Many travelers who go on vacation follow an unofficial set of rules. A list of dos and don'ts while sightseeing, dining out, or exploring the life that the locals live. But when we arrive at our destination we start to break many travel rules left and right. What are them? Well, first you shouldn't feel guilty that you aren't abiding by some unspoken guidelines. Second, rules, as they say, are meant to be broken, and nowhere is that more true than on vacation.
Travelling is always a learning curve. For every issue we do right, there's an issue we should actually do but didn't know about. Sometimes breaking travel rules are a necessity, such as when it comes to your budget. And sometimes breaking travel rules are because you're lazy.
Some rules we do break are as follows. We dress like a tourist and don't make an effort to blend in. We get away with this until we realize the way we look makes us a mark for thieves. We refuse to buy travel or health insurance because we don't want to spend the money. We feel no need to contact our credit card and bank card to let them know the foreign country we're traveling to.
If you want to know more about travel rules, you should definitely read on. We've got the skinny on 25 guidelines you can get away with, and even some that you can't get away with. Some will hurt you, both literally and figuratively. Some travel rules are not common sense, and some travel rules are so obvious to us that we can't see them to break them.
25 Not blending in with the locals
One rule that we break and get away with while traveling is the fact that we make no attempt to blend in. If we're visiting New York City, we look like tourists with our cameras slung around our neck and our fanny packs slung around our waist to carry our money. Worse, we wear a T-shirt from the town we came from. You should never dress like this, according to Mobal. And besides, you're just a mark for petty thieves who will steal your wallet without you even knowing about it.
24 What We Should Wear To Blend In
One rule we break is not taking advice from travel magazines who admonish you not to dress like a tourist. But we do, and that's why people will treat you like a tourist. So what should we wear? Well, don't wear anything sporty, like sweatshirts and sweatpants with your favorite team going up one leg. Nothing flashy as well, or looking like you're trying too hard according to Racked. It means you should wear dark colors, neutral tops, and a nice pair of jeans. Don't wear bright colors and dress conservatively; rather than a coat, men should wear a casual navy blazer and women should wear a nice dress.
23 Why Are You Smiling?
People in foreign countries think we're too friendly and outgoing. We break the travel rule of smiling at every local we pass when we should just talk among ourselves without looking at them. We may get away with it, but did you know that smiling is considered aggressive and rude in some foreign countries? For example, in Hong Kong the practice is to not smile and keep your head down while at, say, a restaurant. In Russia, according to The Atlantic Monthly, natives don't ever grin or smile and it's not because they're dour. It's just "not a skill Russians possess or feel compelled to cultivate." There’s even a Russian proverb that translates, roughly, to “laughing for no reason is a sign of stupidity.”
22 Not Taking Advice To Learn At Least Some Foreign Phrases
We always break the rule of learning the local language by not studying up before our vacation because we're either too lazy or too busy. But you should always be ready to say a few words and phrases that will help you, especially if you get lost and need directions, according to the New York Times. If you're in Germany, you should be able to say "Do you speak English?" Or "Can you help me?" in the native language. Also learn how to say please, thank you and you're welcome, as well as much more, that shows you have manners. Locals won't help you if you sound rude.
21 Staying At A Cheap Hotel
A travel rule we always break is to stay at a hotel that's cheap. And while the price may be right for you, you're probably going to be off the strip and in the middle of nowhere, or in an area that's not palatable. You can get away with staying at a budget hotel--like the Best Western in London--if you don't plan to spend much time in your room and your goal is to see as many sites and attractions you can. But if you book a central hotel, your life just became easier, as Travel + Leisure suggested. You don't have to spend money on cabs or public transportation because everything important will be near you.
20 Not Asking Locals For Directions
A travel rule we break is getting lost in a foreign country and not getting up the nerve to ask locals how to get somewhere, or how to return to your hotel. You'll be more than happy to learn that if you ask a local for directions, he or she will give you them, even if their English isn't good. And while we're at it, use public transportation as much as possible, as this will save you tons of money. Subways and buses cost nothing against taking a cab. And the best way to travel is by bus because you can hop off it if the bus passes a destination that you wanted to see, according to The Invisible Tourist.
19 Not Buying Travel Health Insurance
We break this travel rule all of the time: we don't buy travel health insurance. If you come back home from overseas and no one on your trip got sick, then you probably will break this rule every time you go on another vacay. And besides, you have a private health plan or Medicare. Surprise! These plans won't cover you outside the U.S., according to Travel + Leisure. The cost of travel health is determined by the price and length of the trip and your age. Travel Insurance Review has some examples of why would you need emergency medical coverage that may just change your mind.
