Traveling is an art, and like any artist, you need the right tools to create a masterpiece. One of the most crucial tools in your travel kit is the ability to blend in with the locals. Not only does this enrich your travel experience, but it also shields you from scams and petty thefts. So, how do you transform from a conspicuous tourist to a savvy traveler? Travel Tips
Here’s your guide.
Equip Yourself with Knowledge Travel Tips
Before you embark on your journey, arm yourself with knowledge. Learn a few phrases in the local language, understand the currency, and get a grasp of the tipping culture.
It might help to:
- learn a few basic phrases in the local language;
- familiarize yourself with the local currency and tipping culture;
- research what the locals commonly wear, as their street style can help you decide what to pack; and
- read up on the customs and culture of the area you’re visiting so you know a little about the local way of life.
Having this knowledge will help you blend in much more easily when you arrive.
Mind Your Manners and Body Language
Your behavior can either make you blend in or stand out. Avoid being loud in public places and be mindful of your actions in busy areas. Remember, a selfie in the middle of a crowded street screams ‘tourist’.
- Avoid being overly loud in public places.
- Be mindful when walking or cycling in busy commuter areas; this is not the time for a selfie.
- Be kind and polite to those you meet along the way.
- Take time to understand local etiquette, such as greetings (double kiss, bow etc.) or hand gestures that may be considered rude. This can also help you avoid accidentally offending someone.
Dress to Blend In travel tips
How people dress varies from country to country, but the basic rule of thumb for how to avoid looking like a tourist when you travel is: if the locals don’t wear it, you shouldn’t either.
You probably don’t need zip-off cargo pants and sneakers to city-hop through Europe, and if you wear a revealing bikini outside the holiday resort in some countries, you might receive unwanted attention — or risk offending the locals.
How to avoid looking like a tourist with what you wear:
- Dress for the climate you’re visiting.
- If traveling to a conservative country, avoid wearing shorts or tank tops, and bring cover-ups for swimwear.
- Bring a headscarf or cover-up if that’s common in the country you’re visiting, or if you plan to bring to visit religious sites including temples, mosques, or churches.
- Avoid bringing expensive clothing, jewelry, or flashy accessories that may make you stand out.
Stay Alert and Aware travel tips
You’re a tourist — so you’ll no doubt be visiting at least a few major tourist attractions while traveling. Unfortunately, these can be hotspots for pickpocketing and theft by opportunistic petty criminals.
- Be alert to your surroundings and stay observant.
- Secure your belongings, particularly in busy areas: sling your handbag across your body rather than off one shoulder, and don’t leave your wallet in your back pocket.
- Don’t put valuables or your handbag/backpack on the ground while you take photos.
- Trust your gut: if something feels off, it probably is.
- Avoid getting visibly and publicly drunk. It annoys the locals and might make you a target for theft.
Live Like a Local
Gone are the days of tourists wandering around with giant, unruly maps to guide them. But walking with your phone out, face down in Google Maps is a great sign that you’re not a local. It might also make you more vulnerable to petty crime.
Instead: travel tips
- Download maps and discreetly use your phone for directions. It can be useful to look up the directions before you leave your first destination so you know roughly where to go, and then refer to your phone quickly as needed along the way.
- If you do get lost, don’t make it obvious; step out of the flow of foot traffic while you get your bearings.
- Ask a local for directions, preferably in their native language if you can. Local workers and shop owners can be particularly helpful.
- Avoid people who seem too eager to help you, as they may be trying to lure you into a tourist scam.
Be Discreet with Your Photography
Yes, you want to capture memories but don’t let your camera label you as a tourist. Be respectful of ‘no photography’ signs and always ask for permission before photographing locals. And remember, sometimes it’s better to live the moment than to capture it.
- Leave the selfie stick, heavy tripods, drones, and intrusive or expensive equipment at home (unless you’re a professional photographer, of course).
- Be respectful of “no photography” signs in public spaces, churches, official buildings or art markets.
- Always get permission before taking a photo with a local.
- Don’t forget to look up: live through the camera lens and you’ll risk missing the best moments.
Eat like a local — and use public transport
One of the best parts of traveling is to experience the richness of another country’s culinary culture, so skip the chain restaurants and tourist traps with multi-language menus and opt for restaurants you see the locals eat at. You’ll most likely get a better — and more affordable — dining experience.
In many countries throughout Europe and South America, it’s customary to eat dinner later in the evening. Show up at a restaurant before 8 pm and it’ll be very obvious that you’re a tourist.
Using public transportation (like buses, trains and subways) is another tip on how to avoid looking like a tourist. Not only will you save money on cabs, but you’ll also get a more authentic experience of the city or town you’re visiting. However, do your research to ensure public transport in your destination is a safe option. If traveling at night or alone, taxis may be best.
Slow down a little
It can be hard to resist the temptation to rush and make the most of every minute of your vacation, but remember to stop and take it all in. People watch on a park bench lingers in a local café, or dine al fresco to watch life go by in the town square. The smallest moments often end up being the best memories.
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