What you should know before visiting Thailand, expat’s guide to tourist etiquette

Tourists don’t always have the best reputation in foreign countries.

As anti-tourist sentiment intensifies across Europe, and as travellers are blamed for ruining iconic sites and destinations, tourism is increasingly seen as a double-edged sword: great for the economy, but a lot for locals to put up with.

Schoolteacher Matthew Smith, 36, is an Aussie expat in Thailand, who moved there in 2007 after marrying his Thai wife.

And over the past decade he’s gained some startling insights into what tourists got wrong in his adopted home, and what Thai people really think of the 51 thousand New Zealanders who visit each year.

“To be honest, local Thais cannot usually distinguish between ‘western’ tourists,” Mr Smith told news.com.au.

“All western tourists are referred to as ‘farangs’. I usually can’t (tell the difference) either until I strike up conversations with them.”

But he said he has seen western tourists, and Kiwis among them, doing “little things that can upset locals”.

Many of them were on visits to Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site north of Bangkok.

“A few times in Ayutthaya, while visiting the historical city ruins district with my wife, we saw tourists fail to comply with the rules of etiquette,” he said.

“We saw tourists climbing on ancient walls, not wearing proper attire even after being told by ticket sellers or whatnot, being in spots to take photos that were not permitted.

“Several times my wife or I were put in a situation where we had to remind them, in a very friendly manner of course, but once we asked nicely they would generally stop the action. These small actions don’t really create large-scale negative impressions, though.”

Overly revealing clothes worn by tourists, especially near religious sites, has been a problem in other countries popular with Aussies, including Bali and Cambodia.

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