There’s nothing that says “tourist” quite so obviously as a camera and a map. No matter where you are in the world, if you spot someone looking at a map or shooting an iconic view or landmark through a telephoto lens, you know you’ve spotted a tourist. Unfortunately, being a tourist can make you a target for pickpockets and other ne’er do wells. Here are a few tips on how to be a little less obvious.
I’m a big fan of exploring without a map. You never know what unusual thing you will find when you take a wrong turn. That said, at the end of the day you still have to find your way back to your hotel. Knowing where you are … or more importantly how to get where you’re going is pretty much essential. Find yourself a nice pocket-sized map and keep it out of sight unless you really need it.
I try not to be that picture-snapping, fold-out-map-consulting person, but it happens. If you really want to be low key about it, pop into a shop to check the map (Bonus: employees can at least show you where you are, even if they can’t tell you how to get to where you’re going). After all, you don’t want to get lost while you’re losing yourself on an adventure.
As for those must-have pics, snap away. In this day and age of camera phones and selfies, nearly everyone is taking a pic at some point. The iconic images you want to capture will often be in places where almost everyone is a tourist anyway. Just look beyond the camera screen and notice what (and who) is nearby. If you’re focused on that image, someone else may be focused on you.
One of my favorite tips about how to not look like a tourist overseas is simple: Dress like a local. In India, I donned a salwar and blended as much as possible. In Milan, Greg looked so local an Italian asked him for directions! Whatever you do, avoid a t-shirt – especially one with a cute saying like “I travel for the food.”
In Europe, I make it a point to pick up something new to wear to help me blend in. Shoes are a HUGE giveaway in that regard. Europeans generally don’t walk around in tennis shoes. Find yourself a nice pair of comfy walking shoes that don’t look like you’re ready to run a marathon.
As always, being aware of your surroundings is always good advice. If you’re traveling with a friend (or several friends) keep an eye out for each other. Take turns taking pics and being a watchful eye. Most importantly, put the camera away and enjoy the reality beyond the lens.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Be safe while you’re having fun.
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