Guides From Around The World Share Their Dumbest Tourist Encounters

Guides From Around The World Share Their Dumbest Tourist Encounters

You can imagine how much fun it would be to work as a tour guide. You get to spend your whole day talking to people about your passions, welcoming them into whole new worlds, broadening their horizons.

Of course, as a bonus, you'll also end up with plenty of 'dumb tourist' stories.

These tour guides and others who work with travelers recently took to the internet to share their dumbest tourist encounters. It turns out there is such a thing as a dumb question.

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40. Have Them Removed

I worked for the State Park system years ago. I basically hiked around and worked on trails, so I got to know 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. It's habitat is mostly swampy areas.

Upon reaching the area one lady asked me, "Why did they have to put mosquito's in the park?"

I laughed, "Yeah, they're terrible here." Complaining about mosquitoes is basically the state past time.

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.

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39. Sign Me Up

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."

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38. Make It Yourself!

I am a tour guide for the university I attend and the amount of dumb questions I get can be overwhelming.

The one that sticks out most is the aggressive quinoa question. I was giving a tour to a mom and her son. They were really fun to give a tour to and were really excited about checking out the campus. However, as the tour was coming to an end, the mom asked about the vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free options on campus.

When I told her about the various options on campus and the local vegan food establishments within a 5 minute walk, she flipped out over the fact that I didn't mention quinoa. I told her the grocery store down the road had quinoa and she asked, "You're not going to try and even offer to MAKE my son any quinoa??? You expect him to be a vegan without the key staple that is quinoa???"

She was being 100% serious and it blew my mind how she expected me to just... make her son quinoa for some reason.

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37. Space Cases

When I was an undergrad student I worked at my university's observatory. We'd be open to the public once a week and ran programming for school and scout groups, and were observing pretty much every clear night during the semester. We had a bunch of 8" telescopes, two 12" ones, and a 14" in the dome, plus lots of really good eyepieces and cameras. In short, we were incredibly well equipped to see pretty much anything that was notable in the night sky.

Most questions/comments we got were pretty good, especially from kids. My favorite recurring one was "Whoa!!!!" upon seeing Saturn through our biggest telescope. My favorite unique question was "Can there be a planet made entirely of water?" from a fifth grader learning about exoplanets. This turned into a really good discussion of pressure and gravity. However. There were some notable doozies. These are all from adults.

"It's all blurry!"

  • After person touches the focus knob that I pointed out and said to not touch.

"It really sucks Pluto's not around anymore"

  • Literally though Pluto didn't exist anymore.

At least once a night...

"What's that really bright one hovering there?"

Me: "It's a plane in a holding pattern. The airport is in that direction"

Guest: "No it's definitely Venus/The Christmas Star/a UFO. Hey kids come look at this!" 5 seconds later, the light moves. Because it's a plane.

People showing up to public night, when it's really cloudy or pouring rain: "Whaddya mean no telescopes tonight?"

"Why can't I see the flag?"

  • Guest looking at the moon

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36. Let's Hope They Don't Strike

I am a ghost tour guide in a nice downtown area with cobblestone streets and a plethora of bars. Someone asked me once, "How did you get the ghosts to agree to be on the tour?" "It's on a strictly volunteer basis, ma'am."

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35. North Is Not Up

I was a tour guide on a river boat. I had my share of dumb questions, but there is a particularly dumb statement that drives me crazy. The river I worked on ran south to north at the mouth. Part of the basic tour was providing directions and giving people a general sense of where we were traveling through the city.

Every now and then I'd get someone who'd contradict me and tell me that rivers can't run due north because water "only runs downhill." They'd tell me this while I was looking directly at a compass in front of me, and after I'd have been running a tour on this river for multiple years.

For the record, rivers do run downhill. Gravity is a cruel mistress, she doesn't have any time for other ladies like cardinal directions, or stupidity. Lots of rivers run north. North is not up.

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34. Level Up

A guy came up and asked me how far above sea level we were. I looked at the water and told him about 6 inches because I was standing on a small rock.

He got all whiny at me and stomped off because he thought I was making fun of him. In fairness, I was.

