What to Know about Local Customs When Traveling Abroad

Sure, here in America (where AffordableTours.com is located) you can see plenty of natural sights and experience cultural events while never leaving the borders. However, a vacation to another country is often the best way to experience and immerse yourself into a completely new culture.

Many tourists may find themselves unprepared for such an experience, so it’s important to do some research on your planned destination before heading over. Here are some tips on what to be aware of when you’re abroad, to ensure a successful, stress-free vacation.

Be Aware of Local Religious Customs

It’s possible you may be traveling through a location with a strong religious presence. This may mean sales of certain food and drink are restricted, certain public behaviors or manner of dress are prohibited, or even that you can expect certain regular religious rituals and ceremonies. (In any locale with a strong Islamic presence, you can expect to see many people pray to Mecca five times a day– perhaps the local town even has a bell or chime that sounds at those times.) It is not only important to be aware of the local religious practices, but also the degree to which they influence the laws and culture.

In areas where religious fundamentalism has a strong influence, behaviors violating its tenets may be considered illegal. This will probably not be the case in many places you visit, although anything that is offensive to the local culture will still generally be frowned upon. As always, the best advice is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Learn what is both legal and acceptable in your destination. Your vacation will go more smoothly if you respect local traditions and make an effort to fit into them, rather than flaunting them because you can.

Dress appropriately

 As mentioned, this can be important if you are in a region with a strong religious presence. Just as important is blending in with the locals as much as possible. You’ll generally receive better service in local establishments (that is, ones that aren’t tourism-related or cater to vacationers) if you aren’t obviously a tourist. More importantly, pickpockets and other thieves tend to target tourists as naive and unsuspecting. If you stand out as a tourist, you will be at more of a risk.

To this end,  you’ll want to dress in a manner similar to the locals, while avoiding signifiers that you are a tourist. Don’t wear your camera around your neck. Avoid bright colors and any kind of imagery or symbolism to which a  local might have strong objections. Jewelry can only serve as a target for thieves– leave it. Pack clothing appropriate to the culture:

  • Many European cultures frown upon athletic wear as casual wear; go with the khakis, not the shorts, and the walking shoes, not the tennis shoes or sandals.
  • If visiting a strongly religious area, or a house of worship, pack something appropriately modest.

If need be, shop at a local store once you arrive – the surest way to blend in is to wear the same clothes the locals do.

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