23 year old Eleanor Hawkins unfortunately made the international news recently due to stripping off at the sacred Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia. A few days later, the area suffered an earthquake which killed 18 people. Local priests blamed this on the group, who they said, had ‘upset the Gods’.
Some would say it’s an error of judgement, others just plain arrogance and moronic behaviour of westerners travelling to a sacred location (it’s easily researched I promise). The reluctance to then show any remorse or sympathy for the tragedy that took place just confirmed another show of ignorance.
After spending three days in jail and a fine of £850, it’s fair to say that Eleanor and her group of friends are the latest example of what NOT to do when travelling.
On that note, here’s my top five tips of what NOT to do. Hopefully this will prevent you from making a similar mistake. Note, this isn’t a conclusive list by any means.
Respect local laws, customs, traditions
It takes a few minutes of your time to research pretty much anything these days. Quite simply, do it. Be self-aware of your behaviour, clothing, bodily contact and general conduct overall. I’ve always researched ahead of taking a trip but when I was preparing to travel to Abu Dhabi and India this year, I spent a little more time reading up on clothing. As a female traveller I knew that I needed to pack an extra scarf or two.
Don’t eat at a major tourist site
Get off the beaten track (literally), and try somewhere that it’s a little less familiar. You could stumble upon a gem and it’s likely to save some pennies for your pocket too. In Paris, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a back street a few streets from the Eiffel Tower. Hungry and convinced that I didn’t want to eat in another cafe, I found a Thai restaurant that offered authentic food at great prices. I returned again the following day and a couple of years later when I was back in the city.
Avoid changing money at the airport
You’ll get the worst exchange rates. To get the best rates, use a debit or credit card – if you’re in the UK then Halifax Clarity card remains one of the most suitable for global travel with zero fees charged. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Don’t skip booking travel insurance
When you’ve invested in travel, it’s unimaginable to not invest in travel insurance as well. You never know what can happen on the road – from breaking a leg to losing your luggage, it’s a peace of mind reassurance for you, your travel partner and your family/ friends back home. If something does happen to you and you don’t have insurance, it can cost thousands of pounds in out-of-pocket expenses which is likely to ruin any holiday.
Avoid speaking in English only
It’s ignorant to expect everybody to speak in your mother tongue. We’re a diverse society after all. If you’re travelling to a new place then why not welcome the opportunity to learn a few simple phrases? You’ll succeed in surprising locals who will only appreciate your efforts and it can be a great conversation starter if you’re travelling solo.
No matter where you’re travelling to, ignoring local customs and boasting a disrespectful attitude to the local people is a sure way for things to backfire. If you’re not sure, don’t do it.
If you have the privilege of travel, do yourself and others a favour by respecting the country and it’s people, behaving yourself and most importantly – enjoy the experience.