How To Be A Non-Tourist Traveler: Avoid Acting Touristy

I love to travel, but one thing I never want to be viewed as is being a bit too touristy. Being a non-tourist traveler requires living by the expression "while in Rome do as the Romans do". Not only is being way too touristy often expensive on the pocket book, it can be slightly annoying to the locals who have to put up with this behavior. When I grew up in the mountains we literally had tourists coming up to our windows and pressing their noses against the glass, but maybe they thought this would give them a better view of inside of a "mountain house". Gee, I wonder what was so different about the inside of "a mountain house" in comparison to a "city house"? Another time a large group of tourists walking by with cameras around their necks took pictures of my dog Lady and proclaimed that she was a "mountain dog". Once again, I wonder what was so unique about "mountain dog" in comparison to a "city dog," but maybe these tourists thought she was part of the native wildlife. Do not believe me? I would not put this thought past them.


The funniest example silly tourist behavior I have heard about was a story our substitute teacher used to entertain the class. One day his neighbor looked out the window to see a family picnicking on his front lawn up in Running Springs. The man went outside to confront them and ask them why they were doing this, and they told him that they presumed the lawn was part of the forest because it was in the mountains. Oh the joys of living in a mountain resort, but this man decided to teach these touristy tourists a lesson about the proper places to have picnics. As they drove away he wrote down their license plate number and then took it to the DMV to get a print out of their residential address. A month later he packed up his family with a picnic basket and had a picnic on their lawn in San Bernardino. When the touristy tourists came outside the Running Springs family simply replied that it looked like a park because it was in the city. This is quite an over the top scenario, but I am sure you get the idea of how acting too touristy can push people's buttons. One of my favorites is when tourists would stop by our house and ask for water because the town was five miles away. We were usually nice and would give it to them, but when did tourists start to think every house in the woods is a twenty-four hour 7/11? Thus, when I travel I never want to act too touristy, so I actually try to find out more about how the locals live and act. Here are some suggestions on how you can be a good non-tourist traveler.

Picture I took of Wikiki beach in April 2002.
Picture I took of Wikiki beach in April 2002. | Source
The view of Waikiki Beach from a boat cruise.
The view of Waikiki Beach from a boat cruise. | Source

Plan Your Own Trips

Avoid wasting money on packaged tours when possible. Doing research online and booking your own flights/hotels/transportation can actually be cheaper than a packaged tour. Paradise News is a humorous novel by the writer David Lodge, who chronicles just how ridiculous touristy tourists can act on packaged travel tours. I highly recommended this novel for anyone who wants to read a witty book about tourism in general, and Hawaii in particular.

Most of the mainline tourist sites provide reviews written by actual tourists, which can be much more honest than a travel agent trying to sell a packaged tour. Expedia, travelocity, and loneyplanet are some of the better known websites, but virtualtourist.com is now one of my favorites. The thing I love about virtual tourist is that people who have traveled to a destination many times, or those who actually live there write reviews about affordable accomdations, restaurants, and entertainment. Many of these sites actually allow you to connect with locals, which means you might make a few online friends before you actually go on vacation. It never hurts to know a few potential friends in your new travel destination, as long as you take safety precautions such as meeting in a public place for the first time, etc. Independent research can often give better deals than a touristy agency with a packaged deal. Besides, many times people can identify a group of tourists traveling together, and traveling independently helps the independent tourist blend in with the locals. The first day I was in Hawaii I walked around and several of the vendors thought I was a local and not a tourist because they started joking with me about the "touristy tourists".

Shwaab ghost town in Death Valley.  I took this picture in 1993.
Shwaab ghost town in Death Valley. I took this picture in 1993. | Source

Plan A House Exchange

Would you like to save money and not stay in a hotel during your vacation? If so, plan a home exchange using websites such as homeexhange.com and couchsurfing.com. The former is a good website for those with families and people who want to stay in the house, while the latter website will appeal to backpackers or those on a tighter budget. However, I have never used either of these websites and I cannot guarantee their success ratings, but you can read the user reviews to get a better idea about whether house exchanges are a viable option. The nice thing about these services is being able to speak to the person you are exchanging houses with before leaving town, which means having an inside scoop on the entertainment, dining, and other points of attraction. Also, houses exchanges save money that would be wasted on a hotel room, and you are not forced to be part of large organized group events that come with a packaged tour. I am sure organized tours can be fun, but I have never enjoyed these because I am an introvert and enjoy being able to explore a new place with my friends, family, or on my own. Autonomous travel allows the tourist to interact with the locals and learn more about the local culture.

