Travelling to different countries is exciting. Just the thought of travelling exhilarates me as I think about the places I will see, the things I will do, the food I might eat and the culture I will experience. But there is also a scary side to being a tourist. Tourists are often the targets of pickpockets, scammers and unforeseen circumstances from unwelcome people. Believe me, I have come in contact with some of them, unfortunately! Here are my tips to help you to not look like a tourist when you travel.
Trying to blend in is the biggest tip on not looking like a tourist I can give you. On saying this it is hard to blend in when you have blonde hair and fair skin in a country where the locals have black hair and dark skin! And vice versa, but nevertheless there are ways to blend in.
If you want to dress in the latest travel gear from the travel gear store, wear a t-shirt blazing the name of your country, carry your map in one hand and have a huge camera draped over your shoulder then go for it. However, dressing like this will cause you to stand out and this is exactly how unsavoury types pick on you. At the worst you might be overcharged, have your valuables stolen or be hurt. Either way it is something you don’t want to experience. Try to dress like the locals so as not to look like a tourist. Consider what you wear when you go out for a day when you are at home. But consider local laws. I would leave my hot pink shorts at home if I was travelling in a country where ladies need to have their legs covered. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself and be spat at like I have seen.
Ditch the luggage
I know it can be hard when travelling to not be seen with your luggage at some stage however, I would ditch it as soon as you can. Leave it in your hostel or hotel room or utilise places such as lockers at train and bus stations. Ensure you know where your luggage is at all times and also ensure you have it securely locked. I suggest you use booking apps such as HostelWorld and Booking.com to see what security services, ie. lockers are on offer at the accommodation. Then leave your belongings in a safe place.
Get rid of the map
Thank goodness for travel map Apps. Gone now are the days where travellers would carry a paper map with them to find out where they were going. However, I have seen some people still using them to plan their day. If you still use one, study it before setting off and keep it hidden until you actually need to use it. Looking like you know where you are going helps you to blend in. Unsavoury types could target you when they see you with a map and they will think you look like a tourist. Another option is take a local hop-on hop-off bus that yes, will be full of tourists, but taking such a bus allows you to see where different sights are. Once you have your bearings you can go back to the sights looking like you know where you are going!
Have a good attitude
Having a good attitude to where you are can help you to blend in. Basically I would ensure I behave appropriately. I wouldn’t stand at a beautiful sight and say in a loud voice negative comments and compare it to home. I suggest you embrace everything and be accepting of what you are seeing and doing. You are more likely to be warmly welcomed and possibly strike up conversations with the locals which could provide you with a slice of local life and create a friendship. Still, be wary.
Ditch the giant camera & camera bag
Of course you want to take photos of special moments of your travels. With phones offering great cameras you may want to use your phone rather than using a camera. However, if you like to travel with a camera I would try to have it out of the way until it is needed, such as in your daypack. So depending on its size, ditch the giant camera and camera bag if possible. Carrying this item is like travelling with a target on your forehead which says ‘I’m a tourist and I have an expensive camera’.
Dump the selfie sticks
If possible, just like your camera, keep it hidden until needed or get rid of it altogether. Selfie sticks are a dead giveaway you are a tourist.
Do as the locals do
So you want to see all the sights and a hop-on hop-off tourist bus or a tour are great for such things. However, unsavoury types can target you at the hop-on hop-off points. Don’t be afraid to go on tours which highlight you are a tourist however, where possible travel like the locals do. Utilise local transports. And eat where the locals eat to get a more immersed experience. And hopefully you will blend in.
Learn a bit of the lingo
It is very useful to learn some of the local lingo. It can prove very helpful particularly when you need to communicate with the locals and the locals do appreciate it. You won’t be seen as an ignorant tourist.
It’s how you act
As you travel the world you will find that sometimes it is very hard not to stand out because of your physical appearance. But sometimes it’s how you act which can be your downfall. Therefore, know where you are going (or look like you know), only get your camera, map and selfie stick out when needed. Dress like the locals and smile and communicate effectively. Try not to get yourself in to situations such as drinking too much and then walking home through dark streets. You can do stupid and sometimes dangerous things when intoxicated in unfamiliar territory.
Some extra safety tips
Wear your bag draped diagonally over your shoulder. This helps make it less likely for someone to run past or ride past on a moped and snatch the bag off your shoulder. Don’t put your wallet in your bag pocket of your jeans. Once in Istanbul I was walking in a group and a group of boys began throwing a ball around our group. While we were being drawn in to the game one of my travel companions had their wallet stolen. Always cover the screen as you type your pin in to an ATM. And be very close to it when the money comes out as I have seen people lean over and grab the money and run off. I know you want to enjoy a local drink and the food, but don’t over indulge in alcohol, then walk home in dark streets as you could be targeted.
I hope these tips help you to not look like a tourist on your travels, even though at times you will look like a tourist. And that your travels are safe and problem free.
Sharyn has travelled most of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. In her 20’s she went overseas and spent 4 years living, working, playing and travelling through many countries. Her travels inspire her ‘Live Work and Play’ series of working holiday guides and LiveWorkPlayTravel where she shares her knowledge of travel, being a digital nomad and blogging. Sharyn continues to travel and currently calls Melbourne home.