorer regions, you should not openly present your valuables. This can encourage people to steal them. In general, there are a few travel etiquette rules that you should consider.
Never forget your smartphone in a room, and don’t leave it charging unattended. When you return, you may not find it there anymore. This also applies to other technical devices. Keep your valuables locked up in a safe if possible, or get a good lock.
Plus, it’s always good to have the most important things like your credit cards, papers, and some money with you. A bum bag, for example, is suitable for this. It is best to only take the cash amount for what you need at the moment; after all, losing some of your money is better than all of your money.
Additionally, make a note of your credit card company’s blocking hotline. If it is stolen on your trip, you can call them directly and avoid worse things from happening and save your money. But be careful! Don’t write down pin codes as they could fall into the wrong hands.
Accidents happen on vacation, too. So, to be on the safe side, write down or memorize your closest contacts in a notebook. This can save you a lot of time, and nerves.
It is also good to write down the phone numbers of regional emergency lines. This way you can react quickly and, if necessary, save a life. We have listed a few here so that you can prepare yourself well.
- Europe: 112
- USA, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Jordan, Canada: 911
- Australia: 000
- China: 120
- Thailand: 1669
- Brazil: 192
The list is, of course, much longer, so it is best to inform yourself before you arrive. A first aid course is also practical if you have the time. This way, you know what to do in an emergency.
Always pack some emergency medication and Band-Aids so you can treat little wounds yourself. Don’t give headaches or small cuts the chance to spoil your day.
The most important thing is to be polite and learn about the customs of different countries. Don’t be stubborn, but instead, adapt a little. Otherwise, you could come as rude, which can make situations uncomfortable.
As you have seen, almost every country has its own cultural characteristics. However, that’s not a problem, since that’s what makes traveling so unique! This helps you get to know many cultures better and gain valuable life experiences. If it helps prevent embarrassing situations, it doesn’t hurt to write down a few travel etiquette rules for wherever you are visiting. As a bonus, it also serves as a great memory of your trip while also being a handy travel companion.