According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism increased by 5,600 percent between 1950 and 2018, with around 1.4 billion people traveling. That’s a lot of opportunities for globetrotters to stand out like a sore thumb in unfamiliar territory!
So, what does a tourist look like, and how can you avoid looking like one?
I’ve got the low-down for you here so that you blend in seamlessly like a local on your next trip.
So, what does a tourist look like, and how can you avoid looking like one?
I’ve got the lowdown for you here so that you blend in seamlessly like a local on your next trip.
Spotting the Signs of a Tourist
Nearly all tourists share at least one thing in common at some point during their trip – looking lost.
But aside from this, there are some clear signs that a person is a tourist according to how they’re dressed, such as touting destination-based, non-local clothing, and hauling brand new expensive gear that they don’t know how to use.
Why You Don’t Want To Look Like a Tourist
You may think nothing of dressing in your expensive new walking shoes, donning a fanny pack, and putting on that I-Heart-NY shirt you bought at the train station. You might not worry about speaking English loudly to your family in a country that doesn’t speak English as a primary language.
However, looking like a tourist makes you a target for criminals. People assume that tourists walk around with large amounts of cash and expensive technology to document their experiences.
Tourists don’t know the lay of the city and may not know where to go to get help. They also most likely won’t press charges or report a crime as they don’t want to ruin the rest of their vacation by being tied up in a non-local court system.
It’s in your best interest to blend in when you travel, whether that’s domestically or abroad.
How a Tourist Looks According to the Destination
The classic tourist image varies according to the city they’re in and the type of travel they’re doing – but it’s still pretty easy to spot a tourist from a local.
I’ll help you weed out the tourists from the locals with the information below.
Visiting a city is arguably the easiest way to rock a local look and avoid looking like a tourist – after all, you’re not disembarking a cruise with thousands of other tourists. Just keep in mind that how you dress, talk, and behave differs significantly among cities.
Can you imagine wearing a cowboy hat and boots in New York City?
Remember, tourists often rock comfy sneakers over high heels and t-shirts saying “I Love New York” over Louis Vuitton suits.
Now let’s use Austin as an example. When people think of Texas, they envision cowboy hats – and for a good reason, this time. However, if you did a little research on Austin before your trip, you’d learn that it’s uncommon for locals to wear cowboy hats in this trendy city.
Nevertheless, loads of touristy shops selling cowboy hats would indicate otherwise. So, it’s easy to spot tourists in Austin – if they’re wearing a cowboy hat, you can pretty much bet that they’re from out of town.
Regardless of what city you’re in, many tourists wear flashy hats, shirts, and clothes displaying the name or famous site of the place they’re visiting.
You may also be able to identify the tell-tale city tourist globetrotter according to their pins.
There’s a formal Hard Rock Cafe Pin Collector’s Club, where people buy pins at the Hard Rock Cafes they visit in cities around the globe.
It’s similar to collecting shot glasses or magnets as souvenirs when you travel, except that people can wear their pins to show them off (and prove to locals that they fall into the “touristy” category).
With that in mind, you’ll want to do some casual research before you embark on your trip. Look up what the locals wear on Instagram or other forms of social media, so you can be sure you won’t stand out.
See Related: Best and Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to Visit
Assuming that you don’t watch them pile off at the boating dock, cruise ship tourists look like they’re on a mission. And that’s understandable, given that they usually dock for day trips.
Therefore, these tourists often make bee-lines to the most typical tourist places, seemingly following arrows pointing them in the right direction that only cruise-goers can see.
There’s a good reason for this; cruise ships usually give their tourists tips on how to get around so that they can pack everything in on the same day.
So, what does a tourist wear to indicate they’re a cruise ship goer? What should you avoid?
Think casual and gaudy for a tourist outfit idea. Think Hawaiian shirts, shades, boat shoes, shorts; the most casual of casual wear without going full sweatpants or boxers.
Since cruise ship goers can leave everything in their room and it’s time-consuming to return there midday, they’re not going to dress up to eat at a nice restaurant for example. They’ll also typically sport a baseball cap to simultaneously ward off the sun and hide their increasingly humid-induced hairdo.
People who truly embody the tourist look often boast outfits that have the names or images from destinations they’ve already visited along the cruise route.
Statistically, cruise-goers are older, with the majority ranging from 40 – 70+ years old. However, this alone isn’t a good indication to tell whether someone is a cruise tourist.