18 Not Bringing Your Essentials On The Plane
We all break this travel rule: we pack as light as we can so we don't have to pay a fee for checking our luggage. You can get away with it, but you never know when you might be forced to gate-check it. The problem is, you don't want to surrender it because you've stashed your valuables in it, like jewelry or your smartphone. You never know when someone might open your bag and steal your most prized possessions or if your luggage is lost. You can bring on a plane a small luggage, a laptop case and a carry-on. If only you've only put everything you need or is essential (like medications) in your carry-on, you wouldn't be in this situation.
17 Paying For Rental Car Damages Because You Didn't Follow The Travel Rule
So you're renting a car on vacation. The travel rule you may break may be something that doesn't cross your mind. That's taking photographs of your rental car before you leave the check-out desk. You may get away with this, but if you don't and hadn't had any accidents but the rental company says there are scratch marks on your rear end that was not there before you rented the car, you're in a pickle. So take pictures. You need a camera with a time and date stamp, and this safety measure will help you not lose your money.
16 Disregarding Signs
If you're visiting New York City and you're at the MET for the first time, chances are you'll want to take pictures of a few paintings you like, or of the exhibits that the museum is now offering. Note that here are places in the MET with signs that say "No Pictures Please." But you ignore the sign and break the travel rule that suggests you should always be mindful where you're at and always keep your manners in check, according to Contrastly. You may just get away with taking pics, but you'll be perceived as an uncouth tourist if you do so. Just because you're not from here doesn't mean that manners should fly out the window.
15 Not Checking Beforehand If Your Hotel Has A Concierge
One travel rule we don't follow is to not check beforehand if your hotel has a concierge, according to Oyster.com. Most do, even if it's not the Mandarin Oriental. But maybe you're staying at a mid-size or budget hotel and there is no concierge. You need help with dinner recommendations or sightseeing destinations. You thought you'd get away with it, but breaking the rule now seems foolish. Here's a dirty secret. Go to the closest five-star hotel and talk to their concierge. Most don't ask you what room number you're in, but if they do, just tell them the truth. They'll gladly help.
14 Be More Adventurous When Eating Out
Finding a nice restaurant that locals swear by can be hard if you are new to the area. But the travel rule we always break is to just dine at anything nearby. We go to the ones that are crowded and full of tourists. You get away with it because you're not adventurous. This is a major mistake. You should be in that curious mood when dining. You should stay away from anything familiar and, according to Lifehacker, you should always try something new. That way you'll be able to sample authentic food that's native to the country your visiting. Use Urbanspoon, Yelp, Chowhound and Local Eats that have reviews by both users and professionals. You'll be glad you did.
13 Taking Too Many Pictures
The rule that we break while on vacation is taking too many pictures. We all do it. Photos are a sure way to capture memories of the place you're visiting, but clicking away too much can spoil your vacation, according to the BBC. You're not really seeing a site if you keep taking photos. Put that camera down and instead enjoy the atmosphere. Taking in your locale is the best way to experience your vacay, as you'll have a first-hand memory that can't be replicated by photos. We get away with this, but only slightly; the companions whom we are traveling with will point out that they have to stop like every second so you can take another pic.
12 Not learning to pronounce things correctly
As The New York Times recently reported, it's now easier to learn a foreign language due to the hordes of many foreign language apps that will translate words on the sport. Google Translate stands out as the best app. But you should find one that speaks so that you won't have difficulty pronouncing words. Note that your app doesn't really work in your favor if you start a conversation with a local. It's best when you're trying to "decipher something in writing, like a restaurant menu or a street sign." So now you have no excuse when you try to break a travel rule.
11 Forgetting To Bring A First Aid Kit
As soon as you decide to travel internationally, check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for comprehensive travel vaccines, medicines, and travel advice information. Whether you decide to get vaccinated or not is your decision, but many vaccinations require administration 2 months before travel begins. This is an essential travel rule we always forget, but if you think you can get away with it, you may just get sick on your vacay. And while we're at it, bring something everyone seems to forget: a first aid kit. For a comprehensive list of what to pack in your first-aid kit, Travel + Leisure has some excellent ideas.
10 Forgetting To Bring Spare Contact Lenses
Here's a travel rule we all break: we forget to bring spare contacts with us. We may get away with it if our contacts don't bother us, but chances are they will, even before we get to our destination. According to CooperVision, the dry air on planes can make lens wear uncomfortable. Take your eye care to the next level by carrying a set of new, unopened, lenses in case you drop your contact in the sink. Also, bring your eyeglasses.
9 Not Buying Travel Insurance
Now this is a travel rule all of us break: we don't buy travel insurance to cover our vacation. We don't get it because it's expensive or because we think we don't need it. But when you have travel insurance, according to Travel + Leisure, most policies allow you to cancel or interrupt your trip for a covered reason. This includes "an injury or illness, a missed connection, or an unpredictable event that is an act of God." If just one of these things happens, you’ll be entitled to a reimbursement for costs that are usually not refundable (like plane tickets)." Note that travel insurance doesn't include health care abroad.
