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How to Be a Successful Tourist
Of all noxious animals, too, the most noxious is a tourist. And of all tourists the most vulgar, ill-bred, offensive and loathsome is the British tourist.
Cor blimey! That's a bit harsh Francis, me old china! No need to get all personal. In fact, it's generally a good thing if people are lucky enough to get away and visit other places, other countries; to leave behind for a while familiar props and to find themselves somewhere completely fresh and new. Loads of people travel around the world theses days (it's getting cheaper and cheaper) and by implication, the species known as tourist is multiplying apace.
The thing is, none of us wants to appear to be a tourist. We want to be able to get around with the minimum of fuss and bother. In fact, we'd actually like to blend in with the locale, like so many espresso cups upon chic Parisian café tables. This collaborative entry will help you do just that...
Dress appropriately for your environment. What is appropriate for the beach is not for the city ie, trainers, shorts and gimmicky t-shirts will certainly mark you out, no matter how hot. Save very casual dress for very casual places. Who has not noticed how easy it is to spot American tourists a mile off in places such as Rome, Paris and London?
Avoid carrying rucksacks if at all possible. While perfect for trekking halfway up the Himalayas, in an urban environment you might as well have Tourist stamped across your forehead. If you want to be taken seriously and not be taken for a ride, dress as you would for the office. Most of the people on the streets of Milan, Marseille or Malmö will be dressed like that, too.
There is no need to carry more stuff than when you are at home, is there? When you go for a walk or a window-shop at home you don't take a complete packed meal, a first-aid-kit, a change of clothes for wet weather, cold weather, a hat, an umbrella and your sponge bag with you. Why do it when further afield, then? You need no more than what will fit in your pockets. Identity, money, some tissues, lipstick, maybe a jacket if it might be cold, or if it looks like rain.
Women may also need to consider the religious or cultural conditions of the country they are heading for, like the Arab regions (hide your hair) or Hindu countries where women traditionally cover their legs completely. Once you get there, however, you might be irritated to see that young local girls are wearing exactly what the guidebook listed as banned; tank tops, short skirts, tight jeans. However, with them it is accepted whereas you (if you are Western looking) will be getting glances or comments no matter how grubby your pants or how baggy your shirt. In India, Indian men actually take day trips from the cities to nearby touristy beach resorts to come and stand on the beach (yes, they stand on the beach all day, occasionally trying to sneak-photograph you) and drool over the meat market which is displayed; Western girls in bikinis. For them this must be Playboy in action.
Practice Safe Sun
Tourists, especially those from colder parts of the world, are instantly recognisable after their first day in warmer climes. The natives are often pretty pale, believe it or not. You don't believe that the sun really is stronger, and go spend a few hours on the beach to get a tan and 'blend in'. Half an hour without sun protection is plenty for almost anyone to get a good sunburn started.
After one day, you'll wake up bright red, swollen, often with blisters. A good sunburn doesn't seem to fully develop until you've slept on it. You'll wake up in the wee hours with every part of your body in severe pain, even your scalp and the tips of your ears. Your feet are likely to be so swollen that you can't get your shoes on. If the sun touches your body for even a moment, you'll know exactly what it feels like to be a vampire who stayed out too long.
By the end of your stay, you'll probably start that sexy peeling. The perfect tan you wanted to go home and show off to your friends will look like full-body dandruff. Every time you take your clothes off there will be a flurry of dead skin drifting to the ground. It'll itch, too.
When you're in the tropics, use sun screen. Use it every time you go out. The SPF rating works like this: say it takes 15 minutes before you start to burn. You multiply the minutes by the SPF and that'll tell you approximately how long you have before you'll be sunburnt. SPF 10 gives 150 minutes. The highest SPF in a product is the highest protection rating you'll get. SPF 10 along with SPF 15 does not give SPF 25. You'll need to reapply. Read the directions and enjoy your stay.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen
According to Noel Coward only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. So if you are from a temperate climate follow the example of the natives in a hot climate:
In other words siesta time. After all most of the public buildings are likely to be shut at this time, and more than likely likely everyone comes to life late in the evening as a result.
If you are either a mad dog or English or both, feel free to ignore this advice; we'd hate to ruin a good song.
Do try to have at least some idea of where you're driving before you get behind the wheel and put the car in gear. Figure out where you're going and look at a map so you have an idea of how to get to that destination. Please. Also, obeying traffic laws is always a bonus that will help you blend in. People who make a U-turn in the middle of a busy street because they passed their hotel on the first go do not endear themselves to the locals.
And remember, Brits, most foreigners drive on the wrong side of the road.
In Hershey, Pennsylvania we get our fair share of tourists visiting the chocolate factory, the amusement park, the golf courses, the historic gardens, the shops and the sports complex. Many locals in the area give out-of-state drivers a wide berth since they are likely to veer wildly across three lanes of traffic without signalling because they've decided at the last moment that they'd really like to visit the gardens.
Learn a bit of the local language:
When I was a coach driver I did a bit of tour work in France. The Gendarmerie had a great little money-making system going - fine the British coach driver. They would wait at the pé age (toll) at the end of an autoroute and pull over every British coach that came through and give it a thorough inspection. I quickly learned that if you greeted them in French and could answer their standard questions in French, they were much more tolerant to minor misdemeanours than if you could only reply in English.
It's also a major bonus if you can recognise place names in the local language eg Koln for Cologne, Praha for Prague - it cuts out a lot of unnecessary mileage.
Dos and Don'ts
Location, Location, Location
Below you'll find some useful pointers when visiting specific countries or regions around the world:
A lot of the tourist stuff applies for Paris: don't carry too much, dress like you would at home, and say Merci instead of 'Thanks', even though you may have just finished an entire exchange with someone in English. If you're just walking around with people, try not to crowd the sidewalks, and (if you're in a group of teenagers or other talkative people) try not to converse too much or too loudly in English. The best way to cover long distances in Paris is to use the Mé tro. However, if you are only going one or two stops on the Mé tro, it is better to go on foot as the stations are usually only a couple of minutes' walk apart.
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
In the 'Pennsylvania Dutch Country' of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, there is a significant Amish population. These people who have adopted a 'plain' lifestyle as a part of their religion do not appreciate being gawked at and photographed by tourists. Yes, they are unique and interesting looking people. But please remember that they are human beings and as such, would appreciate having their beliefs respected.
It is OK to photograph them from afar, but getting right in their face with a camera or worse yet standing with one and posing for a photo is poor manners and shows you to be a boor.
Below you will find an essential ten-point plan that will ensure the smooth running of any holiday:
Use the Guide
It may be a bit self-promoting, but why not run the name of the place you're going through the h2g2 Search Engine? You're bound to find all sorts of local information and 'unconventional knowledge' in it - including driving etiquette, places to eat and things to do. As the Guide continues to grow, it's bound to become even more of a resource.
We grant you that many people won't take a holiday at Jumonville, Pennsylvania - but it's covered in the Guide in explicit detail.
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