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33. Show Some Respect

I used be the resident Native American guide for a tourist trap in Banff, Alberta. The Europeans were the worst, and very condescending towards me. I was frequently, and very rudely asked if I either lived in a tipi or if I was a "real Indian" since I have light skin and short curly hair, and didn't fit their stereotypical image of a savage living off the earth. The English, Italians, and Germans were usually the worst about it -- of course there were exceptions. The Scots and Texans were my favourites though. Still, that job took a lot out of me, and it was pretty dehumanizing at times. Lost count of how many times I was asked to assign a spirit animal to some loud middle-aged jerk from London, or deal with some pedant from Germany who apparently knows more about my tribe than I do.

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32. Survivor Man

When I worked in Idaho's River of No Return Wilderness, we'd regularly encounter people who had watched too much Discovery Channel and decided to abandon civilization and "live off the land".

Which isn't at all impossible -- a decent fly fisherman or a halfway good shot can easily shoot or catch all the fish and game they care to eat. In fact, the vast majority of our visitors were there to shoot elk or catch trout, and they did well.

But these survivalist types never came prepared with a rod or a gun or even a tent. No. They were going to build a thatch shelter and whittle a spear and go stab an elk, or something.

Of course, if anyone had ever succeeded in this, it would be illegal on a number of levels. (You can't camp for more than 14 days in a site, can't stab an elk without a hunting license, etc.) But it never came up. After a couple days, they'd get bored and cold and hungry and walk back out the way they'd come in.

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31. And To Your Left...

I used to be a tour guide in Rome.

Many people seem to go on a tour because they are told they should. But what’s the point if you’re not really going to listen or give a care about it? Or even try and rush the guide to get finished sooner?

It’s worse when it affects other group members. If they’re actually interested in the tour, and listening, asking questions, etc., then it’s incredibly rude for others to be talking amongst themselves, or holding the group back by taking 10 photos of the same pose in the same place.

Asking a question about something when I’ve just finished talking about it is also annoying and time wasting and shows that you weren’t listening to a word I said. Unless, of course, you did listen but would like clarity or a bit more depth -- then it’s fine.

But stupid questions aren’t annoying. In fact they can be hilarious. I still remember someone in the Roman Forum asking me why they built it so close to the modern main street. Another chap asked, in the Colosseum, “Is this where Jesus fought the lions?” I must have missed that day of Sunday School.

Benjamin Messenger

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30. All For A Selfie

I worked at a national park where there are lots of big animals -- dangerous and deadly animals. People seem to think they can just act however they want around this creatures without consequence.

Once I saw this stupid kid with his back turned, trying to take a selfie with two adult male caribou, very large ones, literally 10 feet behind him. They could have charged and he wouldn't have seen them coming. I had to go over to him and the idiot women next to him and tell them to get away before they get gored to kingdom come.

Later, with the SAME caribou (mind you they were walking to the river, as they always do), there was a somewhat medium sized crowd keeping a good distance away. But this one lady for WHATEVER reason decided it was a good time to walk this small trail that the caribou were walking, and she passed RIGHT between them. She could have reached out and petted them she was that close. The people next to me were like, "What is she doing?!" "Taking her life in her hands," I said.

I've seen a horde of cameramen paparazzi following a grizzly bear. If he had been hungry and irritated, he easily could have killed a handful of them. They kept their distance but not nearly enough, especially for a grizzly.

Photographers NEVER listen to us and always do whatever they want.

I once saw this guy taking pictures of a rather large female moose from across the road. The moose was obviously very agitated and stressed as her hair was up, she was kind of snorting, and she was stomping the ground.

I stepped in between them and told the guy, "Hey, you need to move away. She's stressed out and she's going to charge you." "Oh okay," he said, without moving. "Hey, I said you need to BACK UP." "Oh, yeah, okay, okay." He kind of backed up but kept snapping pictures.

As I drove away, in my mirror I saw the idiot going back to where he was. I don't know if she charged or not but I honestly kind of hope she did.


29. Whatever Gets You Money

I was working in a museum in the Tower of London (archival work, designing exhibitions etc. so didn't have a lot of contact with the public) but the amount of people running in front of marching guards is ridiculous. Also when 90% of tourists ignore all the fascinating exhibits they came to see to look at a souvenir coin machine it's kind of irritating, especially when they leave the room without seeing anything in it. On he plus side those machines make the museum a lot of money.

