19 Things You Must Avoid When Traveling in Europe

Though there are many cheesy comedies about tourists in Europe, you shouldn’t want to spend your vacation living those old jokes. Being mindful of the culture and rules can keep you safe and out of jail, and taking time to explore the true culture can make your trip more meaningful. Don’t do these 19 things if you want to enjoy your stay in Europe.

Drinking in Public

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Public consumption of alcohol is legal in some countries, like Germany, but it’s illegal in others, such as Poland, where you could be fined. So while you may have dreams of walking down the streets with a nice adult beverage, it is important to make sure you know the local laws first.

Taking Selfies with Selfie Sticks

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According to The Local, Milan has banned selfie sticks to crack down on “anti-social behavior.” It may not be illegal in every place you travel, but it may be considered rude or tacky. Be mindful of what you see the locals doing and try to follow their lead.


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You shouldn’t litter anywhere. However, littering in Europe can result in fines, especially since there’s a ban on using plastic bottles and cutleries in many European countries. Also, notice that some European countries have different rules and places for recycling, and in some countries, you can even get money back for recycling certain items.

Wearing Heels at Historic Sites

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Not only can heels be impractical when you’re running around Europe trying to take it all in in a short time, but in some places, they’re considered disrespectful or are even not allowed at all. Heels were banned from historic monuments in Greece because they have the potential to scratch the surface of these monuments. 

Expecting Waiters to Drop the Bill

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Americans are used to servers popping by their table multiple times during the meal and dropping the bill with a “no rush” that always feels like a nudge out the door. It’s considered rude in many European cultures to rush people through their dining experience. You will need to ask for the check or politely get the server’s attention if you need something.

Assuming That Everyone Knows English

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It’s easy to assume everyone in Europe speaks English because so many do; however, it is rude to expect people in their own country to speak your native tongue. When traveling, make your best attempts to use the language of the land or travel with someone who does. Translate apps aren’t perfect but they can generally get an idea across.

Wearing Only a Bikini in Public Places

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Even if you weren’t planning on walking the streets of Paris in your two-piece, it is good to know how much trouble you can get into if the mood strikes. In several European countries, wearing only swimming shorts or a bikini on a public street is illegal. In Mallorca, the ban even includes the beachfront promenade.

Leaving a Bigger Tip Than Required

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Americans love to brag about being big tippers, but the culture around tipping varies from country to country. Servers are paid a living wage in European nations, and tips are considered a small bonus to reward great service or round the total bill to a convenient number.


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Jaywalking is a way of life in some U.S. cities. However, in countries like Germany, it’s a social rule to wait for the green light at pedestrian crossings and locals will reprimand you for breaking this rule even in the middle of the night.

Taxis Late At Night

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If you’re looking for a licensed taxi stand, they’re usually marked with a “T.” Making sure to be in a reputable taxi can help save you from extra fees and scams. “Ignore drivers that approach you off the street and make sure [their] driver’s license is clearly visible in the cab,” advises Get Tours. If you are traveling at night, it may be easier and safer to use Uber or another local app.

Peeing in the Ocean

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In Portugal, there is a law that allows the police to write tickets if you pee in the ocean. However, the legislation does not state how they will know, if that part of your body is submerged in water.

Only Visiting Major Tourist Attractions

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Of course, you’ll be drawn to certain places for their well-known sites, and it is perfectly acceptable to check those off your bucket list. Just be sure to leave space in your itinerary to wander the streets and see whatever just happens to come across your path.

Not Being Open to Local Culture

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You aren’t in Kansas anymore, tourist. Not being open to trying local foods and appreciating local customs keeps you from fully experiencing a new place. You don’t want to be that person looking for Pizza Hut to have pizza in Rome or only eating McDonald’s and Starbucks everywhere you go.

Assuming Restrooms are Free

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Public restrooms in the U.S. are generally free or designed for patrons of the establishment. In Europe, many public places, such as stores, train stations, and even fast food restaurants, charge a small fee for their use. These will either be paid to a turnstile or a live bathroom attendant. It may be a little off-putting until you notice how clean the restrooms always are.

Not Trusting Local People

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You can miss out by not engaging with locals. If you have the ability to speak with people around you, locals can point out places that will give you an actual feel for what it’s like to live there instead of places catering to tourists.

Avoiding Public Transportation

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Americans love their cars and use them to get absolutely everywhere. In Europe, people tend to use public transportation far more often because it’s cheap and efficient, not to mention better for the environment. Don’t be afraid to hop on a train to get from one city, or even country, to the next.

Being Too Loud

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It’s the stereotypical depiction of Americans as loud, pushy, and wearing an American flag everywhere they go. If you don’t want to stand out and also want to be respectful of your surroundings, be sure to stay within the volume level of the people around you.

Sticking with the Planned Itinerary Only

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Scheduling out every minute of your trip can seem like the best way to optimize your trip, especially for Type A people. However, overscheduling leaves no room to follow exciting things you may run into or hear about from the locals. Come with an idea of what you want to do but leave room to go with the flow.

Eating Near Tourist Attractions

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These places are often overpriced, knowing tourists don’t know what to expect and will stop there for convenience. Explore local eateries for a more authentic and cost-effective dining experience. Key tip—if more people are speaking languages other than the native language, it is probably a tourist trap.

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