Have more than you show, speak less than you know” ~ Shakespeare.
Have you ever wondered how to NOT look like a tourist? Won’t it always be obvious that you’re an outsider just visiting a destination?
Maybe you’re tired of being singled-out in a crowd by pushy people trying to sell you fake Rolexes or miniature Eiffel Tower ornaments, but not sure why you’re a target. This can put a real damper on a trip that you’ve been looking forward to for months (or even years) in advance – travelling is meant to be an enjoyable experience!
Perhaps you’ve been speculating whether it’s actually possible to be an “invisible tourist” despite the name of this blog 😁 Because really, don’t all tourists stand out in a crowd? This sounds like something out of a fiction novel… In reality you can’t be invisible, can you?
I assure you – you can! If you haven’t guessed already, I prefer to be invisible when I’m out travelling the world. Heck, I don’t even have my photo on this blog! As I’ve discussed in more detail previously, I’m a bit of a hybrid and have been travelling as an Invisible Tourist for the last 9 years. Now, I’m exposing my secrets, tips and tricks to help you make the most of your next travel experience. Click here to see where I’ve been!
Why should I not look like a tourist?
Blending in has LOADS of benefits. From meeting locals to avoiding pickpockets, it really is the best way to get the most out of your travel experience!
I’m not sure why many other travellers are not aware of these steps (or don’t care about them) but it’s really simple to not look like a tourist when you’re exploring somewhere new. It doesn’t even take much effort.
Think about locals and expats. They’re at almost every destination around the world and they go out and do stuff too, don’t they? So what defines you as a tourist, expat or local isn’t necessarily just about the way you look. How you act and your behaviour is what will give you away!
How to NOT look like a tourist in 10 easy steps
Here are my top 10 tips for how to NOT look like a tourist when travelling abroad. The last bonus tip is probably the most simple yet effective!:
#1 Book a central hotel
I harp on about this in each of my detailed itineraries. Booking central hotels means you’re not traipsing across the city to see attractions and trekking back again, wasting a lot of time that could be better spent exploring a museum or enjoying an experience unique to your destination. Tour groups usually leave a city by dusk and it’s the locals who stay out into the night. With your hotel close by there’s every reason for you to stay out enjoying the nightlife, too!
#2 Use public transport where you can
Private transfers from airports to hotels are usually expensive. If you’d truly like to experience the local way of life at your destination catch the train, bus or taxi. Not only do you get the full experience but you are supporting local jobs and keeping these services running. An added bonus is it’s usually the cheapest way to get around!
#3 Dress appropriately for the place you’re visiting
This may seem obvious but it’s one of the most important steps. If you truly want to blend into a crowd, don’t wear anything that will draw attention to you. Be respectful of local cultures and customs. Flashy items of clothing or designer handbags scream “Look at me, I’m not from here” in a majority of destinations. Remember if you’re in a place where the average local would not wear these things then you probably shouldn’t either. For instance, I know of travellers who had their designer coats and other items stolen from cloak rooms in Prague nightclubs. Moral of the story: Don’t travel with something you couldn’t bear to part with, either!
#4 Learn some language basics
I had a hostile reception from locals during my first visit to France (no fault to the French, it was all me!) so from that point forward I was determined to always learn the language of the destinations I visited. This is probably one of the most crucial tips and will earn you massive brownie points with locals – you’ve gone to the effort to learn their native tongue and shows that you respect them and their culture. It’s like waving a golden ticket at a local and a big confidence boost for you to do things you may not have considered otherwise! Along with being able to decode foreign menus and easily read signs, you can find more benefits for learning language for travel here. Go get linguistically prepared for your next journey!
#5 Know the scams
Some tourist hotspots around the world are notorious for scamming visitors, particularly Paris, Barcelona and Thailand just to name a few. Fortunately for me, I’ve visited many major cities across 4 continents and can proudly say I’ve never fallen victim to a scam or been robbed (touch wood!). How? Being curious, prepared and observant of my surroundings helps to eliminate risks and recognise suspicious behaviour. Find out if there are any scams at your destination by doing a quick Google search to prepare yourself in advance and avoid taking the bait. You can find a rough guide to 40 tourist scams here to give you an idea of what to expect.
This leads me to…
#6 Be a skeptic
In order to survive a summer in Europe (or anywhere really) without being scammed you need to think almost EVERYONE is out to get you. Really 😔 I know, I know, this sounds totally scary and harsh but it truly works! If someone approaches you speaking English – who doesn’t look like someone who normally speaks English – then you probably don’t want what they’re offering. Isn’t this is a sad reality! How often are you responsive to relentless telemarketers at home? This is the abroad equivalent. If you want something yourself you usually go and get it on your own, right?
#7 Fake it ’til you make it
Always look like you know where you’re going, even when you don’t. Locals always know where they’re going, don’t they? If you really are lost, forget pulling out a map in a busy area or wandering around aimlessly. Your cover will be blown, pickpockets will catch on and you may become an easy target in crowded areas. Instead, approach a local who seems like they have somewhere to be (not a person who is loitering around a tourist hotspot, they can be trouble) and ask them in the local language if they have a moment to give you directions. The local will be appreciative you’ve made the effort to learn their language and will be happy to help. Don’t be afraid! You can find out the essential resources I use to learn language for travel fast here.
#8 Avoid permanently displaying your camera and selfie stick
Nothing bellows “tourist” louder than someone with a massive SLR camera draped around their neck at all times. Or someone that documents their every move on their phone with a selfie-stick (urghhh). A compact and discreet camera that easily fits in your bag will do the trick. I know I’ll be in the minority with this opinion BUT I cannot stand selfie sticks! Am I the only one who can’t help but think back to this meme from 2011 before selfie-sticks were cool and topped many millennial travellers’ necessity list? (and I’m a millennial, by the way):
TIP: You might make a new local friend if you actually ask them to take a photo of you!
#9 Don’t flash that cash
Do your best to refrain from displaying massive wads of cash. Better yet, don’t carry much cash at all, if you can help it. Many places accept credit or debit cards so these days the need for carrying cash isn’t really there in many destinations. If you do need to carry cash in some smaller towns, take enough with you for that day and leave the rest in your hotel safe. Additionally, tourists of Asian appearance are especially vulnerable in Europe because pickpocketers know they usually carry large sums of cash when they travel to purchase luxury goods. It’s unfortunate but true!
#10 Eat where the locals do
Not only is this where you’ll find the tastiest, most authentic food of your destination, you’re also less likely to get ripped off by restaurants that have swarms of one-off visitors going through eating their mediocre food. Enjoying local grub where locals do helps support local jobs and businesses. As mentioned in point #1, you’ll be able to do more of this with your hotel in close proximity so you can spend more time out enjoying yourself.
Carrying a local paper is a great way to not look like a tourist 😉 This clever little trick convinces observers you speak the local language, therefore you’re less likely to be harassed by people who usually go after vulnerable tourists. Win!
Being an Invisible Tourist is simple!
To clarify, I am not saying these things to be a scaremonger or make you fearful of travelling. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Burying our heads in the sand won’t make the issues we face as tourists go away. But if we do a little research to prepare ourselves in advance we can be aware, know what to expect and exercise caution to avoid pesky problems.
Do you have any tips for being an Invisible Tourist? I’d love to hear them! Let me know where you’ve been invisible in the comments below, over on Facebook, Instagram or come and join me on Pinterest 📌
Until next time,
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