Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mind Your Travel Manners

A break from the Europe series. I’ll still be updating my backlogs.

We travel to unwind, discover, experience and enjoy. During my adventures, I encounter some people and situations that just ruin entire experience. I compiled my two-cents worth of thoughts on good manners when traveling.

Say Thank You
I believe that this is one of the first few lessons taught to us when we were kids. Don’t leave this at home when you travel. Say “Thank you” even when you are in a hurry. Notice that even the contestants of the Amazing Race manage to say “Thank You” to all the people they deal with. Even better, learn how to say “thank you” in their native language. I’ve noticed that they have a bigger smile when you say this in their language - even if your accent is off.

Accent Alert
Every dialect/language is unique. There are endless jokes about funny accents or people trying to speak your dialect but their accent is so obvious. While most may laugh, try to leave this at home (or keep it within your circle). It can be quite hard not to laugh especially when the accent gives the word an entirely different meaning. Grammatically incorrect signs are also posted everywhere. Well, at least they tried translating, right?

Try not to laugh. Cultural sensitivity please. I’m still trying to master this one.

Dress Appropriately
Tank tops, shorts and flip flops are comfortable in the beach. But in some cultures, you have to dress up a bit – especially if you will be visiting churches and temples. I learned this lesson when I visited Bohol’s Baclayon Church wearing shorts. The woman gave me a piece of cloth to wrap around my waist and cover my legs. Since then, I’ve been mindful of what to wear.

Since I usually like to go around wearing shorts and sometimes sleeveless shirts, I make it a point to bring leg warmers and boleros/jackets to wear if there is one church or conservative place included in the itinerary.

Be mindful of what you wear when you visit a church.

Practice Travel Tact
If you find it ugly, don’t comment. Or don’t comment loudly. Perhaps you’ve been to better and grander places but don’t compare, out loud. The locals are proud of what they have. No need to tell them that you find the beach in is better than theirs. Most local guides boast and promote their local tourist spots.

In my El Nido trip, we were traveling with a group. The boatman suggested we check out a small cave at the end of the lake. Our travel companion said “Maganda ba yan? Nakapag-Sagada na kasi kami eh”. Ay naku naman. Locals are proud of what they have, they’d like others to appreciate that. One place is always better than the other, just appreciate what you are being offered.

Exorbitant, Expensive? Shhhh
Tourist-laden places are surrounded by hawkers. Most of them sell souvenirs at a premium rate. If you do your research, you’ll know where to buy the cheap souvenirs and how much should they cost. For example, a colleague wanted to buy some accessories in an island when we were doing an island hopping. There is a hawker who sells her accessories at twice the cost. Don’t say that out loud. Instead, discreetly tell your friend or send your travel companion some sort of signal that it is expensive. These hawkers are also trying to make a living.

Mind The Decibels
It can be difficult containing the noise especially when you are traveling with boisterous friends. However, try to decrease the decibels at night. During my stay in Anawangin, there was this couple who was fighting and shouting  - their voices penetrated our tent which both entertained and annoyed us.

Who-is-the-better-traveller Contest
Travelers love to talk about the places they visited. It is a common ground to get the conversation going. I love to compare notes of what they did during their trip. Often than not, we compare and boast about the things that others didn’t do.

For example, I shared with a fellow traveller my experience in Caramoan but I didn’t get to visit the far-flung islands. “Ha? Eh bakit hindi mo pinunhatan yung ____, dapat _____”. My Caramoan memory was fun but after that comment, it irritated me that I didn’t get to go there. So now, my Caramoan experience is dampened by one comment. But I am also guilding of this at times. I’ll try to reel it in.

Oh I’ve been there too. Did you do/try/eat ____? You didn’t! Well, you missed half of that trip!

On the positive angle of this, it can inspire you to go back to the place and try that suggestion next time.

You are the tourist – not the king
One thing that irks me the most is when tourists complain a lot when there is no this and that. Like places with no wifi, no ATMs and no etc. Etc. Signs are not translated. There is no city map. “How do they survive?”

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

We have extremely beautiful beaches here in the Philippines. Most of them require effort and courage to reach. I do not agree commercializing a place just to make it comfortable for the tourists. It ruins the serenity offered by the place.

Boats bringing the party to Calaguas.

Mind your travel manners. After all, we would like to be to be remembered as courteous and not as complainers, right?

Try not to let these things get to you when you travel; let the others bicker and complain. Just smile in the picture.


  1. "Who-is-the-better-traveller Contest"

    couldn't agree more, we can't always pattern our travels with others tit for tat would be senseless, travel the way you like, enjoy the way you like, and sum up and end it the way you like, at the end of the day making yourself happy, contented and fulfilled is the major reason why you let yourself to be out there.

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