8 Wasting Time By Staying In
While on vacay, you shouldn't be stuck in your hotel room sleeping late, ordering room service and putting up the "Do Not Disturb" sign. While your hotel may be four stars, staying in is a waste of time, according to The Travel Channel. Every day you do this, you are losing days on your vacay. If your hotel is actually a resort near the ocean where no other hotels are nearby and attractions take a cab ride, at least spend the day exploring your hotel. Hang out at the pool, go to the bar, and eat at the in-house restaurant. Only your children or partner will tell you that you can't get away from this behavior.
7 Using Your Phone Too Much
Another travel rule that we break while on vacay is that we keep using our phones to text, E-mail, play games and even watch movies. Adults don't realize how much they use their phones because back home they're always using it, especially in a way that peeves our companions because you text during dinner. Don't be that person who can't get off her phone. You are missing out at a four-star dinner, or wherever you're exploring when you whip out your phone. Sure, we get away with it, but we're missing out on the thrill of adventure in the locale where we're staying,
6 Eating At Restaurants That You Can Find At Home
So you're vacationing in Paris. You're exploring the shops on The Champs-Elysées. Then it gets nearer to dinner and you scramble to find a restaurant. You can enjoy Parisian food at any of the local restaurants, as CNN Travel suggests, but while you're still on The Champs-Elysées, you see a McDonald's and eat there. Why? Tourists tend to eat what they have back home because these places make them comfortable. At McDonald's you don't have to speak the language to order a Big Mac. And so you end up losing a part of your experience in Paris and you get away with it because no one in your group knows better.
5 Not Getting Vaccinated
We all do this. We don't get vaccinated. Your vacay is pending and you don't have time. Or else you think you'd never get sick, even if your destination is to a foreign country. You get away with it because you actually don't get sick while on vacation. But that's just luck. Many people contact germs and bacteria even before they get to their destinations. For example, your airplane is like the dirtiest place on earth, according to MSN.com. The seats are full of crumbs and someone has used your tray table to change a baby. Bringing hand sanitizers and some wipes help. And not just for airplanes. You'll encounter germs at your hotel, for example, so being safe is essential.
4 Not Informing Your Credit Card About Your Whereabouts
Most of us break this travel rule. Before we go abroad, we don't call our bank and credit cards to let them know where we'll be. You may get away with it, but it might be too late. That's because if you don't call, your cards will be denied. If your credit card notices foreign activity and transactions and they don't know of your whereabouts, they will protect you and freeze your card, according to Forbes. You'll be on the phone on hold for a long time if only you followed the rules.
3 Assuming Your Passport Is Valid Until It Expires
It happens to the best of us. We pack our passport but we break the travel rule when we don't actually check it. Why would we? We know that we can use our passport if it precedes the date of our flight home. So we don't renew our passport before leaving home. But as Fodor's suggested, what if you're traveling to China, Russia and other countries and they require that your passport must be valid for six months past the date of your flight home? And if you're going to Europe, you realize that 26 European nations require that your passport must be valid for three months past. This is something you won't get away with. You're just in a bind.
2 Tipping When You Shouldn't
This isn't really a travel rule you can get away with; it's mostly a tip. And speaking of a tip, in the US, it's customary to tip your waiter somewhere between 15 and 20 percent. But in some countries, it's not expected. So where don't you tip? Thanks to Business Insider, you'll be able to save a few bucks by NOT tipping in the following countries. In China and French Polynesia you don't have to tip at all. In Japan, Hong Kong and Korea, tipping is uncalled for and may be seen as insulting. Besides, in these places the gratuity will be built into your bill, mostly between 10 and 15 percent. That's also true for Australia, Belgium, Brazil and Denmark. If you're traveling to other countries, definitely check up on tipping etiquette.
1 Not Making Copies Of Travel Documents
If your passport is stolen or lost in a foreign country, you go to the U.S. embassy. But it might be under-staffed or closed. That's time wasted, waiting to get a replacement, and you may end up staying in a foreign country longer than you expected. But if you make copies of your passport and other documents, it will be less difficult to replace. Unfortunately, this is a travel rule we break because we're not aware of the protocol and which, in most cases, we get away with. Forget paper. The best way is the electronic way, which is more difficult to getting lost. So take photos of your docs on your smartphone, email them to yourself or store them on a memory stick. Here is the entire list of what needs to be copied.
Sources: Mobal, TravelInsuranceReview.net, Business Insider, Travel + Leisure, The Atlantic Monthly, Lonely Planet, Forbes, Oyster.com, MSN.com, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel, BBC, Life Hacker, The Invisible Tourist, Contrastly, The New York Times, Racked