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Family finances: Avoid these tourist etiquette traps
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Family finances: Avoid these tourist etiquette traps

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Brush up on your travel dos and don’ts before your summer vacation.

I collect vases, and I often pick one up as a souvenir when I’m traveling abroad. How do I know whether it’s rude to haggle over the price?

Flea markets and street vendors are usually safe bets for bargaining, but the protocol elsewhere can be confusing. You might never dream of haggling in, say, a department store, but that’s par for the course in some places, such as Hong Kong. If you haven’t researched your destination’s haggling culture, gauge whether a price is fixed by asking the vendor or sales clerk, “Do you have a better price for this item?”

If you do haggle, don’t be surprised if the owner acts offended by your lowball counterbid; that’s usually part of the game. But don’t respond in kind: It’s important to let the seller save face. Alternatively, ask outright if you can take, say, 3 percent off the souvenir by paying in cash rather than credit, says Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, in Austin, Texas.

We’re visiting a museum that asks for a “suggested donation” of $25, but that adds up for my family of four. Is it poor form to pay less?

It would be inappropriate to skip a donation altogether, but it’s fine to pay an amount that better fits your budget. Aim to give at least half the suggested donation amount, or pay full freight if a lower suggested donation applies — say, for children under 16.

When the dollar is strong, is it considered a courtesy to tip in greenbacks rather than the local currency?

Even though some service staff and cab drivers are thrilled to receive gratuities in U.S. dollars, others may find it a burden to exchange the cash for local bills — and pay a commission in the process. Ask a knowledgeable local whether U.S. dollars are preferred for tips.

I’m staying in a private guesthouse instead of a hotel. Whom do I tip and when?

Don’t tip the owner of a private establishment. But if a housekeeper or cleaner takes care of your room, leave behind the equivalent of a few dollars per day at the end of your stay.


Miriam Cross is a staff writer at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to moneypower@kiplinger.com. For more on this and similar money topics, visit kiplinger.com.

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