Disney cruises geared towards kids, party cruises geared towards singles, and more can bring in an array of tourist age groups.
Finally, you can often spot cruise tourists if you see them frantically rushing around at the end of the day. They may have gotten so caught up in the beautiful destination they’re visiting that they could be on the verge of their cruise leaving without them.
You might even see them whipping off their flip flops to alleviate the sores they got throughout the day as they barrel down a touristy street, asking vendors how to get back to the port.
See Related: What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise
It can be more challenging to spot a tourist in ski destinations, particularly at ski resorts, given that the very nature of them is to attract tourists.
Nevertheless, locals and experienced skiing visitors also frequent these slopes. So, you can often spot tourist skiers by their tourist clothes.
For example, are they sporting high-end ski gear? And, perhaps most indicative, do their jackets, hats, and skies look brand spanking new?
A tourist skier who chooses to invest in ski gear will often moan about their expensive equipment getting dirty or ripped from having a run-in with a tree. In contrast, a local hitting the slopes usually has skiing gear showing wear and tear.
And instead of fretting about it, they wear it as a right of passage for being born and raised in the area. It’s similar to the old maxim; a knight in shining armor has never had his mettle tested.
In contrast, many tourists choose to rent skiing equipment. Therefore, separating these tourists from locals is easy since they boast skis of a particular color or branding.
Aside from physical appearance, it’s often easy to tell a tourist from a local because of their savvy ways of boarding the ski lift. Locals know the timing and little nuances of their ski lift compared to tourists.
Therefore, they’ll effortlessly board and debark the lift without commenting on its speed, getting their skies tangled up, or needing assistance.
Furthermore, if you see a child cruising down a slope while an adult, wobbling on their skis, on the brink of having a run-in with the poor soul in their path on the same slope, you can bet the child is likely a local.
Many locals start learning whatever sport nature provides them at a young age. So, in snowy climates, you can expect young children to better handle skiing, snowboarding, and any other snow activity than many tourist children and adults.
The best way to look like a local?
Rough your equipment up a bit before you hit the slopes. If it doesn’t look pristine, you will stand out a little less.
Do bright, flashy Hawaiian tourism outfits come to mind when you think of tourists on the beach? If so, you’re spot on. But these aren’t the only classic tourist beach look.
Other tell-tale signs of a tourist at the beach include:
- Cargo shorts
- Souvenir t-shirts
- Crew socks with sandals
- Straw hats and baseball caps
- Expensive sunglasses
- Cameras hanging from the neck
You can easily picture all that, right? Add a fanny pack to that list, and you’re nearly guaranteed to have a tourist on your hands.
Of course, the good ‘ole souvenir t-shirts are another go-to tourist costume giveaway. It’s common for beach destinations to boast shop after shop of the same attire. And they’re wise to do it, given that there’s a seemingly endless tourist market for it.
Another sign that you’ve spotted a tourist on the beach is if they keep slathering on sunscreen.
Of course, locals aren’t immune to sunburn, but they tend to already have a tan, taking the sunburn on the chin, or they use a less obvious sunscreen, rather than coating themselves in thick white goop.
A lot of American tourists will also be eager to loudly flag down the nearest bartender, happily paying for the overpriced margaritas or fruit cups they’re selling on the beach.
Furthermore, you can spot a beach tourist by what catches their eye – is it the seashell souvenirs that a passing vendor is waving in their face or the sea bass a local is pulling in down by the shore?
At the end of the day, the brighter and more flowery a shirt, the larger the straw hat, and the bigger the fanny pack coupled with their interest in gimmicky tourist things are all indications that you’ve spotted a tourist on the beach.
To avoid looking like a tourist, ditch the socks, don’t wear any tourist garb you buy (save that for home), and use a big umbrella rather than a thick strip of sunblock on your nose to keep burns away.
Generally speaking, there are two types of mountain tourists – those that are camping and those that do smaller hikes and sightseeing, having the comfort of a cabin or hotel to return to.
In both cases, you can often spot these mountain tourists based on how they manage their outfits.
If you want a tourist outfit idea to look like a classic mountain visitor, wear layer upon layer of shirts and pants. Locals from the mountains do this too, but as you’ll soon learn, how you approach your gear is everything.
Many tourists purchase brand-new hiking boots as well. You’ll have a hard time finding locals wearing new hiking boots, though – they understand the value of getting as much life out of a pair of hiking boots as possible.
