A healthy dose of common sense is important when traveling, especially when visiting large cities. Here are ways to blend in and look more like a local than a tourist.
Even if you aren’t entirely sure of what you’re doing when you travel, there are ways to convince the people around you that you are, thus making yourself less of a target for pickpockets, or anyone else who might be interested in taking advantage of the fact that you’re a tourist.
Keep Your Head Up
If you’re lost or unsure in a large city, it’s best to feign confidence. Be discreet about not knowing exactly where you’re going. In other words, don’t have your map out and say loudly to your travel companions, “Okay, I think we maybe need to take THIS street now, and then….” All too often, tourists make themselves conspicuous (and can appear obnoxious) by making it obvious that they have no idea where they are going. If possible, review your map before you travel so that you’ve got a rough sketch in your head.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Directions…Just Be Cool About It
If you need to ask for directions, try not to look too panicked or nervous; composure will keep you from attracting attention. (Though in some big cities, people aren’t fazed by anything, so your behavior really won’t matter. They may just pass you off as being a bit crazy.) Be polite and keep it brief; don’t tell the directions-giver a life story about how you got to the point of being lost (unless, of course, he or she asks).
Ditch the Hip Pouch
It may seem practical, but it screams naïve tourist. Unless you want to get robbed, leave the hip pouch at home and don’t even think about wearing your camera around your neck. Keep a bag with you that has zippers, and keep those zippers in front of your body rather than at the back.
Split Your Cash Up
If you’re carrying a decent amount of cash, keep it in different places: a tighter-fitting front pocket (never the back), a handbag or backpack, or an inside jacket pocket. That way if somebody does rob you, they won’t get everything. The passport or money pouches you can wear around your neck should, if you choose to wear one, be under your jacket with the strap completely hidden from view. Why? A thief can always sneak up behind you and, with one quick move of the scissors or pocket knife, cut the strap and pick it up off the ground. If it’s the summertime, it’s best to avoid wearing one altogether, because there aren’t too many ways to hide it.
Popular travel destinations are full of tourist traps. Sometimes, stuff claimed to be “authentic” really isn’t. Also, with tour guides, ticket sellers, and so forth, make sure they have a name tag, uniform, or some other type of ID that proves they are legitimate. Some people hang around famous sites just to rip off unsuspecting visitors. Keep your eyes peeled and your wallet closed. If you stay on your guard at all times, you lower your chances of falling victim to someone who just wants your money.