What gets into some people when they travel far from home? These tourists have selfied, groped, and graffitied their way into terrible tourist history—and destroyed priceless artifacts in the process. Wherever you go in the world, don't be like them.—Meg Butler
“Don’t get naked here” used to be an unnecessary addition to the rules at Machu Picchu. Now they print the request on the back of each ticket.
Peruvian authorities don't know how Machu Picchu got on the “naked tourism” list, but they are eager to get it off. Park attendants have seen so many backpacker behinds that they’ve officially labeled nudity at the site a “threat” to cultural heritage—and are considering banning foreign tourists to the site without official guides.
For millennia, children have been working industriously to prove that it’s very hard to have nice things when they’re around. Recently they took their campaign to the British Museum where they groped the breasts of the 3500-year-old bust of an Egyptian queen, climbed the artifacts, and threw their garbage into the sarcophagi.
Even adults have been caught mistreating the exhibits at the crowded museum. And now the British Museum’s beautiful Egyptian treasures can only be seen behind glass where they’re safe from the naughtier tourists’ hands.
Travel to the beautiful Rossio railway station in Lisbon, Portugal and you'll see an empty alcove between the archways at its entrance. It used to house a beautiful statue of 16th century King Dom Sebastiao.
That is until one tourist decided that the best photo of King Sebastiao was a selfie—and that the best way to get said selfie was to climb the statue. King Sebastiao toppled to the ground under the weight of this bad decision, broke into pieces, and now no one gets a photo with the former king.
Some of the bad tourist behavior that led the Chinese government to create a tourism blacklist in 2015? Storming a Thai buffet to hoard all of the prawns, opening an airplane’s emergency exit “for fresh air,” throwing hot water on a flight attendant, and letting children relieve themselves in public places. “Anxieties over the habits and image of tourists at home and abroad” in a country with a billion potential travelers has prompted the China to consider banning the most badly behaved tourists from traveling abroad at all.
A 55-year-old surgeon was certainly having a weird dad moment when he reached out to touch a 600-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary to see who’s hands were bigger. In his enthusiasm, he broke a finger off and was arrested in front of his wife and kids.
The even more awkward story? This isn’t the first time this particular statue has lost a finger. The digit that Broderick broke off was a replica, suggesting that someone else felt compelled to get handsy with the ancient statue. If you’re also dying to know if there really is something about Mary(‘s hands), visit the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence to take a look—but try to keep your hands to yourself.
While visiting Yellowstone, this family saw abison calf wandering alone in the park—so they picked it up and put it in the back of their SUV.
Why on earth? The couple thought the calf might be cold so they were taking it to a park ranger in their heated car. And that’s when this schmuck saga gets sad: because the bison calf’s herd would not accept him back, park rangers had no choice but to euthanize it. The couple was arrested and ticketed.
Schmuck tourists have been leaving graffiti on the walls of the coliseum since the first century. And visitors are still vandalizing like it’s the year 9 A.D.—by picking up nearby rocks and carving their initials into the walls.
After two millennia or so of tourist tradition, the colosseum is undergoing $35 million in repairs. To discourage anyone else from amateur chiseling, officials are arresting vandals and fining them $20,000 apiece.
Travel to Easter Island and you may notice that one of the famous moai statues is missing part of its ear. You can thank a Finnish tourist who walked right up to the 13 foot tall stone statue and ripped off an earlobe for a souvenir.
Police arrested the tourist, fined him $18,000 and hopefully explained the concept of souvenir shops like nearby Mercado Artesenal: a mini-mall full Easter Island-themed trinkets you can take home without incurring thousands in fines or finding the Hulk strength you need to destroy a Unesco World Heritage site.
Bizarre tourist behavior reached new lows in 2012 when one man went to London's Tate Modern, stepped over the barrier in front of Mark Rothko's “Black on Maroon” and spray painted “A Potential Piece of Yellowism” on the multi-million dollar work of art.
What does that even mean? It’s the vandal’s personal art philosophy—and he sprayed it on the Rothko to improve it. His upgrade cost him two years in jail—just about the length of time it took to restore the painting.
What kind of person would deface a prison camp where over a million people died? Auschwitz museum officials are struggling to find the answer. In the meantime, visitors graffiti the bunks where prisoners once slept and break off small pieces of the sacred site to take home.
Says Antoni Dudek, board member of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, “This isn’t really vandalism because vandalism is something you do to a bus stop. This is barbarism.” Former Auschwitz prisoner Bogdan Bartnikowski, added, “If they had been there and feared they would be leaving the next day via the chimney, then they would not be so eager to scratch their name onto a bunk.”