Spot the tourist. It’s pretty easy in some places, the one with seemingly outrageous clothing, a camera hanging from their neck, backpack and travel guide in their pocket. Sometimes they travel in herds, others just stick out from the middle of the crowd. There are more benefits than you can imagine by blending into the local crowd instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. Here’s a few pointers.
With a few simple efforts you’ll be a local look-alike in no time. By taking on their garb and etiquette, you might even be given an insider’s glance at a culture you never would have penetrated otherwise. In some cases acting like a local can protect you; it’s the wealthy tourists are often targeted by pickpockets. Blending in doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning your individuality, but a few minor things can go a long way.
- Wear muted clothes. If you want to blend in, start with your clothing. Simple clothes with natural and muted colours are ideal. It’s true that some trends might be popular world-wide but it’s safer to stick with the basics. Pack clothes that are versatile, clothes you can wear anywhere. Try to avoid the clothes that are designed for travelling. Oxymoron? Maybe, but khaki coloured zip-off pants that turn into shorts just aren’t popular all over the world, unfortunately. If you’ve got the budget, pick up some clothes while you’re travelling, shopping where the locals shop.
- Camera or no camera? There is nothing more touristy than sightseeing with a huge Nikon hanging from your neck with a paparazzi-sized lens. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having a professional camera with professional equipment. Bring a camera bag and take your camera out when you need it. Keep it under wraps because you’ll be a prime target for thieves.
- Be in control of your money. Try to get a feel for the worth of the currency upon arriving and carry it in a wallet or change purse, not in an envelope or resealable bag. Know the denominations it comes in so you’re not fumbling for the right amount while at the till. Carry only what you need for that day, otherwise keep large bills, passports and other documents in a money purse under your clothes.
- Plan your day beforehand. Instead of pouring over the travel guide while in the street, wondering what to do first, make your plan in advance. If you know how you’re going to get around, it’s even better. You will look far more confident this way, as if you’ve been living there your entire life. If you have to pull out the guide, do it discreetly.
- Learn the language. You can’t be expected to learn an entire language before travelling but if you take the time on the flight or in the train to learn some key phrases, it’ll get you further. Even if you butcher the words, you’ll almost always be given slack for trying and locals will usually be enthusiastic about helping you learn.
- Look for local events. Stop and read the posters for local concerts, festivals, lectures, film screenings, workshops or other performances that are meant to attract locals rather than tourists. Try looking at message boards at universities, cafés and libraries. Another great way to meet people while abroad is through virtual travel communities like CouchSurfing. Sign up and search for the city where you’re going and ask a local to show you around for a day. There are also many events listed on forums here as well.
- Be yourself, above all else. If you pack your self-confidence along and your usual sense of humour, you’ll be fine. Start by saying hello and from there, it’s natural.
This list could be a lot longer, but we think these are the basics. If you’ve got a few tips of your own, add them by leaving a comment below! What are the best ways to blend in while you’re on the road? All you need to do now is travel and test your local look-alike skills!