Take photos (with flash) where it’s not allowed
I have to admit.. I sometimes take a sneaky non-flash picture of an artwork where it’s not allowed. I’ve had multiple Prado guards get angry with me and I’m also not very loved in the Uffizi. Once in a Neapolitan church, one guard yelled ‘no photo’ at our group and then a nun angrily told her to be quiet inside the church. And I understand their point to be honest, especially when people take pictures with flash. This can really damage a work of art. This also applies to photographing people. It’s polite to ask if they’re okay with it before taking their photo. Some people will say yes, some will say no and others will allow it for a few dollars. Some people might even make this their job by dressing up and asking money for a picture, like the gladiators in Rome or the people dressed up as the statue of liberty in New York.
Litter and vandalize
You shouldn’t even litter or vandalize in your own city, let alone in a city where you’re a guest. I know some people can’t help but write their name everywhere, but please control yourself. Why do you need to write on the Eiffeltower that you’ve been there? Just post a selfie with it on Facebook and everyone that’s actually interested will know.
Don’t learn about tipping in the country you’re visiting
Tipping is a custom that you need to learn about before visiting another country. In the United States for example, most waiters are dependant on tips, because they get paid very little by the restaurant. Unless the service was absolutely horrible or if there’s already a large tip included in the bill, it’s customary to tip around 15%. On the other hand, in Japan for example, it is considered rude to tip the waiter. If you tip them, they think that you believe their boss is not paying them enough and thus underestimates their skills. I even heard sometimes people are fired when they accept a tip. So it’s smart to do some research to avoid offending people.
Don’t learn the language
Of course you don’t need to learn a completely new language every time you visit a new country and if you’re staying in very touristy areas, most people will understand your English. But it’s a good idea to learn a few basic sentences and words before traveling to a new country. Most locals will greatly appreciate it, even if it’s just a few words. Especially if you’re in an area where not many people speak English. Some basic things to learn are for example how to say ‘hello’ ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘thank you’, ‘help!’, ‘do you speak English?’, ‘how much?’ and ‘where’s the toilet?’ If you’re ambitious, you could even learn how to ask for directions.
Get angry at locals that don’t understand you
Sometimes when I’m walking around in Amsterdam, tourists will adress me in their own language and ask for directions. Luckily, I’m good with languages, so a little German is understandable for me, but I can’t understand all languages. I’ve never had a tourist in Amsterdam get angry with me, but it has happened to me at work. Someone that didn’t speak Dutch or English got angry with me because she thought an item would be cheaper. I tried explaining it to her but she didn’t understand me and got even angrier. I eventually just gave her back the money, but it was a very unpleasant experience.
Dress too scarcely when on holy sites
One place will be stricter than the other, but when visiting a church, a mosk or any other holy site, make sure you have a long skirt and/or a scarf to cover yourself. In most churches the rule is that your knees and shoulders must be covered. Some churches will also deny you the entrance if you show too much cleavage. The best is to always carry a big scarf so you can cover up if necessary.
Ignore traffic rules
Traffic rules are most of the time not very different in various countries. However, the way they are followed can differ greatly. For example, everywhere it’s expected that traffic stops when someone is crossing at a crossroad, but in Amsterdam, many cyclists won’t stop unless a traffic light tells them to and sometimes not even then. In many countries the traffic is much more chaotic and dangerous. Make sure you know where and when to cross the road, so you won’t get hurt and the drivers and cyclists won’t almost get a heart attack. And when in doubt, look at what the locals are doing.
Push everyone aside to get a picture
I sometimes find it amusing to see what people will do to get a good picture. Examples include people that lie down on the ground to take a picture of the whole Eiffeltower. Or people that climb to dangerous places to take selfies. Or people that stand in the middle of the road to get a good picture. These last ones are especially dangerous for your own well-being, but the most annoying thing you can do is to push everyone aside. I love it when tourists form an orderly queue before a photo-spot, so everyone can take a picture without other people on it. But sometimes, even after you’ve waited for a while, people keep jumping the queue and you have to settle for a picture that has other tourists on it.
Talk about sensitive subjects
Things you consider interesting conversation topics might be very sensitive topics in other countries. Examples include religion, politics or sexuality. Do your research about which topics are sensitive so you won’t offend locals or endanger yourself. Locals could get angry at you when you really offend them.
Think you know everything better than the guide or the locals
It’s not just ignorance that can make you unloved in the country you’re visiting. I think all travellers once experienced a tour where there was that one person who tried correcting the guide multiple times to show off their knowledge. Don’t be that person. Just listen to what the guide has to say and afterwards ask them about it if you heard or read something contradictory. This also applies to talking with locals. It’s rude to tell them you think they’re doing something the wrong way while you don’t belong to the culture that makes them do something. For example, I could say to a local that I think it’s cruel that he sacrifices an animal, but that would be rude, since I have no idea what this ritual means to them.
Always keep in mind that you’re a guest in this country. Be friendly to locals, respect their culture and learn from them. In my opinion, this makes for a better travel experience than pushing people aside to get a picture with flash of an object you know nothing about since you didn’t listen to the guide.