Overtourism annoys the locals. Here’s how to become a better tourist.

Overtourism annoys the locals. Here’s how to become a better tourist.

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

Next year we are going to Cambodia and Vietnam, and for 2026 we are planning a trip to Europe with the extended family.

The recent protests against travelers have made me more aware of the positive and negative impacts of tourism. You should think about them too.

Thousands of Barcelona residents recently took to the streets to protest against the financial consequences of overtourism in their city. Armed with neon-colored water pistols, they sprayed visitors to outdoor restaurants.

Protesters carried signs reading “Tourists, go home.”

Their main complaint – like that of many disgruntled locals around the world – is that extreme tourism has driven up the cost of living. Investors are snapping up properties to rent to tourists, driving up housing costs. Other entrepreneurs are also rushing to make money off travelers looking for accommodation other than a standard hotel room.

The crowds are tense the infrastructure of popular tourist destinations in the United States and other cities abroad, such as Amsterdam, Athens, Paris and Venice. UNESCO World Heritage sites are overrun by people trying to check their dream vacation off their bucket list.

Another thing I have noticed as a tourist is that under the guise of being frugal, some visitors complain about the prices and become travelling misers. They don’t tip when they should, they destroy historical monuments and they don’t consider the positive financial impact they could have on the local economy.

Although I’m frugal, I tend to be overly generous when I travel. Here are five tips to avoid being a reckless tourist.

Back to menu

In my experience, people who overextend themselves financially by going into debt for a trip justify their stinginess, such as not tipping appropriately, by pointing to the cost of their trip.

It’s understandable that they want to watch every penny when they know that when they return they’ll be faced with a credit card bill with an interest rate of over 20 percent.

So, save up and get going. You’ll likely be a better and more generous traveler if you don’t have to worry about the debt that awaits you when you return home.

Back to menu

My husband and I like to find places that are less frequented by the tourist crowds. This serves two purposes. We can relax without the crowds and we support merchants, artists and restaurants that don’t face the same traffic as the tourist traps.

Popular places that cater to tourists often have higher prices, so we can save money by visiting less popular parts of a city or town.

Back to menu

Yes, tipping is not expected in many cities abroad, and for many Americans who suffer from tipping fatigue at home, this is a welcome practice.

However, you may encounter many people – tour guides, buskers, porters or maids – who you should tip, even if tipping is not expected.

Even if a tip is included in the price, it’s nice to have cash on hand to show appreciation to people who go above and beyond in their service.

Before you leave, learn about the local tipping culture so you are prepared to support those who work for you.

Don’t be the spoiled tourist

Back to menu

Remember: travel industry employees are not your servants.

You are a visitor and should respect 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.

Will the selfie you want to take damage property or disturb the harmony of the place you are visiting?

If you spend a lot of money on your trip, that’s no reason to behave badly. Don’t annoy the locals with bad financial behavior.

Plan generosity into your travel budget

Back to menu

If you visit a country where the cost of living is high or where citizens live below the poverty line, show generosity.

In addition to your holiday costs, consider the impact of donating much-needed items to local residents or school children. Is there a local charity you can support?

Let me come back to the topic of tipping.

A question I am often asked is: Should you tip on the gross bill?

The Emily Post Institute’s general tipping guide, which offers etiquette advice, says you should tip before taxes. However, some servers say it’s petty to argue about whether you should tip before or after taxes.

For example, let’s say your meal costs $100 before tax. With 6% sales tax, the bill is $106. Before tax, a 20% tip would bring the bill to $120. At $106 including tax, your bill would be $121.20.

So you’re not breaking etiquette if you base your tip only on the food and not on taxes. You also shouldn’t be called a cheapskate if you tip without taxes. However, the extra money could be a big help to someone who is trying to get by on a low salary.

Don’t be the tourist who rips off the locals who work in the travel industry. Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to be stingy.

For more timeless personal finance tips, order your copy of Money Milestones by Michelle Singletary.