Travel etiquette raises countless questions. How messy should you leave a hotel room? How much should you tip a cab driver? Who owns the airplane armrest? What are appropriate expectations for kids on a plane? Do you say hello to strangers on the streets of a bustling metropolis? When is it okay to honk on a countryside road? Though there are some basic rules of civility that are globally recognized—listening to what other people say, being aware of what other people do, and interacting with other people with respect—many of the answers to these questions depend on cultural context. Let Travel + Leisure guide you through the sometimes confounding, sometimes delightful maze of travel etiquette
When travelers encounter a very different culture, expectations—on both sides of the culture divide—change. Locals might not be surprised when Americans stick out their hand for a shake, even if it might otherwise be a faux-pas. Likewise, when the French go in for a greeting kiss, otherwise-averse Americans may already be prepared for the incoming lips. This tension between surprise, discomfort, and discovery is what makes travel so exciting. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort.
A little research goes a long way. Offer to take off your shoes before entering a private residence in Japan. Rely on your right hand alone at meals in India and the Middle East. Common sense goes even longer: don’t deface public property or natural spaces. (Avoid the ignoble fame of the French hitchhiker who destroyed local street signs after he didn’t catch a ride in a small New Zealand town, or the American social media maven who painted natural rock faces in a National Park and posted them on Instagram.) And whatever you do, do not—do not—touch museum items.