Who wants to look like a ‘tourist?’ Sandals with socks, giant camera, massive map, possibly a personal alarm or whistle and there’s usually some sort of giant hat involved too. The answer would be no-one.
People like this are an absolute heaven-send for pickpockets, thieves, chancers and general piss-taking. Don’t be one. Immerse yourself in the culture, the way of life - and try not to stick out like a sore thumb.
Here are some tell-tale ‘tourist’ looks - and how you prevent them: (without sounding incredibly condescending!)
“The Bum Bag” - Traditionally the bum bag or fanny pack screams ‘tourist!’ Bulky, often neon-coloured storage units hanging off your person, hiding all your precious cash and documents, on which people cling to like pregnant mothers in soap operas. Don’t do it. You will attract con men, salesmen and thieves in one fail swoop. The bum bag has become refined in it’s design over the years though in fairness and I have even used the more modern version on occasion (insisted upon by my beloved father on my South American adventures.) They are more discreet nowadays- flatter and less conspicuous and come in all shapes and sizes, to be worn around the waist or around your neck. So these are the way to go!
“Excuse me… do you speak English?” - We all face a language barrier at times on our adventures, which is fair enough, and it is absolutely not embarrassing or pathetic to ever ask for help. But you must be sensible in who and where you ask for help and advice. I’ve heard so many stories of people being robbed while receiving directions from the ‘friendly local.’ Again, common sense is required - don’t ask where the nearest launderette is while on a dodgy street or down a dark alley (!) and be cautious of people who approach you voluntarily, granted they could just be being helpful and friendly, but there’s a decent chance they could be up to something, particularly if you are in ‘tourist-mode!’
“The Wrong Way Backpack” - Bottom line: Put your backpack on your back, that’s where it belongs. Granted if you are backpacking and moving from one destination to another, you may have a lot of weight in your backpack that needs to be distributed around your body by wearing your day pack on your front. This is an exception - don’t look like a complete fool by wandering around the streets with your backpack the wrong way around. Use a discreet lock if you have valuables inside and stay alert. There’s very little else you can do. Act calm and collected in any circumstance - you can and will get robbed anywhere in the world so just be safe and don’t go looking for trouble unnecessarily.
“The Map ” - Once again, be discreet! At some stage we’re all going to need to use one but it doesn’t have to be in a publicly panicked, baffled manner as many ‘tourists’ manage. Inspect the area at hand as opposed to unfolding the entire map with difficulty. Again discretion is key.
In short: Try not to be too much of a stereotypical tourist. Be inconspicuous. Be a voyeur. Do as the locals. Blend in. Immerse yourself in a foreign culture. And then enjoy a much more enriching experience.