unexpected tips: how to NOT look like a tourist

We all know the guy… Khaki pants (occasionally zipoffs), white sneakers (not the trendy kind), big old backpack hitting everyone around him, but he doesn’t notice, as he’s too busy taking photos of everything in sight… The classic tourist.

There are definite advantages to NOT looking like a tourist… First off, and probably most importantly, you won’t be the first target for pickpocketing. You’ll also be able to blend into the country/city you’re visiting more, which enables you to see your destination a little bit more true to what it is.

Here’s how NOT to look like a tourist.

1. Don’t sightsee through your camera lens (or phone)
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Take photos! I’m not saying to avoid snapping pictures! Just try not to walk with your eye in the viewfinder, as it’s a little inconvenient for those around you, and it’s also a very good distraction for petty theft. If you want to take photos, stop near the side of the walkway and take your photo, then put the camera back (around your shoulder or in your bag).

2. Dress smartly

Smart as in, you did your research, not smart as in suit and tie. Dress like the locals do, wear comfortable but stylish clothing, and dress respectfully (don’t wear super religious clothing, don’t wear very revealing clothing).

3. Pretend you know the city

don’t look as lost as I do here!

Even if you can’t tell north from south, pretend you know the ins and outs of a city. Don’t pull out a map; don’t look like a deer in the headlights. Stop in a store or coffee shop and use that as a point of reference, then figure out where you are. OR use your phone discreetly.

4. Don’t speak super loudly

There’s a bit of a running joke amongst the travel community (excluding Americans), saying that you can pick out the Americans as soon as they open their mouth, as they’re shouting across store aisles and streets and generally just being the loudest. I can say that this is pretty true (sorry fellow Americans). Speak softly to avoid this label.

5. Know the currency

I’ve definitely been the person to hold up the cash register because I was confused by the new currency (seriously, Vietnam, why are your bills such large denominations?!), and I DEFINITELY gave my tourist status away. Check out the currency before trying to use it (although yes, I know this isn’t always possible).

6. Find the hidden gems

The cafes with the greatest views, the best bakery, the best stores. Know the hidden gems that tourists often overlook; you’ll have a lovely experience explore the city at a level deeper than the surface.

7. Know basic phrases of the local language

I generally know these words/phrases: please, thank you, sorry, excuse me.


Sometimes looking like a tourist isn’t a bad thing. I’ve definitely strolled up in my chacos, sunnies, and a baseball cap! There are moments when you want to blend in, however, and I hope these tips have helped!

Missing anything? Comment down below!

21 thoughts on “unexpected tips: how to NOT look like a tourist

  1. 8. Carry a local newspaper in that country’s language around with you! Opened on your coffee table, specifically folded under your arm when walking.

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      1. 9. Develop and perfect the 1000 yd stare! This last one has served me well in Kathmandu which I visited twice a year for 25 years. The street sellers have no idea how to deal with it, no smile, no words, no eye contact. They do not exist in your universe 😂😂👫

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You can also carry a clipboard, wear a pocket protector and plastic hardhat.
      If it’s THAT important to look “the part”. 🙂

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  2. I’m American by birth, but have lived in Brazil for 30 years.
    If you haven’t been around groups of Brazilians- in Bali, Europe, wherever- you don’t know what L O U D ! is. I challenge anyone to name a natonal group louder. Brazilians put all other nationalities to shame. We love them just the same (most of us)….

    “TA’ ESCUTANDO O QUE TOU TE DIZENDO, BICHO!!!!” 🙂

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