Just don’t be a dickhead..

bad tourists long term travel picture
Peter Griffin, proving my point.

There are some things in life that really annoy me: People who walk too slowly, un-tamed or muzzled children in public places, having a bird shit on your face (happened to me twice), vegans, stubbing my toe, pointless Facebook status updates, walking into glass doors, I could go on.. take all of these things and add them together, that’s roughly how I feel when I see a tourist being a dickhead in another country.

Is there a more disgusting display of inequality and greed than a fat tourist making an unjustified scene in a foreign developing country? I remember seeing an Australian woman, arguing over a taxi fare in Bali. While I’m all for not being ripped off, she was arguing loudly and violently over 5,000 Rupiah (about 50 cents). With a face like a bashed crab she was announcing to most of Indonesia that the driver was trying to rob her. Eventually the driver just gave up and drove off, leaving our overweight and verbally abusive tourist standing in the road, proudly smirking over her 50c win.

If 50c meant that much to her I’m not sure how she wrangled up the funds to get into the country in the first place. At the end of the day this tiny amount of money means literally nothing to a tourist form the 1st world in comparison to a Balinese worker who probably earns less money in a month then you spend on lunch every day.

When overseas (this applies at home to) I make sure I never act like a dickhead. It’s really not that hard, treat people with courtesy and respect, never yell at them or physically make them uncomfortable, simply, don’t do anything that in any way make you a jerk. Every culture is different and as a guest in another country you need to respect that, the rules you grew up with at home don’t apply here, open your eyes and see how the locals go about their business then play by their rules. The old saying ‘when in Rome’ comes to mind, and not the Ron Burgundy interpretation.

Fat tourists
Undies or Bathers?

I’m not really interested in where the world’s worst tourists come from (as it happens CNN thinks it’s America) but rather in just never becoming one. A common setting for these volatile situations is when a tourist or traveller feels that they are being ripped off by a local. If this ever happens to you (and it probably will eventually) just relax, yelling is really not going to help with anything, stay calm and try and talk your way through the situation. You are a guest in another country, you might not understand the language or the unspoken rules of the place which sometimes can make you a target but there are simply no excuses for treating local people with anything but courtesy and if you are being ripped off in many cases locals who are around and passing by will actually help you.

Having my bike stolen in Japan or having to chase the little shit who stole my camera in South Africa were inconvenient events to say the least but making a huge scene in either case would never have helped anyone, these things happen, deal with it, and realise that they often make for a fantastic story when you get home. I have a friend who was ripped off in Vietnam by around $75 AUD, about 1.6 million dong (yes the currency is called the ‘dong’ and yes, while there every second sentence was a penis joke) while paying for a half day on the back of a scooter. Was he an idiot for not agreeing to a set amount before getting on the bike? Yep. But let’s be honest, he could afford it and he ended up having one of the best days in his life scooting around Ho Chi Minh City. If he’d made a massive scene it would not have helped in the slightest, it would also have ruined his experience, annoyed the locals and may have forced me to kick him in the nuts.

One of the most humbling experiences about long term travel is seeing how other cultures live and seeing life through their eyes. The simple fact that you have the opportunity to travel puts you in a very privileged posiiton that should never be abused with bad behaviour. It’s not rocket science, just don’t be a dickhead.

About Author


Hi, I'm Pete, an ex-cubical slave and corporate love monkey currently writing my way around the world. My background is in branding, digital marketing, media and I'm probably about a level 10 at moustaches.


  1. Tracy

    In Burma, I took German tourists to a temple where you have to leave your shoes outside. An old old man who had been sat outside looking after peoples shoes since time began charged the equivalent of about 2p… they all refused to pay him saying they never asked him to look after their shoes. I died of embarrassment and gave him about 10 times what he wanted. Makes you wonder why some people travel at all.
    Great write up.

    1. Hey Tracy, Yeh I know, it’s a horrible feeling when you’re ashamed to represent your own (or another) country overseas. That sounds like a really awkward situation, glad you paid the poor guy for his efforts! I had a friend who in Bali accidentally gave a toilet cleaner $50 AUD as a tip (few beers may have been involved), Worked out really well cause the local guy was so happy he became our personal door opener/guide/butler/friend for the next 5 days, was cool to see someone who was happy to help the locals out (even by accident) and we made a good local friend who took us through some of the better less touristy hangouts.

  2. Dante Harker

    I really enjoyed this article and agree with what you’re saying. People walking slowly drives me insane, or those who stop in the middle of the pavement for no real reason.

    I have to say though that locals can be really annoying, in many countries they do see westerners as walking cash machines and will quiet happily rip them off.

    I agree that yelling never helps, nor does arguing over 50 cents. But I think not bartering can be much worse. Tourists who just pay whatever is first offered is really bad for budget travellers as it sets the bar.

    At the end of the day though you can only take car of your own Karma. I do my best to have a smile and be friendly and I leave other people to do their own thing.

    1. I totally agree Dante, I think that as long as you’re generally nice to people, friendly and use a bit of common sense, there’s not too many situations where things can get awkward. Sounds a bit new age but if your putting positive stuff out to others it pretty much always is reciprocated. I do also agree with what your saying about some locals, I’ve had some rather awkward times when I thought a local person was just being nice and I have ended up having to pay them haha.

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