Advertisement
Travel

Steer Clear of These 4 Tourist Etiquette Traps

American tourists sometimes get a bad rap for their boorish behavior abroad. Avoid that fate with these tips.

Banish negative stereotypes by brushing up on travel dos and don’ts before embarking on your summer vacation.

I collect vases, and I often pick one up as a souvenir when I’m traveling abroad. How do I know whether it’s rude to haggle over the price? Flea markets and street vendors are usually safe bets for bargaining, but the protocol elsewhere can be confusing. You might never dream of haggling in, say, a department store, but that’s par for the course in some places, such as Hong Kong. If you haven’t researched your destination’s haggling culture, gauge whether a price is fixed by asking the vendor or sales clerk, “Do you have a better price for this item?” If you get a lower offer, feel free to negotiate until you both settle on a price. If the sales associate in a boutique or department store won’t budge, don’t push it.

Advertisement - Article continues below

If you do haggle, don’t be surprised if the shop owner acts offended by your lowball counterbid; that’s usually part of the game. But don’t respond in kind: It’s important to let the seller save face. Alternatively, ask outright if you can take, say, 3% off the souvenir by paying in cash rather than credit, says Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, in Austin, Texas.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

We’re visiting a museum that asks for a “suggested donation” of $25, but that adds up for my family of four. Is it poor form to pay less? It would be inappropriate to skip a donation altogether, but otherwise, it’s fine to pay an amount that better fits your budget. Museums that collect suggested donations don’t rely on those funds to stay open, says Schweitzer. Aim to give at least half the suggested donation amount, or pay full freight if a lower suggested donation applies—say, for children under 16, says Elena Brouwer, director of the International Etiquette Centre, in Hollywood, Fla.

Advertisement - Article continues below

When the dollar is strong, is it considered a courtesy to tip in greenbacks rather than the local currency? Even though some service staff and cab drivers are thrilled to receive gratuities in U.S. dollars, others may find it a burden to exchange the cash for local bills—and pay a commission in the process. Ask a knowledgeable local—say, a tour guide or the front-desk staff at your hotel—whether U.S. dollars are preferred for tips, and always be ready to pay with local currency. If you’re cleared to tip in dollars, pull out crisp paper cash. “Some people won’t take older bills,” says Brouwer.

I’m staying in a private guesthouse instead of a hotel. Whom do I tip and when? Don’t tip the owner of a private establishment. But if a housekeeper or cleaner takes care of your room, leave behind the equivalent of a few dollars per day as a tip at the end of your stay. To show your gratitude to an owner who has gone out of his or her way to play tour guide or educate you on the region, consider leaving a small gift that’s not too personal.

Advertisement

Most Popular

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year
tax law

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year

Americans are facing a long list of tax changes for the 2020 tax year...and it's never too early to start thinking about next year's return.
June 22, 2020
10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class
tax deductions

10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class

Tax breaks aren't just for the rich. There are plenty of them that are only available to middle- and low-income Americans.
June 30, 2020

Recommended

Sales Tax Holidays in 2020
state tax

Sales Tax Holidays in 2020

Sixteen states are having sales tax holidays this year. If you plan your shopping around these tax-free periods, you can save big on back-to-school cl…
July 1, 2020
13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco
spending

13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco

You could be missing out on huge savings: Costco sells a limited selection of luxury goods at discounted prices, both in-store and online.
June 27, 2020
COVID-19: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Change Our Spending Habits
spending

COVID-19: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Change Our Spending Habits

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, including how we spend money. Are you spending less right now? Many people are. Here’s how to make th…
June 17, 2020
24 Best Travel Websites to Save You Money
Travel

24 Best Travel Websites to Save You Money

Traveling is fun and you can do it without breaking the bank — you just have to know where to go online first.
June 12, 2020