You should embrace every moment as a tourist, but the following few individuals went too far and either did or said something so completely stupid that they literally left their poor tour guides at a loss for words.
Source list available at the end.
My uncle was a tour guide in Iceland sometime ago. He once guided a group of Americans around the country and stopped at a glacier in the middle of nowhere. He explained to the group that this glacier had been here for thousands of years and that it doesn’t melt. The group then went back to the bus to carry on, but my uncle noticed that a woman was carrying a big piece of the glacier towards the bus so he stopped her and said, “I’m sorry, but you can’t bring that on the bus… it will melt.” The woman quickly responded, “But you said it doesn’t melt.” My uncle stood there for a while completely dumbfounded by the amount of stupidity that was in that answer before finally saying, “Okay, but you’ll have to put it in your backpack and keep it in there for the whole journey.” The woman readily agreed and started to empty her backpack to make space for the big block of ice. Needless to say, this didn’t end well for the woman, as the ice obviously melted in her bag.
“When do they turn on the waterfalls?” Some lady actually asked me this when I worked at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
I had a college professor who had spent sometime as a hunting guide in Alaska. He told us a story about a client from the lower forty-eight who had contacted the guide company to take him out into the wilderness via. helicopter and drop him off for a solo hunt. On the way, they warned the client of recent bear activity in the area. The client assured them that he had bear spray and was prepared. Satisfied with his response, they dropped the guy off and left. During their ascent, they noticed the guy frantically rolling around on the ice, so they dropped back down to see what was wrong. The guy had applied the bear spray to himself as a repellent to keep the bears away. I’m not sure what their next step was, but I assume that was the end of his solo hunt.
I was on a tour of the Vatican, and one person seriously kept on asking when we were going to meet the Pope.
I once overheard a tourist ask a Sunset Cruise captain in Key West, “How many Sunset Cruises do you do a day?” The Captain just looked at him until the tourist went, “Oh. Oh yeah…” and walked away sheepishly.
I recently returned from a hiking trip to Yosemite. I was astonished by the amount of people who were so unprepared for the strenuous hikes. I witnessed people wearing flip-flops and ladies carrying sparkly high-priced handbags (on hikes!).
I was on one of those Big Bus tours in San Francisco. It was the last ride of the night. The tour guide probably mentioned 5 times before leaving that it would be freezing up top and that no one could go up or down the stairs during the hour tour because it was dangerous.
This couple was at the top with their INFANT (wearing nothing but a onesie with a thin bed sheet over the carrier). The tour guide suggested multiple times that they stay downstairs since it would be freezing. Well, it felt something like 30-degrees or less, and the poor baby was crying the entire time before we had to pull over (after 30-40 minutes) so the couple could take their popsicle baby inside the bus to thaw out. “Best Parents of the Year,” choosing a better view over their baby’s well being.
I went to tour a lot of the American battlefields with my high school class. Someone asked the tour guide, “Why so many battles were held in national parks?”
I worked at a museum one summer. I was giving a speech on the sharks near the shark tank. At the end of it, people would normally come up and ask me questions. One woman pulls me aside and whispers, “Is it true that men get periods during full moons?” I told her, “No.”
I worked at the Visitors Centre in Gettysburg for a while.
“Do they take the monuments in at night, or just leave them on the battlefield?”
“Why aren’t there any bullet holes in the monuments?”
“Oh, I didn’t have any ancestors back then.”
When I was in Paris, I witnessed two older American women aggressively trying to force a store clerk to accept U.S. dollar bills. She was like, “Just go to the kiosk down the street. They will change these bills for you, and I’ll be happy to sell you what you want.” They were like, “This is GOOD AMERICAN MONEY.”
I was in France on a school trip. We were headed from Nice to Paris. There was an aqueduct built by the Romans along the route so we stopped. There was also a small crpe stand there where we got some crepes. These two girls (who were not affiliated with my school) got up and started demanding hamburgers. “You know… HAMBURGERS?” I finally said to them that the workers there knew what a hamburger was, but they made ONLY crpe.
Yellowstone National Park tourists:
“Where do they put the animals during the winter?”
