Updated: Feb 20
Thistles and Coos offers relatable and relevant travel advice. We are committed to provide accessible and affordable travel information peppered with our funny stories and experiences.
We promise this title is not “click-bait’, as we want you to consider our suggestions when traveling and not be a shitty tourist.
Let us explain why we are using the “shitty tourist” label by relating a story.
While trying to warm up and dry out in a coffee shop in Edinburgh, we overheard a conversation amongst a group of walking tour guides. If you have ever had a service-related job, you’ve dealt with the unfavorable customer.
One of the tour guides was complaining about some of his customers on his walking tour of Edinburgh Castle.
Apparently, a couple asked him about the rain in Scotland… they didn't know about Scotland's weather and had not realized it rained so much and didn't come prepared. (You are a savvy traveler, pack this before heading to rainy Scotland and no complaining!)
His response was classic: “You are in Scotland, it always rains. Do your research.”
His fellow tour guides all laughed and under his breath complained “shitty tourists.”
At this point, he had our undivided attention and we chuckled at his annoyance. He looked at us and asked, “You’re not waiting for the next walking tour?”
“Nope,” we chimed in. “Just to let you know, we aren’t your shitty tourists.”
We have all seen and perhaps have been an ill-behaved tourist whether traveling stateside or international. No one wants to experience an embarrassing situation, so here are some quick prevention tips to consider:
Interact with the locals.
Do your research: the weather, cultural nuances, history...
Expect to stand in line.
Try local cuisines if offered to you.
Respect the land.
Interact with the Locals:
Travel is exciting, and it is during these moments we learn about ourselves. Take the time to “blend.” We are not saying hide your identity; we want you to be engaged with people and your surroundings.
Visiting all the museums and tourist attractions is fantastic, but we encourage you hang out with the local people. You will hear and see things you may not experience on a tour.
Listen. See. Feel. Experience. Follow the Rules and Social Cues.
When you are touring a museum, follow the rules. If it says no cameras, NO cameras.
Use your inside voice….
On a night out in Ireland, we started our evening in a pub having some great “pub grub”. We were excited because a local Irish band was scheduled to play. We sat in the middle amongst the locals, listening to hushed tones of conversation. Most voices were barely above a whisper.
The 3 piece band begins to set up in the front window. The lady tunes her violin. A man opens his case and pulls out his guitar. A flute is being shined by the third person. The crowd eagerly awaits for the music to begin.
Patrons in the pub begin to turn their chairs and turn their attention to the front bay window. The bartender serves the musicians their drinks. The place becomes quieter, until…
“HEY KIDDO!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU TOOK A BATH! WOW! DID YOU EAT? WHAT IS THE DOG DOING?...”
Oblivious to her surroundings this lady continued to yell into her phone “chatting” with her young child, although it could have been her husband - who knows.
We stared at her, hoping she could feel the weighty glares and audience telepathy telling her to STFU. Take the hint.
We know that the use of technology has made a vast world a bit smaller, along with our manners. Respect the musicians. Many places will kick you out for using your cell phone during performances. Enjoy the moment and absorb the convivial atmosphere. Take the call outside.
Do Your Research:
We cannot stress it enough for you to do your research on each country you are visiting. Prepare yourself.
Our first trip to Scotland, we did not do our historical research. In fact, most of what I (Connie) knew about Scotland was from reading The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon and watching the series on TV. Not the best historical resource, but it did lead me to do more research for our next trip.
A friend of ours was relaying a story about a trip to a remote town in Japan. At the time, she had long blonde hair, and she had not prepared herself for people around her to want to touch her hair. She looked different and this was intriguing to the locals. No harm in letting someone touch your hair...not that you can prepare yourself for every scenario, but be open to the differences in cultures.
When you travel to Scotland, Ireland, or England…. plan for rain. Quite the opposite if you find yourself in the United Arab Emirates, plan for high temperatures and little if any precipitation. #enoughsaid
“The early bird catches the worm.” You are probably familiar with this saying.
With that in mind, be early to your tours. Nobody likes to wait, and it is rather presumptuous to assume the tour guides will wait for you. Plan for extra walking time or for the many stops the bus/train will take. However, life is not without its vicissitudes.
Fortunately, there are ways to control this. Be sure to call ahead or request a late entry in the event of an emergency.
Greg was late for the tour of Mary King’s Close (long story to be told over a dram of whisky) in Edinburgh. We had started the tour and explained that he was running late due to a personal issue. The tour guides had designated a late entry point for him to join the tour. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but be willing to accept if you are turned down.
Expect to Stand in Line:
Queue-ing is very important in many countries, especially in the UK, Sweden and the US.
A line keeps order. Be aware and follow those around you when visiting a famous tourist site.
On our way to see the Crown Jewels in Edinburgh Castle, a line had formed and we followed suit. We had to use our bodies as shields in this line because a group of tourists, not aware of proper queue-ing protocol, decided to bum rush to the front of the line.
Umm. No. We were here first. Flashback to grade school where you have a leader and a caboose. #nocuts
Try Local Cuisine:
As parents, we are continually surprised by our children. One of the greatest shocks is when our children will eat food at a friend’s house they NEVER eat at home. #raisedright
Take this principle and apply it to trying new foods in other countries. Natalie loves haggis and I keep trying it. #oneday
Try the chocolate-covered crickets or the Fried Mars Bar. If it’s something you absolutely do not want to eat, be polite in your refusal.
Respect the land:
“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.” ~Barbara Ward
Our rule of thumb is to leave no trace behind. When you are hiking or visiting a city, throw your trash away or take it with you. Most European cities have dedicated places to recycle refuse.
Be mindful of this throughout your trip.
We rented a car through Enterprise Rent-a-Car and one of their promotions included a paper trash bag. The promo encouraged us to pick up trash we see and place it in the bag. We could either throw the bag away ourselves or leave it in the car for an employee of Enterprise to take care of it.
Bag in hand, we took it upon ourselves to pick up trash we found on the beaches.
Well done Enterprise.
Again, we want to encourage you to travel, have fun, experience everything the world has to offer.
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