When you’re traveling through a new place with a different culture and geography, it’s very likely to do be a little puzzled and maybe even say something a little questionable. However, these stories of “dumb tourists,” as shared by Redditors, demonstrate a complete lack of preparation, basic cultural awareness, or just sheer idiocy. Hopefully, these experiences will convince you to carry out some extra research before you embark on your next vacation.
1. Blowing in the Wind
Tourists visiting Dutch windmills always ask where the engine is. They don’t believe the wind can rotate the blades for some reason. This gets asked way too often.
2. The Grand Canyon: Home of Mt. Rushmore, Old Faithful, and Every Other Attraction
My dad used to do helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. It is ridiculously surprising how many people expect to see the Presidents of Mt. Rushmore while they’re there.
3. Think Before You Ask
I once worked as a tour guide in Edinburgh. At 1 pm every day the “one o’clock” gun is fired from Edinburgh Castle. I have been asked more times than I can count, “What time does the one o’clock gun go off?” I also loved being asked when Scottish people celebrate New Year’s Eve. I thought she was joking so I said the 25th of July. She wasn’t joking!
4. In Fairness, This Would Be Pretty Cool
I’m a tour guide in Alaska. The dumbest question someone ever asked me was, “At what elevation do deer turn into moose?”
5. Ah Yes, The Critical Air Battles of the American Civil War
This guy at Gettysburg saw the cannons pointing straight up as part of the entrance. He asked if they were anti-aircraft guns.
6. What Would Even Compel You to Do This?
I have so many. To date, the stupidest thing was when someone brought a live turtle they found in one of our botanical gardens to the front door of the European art gallery and asked where they should put it. Like I dunno, maybe back where you found it?
7. 12 is a Magic Number
I was a park ranger working at the information desk. A woman approached me to get a map. While we were talking a bell started ringing. She asked about the bell and I told her it was in the clock tower and that it rang out the time every hour on the hour. She asked how many times it would toll so I looked at my watch and said “12.”
She then said, “12? Why 12? What’s the significance”? I replied, “It’s noon.”
8. Wistfully Nostalgic
I used to give tours of a historic wooden grain elevator and farm buildings from the early 1900s. Had a guest ask, “Isn’t it amazing how much healthier everyone was back then, before we had all these chemicals?” At the time, we were standing next to a machine that was used to coat grain with formaldehyde to make it last longer.
9. HBO Didn’t Construct an Entire City?
I was on a tour of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The tour guide had to explain that Dubrovnik existed before Game of Thrones, and was not just built for the TV series.
10. Forget Facepalms, I’m Going With a Full-Blown Haymaker
I was on the Metro in DC, and this helpless tourist has been looking at the Metro map for like five minutes and is obviously flustered. I asked him what stop he was looking for, and he replied, “Oh, I’ve found my stop, but I can’t find the damn ‘You Are Here’ arrow ANYWHERE on this freaking map!” We were on a moving train.
11. Listen to the Experts
I was on a tour one time as part of a school trip to the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Before we went there were girls in our class who absolutely refused to believe that the point of a nuclear reactor was to boil water. “That’s stupid, you can plug a kettle in to boil water, that doesn’t make electricity!” After the whole tour of the steam generator, turbines, and generator room, the tour guide asked, “Any questions?”
And one of the girls asked, “So, how does that make electricity?” And it was literally like that “But why male models?” scene from Zoolander. Seriously? The tour guide just explained it all.
12. Hard to Stay Dry in the Water
I was taking people on a snorkeling tour. As I got to explaining the wetsuit, one of the participants chimed in, “Wait, we’re going to get wet on this tour?”
13. Read Up on the Travel Guide
A friend of mine works as a tour guide at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome, where we live. Two or three years ago, in the middle of November, waiting in line with other tourists, the staff spot a couple in matching bathrobes, sandals, plastic mini purse with some beauty products. They came from a nearby hotel, absolutely convinced that the baths were fully functional and they were about to have the most gorgeous day of their lives.
The staff proceeds to just be dumbfounded and then they send them back. Mind you, all other people in line were wearing winter coats, scarfs and these two just-married Americans were dead set in their bathrobes. I’d pay money to watch the hotel staff while these two morons returned to the hotel and walked through the lobby.
14. American History 101
I work at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, where I give tours and play historical figures like Sam Adams and John Hancock. Immediately following this one tour, which wraps up with a movie about the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a guest turned to me and asked: “So who won?” I say: “Great question! So the Regulars suffered more casualties, but were ultimately successful in finding th-”
She cuts in: “No, no. I mean the war.” I just mumbled, “…um… America.” She was from the American Midwest.