Stay With Friends

Staying with friends is the optimal situation because you already know one of the locals. By staying with a friend you can hang out with them and do things the local residents do, and not be lured into the tourists traps that will charge you twice as much for nicknacks you can buy at your home mall. Once I feel silly for having fallen for the suggestion of buying a fake plumeria flower at the airport because it was twelve dollars, and the same thing you could buy at Jo-ann's Fabrics for about two. In the future when I go to cities I try to stay with friends, or I do my research ahead of time and try to avoid the tourists trap stores. Of course visiting these stores can be fun once in a while, but I would not spend my entire day doing this. I would rather get out, walk around, and see the daily activities of the locals.

Picture of me standing near the charcoal kilns in Death Valley.  This picture was taken in 1993.
Picture of me standing near the charcoal kilns in Death Valley. This picture was taken in 1993. | Source

Ride The Bus Around Town

Ditch the overpriced rental car and use public transportation/walking to get around the city you are visiting. In Honolulu this worked very well because they have a very good transit system, but this may not work in every city you visit. Plan ahead and visit the online webpages of the transit authorities in the city you will be visiting.

Read The Local City Website

Before heading off on vacation read the local city website. Not only will the local town website give the tourist more information about the history and culture of the vacation destination, but it is also a great resource for those who may be using their holiday as an opportunity for a job interview. For example, I have known several people who planned vacations to Hawaii to coincide with their job interviews, which is hitting two stuffed animal birds with one stone.

Take a hike out at the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains.  This trail is definitely off the beaten track.
Take a hike out at the Pinnacles in the San Bernardino Mountains. This trail is definitely off the beaten track. | Source

Go Camping In The Wilderness

The ultimate way to not travel like a tourist is to go camping in the wilderness where you will not be tempted to act like touristy tourists. Trips to isolated places like Death Valley work well, especially if you can camp near one of the ghost towns. There are many amazing ghost towns to visit in Death Valley, such as the Shwaab that was once a mining town founded by several enterprising women. It was interesting to sleep in our jeep and then explore the mines the next day. I must have been fearless when I was eight because I walked about half a mile into those mines with my dad and his friend, but I could never imagine doing this again. We went again when I was fourteen, and luckily many of the old structures were still intact. Today I would not be up for rugged camping myself, but I am glad I got to experience this when I was young, and it is the perfect trip for the ultimate non-tourist traveler. You can explore and look around without coming off as tourist, mostly because not many people in places such as Death Valley. Do not forget to visit the Death Valley National Park Museum as if gives information about the history and geology of the region. Camping in isolated and rugged regions is the ultimate non-tourist trip, but plan ahead as there are few and far stores/gas stations in isolated parts of the desert. Have fun, and remember to try to blend in with the locals when traveling.

Non-tourist travelers can witness spectacular scenes such as this vista on the desert side of the San Bernardino Mountains.  You just have to be willing to go places that the locals go.
Non-tourist travelers can witness spectacular scenes such as this vista on the desert side of the San Bernardino Mountains. You just have to be willing to go places that the locals go. | Source

Touristy Tourist Confessional

Have you ever been guitly of acting like a touristy tourist?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Only the locals would know for sure.
See results without voting

Tourists Behaving Badly

Which of the following is the most annoying thing a tourist could do?

  • Having picnics on your lawn.
  • Staring in your window.
  • Treating your house like a twenty-four hour 7/11.
  • Asking for directions, but then trying to argue and say YOU are wrong.
  • All of the above.
  • I like it when tourists behave badly because the entertainment is cheaper than cable.
See results without voting

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Comments 49 comments

jacobworld profile image

jacobworld 8 years ago from Ireland

Good info mate - you should post it on my website -

I reckon my users would be very interested and can provide you with some comments .

I always stay with friends - its the best place to be the best source of info about the region.

Great one and take care


SirDent 8 years ago

Great job of writing. I even laughed as I read many parts of this. Very well done. Great photos.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

Sweetie Pie, great hub! Good suggestion about house swapping. I can't imagine picnicing on someone's lawn! I myself prefer to live in a different country for an extended period, while working there, to making a whirlwind tour of an entire continent. However, when I was in Taiwan, I took a lot of pictures of stray dogs and cats, which the locals thought was a little weird, and perhaps touristy. "Don't you have stray cats where you come from?" I was asked. "Yeah, but these are Taiwanese cats!"


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Sirdent,

I am glad I could make you laugh. Thanks for stopping by.

Aya Katz,

I probably have done things that look too touristy also, so I agree, only the locals know for sure :). It sounds like your trips to Taiwan were very educational.


JoeDoe 8 years ago from Right next door

Sweetiepie, Great hub and good advice! You know we Americans are getting a terrible reputation overseas because many times we don't take the time to learn about the customs and culture. I remember on a trip to Venezeuela that a group of us were dining in a resturaunt and managed to get the attention of nearly everyone in the place. The problem was that some members of our group insisted on getting the exact change back for their bill. The other patrons were laughing because we we waited nearly 20 minutes for the waiter to practically beg for enough change to give back to us. Later when we did the math we found out why.... it was the equivalent of a few cents in change!


