Avoid These Travel Faux Pas

Jan 11, 2016
For most, traveling abroad is an opportunity to create relationships and open your mind to new experiences and ideas. No tourist wants to be stamped an “Ugly American” while filling their passport, but certain habits from home can offend locals in foreign countries.

Saying or doing the wrong thing can not only hurt your host, some may derail your trip. Travelzoo Deal Experts share memorable travel faux pas in the hopes of helping our members avoid similar mistakes on vacation.

Cover up

Catholic cathedrals and basilicas throughout Italy and Vatican City enforce a strict dress code for all visitors. On my last trip to Milan, I was denied entry to the Duomo because my skirt, pictured to the right, was too short. (Prada's flagship store, however, did not object to my fashion choices.) To avoid being turned away from houses of worship, wear clothing that covers the shoulders and skirts and dresses that go past the knee and cover midriffs. Jeans are allowed. Summer visitors should carry a shawl to cover sleeveless tops.

Prices at Italian hotels are stripped down into Spring.

In Muslim countries, showing skin – especially by women – is extremely offensive. Don’t plan on topless sunbathing in Dubai and pack light layers to stay cool but covered on desert getaways in Morocco and Egypt.

Find everyday discounts at Dubai hotels that are anything but conservative.

Watch your hands

Cool kids throw up two fingers signifying “peace out” to their friends here in the U.S., but trying the same with your chaps in the UK and you could find yourself in a street fight.

Brilliant deals abound at Britain's top hotels.

Americans don’t realize extending the pointer finger into a reversed peace sign has the same meaning across the pond as a middle finger on its own.

Many cultures around the globe consider it rude to point with the index finger, especially at someone.

In Japan, gesturing with an open palm is a polite alternative while people in the Philippines and Colombia prefer to purse their lips in the direction of the referenced person.

Say sayonara to overpriced rooms with deals all over Japan.

Cheers! Salud! Gëzuar! Prost!

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

When in Russia, say “da” to another shot of vodka -- turning down a drink is on par with refusing to shake someone’s hand. Georgian meals are littered with lengthy toasts as the former Soviet nation takes great honor in welcoming guests, especially from another country. Keep glasses raised until the tribute is over, sipping during the speech is rude.

Germans may be world famous for their alcohol tolerance, but being visibly intoxicated is verboten so load up on sauerkraut and sausages to balance out the beer.

Grab a stein and toast to discounted stays throughout Germany.

Unlike Germany, it’s completely acceptable to get sloshed in Korea … as long as you’re among friends. It’s taboo to pour one’s own drink, and party-goers make sure to fill the cups of elders first. The same respectful custom is appropriate in Japan where the gesture shows generosity and companionship among drinking buddies.

Don’t Chew It!


Bubblegum was outlawed in Singapore in 1992 after vandals caused repeated maintenance issues throughout the country by trashing sidewalks, sealing keyholes and even disrupting the public transit by jamming subway doors with wads of the adhesive treat. Under this law, it is also against illegal to bring gum into the country, even on accident. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to $3000, and pharmacists caught selling the illicit treat face up to two years in jail.

Snap up sweet savings at Singapore hotels.

Non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia are given a warning for the first time offense of eating in public during the Holy Month of Ramadan, but Muslims who commit the same crime face zero tolerance. The penalty of flouting the law while others fast is a $500 fine and possible jail time.

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