15. Not to Rain On Your Parade
My mom used to be a tour guide in Greece and was once asked while showing her group some ruins “Why did it never rain in ancient Greece?” Being unable to understand what the tourist meant, she asked him to elaborate. He responded, “Well, none of the buildings have ceilings, so clearly it never rained and I was just wondering how that’s possible?”
This guy thought that Ancient Greece had no rain. He didn’t understand that the roofs had simply collapsed after 2,000+ years. Sigh. As a bonus—not really stupid as much as very poorly informed—once while at the Acropolis with a group, a tourist asked if she would be taking them to the pyramids next.
16. With the Shrink Ray, Of Course
I used to work at the Miniatures Museum in Victoria, British Columbia. Someone once asked me how we shrink all the items.
17. Hard to Believe, But History Did Not Start in 1492
Overheard an American tourist whilst walking round the Colosseum: “So you are telling me all this was made before America? I do not believe you!”
18. Really Starting to Feel for Tour Guides
I worked at a colonial American historic house museum and gave tours in addition to working in collections and have a couple of fun stories. First story: I was giving a tour to a rather large group of people on a smoldering July weekend. Of course, the home was refit with air conditioning, but even then it was still pretty steamy in there.
One person, a man probably around 40 or so, asked me “So is the air conditioning authentic to when the house was built?”…This other time, we had a little miniature copy of the Declaration of Independence, which I would pick up and reference at a certain point in the tour. One kid, probably around 20 and from England or Ireland, raised his hand and asked, “So is that the original Declaration of Independence?”
I responded, “No, I’m afraid not. No one knows where it is, since Nicholas Cage nabbed it back in 2002.”
19. Does Your Mother Know That This Isn’t the ABBA Museum?
I work as a tour guide at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. I start every tour by saying that the Vasa is a ship from the 17th century, but almost every time I get asked where the Vikings are. They lived about 500 years earlier. One time, I sat at our information desk when two middle-aged women came in and just froze when they saw the ship.
In slow-motion, they turned towards the information desk and yelled: “Is this not the ABBA-museum?????” Did they just ignore all the signs where they were? Did they not see that there’s not a single sign or picture about ABBA? It was truly surreal.
20. Wrong Salem
I used to be a tour guide at a mansion built in 1878 in Salem, Oregon. Tourists often asked about witches and witch trials and we had to let them know that not only did that happen a lot earlier, it also happened in Salem…MASSACHUSETTS.
21. Dumb Questions Gets Smart Response
I worked at fish and chips place on the Seattle waterfront that was always swarmed with tourists. I once had a gentleman come in and ask, “How many pieces of fish in the three-piece fish and chips?” To which I replied, “Since it’s Tuesday, we do three.”
I was working at a major tourist attraction in Canada. There were guides to the attraction in maybe 15 different languages that were free to take, all organized in a display. The guides in English were marked “English.” The guides in other languages were all marked with the word for the language in that language and graphics of one or two flags from where that language is most commonly spoken (e.g. “Español” and the Spanish and Mexican flags).
An American tourist walks up and demands to know where the guides are in “American.”
23. If Tour Operators Could Actually Control the Weather
I used to work on Mount Rainier National Park in Paradise Inn. If you know anything about Mount Rainier, you know that the weather on the mountain is very unpredictable. Mount Rainier literally makes its own weather. We could go days without actually seeing the mountain. Tourists would frequently ask us where the mountain actually was.
But my favorite was the tourist who asked, “When are you going to move the clouds so I can see the mountain?” as if we control the weather.
24. The Mighty and Human-Controlled Niagara Falls
I work in a busy tourist attraction in Niagara Falls. It’s really common to be asked what time they turn the Falls off and if they shut them off during the winter.
25. And Where Does Dr. Watson Reside?
My girlfriend worked at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London (at 221b Baker Street) and apparently a surprising number of fully-grown adults are under the impression that Sherlock Holmes is an actual living person who really lives there. The worst part was that they weren’t allowed to disabuse the guests of their misconception so when the guests would ask, “Where is Sherlock Holmes?” she’d have to say something like, “Oh, he’s just out on a case at the moment.”
26. Lady Liberty Flies West During the Winter
Walking in Las Vegas and heard someone ask what months of the year New York gets the Statue of Liberty and what months Vegas does.
27. Other Countries Have Their Own Currency? I’m Shocked!
As a tour guide in Vancouver with predominantly American guests, I’m amazed that so many Americans ask if things (gas, houses, souvenirs, literally anything) are in Canadian currency or American. I guess it’s hard for some to grasp that little ol’ Canada does indeed have its own currency.
