Many people who want to see the world share one big problem. They want to experience all the world has to offer, but they don’t want to stick out as a sunburned, clueless, obnoxious tourist wherever they go. This can be a little tricky if you’re planning to visit countries that happen to be very popular vacation destinations! Here, we’ll share a few handy tips on how to be a traveler, rather than just another tourist.
Image from Wikimedia
Read Before you Fly
Seen as you’re reading this, you have access to the largest single bank of knowledge ever created: the internet. You have countless resources at your fingertips, like this blog for instance, to learn about pretty much any destination you could possibly jet off to. Depending on your interests, you may want to focus on different aspects of a certain destination. However, there are still a few basics you should cover long before you head to the airport. Get familiar with the name and rate of the currency, a few useful phrases in the local language, nuanced customs, and any major crime problems. While most people are happy to help, doing your homework will save you from sticking out like another clueless tourist in many situations.
Ditch the Brochures and Tour Buses
Obviously, you’re traveling to these countries because you want to experience the unique spirit of the place, not have it filtered through the typical tourist experience. Guidebooks and brochures can be helpful, but it’s generally a good idea to stay away from any “tourist traps” that you’ll find listed in brochures almost everywhere you look. Make a point of getting off the beaten path, and you’ll have experiences that few tourists ever come close to. Instead of staying in an all-inclusive resort, go camping in the local countryside. Instead of buying tickets for a boat trip, hire your own vessel and sail it wherever you want to go. Obviously, you’ll have some questions; where are the historical landmarks? How do identify poisonous insects? What are survival shelters? Try to get friendly with some locals, and ask them for their advice, rather than relying on brochures and foreign holiday reps. This brings us onto our next piece of advice…
Talk to the Locals
Wherever you go, make an effort to chat to some local people. If you’re another cookie-cutter tourist, you’ll stare at behaviors you’re not used to, and react to the locals as if they were sightseeing attractions. Don’t isolate yourself or be suspicious of the differences, and most of all, don’t think that anyone’s inferior if they haven’t seen a smartphone or a tablet before. People are incredibly similar the whole world over, but you’ll be oblivious to this unless you make an effort to jump in. In many places, you’ll need to learn some of the language to form a real connection with the locals, even if it’s just one or two useful words. Illustrated phrasebooks, paper and pens, and good old charades can be very handy when you’re trying to spark a conversation.