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28. How Do You Think Earth Works?

I did kayaking tours in Hawai'i for about three years. Had a lady ask me if you could swim under the island to the other side. I had to explain that the Hawaiian islands are not floating in the middle of the Pacific.

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27. Koalas Are Fake News

I used to work in a wildlife park in Sydney and one day I caught an American tourist on the wrong side of the fence in the koala enclosure. I got him out but he said someone back home in Georgia had told him they weren't real so he went in to "take photos to prove there were no koalas inside". Holy crap, dude. I mean, okay, he would be unlucky to get mauled in the middle of the day but it's not unheard of.

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26. They're Coming To Steal The Telescopes

I work in this small castle that was used as protection for the Port of Cork against pirates about 400 years ago, but also doubles as an astronomy centre.

We have an ocular telescope on the roof that is not in use anymore because we have a radio one now. It never ceases to amaze me how many people ask if they can use it to stargaze... in broad daylight.

As well as that, I've had people ask me if the pirates that used to attack Cork are still doing so, and if we have to defend against them at our tiny antiquated castle which was fit for purpose in 1582. Strangely enough, I've observed that most of this comes from visitors from the North American continent.

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25. Jurassic Park Wasn't A Documentary?

I worked for a couple of Body Worlds exhibits.. You know, the ones where plastinated humans and animals were on display. More often than you'd think, people would ask if we had plastinated dinosaurs.

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24. Education Is Really Important

At the Titanic museum in Belfast, I’ve had people ask me all kinds of dumb questions.

“What room is the actual ship in?”

“When do we get to go on the Titanic itself?”

“Where’s the Heart of the Ocean necklace?”

We have a room with a big cinema screen that shows the submarines exploring the wreckage of the ship and just before you exit there’s another section that has a few screens embedded in the floor that you can walk across that gives another view from cameras on the submarine’s hull. We’ve had people ask -- completely seriously -- when they’ll be back on land or what happens if the glass breaks and water leaks in. This part of the tour is on the 2nd floor of the building.


23. You're Thinking Of The Amish

I used to work at Colonial Williamsburg. I basically dressed up in big, heavy costumes and either manned a gift shop or did demonstrations on how they did stuff back then.

A lady asked me once if the employees in authentic dress lived there like that all the time and if we had TV and computers and whatnot.

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22. I Quit!

I used to run tours at Kensington Palace, London. This one lady left the tour completely after finding out she was not going to get to meet the royal family.

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21. Live By The Sword

I'm not a tour guide, but I play a knight at medieval markets and Renaissance fairs. Last weekend a dude asked one of the other guys in my camp if our cooking fire was real or just a hologram.

Another time a tourist noticed that I'm a girl (it's kind of hard to see under the shitload of armor we normally wear) and asked something along the lines of, "Does the female body react differently when hit with a sword than a male's body?"

Dumb tourists at their best.

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20. Opining On Pine

I work in a National Park and occasionally lead tours. My park has fossilized redwood trees (34 million years old) and one of them happens to have a pine tree growing out the top of it (20 years old).

Some chick asked me if it was possible that the pine tree growing out the top of the redwood was a descendant of the redwood that had grown from one of its seeds once the conditions were right.

Yes, ma'am, a seed waited 34 million years to grow out of the top of its fossilized parent... Genius.

Instead of saying that, I just said, "No, this is a pine tree."

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19. Come On, Man

Most of my family members who fought in the Civil war died at the Battle of Shiloh. They are buried in a mass grave and every year at the anniversary, we will all go down to Shiloh and have a small gathering and participate in the festivities.

On the 150th anniversary, there was a huge crowd and a tour bus from Nashville brought some foreign tourists. Since we were also volunteers, we took a couple of groups around a showed them the sights. We took them over to the mass grave where the Confederate dead were buried.

One guy, who Irish, stepped over the stones that marked one of the mass graves. We told him to step out of the stones, but he remarked that they lost and died for slavery. Two big dudes who were with us grabbed him and threw him out of the grave markers.

