One of the best travel tips I can offer is to do what you can to avoid looking like a tourist when you’re in other parts of the world.
It’s a simple safety precaution. The less touristy you appear, the less likely you are to stand out to pickpockets and other shady characters. Besides, I always think it’s super flattering when someone in another part of the world asks me for directions. I usually assume it means they think I look like I’ve walked those streets before. Or they might be trying to figure out if they should mug me. It’s a crapshoot, really.
The reality is, there are a lot of pros to not looking like a tourist. These travel tips will help keep you from doing anything to stand out on foreign ground.
1. Be Season Savvy
Just because it’s winter back home and you’re heading someplace with a warmer climate doesn’t mean your Hawaiian shirt is appropriate attire for your vacation. Let’s take Barcelona, for example. It can be quite warm in the middle of March. If you’re from a colder climate, it may even be shorts weather for you. But the locals will likely still be wearing heavy sweaters and light coats. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb in a sundress and flip-flops. Consider a shirt dress in a dark color and ballerina flats instead. Toss a cardigan over top, and you’ll have all the advantages of a lightweight outfit without looking out-of-place.
2. Accessorize Appropriately
You know that giant camera bag you’re wearing? It screams mug me. And if you think you’ve outwitted the bad guys by wearing a money belt, think again. Those flip-flops you’re wearing in the middle of February long ago gave you away. I think money belts are great, but there’s no point in being discrete with your accessories if your outfit makes you look like a tourist. Consider a fashion-forward hidden pocket scarf to stash your cash. Or carry a trendy travel-friendly cross-body bag with special security features, like slash-proof straps.
Other things that give you away include pulling out a map in the middle of the street and carrying a giant SLR camera. I know, some things are hard to avoid, but if possible, step into a coffee shop if you need to pinpoint your location on a map. And unless you need manual focus or to hand-pick your F stops, you should be able to take pretty good pics with a point and shoot camera or even your smart phone.
3. Consider the Culture
If you’re in an ultra-conservative country, like Israel, be sure to dress in a way that won’t offend the locals. You may want to skip the daisy dukes or crop tops if your walking the streets of Jerusalem. On the other hand, long pants and a heavy sweater would be extraordinarily out-of-place in more liberal cities like Rio de Janeiro or Miami, for example.
But considering the culture goes beyond simply understanding what the locals wear on a daily basis. You need to also know if there are wardrobe restrictions or dress codes at area attractions, such as sacred sites. In some places, like the Vatican, you need to have your shoulders and knees covered. An easy fix if you keep a scarf or two in your bag. You can wrap one around your waist like a sarong and the other over your shoulders. But things get a bit more complicated at a place like Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Here, it’s not enough to cover your shoulders with a scarf. Your top needs to have sleeves. My loose-fitting kimono was called into question until I showed the guide it had armholes.
These are just a few of the things you can do to keep yourself safe and aligned with local customs while on vacation. What travel tips do you have for people who don’t want to dress like a tourist. Use the #wanderlustwayfarer on your Instagram photos to show off your vacation looks.