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Travel Etiquette 101: A Refresher

Whether you’re on the road for business or pleasure, it’s always good to get a refresher on travel etiquette.

If this is the first time at your destination, read up on the place in advance, especially about the history and culture if you’re traveling to a foreign country.

For foreign destinations it’s courteous — and helpful — to learn some common words and phrases before you go. Apps like Duolingo can be a fun introduction to a new language. It’s also handy to have Google Translate, or something similar, on your phone. Just type a sentence in English to get a translation into any one of dozens of languages.

If you’re not used to carrying a lot of small bills in your wallet, remember that you’ll need them in situations where you can’t simply add a tip on your credit card. Think about the staff at your hotel, like the concierge, porters or housekeepers, who are usually tipped in cash.

You probably have a sense of how much to tip if you’re traveling in the United States — $2 to $3 a night for hotel housekeeping, 10 percent to 15 percent for a taxi driver, 15 percent to 20 percent for restaurant waitstaff. But there may be different expectations when you’re traveling abroad. For example, in Europe, restaurant tips are generally more modest than in the United States, and service may be included.

When it comes to museums and other cultural attractions, be mindful of the rules. Remember, you’re looking at fragile items that may be centuries old and are irreplaceable. You want to make sure they can be enjoyed for generations to come. So that means not standing or sitting where you’re not supposed to be, or touching anything you’re not supposed to touch. 

Regulations regarding photography also vary. At some places, you can take photos everywhere, as long as you don’t use a flash. Others may allow it only in certain areas. Or, photography may be banned completely. For example, you can take photos in all areas of the Vatican Museums apart from the Sistine Chapel, where it’s forbidden.

Many museums have also banned the use of selfie sticks, out of a concern that distracted visitors could damage priceless artwork or inadvertently poke someone while they’re trying to get that perfect shot. If there’s any doubt about the photography policy, just ask.

If you’re a business traveler, there are other considerations when it comes to etiquette, especially if you’ll be meeting people for the first time. From what you wear to the way you greet new clients and colleagues, you want to make sure that you strike exactly the right tone. You want to fit in — not appear overly casual or overly formal. It’s a good idea to read up on the business culture of the place you’re visiting, especially if it’s abroad or even in another region of the United States.

For help navigating any travel plans, contact your travel advisor or connect with one through JetSetGO.