Americans Are Sharing The Things Tourists Should Never Do When Visiting The Country

Ashley Hunte
A satellite image of the continental United States as well as Canada and Mexico. The image shows the lights on in cities at night.
Unsplash | NASA

It’s funny – living in your own country, you get so used to certain customs and unofficial “rules,” that it can be easy to forget that people from around the world don’t know or do these things.


One Redditor asked, “If visiting America what is something that person should NEVER do?” The answers may really make you think about how much there is to know about the U.S..

“Don't think the laws are the same everywhere.”

Two hands in fists while stuck in handcuffs.
Unsplash | niu niu

“You can walk with an open alcohol container in Vegas but not many other places. Alcohol laws, pot laws, firearms laws, smoking - lots of very different laws depending on the state and city where you are.”

States have different laws because they’re, well, different states.

“Raccoons are cute… but from a distance.”

A raccoon sitting in some shrubbery.
Unsplash | Joshua J. Cotten

Yeah, those furry little fiends can be pretty dangerous. They usually don’t attack people, but even still – they’re full of all sorts of diseases that are nasty to humans, and their claws are super sharp. Your best bet is to steer clear.

 “If you find yourself in Florida, absolutely do not swim in the lakes, ditches, or channels.”

The head of a gator as it rests in a body of water.
Unsplash | Justin Helms

“Any standing body of water can (and does) have alligators in it. Also possibly water moccasins. And maybe even diseases.”

Yeah, gators are no joke…

“Don't take pictures with the people dressed up in costumes in LA/ NYC.”

A woman dressed up as Snow White.
Unsplash | Raamin ka

Apparently, it’s because they expect you to pay them for a picture.

Another commenter added, “Ahhh, the fond memory of my Aunt getting in a screaming match with the Dora explorer in Times Square.”

“[Never] Underestimate distances. When I was a tour guide, far too many customers asked how many HOURS the train to New York was [in Seattle] and I had to put their jaw back in when I said 5 days.”

A map showing the Eastern half of the United States.
Unsplash | Hans Isaacson

A country where every state has the average area of a European country? Yeah, things are far away from each other.

“Don’t assume that the price shown on an item for sale is your price for said item.”

A woman inserting her ban card into a portable pin pad.
Unsplash | Blake Wisz

“There are almost always taxes that are added to the price when you go to pay.”

In fact, it took me way too many years to learn that other countries actually include the tax in the prices of things.

"If pulled over by the cops, do not exit the vehicle unless they ask you to."

A police car with its lights on, pulled over to the side of a city street at night.
Unsplash | Kenny Eliason

"The cops might sit in their vehicle for a while, & then they will approach the window & expect you to talk to them while sitting in the car."

This is... really important.

“If you go to a department store, Kohls, Target, or even Home Depot, they often try to have people sign up for credit cards.”

The inside of a Home Depot, showing an employee standing by the self checkout stations.
Unsplash | Oxana Melis

“Absolutely don’t do this. The short time I worked at Target, I often saw people who were clearly just visiting the US get signed up for credit cards. It may not always work since the lack of a social security number, but it is a major time suck for sure.”

“There are huge, unfathomably huge, swathes of incredibly inhospitable wilderness scattered all around this country.”

A barren land that appears to be a desert.
Unsplash | Wesley Tingey

“If you are unprepared you run a very real risk of dying. No one will stop you from being unprepared, either. There will not be many warning signs. There may be none.”

“It's not just the ruggedness, the wildlife, the lack of water…”

An expanse of trees in a heavily wooded area at night.
Unsplash | Rosie Sun

“...there's a lot of [expletive] out in the woods/desert that shouldn't be there. I'm pretty familiar with my local area, and even so I walked into a bad situation that probably involved drugs and guns out in the woods overlooking town.”

If you want to camp or be around nature, national parks are usually a safe bet.

“Do not take anything from national parks.”

Giant trees among normal sized conifers in a wooded and rocky area.
Unsplash | Josh Carter

National parks are great places to visit, but you aren’t supposed to take the nature out of them. Also, stick to the trails.

A commenter added, “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.”

“Make sure you visit after your 21st birthday if you are a drinker or a smoker. Can't do either 'til you are 21.”

A bar shelf showing dozens of liquor bottles and empty glasses.
Unsplash | Maricar Limjoco

A lot of other countries in the world have drinking ages like 16 or 18, so having to wait until 21 to drink can be a real culture shock. And something that visitors might forget about.

“Don't expect things to be extremely walkable, or assume a decent public transportation system will be available to you.”

The inside of a crowded bus where people are standing and sitting.
Unsplash | Melanie Brown

“Urban areas usually have good public transport but truthfully, America is built around having a car. We have drive thru everything - banks, pharmacies, fast food, and in some states, liquor stores.”

“If you are coming to the Midwest or northeast during winter be prepared and don’t think sunshine means warm weather. It can be deceptively cold.”

The sun shining down on a wooded area with no leaves and snow on the ground.
Unsplash | Andy Holmes

I think this is probably the case in Europe, too. Canada for sure. Sun in the winter just means… sun in the winter.

“Visiting [the] southwest USA? Cali. Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico etc.. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE HEAT, all too often people try a hike in 113° and end up needing rescue. And that's no good for anyone.”

A yellow van driving along a road in the desert.
Unsplash | Dino Reichmuth

For reference, 113 degrees Fahrenheit is around 45 degrees Celsius. Too hot to hike for sure.

“Don't eat wild mushrooms unless you're an expert. There are deadly species here that look like safe mushrooms in other countries.”

A wild red mushroom with white dots on the cap.
Unsplash | Florian van Duyn

“Southeast Asians are frequently poisoned by amanita species (death cap, destroying angel).”

Yeah, don’t assume something from your home country is going to be the same as something similar in a country you’re visiting.

“If locals tell you not to go to a certain part of town, listen to them. Similarly, don't go touring drug or gang territory.”

A somewhat suspicious alleyway in a city.
Unsplash | Dyana Wing So

There are a lot of American cities where it’s easy to make a wrong turn and end up in the “bad” part of town. Listen to the locals; they’d know better than anyone.

“If you're visiting Las Vegas, do not engage with anyone that asks if you'll be in town tomorrow night.”

The Las Vegas welcome sign.
Unsplash | Grant Cai

“They're trying to rope you into a timeshare presentation and even though they'll offer free show tickets, meal vouchers, and even cash, it's not worth it!”

“The tour and 'short' presentation will be way longer (and obnoxiously higher pressure) than you'd expect…” 

People sitting in an audience with books on their laps.
Unsplash | Sincerely Media

“...and they know damn well after you've invested a few hours you're not going to leave without the promised reward that they only give you at the very end.”

I feel like this is common in other touristy places too, like Orlando.

“Jaywalking. It's something I do casually in my home country but when I did it in the US, cars that I was waiting to go past would come SCREECHING to a halt and hand wave me over the road in front of them.”

A person with an umbrella jaywalking through a street as traffic is oncoming.
Unsplash | Christian Lue

I think this depends on where you are. Some states/cities have stricter laws against jaywalking than others.

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