Travel Etiquette or How to Get What You Want When You Travel

Travelling, especially by air, is fraught with anxiety.  Put crowds of people, long queues, delays and fear of flying in one environment and tempers are bound to flare.  I find that the basic premise of treating people the way you would like to be treated works well when travelling though.  This of course does not mean you should let yourself be made miserable; you are paying for a service after all and have an equal right to be where you are as anybody else.  Here are some tips to make travelling more of a pleasure than a pain.

  • If there is a queue, join it – at the end.  Make sure you’re joining the right queue though or you might end up frustrated when your journey has barely begun.  Just ask the person at the end of what looks like the queue if it’s the end.  Once in a while, I ask that question and I am ignored or get rolled-eyes as a reply.  Don’t take it personally.  Some people are nasty.  Others are not.  And I find that nasty people usually get a taste of their own medicine and quite quickly too.


  • Even if you’re not in the mood, smile at airline staff when you have to interact with them.  Sometimes, it lifts their mood and you get good things in return like a seat you prefer when they just told the person in front of you that getting their preferred seat wasn’t possible.


  • Don’t smile so much at Immigration officials.  For some reason, it seems to make them more likely to ask you all sorts of questions.  Use your discretion here of course.


  • If you’re on a plane, train or any other means of transportation and the person next to you is interested in involving you in a conversation in which you have zero interest, it is okay to pointedly put headphones on your ears.  If that doesn’t work, for example, if the person keeps tapping you and asking questions or making comments, it is okay for you to say something like “I’d like to pray/ meditate/ do anything but talk to you right now”.  Okay, I was joking about the last part but you get the idea.

  • If the person next to you is harassing you, for example, trying to rub your arm, thigh or just making you uncomfortable, it is okay for you to move to another seat if there is one available.  I did this once on a plane.  The guy next to me drank several of those small bottles of whisky then started coughing, singing and drumming on the stow-away table.  When I packed up my things to move and he asked where I was going I said “Over there.”  Case closed.

  •  Air hostesses and stewards may be there to help you but they are certainly not your servants.  Be polite.  “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way.


Bottom line:  be nice and most people will be nice in return.

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