It's a battleground on the Internet that courts controversy easily. Any post on travelling Indians, be it to international destinations, or within the country, pulls us up for poor behaviour while travelling. And that often leads to flame wars on national character and travel habits.
A few years ago a travel group conducted a survey of over 4500 hoteliers across the world who rated Indian travellers as "some of their worst customers". With such complaints, it doesn't hurt to pick up some travel manners and responsible behaviour and drop some of the more unsavoury ones that make us guilty of obnoxious behaviour as travellers.
1. Be Polite: For a people notoriously quick to anger about criticism, it doesn't hurt to be sensitive to your new surroundings. Complaints of general Indian curiosity -- "staring" at people, making eye contact and inquisitiveness, especially in foreign lands -- can be avoided if we perhaps train to see and not stare; make faces at things that are alien to us; not giggle or point at culturally alien behavioural patterns or dressing habits or make faces at local food habits, be it within the country or outside of it.
2. Travel light: Don't take your entire kitchen and closet along on your trip. The queue is longest at any airport where Indians haggle over excess baggage. Travel companies please advise first time travellers about these issues. Tell them about cheap places to eat Indian in their new destination so that they don't cart their larder along.
3. Form queues: This is a mark of civility, not long lectures that we are an ancient civilization that thought of most things in the world first. Be it on the travelator or escalator stand to the right and walk on the left. While standing in a queue, be it a local temple or historical monument or Disneyworld or Madame Tussard's, don't be impatient. Within the country don't jump queues by pulling rank. It doesn't show what a VIP you are, but that you are a boor and a bully.
4. Be sensitive: Nirad Chaudhuri spoke about the quietness in Britain when he first landed there in contrast to the noise in India. Our noise is merry and comforting only to us. Loud chatter in queues, on aeroplanes, trains and buses, calling loudly to each other while travelling in groups is off-putting. And whether in an art gallery, religious monument or a public park or zoo, shhh up. Don't call out to animals to "smile" for your camera. Your spouses and kids can hear, right? No need to holler, "Champa, see, see, rhino"; "Beta, look, look, big lion". Uncles and aunties who insist they go on rides or emaciated ponies alongside their grandkids spare a thought for the poor animals. Don't act out your Freudian lost-childhood fantasies while travelling.
5. Cleanliness is next to: For a god-fearing nation, it is sacrilegious the amount we shed as litter around while travelling. Beer bottles on the beach, on the slopes of mountains. Seriously? Juice boxes, diapers, paper plates, what not, take your litter along and dispose in designated areas, even in remote Indian villages where bins may not be available.
6. Mind Your Ps & Qs: Say it: Please, Thank you. Don't act as if the flight attendant is your slave; drinking up on the flight as it's free harms your health more, not to mention your behaviour. Help those Indians who can't read or write. Don't disown them but explain what to do. Watch over your kids while on planes or in public places and don't expect the world to indulge them the way you do. Space is sacred, especially public places while travelling.