10 simple ways to travel without looking like a tourist
Why would you worry about looking like a tourist? It’s always been my feeling that it comes with certain disadvantages.
You get treated differently – occasionally better, but often much worse.
You are an obvious target for sales scams. And crucially, I think, you tend to feel more alienated – distanced from a destination and its culture.
By contrast, if you manage to blend in just a little, you are responding to that culture rather than just imposing yourself; you can become an observer, not a spectator.
Here are 10 of my tips.
1. Smarten up
In most places the smarter you are, the less likely you are to be categorised as a tourist. The key is to observe locals. In the United States you could wear shorts, T-shirts and sandals with socks and blend into the background. In Paris or Tokyo, you won’t. Bulky money belts and cargo shorts are real giveaways.
2. Avoid daypacks
Do you really need all that stuff? Put some essentials in a carrier bag from a local supermarket and your image will be instantly transformed.
3. Take the bus
That’s what locals do, whereas tourists opt for the metro system.
4. Photograph less
Smart phones have eliminated that giveaway SLR hanging around a tourist’s neck – but if you spend more time observing and less time framing photographs, you’ll look and feel less like a visitor and ultimately, I think, see more.
5. Eat off the beaten track
If you walk a few streets back from the main tourist drag and find a place without a tourist menu, you’ll probably pay less, eat better, and feel more part of the place.
6. Use Airbnb or rent a flat
You won’t be surrounded by hotel guests – and you’ll use local food shops and markets.
7. Go somewhere different
Tourists are easy to spot in Barcelona, Venice, Amsterdam, Rome and Florence. That's because, on any given day, about 95 per cent of people within a mile of the city centre are on holiday.
So go somewhere different. Instead of Amsterdam, try Utrecht. Avoid Venice in favour of Annecy. Swap Prague for Bratislava.
8. Don't use a Segway
How did the Segway city tour become a thing? Why would you want to bomb around in such a conspicuous manner on what is essentially a mobility scooter? They are the transport equivalent of a bum bag, guaranteed to make you look like a foolish tourist.
9. Ditch the guidebook
And leave your phone in the hotel, while you’re at it. Just go out there and get lost, follow your nose. And learn a bit of the local language.
10. Travel out of season
An obvious way to avoid looking like a tourist is to avoid visiting when everyone else is. The weather is often just as good in the shoulder season and most of the shops and restaurants are open. The added bonus? It’s usually a bit cheaper.