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Thanks for sharing your insights on travel. I agree, we need to inform ourselves about the countries we are visiting, or even the towns and cities. Very humorous story about the change.


SpotCoolStuff.com profile image

SpotCoolStuff.com 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA USA

These are great tips for having a fun and adventurous trip! Especially the mention of the excellent couchsurfing.com.

I wonder, though, if maybe being a tourist has gotten a bad rap. I lived for several years in Washington DC. Because I lived there I never took full advantage of all the great (and free) monuments and museums the city has. In fact, the only time I went to visited the city sites was with out of town guests (AKA "tourists").The problem isn't so much acting like a tourist it is acting like an UGLY tourist.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Interesting pot spotcool. Thanks for sharing.


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 8 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

What a fun hub! Gotta get me a copy of 'Paradise News.'  I love traveling, and avoid large tours whenever possible. I'm more of a city traveler, so the walking and the local bus taking are my preferred travel. Driving in a strange, or international, city just not for me! I want to see the sights, not be watching for the correct exit or parking spot! Fun!


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Desert Blondie,

Paradise News is a great book if you can find a copy. I noticed it is no longer being sold on amazon, so I would try the local library, which is how I got my copy to read in the first place. It is the story of a British part-time professor who takes his father to visit his ill aunt in Hawaii. The cheapest way for them to travel is by "packaged tour," so there are quite a few funny incidents through out the story. It is also a hartwarming story to, so I recommend it as a must read. You are right, walking and taking the bus is the best way to see the culture of a new city or country. Thanks for commenting.


LancasterPAGuide profile image

LancasterPAGuide 8 years ago from Lancaster PA

Hi Sweetipie,

Love your hub as I love traveling myself, have you ever gotten to Lancaster PA, home of the Amish?

I have to admit one of the reasons I had read your hub is because I still stick out like a sore thumb at airports and on airplanes because I absolutely LOVE the views from the sky.

I use to fly 2-3 times a month and never got sick of stretching my head to just get a good view of the sky-unless it was nighttime:)

Here in Lancaster I still get flagged as a tourist even though I've lived here my entire life because I still never get used to seeing the horse drawn buggies and especially driving home and catching a covered bridge with an open carriage amish couple-WOW LOVE IT- Not to many places can you feel that you stepped back into time like you can here.

Just take an afternoon drive and I could scoop up enough video of God's country and scenery to fill quite a few flash cards.

Thanks for your insight, have a great week.

John


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 8 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

So inspired by this hub, I i've got a travel thing going myself now! Check out...http://hubpages.com/travel/London-Three-great-days...


Bbudoyono profile image

Bbudoyono 7 years ago

Hi Sweetiepie!

I used to work in tourism business.  I always think from my perspective.  Now I know from you the other side of tourist behavior. Thank you for enriching my mind.  

Bbu


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Desert Blondie,

I absolutely loved your hub about traveling in London. Thanks for sharing.

Bbudoyono,

Perhaps you can write a hub about your experience in the travel industry.


betherickson profile image

betherickson 7 years ago from Minnesota

Great Hub! Thanks for the information. really appreciated.


Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

I lived in a Colorado ski town for years and rarely did a tourist take the time to see the real area outside of the typical tourist stops. It is hard to dig through that veneer to get to those hidden gems the locals keep to themselves but once you befriend a few and even return the favor on your end it makes travel so much more fun.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Camping Dan,

It sounds like you have seen some great things you would not have seen if not willing to take a chance and go the non-tourist route.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

nice tips.very useful for person who like travel.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

I am glad you enjoy seeing the sites too!


euro-pen profile image

euro-pen 7 years ago from Europe

Excellent. A very entertaining read. I had to smile (and even laugh) several times. The funny thing is that most of us (in the rich countries anyway) are sometimes "guilty" since most of us are travelling outside our own "cultures". The ridge between behaving touristy and non-touristy may be quite narrow sometimes.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Even people traveling within their own country make this mistake. I grew up in the mountains, and tourists from the city used to look in our windows as if we were museum pieces lol. One man even commented on how there was a mountain dog in our yard, as if these were different than the ones from the city.


irawati profile image

irawati 6 years ago from With background of Garuda Wisnu Kencana - Bali

Hallo SweetiePie. I like your hub. Thanks for sharing.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Glad to hear everyone's comments.


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

SweetiePie, Great and helpful information, plus love the pictures of your travels. I don't want to be overly touristie... Thanks for the heads up! Peace :)


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Hi Katiem,

I think sometimes it is fun to play the tourist, but I noticed I have more fun in general when I try to blend in with the locals :).


