Sometimes travel etiquette involves avoiding tourism industry money-makers. So many countries (all of them?) take advantage of what tourists will pay for, even if it's unethical. They have something unique in their country and they know tourists will pay to see, touch, and ruin their precious resources. The more we refuse to partake in these practices, the more they will dwindle.
It all comes down to respecting the culture, nature, and wildlife.
Animal TourismThis is a biggie! And one I'm sorry to say I participated in a good bit when I first started traveling.
DO NOT take photos with drugged animals
DO NOT ride elephants
How do you think it is that you can take a photo cheek to cheek with a big dangerous cat? They're drugged up and usually mistreated. I saw one woman post a photo of a monkey show she went to where the monkey was on a long chain and did tricks for the tourists. These animals are not let out at the end of the day to roam around the jungle until their next work shift. The individuals who own them only have small cages and typically don't care much about their well-being.
I had a guy approach me once on Phuket with an endangered slow loris and asked if I wanted to take a photo with it. It was certainly adorable, but there's no way I would condone this guy capturing an endangered animal to try to make a buck.
Elephants are a huge part of animal tourism. Elephant rides, watching them paint on a canvas, and even "sanctuaries" (big in many SE Asian countries) are all no-nos. Have you see the sharp pick that the driver uses on the poor animal's head to get it to obey? Yes, elephants have been used as labor since the beginning of time but we're talking about something different here. We're talking about animals being mistreated just so uncaring people can make money off of your enjoyment.
There are some legitimate sanctuaries out there, but you really have to do your research to find out which ones are worthy of your time and money. If the animals are chained up or they allow photos or riding of them, they're usually not something you should support.
Talking LoudlyIt goes without saying that Americans are known throughout the world as being loud and obnoxious. This is unfortunately a true stereotype in many cases! These are my people so I can call them out on it. I don't now what it is about our culture that lends itself to being loud and disruptive, but it's there. Be aware of your surroundings and try to fit in to the noise level displayed by the locals.
Demanding Western ConveniencesAre you traveling to experience a different culture or are you there to get the same conveniences you get at home? It's a wonderful thing the diversity of our world. Demanding or expecting things like you get them at home will only lead toward the homogenization of the planet. Accept and adapt.
Dressing in Skimpy ClothingComing from the western culture of sunny Southern California, skimpy clothing is the norm. It's acceptable here to have butt cheeks going up and down every sidewalk. But that's totally NOT the case in a lot of other countries. Especially when budget traveling, you will likely be visiting non-western countries because of cost-of-living/traveling is low. So that also means it's usually a more modest environment.
I go on about this a lot. Just because you think the locals are used to seeing tourists in their skimpy clothing doesn't make it right. Dress appropriately for your environment. And always cover your shoulders and knees in places of worship.
Climbing on Sacred Sites & Posing with Spiritual StatuesThere's a reason you can longer climb the pyramids in Chichen Itza and there is no flash photography allowed in Tutankhamun's tomb. It ruins it. It's so tempting to climb up onto the ruins at Angkor Wat to get that amazing photo but don't do it. And for god's sake, don't strike a yoga pose either! This is not a faux pas, you'll just look ridiculous. ;)
This can be so offensive in certain cultures. Posing with a Buddha is considered to be in very bad taste in SE Asia.
Public Displays of AffectionAgain, coming from Southern California, public displays of affection are everywhere. But even so much as the opposite sex holding hands in some countries can be seen as vulgar. Funny enough in the more strict cultures, same sex affection (acquaintances or siblings) such as walking hand in hand is very common.
Expecting EnglishNative English speakers are so fortunate that, with a few exceptions, English is the common language you will find across the world. But that doesn't mean you can just start rattling off whatever you want in English. Whether you're speaking to a fellow traveler or a local, they might not be completely fluent. In fact they may just speak a few words of English. To assume otherwise would be rude.
Not Researching the Local CustomsJust like knowing the local laws, ignorance is no excuse. It doesn't take much effor to do a bit of online research to learn the important customs of wherever you're visiting. And you seriously never know what might be considered rude in various parts of the world!
Thare are things like not pointing the bottoms of yoru feet at someone (and certaniy not a diety), not touching someone on the head, not pointing with your finger, giving a thumbs up sign, eating with your left hand, making a come hither motion, finishing all the food on your plate, not wearing your shoes indoors. Then there are other practicalities like proper tipping and if you are supposed to flush toilet paper or not.