How To Avoid Looking Like a Tourist When You Travel

02.16.23 by Travelex Insurance
Image credit: Getty Images

It can be easy to stand out as a tourist while traveling. But learning how to blend in with the locals is not only exciting, but can also make your trip safer and more enjoyable. 

One important reason to avoid looking like a tourist is to avoid scams. Tourists are easy marks for con artists and scammers, so if you look like you belong, you’ll be less of a target. 

Here are some tips on how to avoid looking like a tourist when you go abroad. 

Do your research  

Our first advice on how to avoid looking like a tourist is to do some research before you depart.  

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.  

Be polite — and be mindful of your body language  

Not looking like a tourist isn’t all about how you look: how you act in public speaks volumes. As a traveler, it’s the quickest way to stick out. Just because something seems perfectly fine at home doesn’t mean it'll be okay — or safe — to behave the same way somewhere else. 

In particular: 

  • 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 appropriately   

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. 

Be aware of your surroundings  

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.  

Our tips: 

  • 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. 

Look like you know where you’re going, even if you don’t   

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: 

  • 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.  

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 to 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.   

Take photos discreetly  

We’re not saying don’t take a selfie — photos are often the best way to capture the memories of a trip. But wandering with a big camera hung around your neck will be an easy giveaway that you’re a tourist, and may even make you more of a target for those who prey on tourists for scams and petty theft. 

  • 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. 

Know common scams and how to avoid them  

Tourists are prime targets for scammers and pickpockets, so if you know how to avoid looking like a tourist, you’re less likely to be targeted. It’s also helpful to research common scams at your travel destination so you know what to look out for.  

Common tourist scams   

These differ from country to country, but common tourist scams can include:    

  • Fake taxis or “broken meters” that overcharge unwary passengers. 

  • Fake money exchanges or those that will short-change you in local currency. 

  • Creating a diversion as a way to pickpocket. 

  • Fake tour guides for official buildings and major tourist attractions. 

  • Counterfeit designer goods at markets sold as the real thing. 

  • The “bracelet” trick, where a scammer will slide a bracelet onto your wrist then demand payment. 

  • Accepting discounted tickets at a bus or train terminal, which end up being fake and unusable. 

Learn more about common tourist scams.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions  

Learning from the locals is one of the best things about traveling. Locals love to talk about their culture and can provide invaluable insights into the area you’re visiting. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and participate in conversations. 

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, linger 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.  

Planning your dream vacation abroad?  

Protect your trip with travel insurance from Travelex and you can travel with peace of mind and know you have support along the way. Get a quote now.

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