For the more conscious traveler, it’s important to know how to not look like a tourist. It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting another city in your home country or a foreign country, the rules for how to not look like a tourist are the same.
- Dress business casual. Don’t stuff your suitcase with the brightest, tackiest shirts you own. Nor should you pack your most casual clothes. Odds are what is casual for you is dumpy to the locals. Pack tastefully. Think of it as business casual or relaxed business casual: no t-shirts, no jeans, no sneakers, and no funky hats. Polos or button-down shirts are great and can’t miss when paired with dress slacks or khakis (including khaki shorts). Top this off with dark socks (no white socks!) and dress casual shoes. Sandals are okay, but do not wear socks with them.
- No fanny packs. Fanny packs are gifts from the devil designed to make tourists look goofy no matter where they go. Clean out your purse and include only the essentials. If you insist on keeping your arms free, buy a personal utility pouch or a security waist belt. The utility pouch is a slim, lightweight handbag that wears across your chest, leaving your arms free. The Waist Belt is like a fanny pack except not as bulky. You loop your belt through it and slip your shirt over it. Because it’s more compact, it easily hides from view.
- Learn basic pronunciations. If you’re traveling to a foreign country and don’t speak the language, learn how to pronounce the basic things you’ll encounter on your trip. Knowing how to pronounce your hotel and other sites on your itinerary will keep you from looking like a tourist. Don’t forget to learn standard questions like, “Where is the bathroom?”, “Which way to the beach?” (or other destinations), and local words for “taxi”, “hotel”, “restaurant”, and so on.
- Hide the maps. No one will fault you for not knowing your way around, but they will get annoyed if you stand in the middle of the sidewalk studying maps for half an hour. Before you leave your hotel, know your routes. Write directions on a small sheet of paper and refer to that if you need to. Only bust out the maps if you’ve gotten lost. Before then, keep them in your handbag, pocket, or car.
- Ask for help. If you can’t find the luggage carousel, taxi pool, a certain restaurant or some other location, don’t walk back and forth looking for them. Stop and ask. If you’re in a foreign country, a police officer or fellow tourist are your best bets. This saves precious time and is an important step in how to not look like a tourist.
- Use your camera sparingly. You look like a tourist by taking pictures of anything and everything. You won’t be the only tourist who wants a picture in front of a national monument, but taking ten pictures from every angle makes you stick out big time. One or two pictures with your loved ones should be enough.
- Order local food. Don’t walk in to a nice restaurant and order what you would eat back home. This goes double if you’re visiting a foreign country. Try the local cuisine, sip the local wine and drinks, and enjoy local desserts. Eat local at every opportunity. Not only will you experience more of your host city or country, but you won’t look like a tourist, either.
- Check your volume. Be conscious of your volume and gestures. Even within the same country, not every city, state, or province is the same. Some regions will take offense if you’re loud, brash, or use big gestures. This is especially true in foreign countries. There’s no law against having a good time, but you can enjoy yourself and not look like a tourist at the same time.
Follow these eight simple guidelines and you will avoid looking like a tourist. Not only that, but because you took the time to respect the host city/country, you’ll be able to interact better with the locals and enjoy your trip that much more.
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