If you are planning a city break this summer here are a few tips to help you be a better guest in another city. I live in Copenhagen and from the start of the summer we are lucky enough to attract a large number of tourists which is great for our economy. However as a local it can sometimes get frustrating so here are my tips on how to be a better tourist (I also take my own advice when travelling!) both for your own enjoyment and for those around you.
It is possible to look at your map/phone without stopping dead in the street. In a busy pedestrian street this can cause the equivalent of human traffic jams and accidents, especially if those around you are also looking at their phones. Move to the side of the pavement or where you are walking before stopping to Instagram or look at your map.
I have lost count of the number of people looking at everything through the lens of a camera or phone or simply thrusting out a selfie stick to ‘capture the moment’. Take in the city around you through your eyes, ears and other senses, make real memories not just instagrammable moments. Visit more than just the main sights but if you do actually enjoy them rather than simply ticking off a list. ‘Doing’ a city is more than just a collection of digital images.
Still on the subject of photos – an iPad is not a camera – it is tablet with a photo taking function. And if you are going to use it to take photos at least turn it round to landscape!
Pay what you should and don’t dodge fares, thinking because you’re a tourist you can get away with it. Of course you may get away with it, especially in cities with barrier free public transport, but as a guest it is pretty rude to take for free what others pay for.
Follow rules especially on the roads. I cringe when I see tourists on hotel bicycles weaving around the cycle paths in Copenhagen, narrowly missing other cyclists and causing mayhem. If you plan to cycle in a city and you don’t normally whizz around on two wheels, spend five minutes on the Internet to find out the rules first.
Learn a bit about the culture before you come especially the currency – not all of Europe uses the Euro. I witnessed a very rude American tourist shouting at a bus driver who refused to take Euros for the fare. The tourist was insisting that as Denmark was in Europe he could use his Euros everywhere. Some tourist places may take Euros outside the Eurozone but don’t count on it.
If you do quirky tours like Segway expect people to smirk and laugh at you. I have heard that these tours are great fun but more and more cities such as Prague and Barcelona are banning them in their historic centres as they are ruining the experience of the city for others. We have centuries of history in Europe plus some of the best modern architecture in the world, try simply enjoying it for what it is instead of having to make it artificially more ‘exciting’.
Don’t be loud and obnoxious. Ask people questions but be polite. This of course should be the mantra for life in general but most particularly when you are visiting another country. And just because English isn’t the national language doesn’t mean people can’t understand you without you shouting at them. Equally if you are saying rude things about those around you or the food, they can probably understand you.
I know it is good to get out and about sightseeing before the crowds get there but remember cities are also where people work and live – avoid cluttering up public transport at rush hour times. And if you need to carry a large rucksack around when you are travelling on public transport, remember it doubles your size and annoys others so take it off your back.
Most cities have a thriving local independent coffee shop and cafe scene and these businesses really benefit from tourist income. Experience and support local coffee shops and food places and don’t buy your coffee from Starbucks or food from multinational chains. Websites such as Spotted by Locals are a great way to find out the best local places to go.
And finally slow down and enjoy the city around you.