I don't care if they lost, have some respect for the dead.

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18. No Sense Of Time

I used to work at a tourist attraction in Texas and we got some people who had visited the Alamo on their vacation who asked us, "Why did they build the Alamo in the middle of the city?"

Yes, that's right. After taking the Alamo, Santa Anna checked out the shops on the Riverwalk before heading up north to Schlitterbahn to get his tube on.

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17. Buildings Are Fake

I'm a tour guide in Chicago, mostly giving architecture tours on the river. We drive up and down the river on a boat and I talk about buildings and history.

I had one guy who thought that all the tall buildings in the downtown area were government projects and they were all mostly empty. Just shells put up to look nice and generate construction. I'm really not sure why...

Also, "Why aren't you talking about Al Capone?" Um, because he didn't design any goddamn buildings.


16. Way To Show Respect

I work at Valor in the Pacific National Monument, but the USS Arizona Memorial is probably the more well known name for it. We get about 4000-6000 visitors a day, and every single day I am astounded that these people even managed to make it out here.

Just this past weekend a man dropped his shorts to the ground and reached into his underwear with both hands to adjust himself. At the main entrance to the entire park. With children right there. And he honestly just didn't think it was wrong.

We had a family bring a plastic bucket, like the kind of thing you might bring to the beach, with them into the movie theatre. That wasn't a problem; what was a problem was when one of them used it to take a dump while still in the theatre. It's mind-boggling what people think is acceptable at a place of memory. Or frankly any place!

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15. Leave The Towers Out Of This

NYC helicopter pilot here.

"Where are the twin towers now?"

Whilst flying over Coney Island in Brookyln, NY: "Is that where the Jersey Shore was filmed?"

My favorite was when it started to rain and you can hear the sound of rain hit the windshield and SEE THE WATER DROPLETS and the front seat passenger points, and asks, "Is it raining?"

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14. I Love Elephants Too, But Come On!

Used to work at a zoo. Another coworker and I caught some people who were beyond old enough to know better off the path, down a hill, through bushes, getting close to the elephants. We shouted at them to get back up to the road, that they can't go into the elephant area. Their excuse was there wasn't a sign to tell them not to.

We should have just let them go Darwin-style...

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13. A Civil Chat

I volunteer at a museum. One time, a woman, surrounded by Civil War artifacts, asked: "Is this stuff from World War II?"

"No," I said, "The Civil War."

She perked up and replied, "Oh! So do you anything from Martin Luther King?"

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12. Lake Vs. Ocean

Oh my god... I used to work at the Navy pier in Chicago. So many instances of unbridled ignorance present themselves daily. Here's a couple examples I can think of a few years down the line:

  1. Tourists screaming about how they can't see the whales or dolphins... in Lake Michigan.
  2. People FROM CHICAGO asking where the ocean is. It's a lake and it's 20 feet behind where we are standing. Oh, and it's massive. I literally don't know how you could miss this.
  3. Are the boats upstairs? Ok, no. Sea level.

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11. Why Would You Ever...?

I watched a tourist throw his hat over the railings at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington cemetery...then proceed to go and pick it up.

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10. How Big Are Yours, Ma'am?

I work at a drive through zoo. I drive a horse-drawn wagon and while I was explaining the difference between an ostrich egg and an emu egg to some guests, a 40-year-old woman asked me how big a zebra's egg was. So I had to explain how mammals give birth to a grown woman with 3 kids.


9. Let Me Ask The Dictionary

"Does water go all the way around the island?" I used to be a tour guide in Hawaii.


8. This Isn't A Dog Show

Used to live and work in a national park. One lady was very upset that the animals weren't groomed. She got quite irate over it. She thought we should take more pride in their appearance. I was dumbfounded.

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7. Things Not To Say In Ireland

I'm a full-time tour guide in Ireland. If I had a Euro for every time I've explained the "don't go to a bar and ask for a car bomb, you're being rude" thing to Americans, I'd be a millionaire.