28. Dye-ing of Laughter and Second-Hand Embarrassment
I was on a tour in Scotland. A few tours before my group was another group of Americans. This one bunch was quite observant and we’re having a great time, looking at farmland and such. This one lady spots a sheep with a dyed spot of wool and with all seriousness, she asks, “Is that the way to tell what color wool the sheep will grow into?”
Bless the tour lady for her response. “Yes, keep an eye out for the tartan sheep. They are lovely this time of year.”
29. The Wrong Animal Instincts
I work at a zoo and I was giving a tour which my four-year-old cousin was on and I was holding a snake for everyone to see. Afterward, when I was giving everyone hand sanitizer, he asked me how to make snakes. A different time a woman asked me if the animals were animatronic and I laughed, then she said I’m serious. In my head I was like “Lady, does that moving elephant really look animatronic to you?” but I couldn’t say that, so I just said no.
I have an endless amount of these stories, some pretty strange people come to the zoo I guess.
30. So You Can’t Control the Temperature of This Body of Water?
I used to work at a casino hotel that had a decently large pond surrounded by a campground out back. I worked at the hotel front desk so we’d handle the fees for using the campground as well. One time I had a lady come in and say, “The water’s really cold outside, can you turn on the heaters?” I just about quit my job right there.
First of all, you’re not supposed to swim in the pond, there are signs all over. Secondly, it’s a freakin’ pond! With an island in the middle!!! How the absolute hell does she think we heat a pond that is about one square mile. Oh man, that one was rough.
31. A Candle in The Wrong Country
I used to guide the open-top buses in London and part of the route goes through a tunnel. When we came out the tunnel an American lady turned and said: “Do you not talk under there out of respect?” I ask, “Sorry, respect for who?” She says: “Diana.” I ask her to repeat herself. She then says, “Well that’s the tunnel Princess Diana was killed in, isn’t it?”
She didn’t believe me when I explained that Princess Di died in Paris. Which is in France. A different country.
32. Are Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman Runaway Prisoners Too?
While on holiday in Fiji with some friends, we met an American woman who was amazed that because we were Australian, that we were even allowed to leave the country to go on holidays. She was still under the impression we were a penal colony.
33. Don’t Doubt the Glaciers
My dad used to work at Yellowstone National Park as a tour guide way back in the day, and was taking a bus from Tower Junction to Cooke City with a whole bunch of tourists. Out in a field along the way, there were quite a few large granite boulders. One lady asked him a question, “Where did these giant rocks come from?”
He replied, “A long time ago, glaciers brought them here.” The woman got snooty and asked, “Well, where are the glaciers then?” To which he replied, “They’re up in the mountains, getting more rocks.”
34. Maybe There is Such a Thing as a Stupid Question
I was a tour bus driver up in Juneau, Alaska. I carried exclusively cruise ship passengers and most of them were older and chose to go on a cruise ship because everything is taken care of for them and they don’t need to think, so naturally, I got a bunch of stupid questions. The most common ones were “Do you guys take American money?” “What elevation are we at?” immediately after they got off their ship, or “Why is the glacier so dirty?”
The worst one I ever heard though, was “What does clear weather have to do with flying safely?” This was after a woman unloaded on me because her helicopter tour got canceled because of fog and was looking for someone to yell at. I didn’t even work for that company.
35. Off the Tiger Beat
I once went on a trip to Swaziland (now known as Eswatini) with the dumbest adult woman I’ve ever met. It was a mission trip, so we were there to work, but she just kept asking about shopping, refusing to touch dirty things or try cultural experiences. We get to the sightseeing safari and we get about halfway through our ride when she taps the tour guide on the shoulder and asks, “So when are we going to see the tigers?”
He replies, “Tigers?” She says, “Yeah tigers. I don’t know what you people call it. Like a lion but with stripes?” He tells her that there are no tigers in Africa. She insists, “Yes there are! I promised my kids I’d see tigers and bring back a picture of me petting one.” He tells her again that there are no tigers in Africa and that she probably shouldn’t pet the lions.
She spent the rest of the trip complaining about not being able to see tigers on the wrong freaking continent.
36. Jurassic Park Wasn’t a Documentary?!
I worked at a Science Center in college and had a group of 14- and 15-year-old kids from a field trip. We went through the whole dinosaur area, looked at fossil images and they had to do a small research activity regarding dinosaur diets and identifying teeth. This one girl asked me if baby dinosaurs were safe to feed by hand. And I said that while we can never know for sure, most likely it would not have been as high risk to feed smaller herbivores, but that all dinosaurs had their own defenses.
