How to Be a Traveller and NOT a Tourist

Being a tourist sure has its disadvantages. Firstly, tourist sites worldwide are usually overrun with foreigners during the peak season and it’s a complete and utter nightmare to do and see things you want to amidst the crowds. This highly stressful way of travelling is certainly not my idea of fun!

The beauty of being a traveller (in comparison to a tourist) is the facet of letting go and getting lost. Going as a traveller has more advantages – lower stress levels, you retain more of your experiences and you have a much more thorough, genuine journey.

How to be a traveller and not a touristHere are 18 tips on how to be a traveller and not a tourist and embrace the world in a unique and meaningful way:

1. Go off-the-beaten-track and explore! There is no better way to find the beauty and uniqueness of a place than to go off the tourist map and explore beyond the main attractions.

2. Chat to locals. Tourists usually aren’t interested in immersing themselves in a culture. They’re usually there for the main attractions and then that’s that. Chatting to locals is a great way to learn more about the culture and to also obtain some useful tips tourists may never get access to.

3. Do your research properly. Tourists tend to stick to the top ten must-see sights of a particular destination. Doing your research will enable you to go into much more depth about a place and uncover sights that your guidebook may never address.

4. Don’t take what other travellers say seriously. Each and every person has his or her own perspective on places. Many times, if someone has one negative experience then they will judge the entire populous or destination by this. Don’t let others put you off what you want to see.

5. Travel off-peak. This is by far the best advice any real traveller can ever give you. Travelling off-peak is surely the finest way to experience a destination. Sights are generally cheaper, the weather cooler and the people are more than willing to help and are not bombarded by massive groups.

6. Don’t look like a tourist. Not only is this sometimes off-putting for locals but you also face getting ripped off by people in shops. Learn a few words of the lingo for when you enter a shop, attraction or holy site. Learn survival language – it will also prevent you from getting taken for a ride! Also be aware of your clothing and try to blend in as much as possible.

7. Put away the map where you can. If time is on your side, put away your map and just walk. Observe main landmarks as you travel and keep them in mind so you can more or less find your way back.

8. Slow down! Tourists rush from one attraction to the next. What’s the rush? Yes you only have (insert number of days here) in a place but would you rather see things properly and remember those memories and experiences forever or are you happy with checking attractions off a list and forgetting what each of those places looks like? It all boils down to what you want out of the experience. However, slowing down does help you see a foreign place in a new light. It also calms your nerves. You certainly don’t want to rush around and find yourself needing another holiday after your holiday.

9. See less to see more. Rather select a few things you really want to see or do than have a long list you cannot complete.

10. Be spontaneous and go with the flow! Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut and break all the tourist rules. This is the only way you can truly discover a place, honestly and meaningfully.

11. Be open-minded and don’t stereotype. As a traveller you’ll get to experience different cultures for what they truly are. People naturally hold assumptions about people from other places. Don’t listen to the others and rather make up your mind for yourself. Stereotypes are just stereotypes after all.

12. Go to destinations forgotten by most. These are often the most interesting, special locations with much to offer. Just ensure you know what you’re in for before you depart.

13. The cheaper the better. Tourists spend thousands on popular attractions. Often sights that are geared towards locals are free or pretty much cost next to nothing. Find these sights. They’ll provide you with a very unique experience than not many can write home about.

14. Take public transport with the locals. Travelling is not easy and nor is navigating your way through a foreign public transport system. Do your research before to ensure you follow the rules and regulations. Travelling on public transport most definitely has advantages. For instance, while travelling from Viterbo to Bomarzo in Italy I was the only foreigner on a bus (in fact the only person on that bus). The bus driver spoke a bit of English and was so informative. He told me about some incredible off-the-beaten-track villages that only the locals know about. They remain my secret – my lips are sealed!

15. Find quaint accommodation. Some of the best places I’ve stayed in were quaint and didn’t cost a fortune. Steer clear of tourist havens like massive chain and 5-star hotels. Smaller, boutique-style bed and breakfasts are a wonderful way to meet locals and get some great one-on-one travel advice.

16. Read novels or non-fiction works about the place while you’re there. I’ve read some of the most rewarding works and short stories by authors of a place while travelling to that particular area. Reading local literature adds a different dimension to your trip and to your knowledge of the area. Books give one cultural, historical and social insights into a culture or country.

17. Don’t always take photos. You’ll have a better, more enriching experience if you don’t take photos of every second thing when you travel. You’ll be able to really enjoy your time more and will also better absorb your experience and live in the moment.

Being a traveller and not a tourist means you need to challenge yourself in different ways and see the world from a completely new perspective. Not many people allow themselves this opportunity. They prefer to see the world through rose-tinted glasses.

Travelling has its ups and downs of course but going on your journey as a traveller and not a tourist is in general a much more rewarding, in-depth and enriching experience. Carpe diem!