Traveling to a new country can be exhilarating.
There are so many things to see and experiences to be had, but how you blend with the locals and avoid looking like a tourist can be a challenge.
Here are some surefire ways to keep you off muggers' radars, and also have a richer travel experience in the process.
1. Dress appropriately - If you're heading to South America where football is practically a religion, nothing screams 'tourist' more than wearing your favorite basketball team's jersey. Yep, the same goes for the baseball cap, too.
When traveling to a conservative country, dress modestly. Women should wear tops that cover the shoulders and bottoms that goes past the knees. This is the preferable attire when visiting temples.
Simply put, observe how the locals dress, and dress accordingly. The last thing you want is to stick out like a sore thumb.
2. Take it easy on the photos - Yes, I know. It's hard to resist the urge to take pictures of everything, but sometimes, you just have to appreciate a sight with your own eyes and not from behind the lens.
If you can, try not to give in to touristy poses like pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa or drinking the water from the Merlion's mouth.
You can also avoid looking like a tourist by keeping the camera in the bag when not in use. Imagine having taken thousands of photos only for your camera to be stolen...and you don't have a backup! The horror!
3. Try to learn the basics of the local language - If you know your destination doesn't speak English or the same language you do, try to learn even just the basics. Locals appreciate it when visitors exert the effort to communicate with them in the vernacular.
There's a slew of free language apps and/or video tutorials you can download on your device. I reckon it's a productive way to pass time while waiting at the airport or on that long-haul flight.
4. 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do' - Customs vary from country to country.
What is acceptable in your home country may be deemed offensive in the other side of the world. For example, tipping may be considered offensive in Japan, but is expected in another country.
Hand gestures are also particularly tricky, so do you research, and know the cultural do's and don'ts (taboos) of your destination to avoid offending the locals.
5. Download maps and travel guides to your smartphone/tablet - In this day and age where almost everyone owns a smartphone and/or tablet, it's pretty easy to just download city maps and guides onto your device.
If you still prefer using the old school map or guidebook, be sure to study it before you leave the hotel, and jot down some notes on a small notepad instead of lugging it around.
If you really can't help it, try stepping inside a cafe and discreetly review your reference to avoid attracting attention.