How to Not Look Like a Tourist

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two happy tourists searching location together with a phone and map and pointing with the finger
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YOKEL COLOR

It's not hard to spot a tourist. They're the ones slowing down locals on the sidewalk, snapping the same old cliché photos, and sticking out in conspicuous and impractical clothes. Although it might seem trivial to worry about acting touristy, there's a lot more value to be drawn from traveling by ditching the fanny pack and taking cues from the locals.

Related: 24 Tourist Spots to Avoid This Summer

woman wearing sunglasses holding a house door key in her hand
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STAY AT A VACATION RENTAL

One of the perks of booking lodging through Airbnb or another vacation rental site is that hosts can usually recommend the best nearby restaurants and attractions. This way, you're getting not only advice from a local but advice tailored to that precise location.

Muslim and Western women talking to each other on the couch
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BE AWARE OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

Manners and social norms vary, so do your best to learn about them and adapt when traveling. For instance, some cultures consider it rude to clear your plate at dinner; elsewhere, people will be offended if you don't. When in doubt, express a willingness to learn.

Reddit homepage on a ipad monitor screen through a magnifying glass
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RESEARCH BEFORE VISITING

One easy way to get recommendations before leaving home: Visit the Reddit page for your destination. Most cities have their own "subreddits" where locals and experienced travelers give advice. For example, try the Chicago subreddit before heading to the Second City.

Asian traveling backpacker in Khaosan Road outdoor market in Bangkok, Thailand
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GO MINIMALIST WHEN SIGHTSEEING

Avoid bringing loads of stuff while sightseeing -- it will slow you down and may get lost or stolen. Pack only the things you absolutely need and remain watchful to keep belongings safe.

female tourist shooting on mobile phone Sheikh Zayed great white mosque in Abu Dhabi
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DRESS PRACTICALLY

If your plan involves a lot of walking or other physical activity, favor practicality over style. Dressing inappropriately not only looks touristy but can be a real inconvenience if it includes an unwieldy bag or uncomfortable shoes while exploring for hours at a time.

young woman shopping some muslim goods
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BUT KEEP LOCAL STYLE IN MIND

Wearing practical clothing is important, but it doesn't hurt to read up on the style of the destination city. Even if you don't care about appearances, dressing like a local can yield practical benefits, such as avoiding scams or getting friendlier treatment.

couple sightseeing in London pointing away near the Big Ben
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AVOID TRAVELING IN LARGE GROUPS

Consider splitting up a large group or going solo for sightseeing, which avoids clogging queues, restaurants, and sidewalks. Big groups not only annoy locals; they are slower and limit options.

people eating traditional Italian food in outdoor restaurant in Trastevere district in Rome, Italy
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RESPECT CULTURAL SITES

Instead of pulling on the fingers of statues or carving your name into ancient temples, appreciate cultural sites and monuments respectfully. A good rule: Leave behind zero evidence of a visit.

Asian woman taking self portrait selfie photo on Europe travel
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AVOID STEREOTYPICAL PHOTO OPS

The world probably reached a collective quota decades ago on photos of tourists pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Instead of wasting valuable time, whip out the camera only to remember something particularly meaningful.

llama standing at Machu Picchu overlook in Peru
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AVOID RESTAURANTS NEAR ATTRACTIONS

Restaurants right next to popular attractions are almost guaranteed to be tourist traps, especially if you're abroad and they're offering American fare. These establishments tend to be costly, and you're missing out on local cuisine.

smiling woman as receptionist in a hotel lobby
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BE WARY OF CONCIERGE RECOMMENDATIONS

Hotel staff can provide some great tips, but be aware when asking for restaurant or entertainment suggestions: Hotel concierges sometimes are paid to send tourists to specific places, potentially wasting your time and money.

tourist couple with map in a city
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DITCH THE GUIDED TOURS

Guided bus or boat tours might be convenient, but they tend to be expensive and don't provide an intimate sense of a city and its residents. Travel is about discovery, and travelers are more likely to find hidden gems on their own.

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