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10 ways to avoid looking like a tourist

Bin that bumbag and learn the lingo: 10 tips to stop you looking and acting like a tourist when you're abroad.


When you visit a foreign country, it’s a good idea to be a little discreet. But there are certain classic giveaways that shout ‘tourist approaching: feel free to mug me’. Take heed of our 10 hints to stop you living up to the tourist stereotype and help you blend in with the crowd. Trust us, you’ll have a happier holiday if you can order a beer in the local language.

1. Put your map away

There’s nothing more frustrating than the inconsiderate tourist who thrusts their map in a local’s face while trying to navigate through busy narrow streets. Instead of making a spectacle of yourself while shouting: "Señoro, which way to le marketo?", get a small pop-up map, look at a map on your phone or acquaint yourself with the route before leaving your accommodation.

senior couple looking at map

2. Learn the denominations of coins so you don’t hold up queues in shops

This is guaranteed to frustrate everyone around you. If someone is in a rush to buy their lunch and you’re holding up the local currency to the light, trying to work out which coin is which, you may be in serious danger of getting a baguette in the face. Similarly, don’t buy a bottle of water with a €100 note and expect the local shopkeeper to give you the right change.

3. Ditch the bumbag

It’s never been fashionable (even in the 80s) and unless you’re working on a market stall, you really don’t need all your cash within such easy reach. You might as well have a label on the front saying ‘here’s my passport and money – help yourself’.

4. Don’t stare and point

Even if someone is walking down the street in a Borat mankini, bear in mind, it might be normal in the town or country that you’re visiting, so don’t stare. A dead giveaway that you’re new in town is the way tourists point and gawp at everything they see. So play it cool.

5. Don’t walk around with a huge backpack on

Do you really need to walk around town with the massive backpack on that knocks over old ladies as you pass? Unless you’re on a hike, the chances are that most of the things you’re carrying can be left back at the hotel. Instead, go out with a smaller messenger bag and just pack your essentials.

male backpacker

6. Avoid location-branded tops and football shirts

You may love your Cambridge University hoodie or your Manchester United top, but wearing it in a foreign city is the same as wearing a t-shirt with the word FOREIGNER on it – definitely not a subtle move.

7. Be discreet with the money belt

You buy the money belt thinking it’s a way of giving yourself the superhero power of invisibility from thieves, but when it comes to accessing your money, you find yourself almost pulling your trousers down or your top up trying to discover where the ‘unnoticeable’ wallet has slipped to, much to the horror (or maybe delight?) of the shopkeeper.

8. Don’t buy a tourist t-shirt and wear it in that city, eg: ‘I HEART NY’

If you’re from London, you probably stay as far away as you can from the tourist shops selling ‘I Love London’ clothes and similar tourist tat. Remember this theory and apply it to the city you are visiting. Nothing shouts ‘tourist’ more than this cheap and cheerful attire. If you’re desperate to wear something local, consider buying a top of the local sports team (just don’t go in the bar that supports the rival team or you may need to learn a new phrase, ‘which way to A&E?’).

9. Don’t hang your camera around your neck the whole time

Pretty obviously, this says two things: firstly, ‘I’m a tourist’, and also, ‘this kit is expensive, rob me’. Be very careful when carrying around expensive equipment, there really is no need to have it dangling around your neck the whole time.

10. Learn a few phrases in the local language (if it’s not the same as your own)

If you’ve been watching too much Only Fools and Horses and the only language you speak is ‘Del Boy French’, then it’s time to get the foreign phrase book out as mange tout definitely doesn’t mean ‘my pleasure’. Contrary to popular belief, shouting the same phrase (in English) progressively louder, will not make your foreign friend understand you better. Before your holiday, do make the effort to learn some foreign lingo (and that doesn’t mean ‘uno beero mon-sewer’).

More: 10 things you only do when you’re on holiday