Each industry has its own unwritten rules, and the travel industry is not an exception. As a traveller, you become acquainted with it after your first few trips. How many times haven’t you ended up chatting with a fellow countryman in some faraway country? Do you still remember the first time you tried saying Como llego a este lugar somewhere in central America but forgot the sentence and mumbled something incomprehensible instead? We’ve all been there and this is how the unwritten rules of travelling were born.
As we agreed on the existence of the unwritten rules of travelling we should ask ourselves why do they matter?
Well, first of all, the unwritten rules of travelling matter because they make all travellers out there selfless and more caring people. By helping one another, we become better persons.
Secondly, it matters because that’s how we can shape the next generation of travellers to become more empathetic. I’m quite sure that when you helped that 1st-time traveller, it stayed with him and right now he is helping whenever he can. Again, it is all about sharing and caring for one another.
Thirdly, it matters because some actions are actually sustainable, like sharing stuff or trying out local foods. These are all actions that promote a better and more sustainable way of doing tourism. And we all know how much impact this has on the environment nowadays.
Now, that we agreed on the existence of the unwritten rules of travelling and why do they matter, let’s have a look at them and what each of them mean for the travellers’ community.
1. Say HI to your countrymen
It’s polite to say hi to someone from your home country if you meet them during a trip abroad. This is one of the most basic rules of travelling. Travellers should not ignore their countrymen if they meet them abroad. Go say hi and ask how do they do? I’m sure they will appreciate that someone from their country took the time to come up to them and say hello. This rule is probably more adequate for solo travellers since saying hello to a group of people can be awkward.
2. Use your language skills to help
You should always help another traveller if he/she cannot speak the local language and you can. However, make sure the person really wants to be helped, you don’t want to look like an intruder. If you are sure the person really needs your help, go ahead, I’m sure they will appreciate your effort.
3. Lend your stuff
Don’t hesitate to lend your charger to another fellow traveller if she/he asks for it. It’s so nice to know you’ve helped someone. At the end of the day, this is what the travellers’ community is there for: to help other travellers when they need it. Do little gestures of kindness and be assured that they will get returned to you.
4. Let people use your phone
Allow travellers to use your phone if you have a local sim. I have been helped and helped travellers so many times this way. During my travels in India, I relied entirely on local people’s goodwill who were booking me uber cars. I could have not done it without them because I did not have a local sim at the time. I cannot stress how useful this has been for me.
5. Help other travellers
Help newly arrived travellers find their way around if you’ve already been in a place for several days already. If you are already familiar with a place, share your knowledge with the ones arriving after you. It’s always nice to get insights from people who’ve already been to places you want to visit. I cannot recall how many times other people’s stories made me take better decisions regarding my trip itineraries. I’ve swapped places or skipped places based on conversations I had with other travellers.
6. Do not take advantage of your travel buddy
Always pay back your fellow traveller if she/he has done you this favour (do so before you split up). When you travel with someone else, you will naturally get to share some costs. Do remember to pay your travel buddy back when your time together ends. Since most of us travel on a low budget, it’s only fair to not take advantage of our fellow travellers.
7. Do not be afraid to join group activities
Couple up with fellow travellers to bring down your travel costs. This is one of the best ways to bring down your trip costs and make new friends. This is useful especially when you need to hire a guide or book a ride to a remote place. I coupled up with fellow travellers so many times now and I can only be grateful for that because, on top of saving money, I also met some really interesting people.
8. Buy a gift
Always bring a gift for your CouchSurfing host. Since you do not have to pay for your accommodation, it’s only fair to bring your host a nice present. By buying a gift you will not only show your appreciation, but you will also break the ice because let’s admit it, meetings with strangers can always feel a bit awkward at the beginning.
9. To keep safe do not show off
One of the golden rules of solo travelling is to be modest. It’s always safer if you do not show off your valuables. Otherwise, you can become an easy target for pickpocketers. It’s always advisable to keep a low profile, especially if you are travelling by yourself. I’ve been applying this method for years and not a single time in my 10y of solo travelling have I been the target of pickpocketers. Now, I cannot guarantee this has been the only reason. I must have been lucky as well. However, I strongly believe this method helped significantly.
10. Have several backup cards with you
You must always have more than 1 card on you (it is strongly advisable to have different cards types: MasterCard, Visa, credit/debit, travel cards etc). Why? Because sometimes cards get rejected and you need a backup. Travelling with several types of cards on me saved me from messy situations so many times. Therefore, it’s one of the first suggestions I would make to a newbie in travelling.
11. Learn a few words in the local language
Whenever you can learn to say thanks or hi in the local language (you will show respect towards the country you’re visiting). A small gesture like saying Hi in the local language can have such a positive impact on the local community. Because they will perceive you like someone wanting to integrate. You won’t be the foreign tourist who only came to party hard (nothing wrong with it) and didn’t care about anything else.
12. Try out local foods
If you can, try out traditional dishes (no matter how weird the dish might sound to you). This is something I truly recommend to fully immerse yourself in the country’s culture. Obviously, if you have food intolerances/allergies or religious beliefs that’s another story. But for those who can do it, I would really encourage you to try out local foods and drinks in the country you’re visiting.
The purpose of the unwritten rules of travelling is to encourage responsible and meaningful travelling while promoting the spirit of the travel community. Travellers should be encouraged to care more about each other and even look after one another when they travel together. A healthier mindset is needed if we want more and more people to enjoy this beautiful planet and all its wonders for many years to come.
And we can only do so by looking after our planet’s amazing places while adopting a more responsible way of travelling. I can only feel lucky having visited already so many places and I want younger people to be able to do the same.