Tourists can be truly obnoxious. From the moment they leave their houses for their destination, something changes. Their Hyde side comes out in the form of self-righteous, egotistical, and irrational behavior. Manners? What are those? They wreak havoc on drivers, airport crews, hotel staff, and locals.
Everyone who grew up in a tourist town has their own stories of rude, demanding, and entitled travelers who overstepped.
A select few tourists, however, step even farther and cross the line of the law. These ungracious guests damage property, steal, break boundaries, dishonor traditions, and disgrace their home countries. When that happens, you just love to see them get what’s coming. This list features ten of the most terrible tourists ever, both their idiotic crimes and their (hopefully) satisfying punishments.
10 Who Leaves a Baby?
In 2019, a British tourist staying in Tenerife, Canary Islands, was arrested after a drunken public fight ended with her abandoning her three-month-old baby on a public street. A baby at three months can’t even sit up by themselves yet, okay? Details released by the police suggest a pretty trashy lead-up to the crime.
While eating at a local restaurant, the unnamed woman and the baby’s father both became drunk and argued with each other loudly. The woman stormed off on foot with her baby, and the father, concerned, called local police to find her. They quickly found the mother in the street near the couple’s hotel, but no baby. When asked, the mother simply said that she couldn’t imagine where the baby might be. It took 40 minutes for a pair of good samaritans to find the kid. The tourist’s drunken, foolish anger and neglect earned her six months in prison and hopefully some lasting shame.
9 Stop. Etching. The. Coliseum.
There really isn’t one person to blame for this because everyone keeps doing it. Tourists from all over the world keep carving their initials into the Coliseum (as if anyone cares that JJ + AK have been there and are in love). Despite the landmark’s impressive 2,000-year age, its status as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and its record as the largest-ever amphitheater, visitors don’t seem to mind hacking away at its exterior. For example:
- In 2020, an Irish tourist carved his initials into one of the Coliseum’s pillars.
- In 2017, an Ecuadorian tourist carved the names of his whole family on a wall.
- In 2015, two Americans carved their initials on a wall and filmed it.
- In 2014, a Russian tourist carved a single letter before they were caught.
The good news is that officials caught the etchers, and in Italy, the crime of damaging a historical landmark comes with a minimum fine of $2,400 and up to a year in prison. Of course, they could always earn their freedom through…gladiatorial combat (wya, Caligula?).
8 They Stole…the Beach?
In 2019, a French couple vacationing on the Italian island of Sardinia was arrested for stealing sand from a beach. As absurd as that sounds, the pair didn’t just fill a baggy or a pocket. They filled fourteen soda bottles to the brim, loaded them into the back of their SUV, and tried to take the SUV on a ferry ride back to the mainland. The haul weighed nearly 90 pounds.
The pair claimed that they had no idea that taking sand was illegal and that they just wanted a souvenir. While that would normally be believable, the 90-freaking-pounds of it all and the fact that sand from Sardinia is a valuable commodity often auctioned online makes them seem a bit suspicious. It’s unknown what portion of their potential one- to six-year prison sentence the couple served.
7 The Easter Island Ear
In 2008, 26-year-old Finnish tourist Marko Kulju chipped an ear off of one of the Easter Island heads. He was attempting to steal the monument fragment, but it fell to the ground and shattered after he chipped it off. So much for that…It was then that a nearby woman saw what happened and reported him.
The 1,000-year-old statues sit on a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Kulju could have been sent to prison for seven years due to the attempted theft. After what must have been a phenomenal apology, Kulju was instead fined $17,000 and banned from the island for just three years.
6 When Swimming Is Its Own Punishment
It seems that several people are unaware, so let’s put this in print: it’s illegal to swim the canals of Venice. Not only is it illegal, but due to the canals’ notorious filth, it’s gross and even potentially dangerous.
Take the 2019 case of two Norwegian women caught swimming in a Venice canal in their underwear. When they were arrested, police informed them of the canal’s disgusting history, including its current infestation with rats. Upon hearing this, one of the women threw up in the police station. It’s unknown what penalties the women faced (aside from disgust), but that same year, two Czech men caught swimming in a canal were fined around $3,320.
5 “Ding Jinhao Was Here”
In 2013, Ding Jinhao became one of the most hated human beings on the planet overnight because of his actions while visiting Egypt. While touring the 3,500-year-old Luxor Temple, Ding carved the Chinese characters for “Ding Jinhao was here” into a hieroglyphic mural. Though he initially got away with the act, other Chinese tourists passing the mural later recognized the characters and uploaded pictures of the vandalism to social media.
Within days, the post had gone viral, Ding’s personal information was shared publicly, and the computers at Ding’s school were hacked. The Chinese government issued an apology, as did Ding and his parents, with Ding even crying during his apology. When all was said and done, the Egyptian government enacted a new, harsher law protecting cultural relics. Ding was doxxed, bullied, and targeted by internet trolls and hackers, leading many to question whether Ding, aged 15, got his just desserts or perhaps too much.
4 Chicken Cordon Yellow…stone
The Guardian headline read in part, “men sentenced for cooking chicken in Yellowstone hot spring,” and against all logic, that really is the whole story. In 2020, three men left the trails in Yellowstone’s Shoshone Geyser Basin area, sat around one of the geothermal springs, and tried to cook a chicken.
Appearing before a judge for sentencing, one of the men said he intended to “make dinner.” That was it. All in their 40s and 50s, the men were fined, placed on probation, and banned from the park.
3 The Holy Water Bidet
Bali, Indonesia, has a reputation for attracting the worst tourists in history. For whatever reason, they flock to the beautiful island province, perpetually irritating locals. There were the five Australian men who ran naked through the Balinese streets. Drunk, they urinated and vomited freely as they ran. I would not want to be the guy behind him. Then there’s the guy who got in a drunken fight and dropkicked a local off of his moving motorbike.
However, the worst tourists in Bali have to be Czech tourists Zdenek Slouka and his girlfriend, Sabina Dolesalova. Slouka reached into a holy fountain at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary and used its water to clean off his girlfriend’s butt. They filmed it and posted it online. Somehow, the government completely forgave the two after performing a purification ritual.
2 Come Home, Dirk
In 2012, two Welsh tourists in Australia gained infamy for stealing a rare, valuable item: Dirk, a seven-year-old fairy penguin. The Welshmen had attended a beach party earlier in the night and ended up (apparently) absurdly drunk. For whatever reason, they then decided to break into Sea World and run amok.
While drunkenly trespassing, the pair jumped into the dolphin tank for a swim and even “let off a fire extinguisher in a shark enclosure.” Of course, they then stole little Dirk but allegedly had no memory of the incident. They only learned of their crime when they woke up the following day, hungover, with a penguin in their apartment. When they tried to set Dirk free in a local canal, they were caught and arrested. The fine of 1,000 Australian dollars each seems low.
1 Of All the Places…
It really should go without saying, but stealing from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp is not a cool thing to do. Yet, there are numerous cases in which tourists have stolen or attempted to steal items from the site for souvenirs, just begging any existing gods of justice to smite them.
In 2019, an American visitor attempted to steal, of all things, a piece of metal from the train tracks leading into the camp. In 2018, two Hungarian tourists tried to steal bricks from a crematorium. The most notorious theft in recent memory has to be the successful 2009 theft of the sign at the camp’s main gate. Emblazoned with the Nazi slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei,” meaning “Work Will Set You Free,” the sign was a dark symbol, and its theft was a complicated problem. It was found in pieces and restored, but perhaps more important than the sign itself was the ability of tourists to be that terrible.