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Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

How NOT To Look Like A Tourist – 7 Simple Tips

When traveling to new places, it’s easy to stand out as a tourist. If you’re not familiar with the local customs and culture, you might not know how to dress or act so that you don’t look like a tourist.

Looking like a tourist makes you an easy target and leaves you vulnerable to those who take advantage of foreigners. It may just be a higher cost for a cab ride or being told there are no tables available at the café where you hope to dine. But it’s also the pickpockets and scammers in every city in the world.

After years of traveling through countries worldwide, I’ve learned why and how not to look like a tourist. Follow these simple tips, and you will blend in with the locals with ease.   

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How Not To Look Like A Tourist? – Blend In With The Locals!

The best way to blend in with the locals is by wearing clothes that they would wear. If you’re in Southeast Asia in a beach community, you can probably get by wearing sandals, shorts, tank tops, and sundresses.

But, If you’re in Paris, London, or New York, it’s a very different vibe. People in big cities everywhere tend to dress a bit more stylishly. If you are trying to figure out how not to look like a tourist, dress like they do.

During my travels in Europe, I find that most people stay away from bright colors for daily wear. Looks are thoughtful but straightforward. 

People catching a train in a train station

Outside of the US, it is far more common to use public transportation (trains and busses) and walk to get where you need to go. In Copenhagen and Amsterdam, bicycles are a prime mode of transportation. In Vietnam, Thailand, and other SE Asian Countries, motorbikes and scooters are the mode of choice.

People choose comfortable but still stylish clothing when using transportation like this.

When traveling, men are better off wearing a nice pair of jeans or khakis and a polo or button-down shirt.   Women will find that jeans, khaki’s or a skirt and a nice top will be the look to go for.

Want to take your look up a notch and add that touch of style? Throw on a trendy jacket or trench coat and neck scarf.


So, How Do You Blend In And Avoid Looking Like A Tourist?

Wear long pants. Try to avoid shorts and blue denim. While blue jeans are growing in popularity everywhere, this is still one of the “tells” that you’re from the US. I wear black jeans or khaki’s to blend in with the locals and shed the “Tourist Look.”

Carry a bag or day pack:  Having no purse or bag at all is an obvious red flag that screams, “I’m a tourist.” When your feet are your primary method of transportation, you need a bag of some sort to carry your belongings.

People in the tunnels of the London Tube

In Europe, many women choose to wear crossbody bags. These bags are easily large enough to hold all the items you need during your day. There is usually enough room for a few small purchases one might buy on the way home.

Some added advantages of a crossbody bag are that it can be hidden under a coat or sweater when walking around, and you keep your hands free. The best bags to use are ones that have zipper closers. It’s much easier for a pickpocket to get their hands into a bag with just a flat or snap.

This is the bag I use when I travel. It has many different compartments, so my money isn’t with my passport or phone. Plus, the large main compartment comes in handy for small purchases.

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Backpacks are pervasive but bulky, and you may be required to check them in some museums and shops. For men, it’s better to carry a smaller daypack over your shoulders that you can quickly move to the front when on a bus or train.

This is a good choice for a day pack. Lots of zippered compartments, a place for a water bottle, and it’s water-resistant! Fully endorsed by my husband.

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We generally travel in the fall, which is often the rainy season. I wear a lightweight jacket with a hood because I’m not too fond of umbrellas. My husband prefers an umbrella and will stash a compact one in his daypack.   Either way, a hooded jacket or a compact umbrella is an item a local would choose to wear during the fall.

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Does dressing like the locals work? On a trip to Vienna a few years ago, I was out taking pictures in Old Town while my husband visited a Turkish barber.  

As I was photographing this fountain, some tourists came up to me and asked if I spoke English. After I responded “yes,” they asked me for directions. That day I found the key for how not to look like a tourist. My “local” outfit was a winner that day!  


Modest Clothing Is Always A Good Idea When Visiting Churches, Temples, or Mosques

Some of the most beautiful architecture in the “Old World” are Churches, Temples, and Mosques. Still, they also serve a religious purpose associated with prayer and quiet reflection. Wearing shorts, short skirts, or sundresses in such locations is often a sign of disrespect.  

The BBC has put together an extensive list of Do’s and Don’ts for visiting temples, mosques, and churches. It’s a short read but fantastic information.

Women can wear a mid-length skirt when it’s warm (this is actually my go-to warm-weather travel outfit). Make sure that your knees and shoulders are completely covered at all times when you go inside. If you wear a tank-style top, a simple scarf can be used to cover your shoulders.  

Similarly, men should wear long pants, not shorts, and a polo or button-down shirt when visiting places of worship. Shorts and t-shirts may be seen as disrespectful.

People Viewing the Chapel at Notre-Dame de la Garde - Marseille France

In Mosques and some Temples, you may be asked to remove your shoes and even possibly wash your feet before entering. It is easy to place your shoes in your day pack or small grocery bag while you visit. 

Consuming food and drink inside a place of worship is considered highly disrespectful in most religions, including Christianity and Islam. Don’t be loud, and don’t take selfies!

Taking pictures is usually allowed, but use common sense and follow any posted signs. Most of all, remember that the locals in the room probably came to pray.  


Nothing Screams Tourist Like Wearing A Pair Of Sneakers

Proper footwear Is essential. Most of the streets in Europe are paved with cobblestones. Even when there are sidewalks, they are likely to be uneven. For this reason, you don’t usually see many women wearing high heels.

