Travel Tips "Ugly American," Constantino Arias' 1948 photo, shot in Havana, Cuba.

Published on July 1st, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut

"Ugly American," Constantino Arias' 1948 photo, shot in Havana, Cuba.

Worst Tourist Ever: 5 Easy Steps to be an “Ugly American” Traveler

At this time of year when patriotism runs high in the USA, it’s an ideal time to review a few of the easy steps that anyone can take to be an Ugly American — you know the type, that arrogant, ethnocentric tourist that helps to spread a bad reputation for U.S. citizens. In case you’re eager to be included on that hallowed list of horrific travelers, here are a few travel tips to guide you on your journey:

1. Be obnoxious. No need to be quiet. Make sure your voice and opinions are heard everywhere you go. If nearby travelers and locals don’t know every little aspect of your personal and professional life (and how important and exciting your life is), you’re doing something wrong. During a press trip to Mexico a couple years ago, I had to hear a journalist regale our unfortunate tour guide with stories of every place she’s ever visited on the planet. Rather than focusing on learning about the destination, she used the trip more as a platform to try to impress everyone. Beautiful.

2. Expect everything to be the same as back home. How dare other nations not realize that your lifestyle is the only one that matters? You should be able to find the exact same products and services — delivered and presented in the exact same way — no matter where you travel. That’s why Ray Kroc helped to spread McDonald’s around the globe, isn’t it?

3. Make no effort to learn a single word of their language. I once traveled to the Dominican Republic with a colleague who refused to even say “hola.” I’m sure that every local she came into contact with was extremely impressed with her expectation that they should be the ones making the effort to speak her language.

4. Complain about local customs and traditions. Complaints can be an art form, so feel free to make condescending comparisons and critical judgments of every aspect of the local culture. Pay no attention to travel blogs, travel reviews, travel guide books or other resources that might provide insight about what to expect. It’s better to be surprised and annoyed.

5. Get really, really drunk. Most likely the first use of the term “Ugly American” came with a photograph of the same name (pictured above), made by Constantino Arias in Batista-era Havana, Cuba. The photograph shows a shirtless, middle-aged male tourist, puffing on a cigar, brandishing two bottles of liquor and wearing an ill-fitting bathing suit and a Mexican-style sombrero. We don’t know if he’d actually been drinking from those two bottles, but if you can at least approximate the rowdy,  over-the-top imagery that he represents, you’ll do a lot to spread international good will.

Happy travels.

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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