Dead serious, she asked me to how we feed the dinosaurs. I said, “Well, humans never fed dinosaurs. And dinosaurs are extinct.” A couple kids laughed. She just kind of looked at me and then said: “Oh, I thought they were just rare and that’s why they protect them in zoos and stuff.” I still thought she must be kidding when this boy nearby by goes, “Dude, did you think Jurassic Park was real!?” She laughed, but her face clearly said she didn’t know what was going on.
37. Well, You Haven’t Seen Any Bears—It Must Be Working
I once had a woman insist that she needed to spray herself with my bear spray because I could not make her understand that it does not work the same as insect repellent. She decided against taking the tour and called to yell at my boss over my refusal to spray her with bear spray.
38. The World Does Not Revolve Around the Greenback
I was on a tour of Europe with my first wife and her mother. I believe we were in France and mother-in-law was really angry that stores wouldn’t take her dollars. A few places (large department stores) would do a dollar exchange at the cash register, meaning that if she was buying 30 Euros of something and the exchange rate was 30 Euros = 50 dollars, they would take her $100 bill, convert it on the spot to the equivalent in Euros (in this case 60 Euros), give her the purse, and then the change of 30 Euros.
She was pissed, thought she was going to be ripped off, and wanted to call the police, the US consulate and 9-1-1, which isn’t even the emergency number in France. She wanted to pay in US dollars and get change in US dollars. The best part of the story? Back in the US, she worked retail at Macy’s. So I ask her, “When French people come into your store, would you take their Euros?”
Her reply: “Why should I? That’s America, we are American, we use dollars; why can’t they learn to use dollars just like they learned our language?” She was dead serious. Yes, she was not that bright.
39. That’s Your Takeaway from Winnie-the-Pooh?
My friend was a park ranger in Northern B.C. and one time there was a mother bear with a couple of cubs hanging out near the campground. A couple of German tourists thought it was a great idea to cover their five-year-old kid’s hand in honey and take it to the bears because their only exposure to bears was Winnie-the-Pooh.
They thought the mother bear and the cubs would lick the honey off of the kid’s hand and it would be wholesome and beautiful. Thankfully my friend’s panicked screaming drove the bears away before the family could reach them with their honey-handed child.
40. How a Star is Not Born
I was a tram tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood. There was a very scary looking dude sitting in the last row of the first car, staring at me like he was going to tear my head off the entire time. As the tour ends, I make a quick retreat, afraid I did something to deserve whatever hurt he was going to put on me. Over my shoulder, I see him jump out of the tram car and start running for me.
He caught me, turned me around, and with total seriousness said, “Hey man. Where do I go to sign up to be in the movies? I want to be in the movies. I don’t just want to watch those movies. Y’know? At the picture show, I thought you would tell us where that building was on the tour. But you didn’t point it out.”
41. Falling for the Oldest Trick in the Book
Backpacking and passing through Rome in 2008, we randomly met up with some other like-minded travelers. One of their friends was a very loud Northern Australian girl who had a been there, done that type mentality, along with a grating self-importance that could wear down even the heartiest of listeners. We spent a day walking around the old city while attempting to block out our new temporary companion’s shrill voice, who insisted on squawking useless recommendations about how to spot tourist traps and how we should always travel on a strict budget.
At one point she became very excited and bounded over to an alley containing some men sitting at a cardboard box while proclaiming that, “Here’s the easiest way to double your travel budget!” She kneeled down, handed over 50 Euros to the street hustler to try and pick which cup had the ball in there, and lost. Undefeated, she turned around to give us a courageous wink, then put down 100 Euros to the now smiling hustlers, which was again instantly lost.
The scam-shanty was de-constructed incredibly quickly and all the scammers left in different directions after having made an entire day’s work with just one sucker.
42. The Addition of Bugs was a Step Too Far
I worked for the State Park system years ago. I basically hiked around and worked on trails. I got to know the trails quite well and would often talk with people directing them to interesting places. One group was following me so I could point out a unique flower that only grows in a few areas in the country. Its habitat is mostly swampy areas.
Upon reaching the area one lady asked me, “Why did they have to put mosquitoes in the park?” I laughed, “Yeah, they’re terrible here.” Complaining about mosquitoes is basically the state pastime. But she continued, “I understand why they put deer and birds in the park, but why all the bugs.” It then dawned on me that this woman thought that someone had built and stocked the park like it was some kind of zoo.
I’m not sure that I ever got across to her that the bugs were just part of nature like the entirety of the rest of the park.