There are exceptions to this; Rome comes to mind. However, most people wear lower-heeled, fashionable shoes. It would be best if you did the same

It can be hard to figure out how to not look like a tourist when visiting cities or big tourist attractions. But by wearing sensible, fashionable shoes when walking on these uneven sidewalks or cobblestone streets, you will fit in more closely.

Shoppers at the Borough Market London

If you wear shoes that don’t provide much support, it’s easy to slip and fall. Not only that, your feet will really hurt after a day wandering all around Paris.

However, don’t wear “tennis shoes” (aka sneakers and in London “trainers”). These shoes are getting more popular,  but you just lost the game if you are trying not to look like a tourist.

Now, if you are headed out for a run or to the gym, trainers and sweats are the things to wear. You will get odd looks if someone sees you in trousers and street shoes at a fitness center trying to run on the treadmill!  


You Know The Do’s, Now Here Are The Dont’s

Avoid wearing ballcaps or t-shirts with sports team logos.   It doesn’t matter if it’s the New York Yankees or Manchester United; you’ll look like a tourist and could be targeted by street vendors.

Another common mistake made by tourists is wearing clothes with giant logos. Nobody wants to look like they’re advertising for a company.

Fanny packs are convenient but not cool anymore; it’s time to get rid of them. No matter what country you are in, showing up with a fanny pack strapped across your belly is always a sign you are a tourist!

It’s also important not to wear anything too flashy or expensive. When packing for the trip, make sure not to bring anything that will make you stick out as a tourist or draw attention to yourself.  


Don’t Walk Like A Tourist, Look Like You Know Where You Are Going

Lost Tourist Looking at Maps Trying to Figure out which way to go

One of the most important things is to walk with purpose as if you know where you’re going. Avoid looking lost or confused, which will make it obvious that you’re not from around there.

Review your map or directions before you leave your hotel. When you’re out in public, keep your map or phone in your pocket and look confident that you know where to go.  

If you need to review your course or find a new place to visit, stop at a local coffee shop or cafe. Snagging a table outside is the perfect place to rest, eat some food and plan your next move.  


Fancy Cameras Are The First Giveaway That You Are A Tourist

When people think of tourists, the first thing that comes to mind is a person with a giant DSLR  camera and a huge camera bag. Unless you are a professional photographer, you probably don’t need to be lugging all this around.

How Not To Look Like A Tourist - A couple each with a large camera in Rome
girl and guy tourists with cameras in Rome at the statue with the rider

Today mobile phones are everywhere, and most pack a pretty good camera. Your phone is an excellent alternative to that giant camera. However, while nearly everyone you see is walking around looking at their phone, the thieves are looking at you. 

Be aware of your surroundings. Use some sort of tethering device to keep your phone close. I use this simple wrist strap when I am out and about.

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This strap limits the chance of dropping my phone, and I am less of a target for a bump and grab. It should go without saying that you should not set your phone down on the table in a café, especially outside. Crimes of opportunity happen everywhere from Dallas, TX, to Tokyo, Japan.  


Learn Some Key Phrases From The Country You Are Visiting  

It’s always a good idea to learn some of the language of the country you are visiting. You’ll be able to communicate better with locals.

If there is an emergency or other problem, it will help you get assistance more quickly. When traveling abroad, I’ve found that learning just one phrase can make all the difference in my experience.

For example, when we visited Japan for the first time a bit ago, we learned how to say I’m sorry / Excuse Me (Sumimasen). It helped us a lot when accidentally bumping into someone on the street without even knowing what was happening.

Whether people speak English or not, they know this word anywhere in this world – so it’s something worth memorizing! 

This book is meant for young readers as an introduction to languages. But with profiles of 21 of the world’s languages and how to count to ten and speak a few phrases, the book may be just what you need!

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Here are 10 key phrases you should know in the language of the country you are traveling to in case of emergencies or other problems. These phrases will come in handy while you’re on your trip!

  1. Hello (often Good Morning, Good Day, or Good Evening)
  2. Please and Thank you
  3. My name is ____________  What is yours?
  4. I don’t speak (Insert Language) very well, do you speak English? 
  5. Excuse me / I’m sorry
  6. Can you help me?
  7. How much does it cost?
  8. Where is the bathroom?
  9. Numbers (at least 1 – 10, up to 100 if you find languages easy)
  10. Goodbye

If you don’t want to buy a book, you can look these simple phrases up in Google Translate and store them on your phone. Practice saying each one a few times that way, you’ll be ready when the time comes and you need to speak.  


Whether You Are Traveling For Business Or Pleasure, How To Not To Look Like A Tourist Is Important

Above, we’ve reviewed some basic considerations to avoid looking out of place in any country. Generally speaking, wear clothes the locals would wear and respect the local customs- even if they seem strange to you!

Learning a few key phrases will help break down barriers between cultures and shows respect towards those who live there.

Keep these tips in mind next time you plan an international trip. You will enjoy yourself along the way without drawing attention away from how amazing all of this new culture really is!

What are your favorite tips to avoid looking like a tourist? Did I miss a crucial item? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips please let me know!

VickieDe has eaten her way through more than 300 cities in over 40 countries. Learning along the way that food and culture go hand in hand. Read More

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