New Chinese tourism rules promise politer visitors, but will they work?

Mainland tourists keen to behave themselves when enjoying their holidays in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 11:07am

Mainland tourists pouring into the city on the first day of the annual "golden week" holiday yesterday said they were happy to comply with new rules on how to behave when travelling.

The national tourism administration issued a 64-page rulebook containing regulations forbidding mainland tourists to behave in "uncivilised" ways while overseas on Wednesday. The rules, which went into force yesterday, urged travellers to "behave" and "abide by the norms of civilised tourist behaviour".

I don't think the new rules are unreasonable. Tourists represent a country, so it is important that we represent it well

General guidelines include not spitting on the streets, not shouting in public areas, not forcing locals to help take pictures, not throwing rubbish and not picking their noses.

In one section of the guidebook, tourists were reminded that all air-conditioned places in Hong Kong and Macau were no-smoking areas. It also stressed that mainlanders should not try to get refunds for food.

One tourist in a group from Guizhou said the new rules were not too bad as they provided tourists and locals with a better environment.

"I don't think the new rules are unreasonable. Tourists represent a country, so it is important that we represent it well," the tourist said.

She said she always made sure her son was on his best behaviour when they were travelling.

"When we're going up escalators, I always tell him to stand on the right and not block the way," she said.

Another tourist, from Shandong , said she was "very delighted" that there were new rules like this.

"Shopping malls in China are so smoky; everyone can just light up and smoke everywhere," she said. "It's very nice to shop in Hong Kong and I hope it can stay this way."

Despite the new regulations, there were some mainland tourists who appeared to have their own set of standards.

Video: Image-conscious China chides its 'unruly' tourists

Outside Golden Bauhinia Square, one of the city's main tour group hotspots, a mother could be seen helping her son urinate into a plastic bag. Tourists could be seen sprawled out on the steps by the harbourfront cooling their bare feet on top of newspapers.

On the fourth floor of the upscale Times Square mall, two mainland women picnicked and peeled fruit on a bench as displeased shoppers walked by, scoffing at them.

According to the new guidelines, mainland tourists will have to "observe public order and respect social morality in tourism activities, respect local customs, cultural traditions and religious beliefs".

The rulebook also included a designated section listing behavioural guidance for specific countries. It reminded mainland travellers in Britain for example, that asking Britons whether they have eaten is deemed impolite. And in Spain, any females not wearing earrings would be teased and considered "naked".

It also added that travellers should also avoid giving chrysanthemums or any yellow flowers to dinner hosts in France.

Other behaviour mainland tourists should avoid included occupying public toilets for too long and taking excessive amounts of food at buffets, the guidebook said.

Timed to coincide with the National Day holiday, the new rules follow growing frustration among Hongkongers over the unruly conduct of some mainland tourists.

Mind your manners

Do not

  • Give a handkerchief in Italy as a gift because it is deemed inauspicious
  • Discuss the royal family in Thailand
  • Touch people's belongings in Nepal with the foot
  • Ask for pork in Islamic countries
  • Call Africans "Negros" or "black"
  • Use the left hand to touch other people in India
  • In general, touch antiques or draw graffiti on heritage structures
  • Expose the chest or back, or look dirty in public areas
  • Eat a whole piece of bread in one mouthful or slurp noodles noisily inside an aircraft


  • Use shower curtains in a hotel
  • Keep quiet when waiting to board a plane
  • Keep mobile phones turned off until the aircraft has come to a complete stop
  • Be punctual if taking part in a tour group
  • Arrive at a banquet hall 15 minutes early and adhere to a formal dress code

Source: "Guidelines on civilised travel abroad", released by China National Tourism Administration