Travel Like a Local How Not to Look Like a Tourist Even If You Are

When you’re traveling, you don’t want to look like the naïve tourist with the map and the cam. Blend in. Get to know the culture and, as much as you can, go where the locals go and do what the locals do. Here are some pointers.

Traveling soon? While jetting off to another country means you’re on new territory, you don’t need to appear like you are. In fact, the best way to travel is to not just visit the “tourist spots” but also discover the ones where the locals really go. That way, you’ll get to know the people and their culture and learn how they live.  

1. Wear What the Locals Wear

Unless you’re mountaineering or crossing a river, you won’t really need waterproof microfiber pants that turn into shorts, right? Before your trip, research what locals usually wear and try to adapt to their style. You don’t have to put on their national costume. Just check their usual look. Do people dress casually or formally? Are short skirts, low necklines, and bare shoulders considered inappropriate for women? The locals would appreciate it if you gave a nod to their customs and traditions.

2. Get Lost

We don’t mean get lost like a small kid in a big mall. We mean explore and go for off-the-beaten paths. So do your research before going. Jot down where you want to go and learn how to get there. Do you take the train or a taxi? Write down your itinerary with the directions. If you need to consult a map, you can. But where is the adventure in that? Walk around the city and just get lost. Avoid fancy restaurants and eat where the locals eat, those hole-in-the-wall eateries have the best food anyway. You’ll learn more about the local culture if you stray past the usual tourist itinerary.

3. Leave Your SLR at Home

Unless you’re shooting photos for a magazine, your phone or a 10 megapixel point-and-shoot is fine. A point-and-shoot camera is light and less like conspicuous. And maybe minimize taking photos too– seriously, how many Instagram posts do you need to post in a day anyway?  A camera can be a barrier between you and the place you are exploring. Immerse yourself in the local culture and live in the moment.

4. Learn a Few Key Phrases in the Local Language

Be familiar with the phrases for: “hello,” “thank you,” “sorry,” “how much?” “bathroom,” and “where.” You’ll pick up more words along the way, but those are enough to start with. Read up on hand gestures as well. Did you know that the thumbs-up gesture is offensive in countries like Greece and Italy? Learn the proper hand gestures if you don’t want to get into trouble.  

5. Be Still

Sit at a café or a park bench and just observe the scene like a fly-on-the-wall. Watch what the locals do and see how they behave. You’ll pick up more about their culture by sitting still rather than rushing through the tourist spots. Your feet will thank you as well.