@hellorelaxation profile image

@hellorelaxation 6 years ago

Great hub! I'm not into packaged tours either.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

I think exploring like the locals is more fun, and I fully intend to do that when I get to Tahiti one day in the future. I have done this everywhere else I have traveled.


JSAlison profile image

JSAlison 5 years ago

I think you were a little hard on the tourists insistent on seeing your dog as a 'mountain dog' (though it is funny!). I know when I go somewhere, I love to fall under the spell of some fantasy or other- the exotic, timeless East, the sophisticated metropolis or whatever. Illusion is part of the fun! That, of course, is never an excuse for rudeness- and peering into someones home is certainly rude!


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 5 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

JSAlison,

I am not sure why you felt I was hard on these particular tourists as I did not say it to their faces, and I just thought it was funny at the time. I like that they admired my dog, and I have a feeling none of them even remember saying that as this happened about fifteen years ago, and it was only a passing comment on their part. You can only be hard on someone if you are goading them with a particular comment, and I tend to be the one who gets those kind of comments from extroverts that like to cut up and make jokes they find fun, but which I do not particularly enjoy. I am sure they enjoy their jokes at my expense, but at least I do not poke fun at someone to their face. I simply thought it was hilarious when they pointed out our dog was a mountain dog, as if it were some kind of wild animal.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

I live in a tourist town, so we see all types! Great tips here. I got really annoyed in Fiji watching people act like touristy tourists... Fun hub.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 5 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Stephhicks,

I am sure you seeing many of the same types of silly behavior I have seen :). Yes, I can understand how annoying it would be to see people acting a bit too touristy in Fiji, especially since the people there are so nice and will most likely never bring it to their attention.


KLeichester 5 years ago

This a helpful tip. Thanks for this hub.


Fluffy77 profile image

Fluffy77 5 years ago from Enterprise, OR

We get allot of tourist here, for the Mountains, and the beautiful country sides. They usually do act pretty silly for at least a few weeks anyway, then it all dies right down though. If you love were you live enough it's just your burden to bare for living in such a wonderful place too. There is a limit to what people will tolerate however though, so great of you to point that one out here, thanks.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 5 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

I do not mind it tourists act silly from time to time, but I hope some of them realize they might want to read up on how the locals behave before traveling. I believe this is especially imperative if you are going to another country.


celeBritys4africA profile image

celeBritys4africA 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

One vote up! Fantastic photos.


Matt 4 years ago

Hey SweetiePie, I'd like to quote this article in an essay I'm writing. How may I go about best citing you? (This is excellent advice, definitely worth citing.)


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Matt,

You are welcome to link my article and summarize what you think about it in your own words. You can cite my article, as long as your descriptions are in your own words. I do not allow people to copy the text from my articles, but I appreciate your comments. Thanks for commenting!


Matt 4 years ago

I will do as you ask, and you are very welcome. Thanks again for your advice!


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Can you share the link of the blog where you are writing about this?


jeyaramd profile image

jeyaramd 4 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

Thank you for sharing this hub. I was on an island during my medical studies. I have seen tourists take random photos of locals. At one point, a local asked that he be paid for photographs. I could understand his frustration. I think we should be a little considerate. Thanks for sharing your sentiments. The best way to travel is the local way. Voted up.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Good points Jeyaramd. Personally, I try not to take pictures of people when I am on vacation, but I am more of a landscapes kind of person.


ladeda profile image

ladeda 4 years ago

Great idea for a Hub! I'm sure anyone who has traveled has been witness to an embarrassing tourist moment, or two!


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Hi Ladeda,

Yes, I think everyone who has traveled has seen a few of these moments.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 4 years ago from France

I love travelling and I agree that planning your own trip is one of the best ways to see a place. I really dislike going in big groups having to wait for evryone in the group and having to see what someone else thinks is interesting. The more I travel, the more a solitary traveller I become and the more I enjoy it.

I still have to try the house exchange system. I have heard of friends doing it and being very happy with the results.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Hi Princessa,

It would be interesting to hear what you think about the house exchanges, if you decide to do one.


Princessa profile image

Princessa 4 years ago from France

I'll sure write something about it if I ever try that. I think that I wouldn't mind exchanging the farm for a beach house for a few days :-)


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

I did not realize you had a farm house Princessa. That sounds very adorable.


Lisas-thoughts101 profile image

Lisas-thoughts101 4 years ago from Northeast Texas

I am going to check out virtualtourist.com I am also going to check out homeexchange.com sometime. Thanks for the tips. I can't believe people would actually picnic on someone's lawn. That is crazy. Voted up. Thanks for writing such good tips.

Lisa


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA Author

Hi Lisa,

The picnic on the lawn is quite out there, but people who grow up in urban areas often think the mountains is just one big park. I have never used home exchange, but I have heard good things about it. I love the virtual tourist for all the good info I get on travel spots I want to see.

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