Whereas a tourist will balk at seeing a streak of mud over their new leather, a local embraces those marks and brings their hiking boots to repair shops to extend the life of their beat-up foot attire. After all, hiking boots are for hiking – and for locals in hilly or mountainous areas, hiking is how you get everywhere.
And then there’s the difference between crossing a local and a tourist on a hiking path. A local will act calm and cool, appearing relatively comfortable despite inclines. But a tourist may be sprawled out on the nearest rock, caressing their blistered foot, their brand new hiking shoes crumpled at their side.
And that circles us back to my point from earlier – tourists likely learned from their research or from the outdoor gear shop where they bought their items that wearing lots of layers is ideal for hiking.
However, inexperienced visitors to the mountains might not have a sense of when to take off particular layers – and how quickly they might need them again.
For example, you might notice a tourist in the parking lot toss their fleece jacket into the trunk before they start hiking on a sunny day. And you might find that same tourist freezing at the top of the mountain, a thick layer of cold mist enveloping their body as they talk in disbelief about how they never dreamed they’d need the jacket.
To avoid standing out, wear your gear before you head out on your trip, so it doesn’t look pristine, and then don’t ditch your jacket in the car just because you think it’s going to be a warm day.
And if you really don’t want to stand out; don’t stop walking – take a break when the locals do!
5 Tips to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist
If someone asks you, “What does a tourist look like in different destinations?” you have a grasp of how to answer them.
Now, let’s dive into something just as important as recognizing a tourist—learning how to avoid looking like one during the inevitable moments when you’re a tourist yourself.
1. Dress Like a Local
At this point, it likely comes as no surprise that dressing like a local is one of the best ways to combat the classic tourist look.
It’s up to you to research what dressing like a local means.
For example, if you’re a woman tourist in Morocco, wearing a hijab is culturally appropriate if you want to showcase traditional Islam beliefs. But if you prefer to rock it like modern Moroccan local women, wearing a headscarf is sufficient.
In contrast, you might have Los Angeles pictured as the place to dress to the nines. That’s spot-on if you’re in some parts of L.A., such as Beverly Hills or Bel-Air. But if you’re kicking it in an L.A. suburb, you might look out of place dressing in anything but yoga pants and a tank top.
Sometimes, tourists get so caught up in brands to look like locals that it makes them look like tourists instead.
That’s especially the case for traveling to the mountains or ski resorts where you need a lot of gear. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wearing branded gear—and, undoubtedly, many locals will.
However, some areas may have a special pride in a single brand or take pride in not wearing branded gear to perform well at hiking, skiing, or any other sport.
So, if you want to take things to the next level with avoiding the tourist look, consider writing your hotel or contacting your ski instructor to see if they have any local gear or clothing recommendations.
As a bonus, you’ll make the person feel good, and you just might walk away with more knowledge of the local culture that’ll help you fit in upon your arrival.
Needless to say, the typical tourist outfit varies depending on where you’re at.
So, it’s not enough to do general research on the destination; to fit in like a true local, learn about the area you’ll be staying at, study photos of the people, and dress the part.
2. Study Up on Language and Etiquette
Learning the language of the country that you’re visiting is ideal. But if you’re a globe trotter, it’s unrealistic to expect you to know dozens of languages.
Nevertheless, learning a few phrases in the local language will go a long way to making you fit in—most tourists don’t attempt to learn at all.
Examples of phrases that you should learn are:
- Thank you
- It’s good (referring to food)
Of course, while you can avoid the typical tourist look, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hide your accent when saying these words.
However, the locals will appreciate your effort, and you may even bond with them as they help you with your pronunciation.
Understanding the local customs is also essential to avoiding someone pegging you as a tourist. For example, should you shake hands with someone when you meet them, or is there another gesture (or none at all)?
Learning about tipping etiquette is an important one for tourists.
Tipping is customary in most countries, although the acceptable amount of the tip varies. But if you’re in South Korea, it’s offensive to tip—restaurants pay servers well, so it’s an insult if you tip them.
Jaywalking is yet another example of etiquette to learn so that you avoid looking like a tourist. In cities like New York, jaywalking is illegal.
But if you wait for the light to turn green, you’ll stand out as an eyesore like a tourist. In contrast, if you jaywalk in Germany, locals will stare you down for your uneducated behavior.
You should also consider animal ethics as part of your quest to practice good etiquette in the destination you’re visiting.
