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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

The basic rules of travel etiquette

Respect your fellow travellers and keep the volume down

editorials Updated: Jun 28, 2019 19:06 IST

Hindustan Times
To stare in awe at the force that created the natural spectacle and your amazing good fortune to get a chance to be there, looking at it. This is not the moment to belt out a Bollywood Top 50 playlist on your phone
To stare in awe at the force that created the natural spectacle and your amazing good fortune to get a chance to be there, looking at it. This is not the moment to belt out a Bollywood Top 50 playlist on your phone(Waseem Andrabi / Hindustan Times)
         

People are travelling now more than ever before. Even though air travel has become more uncomfortable (even if cheaper), it has become easier to get to even what were once considered ‘remote’ places; and more people are doing it. Which is why it’s becoming harder and harder to find pristine places. This is not to say there aren’t any beautiful places left untouched by hordes of tourists; but it has to be said that most of these beautiful places are being ruined not just by a tourism overkill but also by over-the-top tourists, especially in India.

What we mean is, as travellers and tourists, it is important to remember that we aren’t the only people there, and to be mindful of others. In the past few years, one of the most irritating trends to emerge in tourism, more so in India, is the Cult of the Bluetooth Speaker. Worshippers of this cult are easy to spot – easier still to hear – by the playing of possibly your least favourite song at obnoxious volumes in the quietest of places. Vacation goers are ruining trekking, the hills, the beach, and everything else for others by playing loud music on Bluetooth speakers everywhere they go. College students and young urban office goers are the worst offenders.

A beautiful afternoon at the Nohkalikai waterfall in Meghalaya, a sunset on the beach in Gokarna, or the first time you lay eyes on the spectacle that is Pangong Tso in Ladakh — these are the times in one’s life to enjoy the sounds and silences of nature. Imagine standing next to the splendour of the monuments of Angkor Vat, marvelling at the sheer beauty of the place. Or in the Valley of Flowers on a cool day. To stare in awe at the force that created this spectacle and your amazing good fortune to get a chance to be there, looking at it.

This is certainly not the moment to belt out a Bollywood Top 50 playlist on your phone. And worse, connect it to one of those Bluetooth speakers with great bass and blast your choice of music on others who may either want to listen to something else or enjoy the silence. But if the music is inescapably in your soul and you absolutely cannot do without it, there’s that other wonderful technological invention made just for you: headphones.

The use of headphones, we feel, should be encouraged widely – from inside crowded metro compartments in the city to tranquil lakeside picnic spots. In an evening bonfire on the hills (bonfires are terrible for the environment, mind you), it may be acceptable to play soft music that only your group can hear and enjoy; but in a space that is public, that you share with others who may not like the same stuff that you do, loud music is decidedly against the spirit of conviviality.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has projected that there are likely to be as many as 50 million Indian tourists travelling abroad by 2020. The number of Indians travelling within India is likely to be much higher. As these numbers go up, it is incumbent upon us to be conscientious travellers.

Travel etiquette is not that hard a thing to master. All it needs is a healthy respect for your fellow travellers (and locals in the places you’re visiting). While specific cultural habits of locals may be difficult to understand – don’t leave chopsticks in your food in Japan (it’s considered bad luck); don’t speak Spanish in Brazil (they speak Portuguese); and don’t insult the royal family in Thailand (it’s a federal offence) – the basic rules are easy. Don’t leave your garbage behind, don’t get drunk on the flight, don’t leave your children unattended, and for all our sakes, don’t play loud music.

First Published: Jun 28, 2019 19:05 IST

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