Backpacker Tips: Avoid looking like a Tourist

  • Stereotypical tourist
  • What it means to backpack
  • Homework
  • Local currencies
  • Surroundings
  • Language
  • Clothing & accessories
  • Manner
  • Off season travel

Being a backpacker is not about having a holiday and succumbing to the lures of the in your face tourist traps that are ever present in most destinations in which you may wish to visit.

No, no, no backpacking is generally considered more about experiencing the real culture of a destination, the real people and the real way in which a visiting destination operate from day to day. Backpacking is for independent traveler, adventurer and explorer who wants to experience all of the ‘off the beaten track’ types of travel and destinations all on the smell of an oil rag.

On the other hand your stereotypical image of an annoying tourist is that of a group of snapshot taking outsiders who often seem to appear at every major landmark or tour stop off. You can easily pick out the tourist since they are the ones who are loud, sun burnt and are dragging along a bunch of screaming kids.

Well these are the images that pop into my mind when I think about tourists and I literally cringe at the thought of traveling in that manner. I think it would by now have become evident that I am pro-backpacker and anti-tourist. Not that tourists are bad people, everyone has their place in this world and on their travel route – however it is just not my cup of tea and I imagine not for many of the frequent readers of Backpacking Addictz.

So I have decided to write the blog article solely for the purpose of informing the newbie backpacker of how to avoid the traps of becoming just another annoying tourist.


It is advisable and usually a given procedure for the diligent backpacker to do their homework and research on the destinations in which they intend to visit. A basic understanding of the local culture, customs and history of the particular destination will put you in good stead for not sticking out like a sore thumb or even worse offending some of the locals.

Local currencies:

Familiarize yourself with the local money and the exchange rate. It is highly advisable to be well aware of the exchange rate to avoid having to do lengthy and mind boggling calculations every time you want to make a simple transaction. This will hopefully prevent you from constantly asking some local trader “how much is that is pounds” or US dollars, or euros or whatever your home currency might be.

The local trader will probably not have any more of an idea than you do and if they do by some chance then you possibly open yourself up to being ripped off. The best thing to do is prior to leaving – work out the exchange rate and apply it to $10 or 10 of what ever your home currency is and then use this scale to gain a better understanding of how the cost of a transaction relates to your home currency.

For example if you are aware that $10 is 400BHT in Thailand then you would know that $25 is worth approximately 1000 BHT.


Research and get familiar with your surroundings and orientation of the destination you are visiting. This will prevent you from looking lost and wandering aimlessly. It will also reduce the risk from you being targeted by local con artists and scammers.

My suggestion, and I have always made this a priority before I leave for a backpacking adventure, is to purchase a travel guide and map for the particular destination/s you plan to visit. Travel guides are an essential and valuable asset for every serious traveler or backpacker.

We consider travel guides so important that we are currently in the process of launching the highly anticipated Backpacking Addictz Travel eGuides. These perfect travel companions will be cheap, informative and easy to take with you anywhere you decide to go. They will be available for purchase very shortly once finishing touches have been finalized.

We are so excited about the launch of the Backpacking Addictz Travel eGuides have been written by the backpacker for the backpacker and will be the perfect tool for preparing your journey, familiarizing yourself with the culture, customs, eating and drinking venue and quality advice on how to enjoy the backpacking journey to its fullest extent.

By studying a guide and doing your homework prior to arriving to your intended countries you are less likely to be caught out looking like a silly tourist or worse being scammed by a local con artist.

If you need to ask for directions then try and do so discreetly. You can always pick the tourist who is the one standing in the middle of a large open area looking completely bewilded by the large map opened up before them whilst asking random locals for directions. Its not a good look and generally puts a tourist target smack bang on your forehead.

If you need to ask for directions you can discreetly do so by asking a local shop or business owner this is the preferred way to seek some directions or local advice as opposed to asking random passers by.


It is definately worth becoming slightly au fait will some of the local languages. We you dont have to become a language professor in a particular language however it would be advisable to at learn learn a few of the basics. Even some common slang will help to show the locals that you know a thing or two about the area.

Pocket dictionaries are the most obvious choices for the hesitant language learner and you can either purchase a hard copy from your local book store or better yet there is a vast array of websites on the internet where you should be able to find enough information for free to get you by. Also, if you are up to date with the latest mobile phone trends such as the iPhone there are many applications in which you can download foreign dictionaries straight to your mobile phone.

Clothing and accessories

Try to blend in with the locals to some degree. I remember when I was travelling through Cambodia and took the time to head to Siem Reap to see the Angkor Wat there were plenty of big loud hawaiian t-shirt wearing tourists visiting and they seriously looked right out of place. At least try to fit in with the local trends or looks rather than trying to make a statement.

Souvenir clothing clearly says to any local that they are tourists, its like holding a picket sign up saying come rip me off i’m a tourist. By all means purchase the odd tourist clothing but save it for wear when you get back home.

Carrying huge big bags and bulky accessories around with you everywhere you go is certainly not advisable since you simply have more to lose, get stolen or damaged. Just take what you need and nothing unneccessary, you are best of leaving this stuff at the guesthouse or secured in the hostel with your big backpack. Especially in poorer countries you are best to keep expensive camera, mobile phones or iPods kept in your pocket or hidden from the publics view, these are expensive products and will quickly gain a thieves eye.


Always be polite and considerate and treat people the way you would like to be treated. Tried to avoid confrontations at all costs, remember you are in unchartered waters so to speak and always remember the saying “when in Rome”. Losing your cool and having an argument with someone is generally not only rude but it will get you nowhere especially if you speak a different language to the locals.

The Backpacker never travels in large groups rather they tend to either run solo or in pairs of sometimes 3?s or 4?s. The bigger the group you are in the more you are going to look like a tourist.

I prefer to run solo when backpacking as it allows you the complete freedom to not have to take other peoples issues into consideration. Perhaps a selfish attitude some might say but if you want to do something the way YOU want to do it then travelling on a solo mission I think is the best way. However, if you have a partner who is in the same mind set as you – this can also be a fantastic way to share all your experiences and travels with someone special.

Off season travel

Travelling during the off season certainly seems to have many more perks for the backpacker than travelling during the high season. First, you do not have to worry about as many painstaking tourists bumping into you left right and centre and secondly, you can generally get cheaper airfares and accommodation during these periods.

At the end of the day you need to travel the way you want to travel, everone is different and wants different things. However, if you are aiming to set youself aside from all the usual tourist traps and scams, and if you really want to enjoy your independent travels as a backpacker we strongly suggest that you take on board a number of the abovementioned issues.

Get out there and get amongst it!


Backpacking Addictz is a website set up by backpackers for the use of backpackers. On this site you will find a lot of very valuable information surrounding different destinations around the world and tips and advice on budget travel and backpacking. You will also find an enthusiastic and insightful backpacking blog which is regularly updated with new posts and article.

Backpacking Addictz Travel eGuides are a fantastic, cheap and easy way to get hold of a vast amount of backpacking information prior to setting off on your backpacking adventure.

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