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The world's worst types of tourists: From 'begpackers' to exhibitionists

From backpackers begging on the streets to a family that terrorised an entire country, here are some of the world’s worst tourists. You’ve been warned.

Being a tourist in another country isn’t any different from being a guest in someone’s home. You’re being warmly welcomed into someone’s special place but at the same time, you’ll have to behave yourself.

Unfortunately, you’ve always got the occasional rotten apple likely to act otherwise – every so often a report pops up on our newsfeeds about a cringe-worthy incident involving tourists who ought to know better.

Here’s our list of the worst types of travellers that have shocked, provoked and infuriated people around the world.



The Exhibitionist. (Illustration: Jasper Loh)

Many of the world’s best tourist sites and landmarks can evoke a sense of awe in visitors. But apparently, for some tourists, certain places are just so jaw-droppingly magnificent they find themselves compelled to take their clothes off for a photo-op.

In 2015, 10 tourists went nude on the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, following eight others from America and Canada the year before. Closer to home, two Americans were arrested in Thailand for the act of mooning while visiting Bangkok’s famous Wat Arun in 2017.

But stripping naked wasn’t enough for Danish photographer Andreas Hvid, who went ahead and also had sex with an unnamed model on top of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt last December. He would later backtrack on his “pyramid porn” moment, which he recorded on social media, saying it was all faked – as if that made things better.


The Wannabe Graffiti Artist. (Illustration: Jasper Loh)

Street art has become a major tourist draw everywhere. A badly written “I was here”, however, does not count – especially if you’re doing it on walls that have been around for centuries.

READ: The Princess, The Influencer and other friends you don't want to travel with

Last November, a Canadian and a British tourist narrowly escaped jail time after defacing an ancient brick wall in Chiang Mai. The two had been arrested after they fancied themselves to be Banksy and sprayed the words “Scouser Lee” on one of the historical gates of the city, which has some parts dating back to the 13th century.

Other wince-worthy graffiti moments through the years have included a Chinese teenager who wrote his name on a sculpture at a 3,500-year-old Temple of Luxor in Egypt back in 2013; and even a former NBA player, Bobby Brown, who couldn’t resist writing his name on the Great Wall of China during a tour in 2016.


The animal-terrorising tourist. (Illustration: Jasper Loh)

In 2017, a baby dolphin died after tourists off a beach in Spain plucked it out of the water for some selfies. The sad thing was that it wasn’t the first time – the year before, two dolphins who were swimming near a resort in Argentina also found themselves mobbed by tourists, who passed one of them around for selfies on the beach. Not surprisingly, it died.

It’s not just dolphins, mind you. Around the same time, over in China, a couple of peacocks in a zoo in Kunming also died after local tourists picked them up for, you guessed it, selfies. Oh, and some of the birds’ feathers were plucked out too.

Of course, at some point, nature fights back, like what happened last year, when a Singaporean tourist keen on getting that nice shot of a komodo dragon in Indonesia got pounced on by another one and had to be rushed to a hospital to have his leg treated. At least he’s still alive.


The Tourist With Sticky Fingers. (Illustration: Jasper Loh)

If you’re in another country, it’s understandable to want to bring back a souvenir or two to remember your trip by. But a toilet seat cover?

That’s what a Chinese couple did last year – after finding a spare one underneath their hotel bed in Nagoya. Their excuse? They thought it was left by previous occupants.

READ: Passengers behaving badly – and what you can do about them

That’s nothing, however, compared to two other incidents that also made the news last year: A couple of Hungarians were caught trying to steal bricks from the Auschwitz death camp, while a Frenchman was caught in Pompeii with a backpack containing 13 fragments of terracotta and a piece of marble taken from the House of Loreius Tiburtinus. In both incidents, the tourists were fined and given a suspended sentence.

And it’s not just the possibility of cultural heritage theft some countries have to worry about. Just last month, a Chinese university lecturer was detained for trying to leave the Weizhou Island nature reserve with a Styrofoam box containing 10 pieces of coral – which he had actually broken off from a coral that he had dug up.


The Begpacker. (Illustration: Jasper Loh)

Now this type of tourist is quite a recent phenomenon. You’ll see them around many places in the region, like Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong and even Singapore – grungy-looking backpackers squatting at a marketplace with a sign begging for money to pay for their travels.

To be honest, they’re really more of an irritating eyesore but as a recent incident showed, the situation can get dangerous. Last month, a Russian couple was arrested in Malaysia for endangering their baby by swinging him around by the legs and throwing him in the air – as a busking performance in Bukit Bintang.


The 'Thug' Tourist. (Illustration: Jasper Loh)

Perhaps the ultimate worst tourists are those who act as if they own the place, causing damage left and right, completely oblivious to the horrified stares of those around them. 

And these incidents of mayhem come in all sorts: Chinese tourists climbing up Japan’s beloved sakura trees and shaking them just to get that nice photo of falling flowers; slapping an immigration officer in anger just because a flight was missed (which was what a British citizen did in Bali last year); or even carjacking a minibus for a joy ride (one drunk Australian thought that was a good idea in Hong Kong in 2015).

But these are all isolated incidents. What if it was a group of people doing the rampaging? Like what happened in 2016 during the opening weekend of Shanghai Disneyland, which saw cases of vandalism and littering – and even the sight of a mother letting her child poo out in the park grounds.

And then there’s the case of the British family that practically terrorised an entire country. 

Last year, New Zealand got the shock of its life when 12 unruly tourists wreaked havoc everywhere they went, littering, leaving hotel rooms in a mess (and stinking of poo), refusing to pay for meals at restaurants, shoplifting and threatening locals. It got so bad they were actually deported.

Source: CNA/mm