As for other stories... There's the Japanese group that wandered into Belfast looking to go drinking with the IRA. Then there's the baby-boomer woman in Dublin who tried to pay me in Pounds Sterling, telling me that "Ireland is basically in England so you have to accept it." Oh, my favourite was the little old Italian lady who asked me to buy her pot. I spent ten minutes laughing and explained there was no way that was happening.


6. Dragon Conservation Is So Important

I was working in a room in a fairly well known attraction in the UK, when an American family walked in. Now, it was a pretty long tour through the building and the kid was getting a bit bored and restless, so I started taking to him and pointed out the cool picture of St George and the Dragon on the wall. I asked him if he knew the story, and he did not. Neither did his mother -- maybe it's not that common over the other side of the pond, I thought.

So, I was happy to be the first to tell this kid the classic story of George and the Dragon, and he was suitably entertained. The mother then asks if it really happened, to which I assume she means if the story was based on any historical event.

I go off on a quick outline of the historical St George, and how he had really nothing to do with England and that dragon slaying myths pops up everywhere in Europe, so it's unlikely to be based on anything in English history.

The poor woman looks confused and asks, "But they must have had some battles like that at some stage before they were all hunted, right?"

"Madam, dragons don't exist".

Not a sentence I thought I'd have to ever say while working there.

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5. The Giving Tree

When I was working as a tour guide we used to tell silly jokes for the kids. One of the local tree species has bark that looks a bit like bacon, so we would tell people that on a warm summers day if you stand really close and sniff the trees it smells like cooking bacon. An American (because it is always an American) took us seriously, smelt one and then got surprisingly angry at us when the tree did not in fact smell like bacon.

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4. Mammoth Misunderstanding

I work at one of the largest Pleistocene paleontological sites in North America. I've had people ask where they can see the living mammoths.

Columbian Mammoths went extinct roughly 10,000 years ago. No, they're not alive, no they're not dinosaurs, no you can't have your money back just because you're a moron. Go home.

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3. I Demand To Be Haunted!

I was a tour guide in Edinburgh. Ghost tours, for the most part. I'd take people into the Vaults and the graveyards and creepy built-over streets.

The stupidest tourists I ever encountered were a family of four who turned up on a very slow day in mid-winter. Pro tip, if you want to do a ghost tour and get scared out of your mind, don't do it at lunchtime. That's what night time is for (partly for atmosphere, but really because nobody does jump-scares in the afternoon). But these muppets showed up at 1pm. They were the only people on the tour, and I was trying my best to make it entertaining and creepy for them.

Alas, my best was not good enough. They didn't want spooky stories, they wanted actual ghosts and nothing else would do. And when I failed to provide actual ghosts, they threw a collective tantrum and took me hostage. They cornered me and told me I wasn't getting out until they saw some poltergeist activity. The dad started threatening me (I was a petite, female, about 19 at the time) with physical violence.

Sucks to be him -- I have a trained voice and I am loud when I want to be, so I started screaming for help (no mobile phones back then) and fending him off with the stick I always carried on tours. The guys from the tour company's office heard me and came to help, along with the boss' massive dog. The family got kicked out, no refund, and banned. They're lucky I didn't call the police.

That was the most dramatic stupidity I dealt with. Mostly it was just people asking where Edinburgh Castle is stored in winter or whether we have electricity in Scotland.

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2. That's Gotta Hurt

I used to work in a National Park visitor's center. One day, out of nowhere, there was this huge commotion and a lot of screaming from the lobby.

I walked over to find an entire tourist family crying and screaming and other staff trying their best to manage the situation. Then the air shifted and the smell hits me.

They had applied a liberal amount of BEAR SPRAY all over themselves and the entire lobby. Apparently, they had mistaken the wording of "bear repellent" and had assumed it was to be used like mosquito repellent.

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1. Who Designed Nature?

I used to guide whitewater rafting trips on the Kennebec river in Maine. One time, we got a group of twenty-somethings who had been wandering astray of the greater Orlando area for the first time in their lives. I took them on an 8-hour trip down one of the most remote and scenic areas in Maine (a town of thirty five about an hour from the nearest 'big' town of about 15,000) and after traversing a dangerous thirteen miles of river, these people who had only known theme parks their whole lives said to me, "Wow, you guys worked really hard to do all this. The trees look so real!"

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