1- First and foremost, be OPEN-MINDED. When traveling, it is guaranteed that you will encounter at least 3 things: customs that are radically different from your own (or at least seem to be), food that is totally different from anything you’ve tasted before, and other people traveling to see the same things you are.
I know these things seem obvious, but you would be surprised how much encountering one of these things may upset people. I myself am guilty of becoming frustrated with the last one—dealing with other travelers. Half of the time I travel I call myself “going off the beaten path, ” and find myself annoyed when I find that the trail I thought was blazing is way more trodden than I thought. This will happen even in the most remote areas you travel to—and honestly, it’s not a bad thing. Having someone who has been there before you, or is already there and has been for years, is not a bad thing. Every foreigner that has come before you has provided information about a traveler’s needs and expectations. Whether or not these needs and expectations are positive or negative is another matter, but either way the exposure never hurts.
The other half of the time, I am wondering what the hell the other foreigners around me are doing and who the hell gave them permission to do it. I’ve been more grossly offended by other travelers than I ever have from any residents of the countries I’ve visited. However difficult it may seem to be, keep in mind that those foreigners have their own customs too. So while it may seem insanely rude to me that a group of [insert anecdote here] they too are just doing things that seem natural or normal to them. Instead of becoming upset or making judgments, try to start a conversation or take some time to think about what may be motivating…[that group of foreigners]. Every experience can be a learning one, especially when it comes to cross-cultural understanding.
2- Wear clothing appropriate to where you are going. You don’t have to try to “blend in,” (that probably won’t happen, no matter what) but avoid being disrespectful.
For example, if you are going to a Muslim country, leave the 2-piee at home. It doesn’t matter if you wore a g-string bikini a top 2 sizes too small back home; it is not acceptable everywhere. Yes, even if you are at a touristy area with a lot of other foreigners. I’m all for being comfortable when traveling, but if its at eh expense of the comfort of others then just say no. Plus, cute one pieces are in now.
3. I don’t know why everyone didn’t learn this in kindergarten, right after the golden rule; but when you’re inside, use your inside voice.
Once again, this should be obvious, but I know from firsthand experience, IT IS NOT. This is part of the reason I often get annoyed by other travelers—they can be way too loud. I once had an amazing opportunity to witness a spiritual leader performing an absolution to rid a house of its ghosts. I was with a friend who was born and raised in the country, and every now and then she whispered commentary to me about what was going on. It was a beautiful ceremony, but I don’t believe in ghosts, and dear lord, it was long; so after a while, I definitely found myself tiring. However, unlike the one other foreigner there, I did not start to complain to my friend about the length and tediousness of the ceremony. That in itself might not have been so bad if said other foreigner hadn’t felt the need to share every incessant whine with everyone in the room. Like I said, I don’t believe in ghosts, but show a little respect and lower your voice. It was obviously a somber ceremony, and I doubt many foreigners had had the opportunity to witness it’ or ever will again thanks to the Barry White wannabe who was in attendance.
4- Before you go, learn how to say a few words in the language of the country you’re going to (At least hello, goodbye, thanks, and how much-J). It will really go a long way to gaining a second look from the people of that country, and may help you be less prone to being ripped off. It is also a really easy way to get normally unfriendly people to be friendly. All of a sudden there is new interest in this foreigner that can speak their language (or at least attempts to). People are less likely to brush you off and may take genuine interest in helping you or giving you information. A great resource for learning basic phrases in less commonly spoken languages is a podcast by the name of Travel Language Guides by WorldNomads.com.
5. Hide your Lonely Planet Guide (or any other travel guide). If you’re like me, no matter how far off the beaten bath you think you want to go, you still always pick up a travel guide. I want to have different experiences, but I still want to make sure I see the highlights. It’s essential take it with you, but hide it away when you are in transit. Thanks goodness, many of the guides have an e-book format now, which is more convenient for many travelers.