Overtourism is hurting locals. Here’s how to be a better tourist.


My husband and I love to travel, and now that he’s retired we plan to see more of the world.

Next year I’m going to Cambodia and Vietnam, and in 2026 I’m planning a trip to Europe with some relatives.

Recent protests targeting tourists have made us more aware of the positive and negative effects of tourism. You should be concerned too.

Thousands of Barcelona residents took to the streets recently to protest the economic impact of overtourism in the city, wielding neon-colored water guns to spray diners at outdoor restaurants.

Protesters held up signs that read “Tourists go home.”

Their primary complaint, like that of many disgruntled locals around the world, is that excessive tourism has made the cost of living soar: Investors are buying up property to rent to tourists, driving up housing prices, and other entrepreneurs are scrambling to make money from travelers looking for accommodations beyond a standard hotel room.

The crowd is nervous The infrastructure of major tourist hotspots in the US and abroad, such as Amsterdam, Athens, Paris and Venice, UNESCO World Heritage sites, are overflowing with people looking to realise their bucket list dream vacations.

As a tourist, I have noticed that in the name of frugality, some tourists complain about prices and end up being stingy tourists, not tipping when they should, destroying historical landmarks, and not considering the positive impact they may have on the local economy.

I’m a very frugal person, but when I travel I tend to be overly generous. Here are five tips to help you avoid becoming an inconsiderate traveler:

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People who go into debt to travel and experience financial hardships often use the cost of travel to justify stingy behavior, like not tipping appropriately.

If you know you’ll be facing credit card bills with interest rates of 20 percent or more when you return home, it’s no wonder you want to worry about every penny.

So save up and head out: You’re likely to be a better, more generous traveller if you don’t have to worry about getting into debt when you return home.

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My husband and I like to find places that aren’t as crowded with tourists. This serves two purposes: we can relax and avoid the crowds, and we can support the shops, artists, and restaurants that aren’t as crowded as the tourist-filled places.

Trendy tourist locations are often expensive, so you can save money by finding less popular parts of cities and towns.

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Yes, tipping is not expected in many cities abroad, and it’s a welcome custom for many Americans who suffer from tip fatigue back home.

However, you may come across people who do not expect a tip but for whom you should give one, such as guides, street musicians, baggage handlers, and housekeepers.

Even if a tip is included, it’s a good idea to set aside some cash to show your appreciation to anyone who goes above and beyond your expectations.

Before you go, ask about the local tipping culture so you’re prepared to support those working to serve you.

Don’t be an entitled tourist.

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Remember: travel industry workers are not your servants.

You are a visitor and should be respectful of the places you visit and the people you meet. You might think this advice goes without saying, but social media posts and news reports tell a different story.

Is the selfie you want to take something that will damage property or disrupt the harmony of the place you are visiting?

Just because you spent a lot of money on your trip doesn’t mean you have a license to behave ugly, so don’t harass the locals with your bad financial behavior.

Have some leeway in your travel budget

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If you are visiting a country where the cost of living is known to be high or where the people live below the poverty line, bring an open mind.

In addition to holiday costs, consider the impact of donating essential items to residents and school children. Are there local charities you can support?

I would also like to revisit the issue of tipping.

A common question I get is, “Should I tip on the bill before tax?”

The general tipping guide from the Emily Post Institute, which offers etiquette advice, says tips should be given before or after tax, but some servers argue it’s petty to argue over whether tips should be given before or after tax.

For example, let’s say your meal costs $100 before tax. You add 6 percent sales tax, so your bill comes to $106. If you add a 20 percent tip before tax, your bill comes to $120. If you add the tax to the $106, your bill comes to $121.20.

So it’s not bad etiquette to rely on your tip only for the cost of the meal and not for tax, and you won’t be called stingy for tipping before tax, but for people making ends meet on a low wage, the extra money can go a long way.

Don’t be one of those tourists who rip off the locals who work in the travel industry. Being frugal doesn’t mean being stingy.

For more timeless personal finance advice, order Money Milestones by Michelle Singletary.



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