Locals can usually spot a tourist in nothing flat. From clothing to behavior, tourists can unintentionally give off a vibe that can draw unwanted attention. Blending in – at the very least – is a good way to avoid offending a local or causing an inconvenience for them. In some regions of the world however, blending in is a matter of absolute safety.
Whether traveling abroad to a new country or exploring New York City for the first time, use our 9 tips to avoid looking like a tourist on your next trip.
1. Behavior matters
How you act in public speaks volumes. Do research on local etiquette before traveling to better understand what is acceptable behavior and what is not for your chosen destination. Just because something seems perfectly fine at home doesn’t mean it’s okay (or safe) somewhere else. Practice politeness, kindness, and show respect to people and the environment. Avoid being overly loud in public places or acting entitled. Even the small stuff matters, like hogging the whole sidewalk, stopping the flow of traffic just to take a selfie or walking in a bicycling lane. If you want to blend in, be sensitive to others and behave like a local.
2. Be aware of your surroundings
While you’ll most likely visit tourist attractions while traveling, do so with your eyes wide open. Practice being observant of what’s going on around you at all times. An obvious tourist is one that wanders around oblivious of others, not noticing what’s happening around them. By being observant, you can better avoid scammers, sense a potentially dangerous situation, and read situations with more clarity. Stay safe, stay in the moment, and trust your gut – if it feels off, it probably is.
3. Look like you know where you’re going, even when you don’t
Nothing says tourist like wandering around with a big map in your hands. Instead, download maps and discreetly use your phone for directions. If you do happen to get lost, don’t make it noticeable. Ask someone who looks like a local worker for directions, preferably in their own language if you can. Avoid people who are too eager to help you however, as they may be looking to lure you into a scam situation.
4. Dress appropriately
Do some advance research on what the locals wear while they’re out and about. Basic rule: if the locals don’t wear it, you shouldn’t either. In Europe for example, activewear, zip-off pants, and white sneakers practically scream tourist. Sometimes blending in means not wearing clothes marketed to travelers either, so find out what the locals wear for different occasions – including headwear and accessories – and pack accordingly. If you’re from the U.S. traveling abroad, avoid clothing that says “I’m not from here” like patriotic wear and branded clothing. Also, best to leave the baseball hats, backpacks, and fanny packs at home.
5. Eat and get around like a local
If you want to blend in when you’re coming and going, take local transportation. You’ll save money and look like you fit in. To avoid inadvertently frustrating daily commuters though, educate yourself on how to manage payment, transfers and stops ahead of time. Opt for restaurants where the locals frequent instead of chain restaurants. After all, you’ll want to experience all the richness of the culinary culture during your visit!
6. Take pictures discreetly
This one should be obvious, but a big camera hung around your neck is a dead giveaway. Keep your camera in a bag when not in use (unless you’re a professional photographer, you can probably skip the huge camera bag). In the age of selfies, consider leaving the selfie stick at home. They’re not only annoying to locals, but can also keep you from interacting with them. While you’ll probably want some pictures to remember your trip, resist the temptation to experience your whole trip through the camera lens.
7. Embrace the culture
Fumbling around with money and not knowing basic words makes you look like a tourist. Blend in by intentionally learning the basics of the local language, currency, and customs before you travel. Learn about things like how locals refer to certain landmarks or beloved traditions, where it’s acceptable to walk or ride a bike, and how locals tip. Choose accommodations and eateries close to where you plan to roam. Know when the locals eat out; for example, in many locations in Europe, it’s customary to eat dinner later in the evening (like 8:00 p.m.). Show up earlier and you’re labeled a tourist. Avoid getting visibly and publically drunk. It annoys the locals and makes you a target.
8. Know common scams and how to avoid them
For scammers and pickpockets, tourist attractions (and clueless tourists) are prime targeting opportunities. For safety, see our practical tips on 9 Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them.
9. Slow down and enjoy the view
Resist the temptation to rush around every minute of your vacation. Take some time to sit on a park bench to people watch, linger with your favorite beverage at a local café or have a leisurely meal while dining al fresco. You’ll go home more rested, having taken the time to simply enjoy your surroundings.
Armed with our travel tools, you can avoid looking like an obvious tourist. Blend in, stay safe, and enjoy every minute of your vacation. Don’t forget to protect yourself from the unexpected with travel insurance tailored to your needs. We’re here to help. Get a quote today.
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