(At the beginning of a river raft float) “So, the boat ends back here right?” “… Yes ma’am, this is a circular river.”
“What time of the year do the deer turn into elk?”
As a raft guide, we regularly get asked whether we would be passing the same spot/going through the same rapid later in the journey. We would reply with, “Why yes, this is actually one of the only circular rivers in the world!”
In Wyoming, it’s common to buy bear spray, which is highly concentrated pepper spray, when heading into Yellowstone. One tourist believed it was bear repellent, lined up his family, and sprayed all of them. Chemical burns for everyone!
I used to work as a tour guide for the college that I go to. As part of my job, I gave Segway tours to prospective students and their families.
One time, I was with a couple of families. One of them had a 10-year-old boy with them. I was leading them through the tour, and at one point, we were in a parking lot getting ready to park the Segways before heading inside a building.
The 10-year-old boy got off of his Segway way too early and was trying to get back on to catch up with the rest of the group. Instead of getting on the Segway when it’s stationary- like you’re supposed to, the kid tried to jump on after getting a running start.
He completely flipped over the front of it and landed helmet first on the parking lot concrete. He was fine, but instead of checking on him (like a good tour guide should), I started laughing uncontrollably. As you can probably guess, I wasn’t the family’s favorite person after that.
“How much does a night with you cost?” a creepy old man said to the apprentice Geisha after we clearly made an announcement on the tour bus NOT to ask such a question. Still the translator “accommodated” the guest by conveying the question, and the Geisha-in-training smiled and walked away.
I was with a Great White cage diving tour in South Africa, along with several American college girls. One of them jumped into the cage and came up spluttering, “IT’S SALTY!!!!”
Yes, the ocean usually is.
I went on a cruise to Alaska one summer. One of the other passengers (a girl in her early 20’s) packed only bikinis, short shorts, and tank tops. One of the landing party tour guides asked her why she didn’t pack more warmly. She said it was because The Weather Channel always showed Hawaii and Alaska as right next to each other.
I was a tour guide for the Confederate White House in Richmond Virginia, which is where Jefferson Davis stayed while President of the Confederacy. I had a family come in thinking that they had actually arrived at the real-life White House. It took me a second to realize they were serious.
I was at the Vatican with a friend. He was Jewish and had never been in a Catholic church before. He saw a priest and parishioner enter a confessional. He yelled out loudly across the vast interior of the cathedral, “Hey guys! This is just like in the movies.” He then began taking pictures through the screens of the confessional.
Tour guide in Copenhagen here. People have asked me if I have learnt how to speak Dutch since moving to Denmark.
I’ve had a couple of people ask me how they can get to Legoland (since Lego is from Denmark) and be genuinely disappointed when I tell them that it’s on the other side of the country. You would think that if it mattered to them that much, they would’ve double-checked that kind of information beforehand.
I’m not a tour guide, but tourists who pose for picture at the Shoes on the Danube memorial, and people who take selfies at concentration camps are two things that irk me.
When my family went to Ireland, my younger brother walked up to the bartender in a small pub and ordered an Irish Car Bomb.
The bartender explained to him that he had just ordered the Irish equivalent to a “9/11 Tower Collapse” in America. He said that it was okay because he had bartended on a cruise ship, so he knew what my brother meant. He also said never to order that drink in Ireland again.
When I was in Yellowstone National Park, a tourist was trying to take a picture with some buffalo. He had his 3-year-old with him, and he was walking towards the buffalo. His wife was holding the camera and ready to take the picture. I knew he was trying to put his kid on the buffalo, or pose with it, or something else immensely dumb like that. Fortunately, a park ranger stopped him before anything serious could happen.
Apparently, this is fairly common in Yellowstone and most people are maimed or killed. Wild animals are wild, people need to learn to stay away.
I’m a park ranger in Banff, but one of the tour guides told me a story about a couple of European tourists who asked him where they could see some bears. The ranger mentions a few spots where bears were known to be and cautions them to be careful. The following year he saw the same couple, and they thanked him and showed him some pictures they had taken. In one of them there was a picture of the wife holding a black bear cub and smiling. The ranger kind of lost it on them.
Posts are edited for clarity.