A classic example of being a tourist is riding a camel in Egypt or donkey into the Grand Canyon. Unless you know with 100% certainty that the animal receives proper care and rest, it’s best to do as most locals do and stick with walking.
3. Get a Public Transportation Card
It may not be as easy as tacky tourists that take tourism buses with stops at the hotspots in town, but using public transportation is one of the best ways to make yourself seem like a local rather than a tourist.
Depending on where you are, there may be many forms of transportation, such as:
- Cable cars
Before arriving in the city you’ll be traveling to, try investigating how the public transportation system works. Do you have to purchase a public transportation card, or must you pay in cash? If you need a card, can you use it among all forms of transportation?
Getting a feel for the routes before your arrival will also help you look less like a tourist when you take the transportation.
Figure out where the transportation stops are near your accommodation. Then, check out the areas you want to visit and see what it’ll take to get you there.
Nowadays, many cities offer local transportation apps. So, see if you can download an app on your phone.
That’ll greatly help you to jump over the tourist appearance hurdle, as you’ll just need to do a quick check of your phone to figure out how to get around.
Of course, sometimes you’ll need more than public transportation alone. After all, if a destination involves a one-hour walk from the nearest bus stop, most locals would hail a cab rather than invest the time and energy to get there.
Finally, just because you don’t want to look like a tourist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever ask a question.
Especially if you’re visiting a large city, there are plenty of locals who don’t know how to use public transportation to get to a district they don’t frequent. So, go ahead and ask your question—just try to do so in an unflustered way.
4. Taking Things With a Grain of Salt
Whether you’re visiting a touristy area or you’re acting like a tourist in a non-tourist destination, there’ll always be someone wanting to pull your leg.
In some cases, it’ll be relatively harmless banter, such as telling you that you’re eating chicken instead of an alligator tail.
In other cases, someone may tell you something to get more money out of you. Counterfeit brands are a growing issue in many parts of the world, with Gucci and Rolex being some of the most commonly sold fake products.
So, if you’re doing some shopping during your vacation, do your best to purchase high-end products directly from the brand’s store rather than trusting a market vendor.
Similarly, it can be fun exploring the witchcraft section of markets throughout the world.
However, be cautious of anyone who guarantees a certain result with a bottle of Ayahuasca in the Amazon jungle or that says a particular stone is genuine. It could be true or not, and these vendors are excellent at sorting out locals from tourists.
So, the best way to avoid falling into a tourist trap is by approaching everything with a skeptical mindset. You can be friendly to the locals offering you a questionable piece of advice or item for sale without letting them walk all over you.
If you’re unsure but want the item or want to believe the advice, consult with a local that you have confidence in.
An excellent option would be a hotel employee or a tour guide (that is, if you decide to sign up for a tour one day, given that doing so is a tell-tale sign that you’re a tourist.)
There are plenty of tourist day ideas accepted by the mainstream traveler but often leave visitors feeling like it was a tourist trap. According to BestLife, Cancun, Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge are among them.
In some cases, it’s massive amounts of crowds that can make a popular site seem not-so-great.
Other times, the site has too much hype for what it offers. In either case, before you contribute to the tourist crowd, analyze why you want to see the site and if there’s perhaps a more local place that you’d enjoy more.
5. Stay in Local Housing
When considering the question, “What does a tourist look like?” it’s undoubtedly a person who struts out of a hotel or hostel.
Locals can pinpoint such tourists right away, and it’s a particular advantage for souvenir vendors wanting to follow you down the street to get you to buy their products.
If you’re going to be staying for a couple of months or more in a destination, consider roaming the streets and looking for a “for rent” sign.
Not only will you get the experience of living in a local apartment or renting a rental home, but it’ll likely be cheaper than staying at a hotel.
Should you be staying for a shorter amount of time, Airbnb is a great option. You can either rent your own place or stay in a room at someone’s apartment or home—an extra great way to mingle with locals and learn about traditional customs.
If you’re on a budget, consider becoming a CouchSurfing member. For a small yearly fee, you’ll be able to stay on the couch (and sometimes, if you’re lucky your own room) of someone’s home.
By using CouchSurfing, you’ll learn about the must-do things from a local perspective. Your host might even bring you to their favorite bar to meet up with their friends, and you’ll be able to have the cultural exchange of sharing your customs while learning about theirs.
Regardless of the accommodation options that you choose from on this list, doing any of them is better for staying on the DL for looking like a tourist compared to staying at a hotel or hostel.
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