Being a tourist isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At its heart, it’s about traveling to another place and experiencing that destination — learning about its culture and history and interacting with its people. But tourists have a bad reputation and for good reason. They can be obnoxious and disrespectful, their presence can commercialize and trivialize cultural landmarks, and they can create overcrowding that puts a strain on almost every resource.

So if you want to travel with the best intentions, you should try to be less of a tourist. Not only can modifying your actions and behavior so that they don’t match that of a tourist be a more ethical and enriching way to travel, but it can also be safer — tourists are more often likely to stand out and are targeted by criminals.

So here’s a list of ways to be less of a tourist when you travel:

Do the Right Research Before You Visit a Destination

Get to know the place you’re visiting before you actually get there. You can research things like the climate, the language, the appropriate attire, events going on, and local cuisine. You can search local travel blogs to get an insight into your destination. It’s also a lot of fun to watch documentaries and videos about your travel destination. You can get neat information that can only be found in these types of things. The right research will help you feel like a local hanging out in their own backyard.

Dress Accordingly

This is something you can do much further in advance. If you’re booking cheap round trip flight to San Francisco, for example, then don’t pack shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops. Otherwise, as soon as you step off the plane you’ll be buying an Alcatraz sweatshirt. Do your research and watch the weather as you’re preparing for your trip. Many destinations are going to make it necessary to dress in layers. Also, find out what most locals wear. This will help you blend in better, while also getting a feel of the culture.

Don’t Over-Accessorize

That’s right ladies, don’t over-accessorize. Sure, we want you to look good, but we want you to be an efficient traveler too. Leave that oversized glamorous purse at home. This also goes for carrying large wallets in your back pocket or having a large camera or camcorder around your neck. Keep these things safer and more private so they don’t get stolen.

Learn Some of the Local Dialect

Even if it’s your home country and you already know the language, this is important when traveling to a new city. Learn some of the words to say, as well as phrases you shouldn’t say. Using the example above, don’t go to Northern California calling San Francisco “frisco.” You’ll get weird looks. Similarly, know a little something about pronunciations when visiting another country. In some countries, mispronouncing a word can be the difference between saying what you mean to say and saying something inappropriate.

Shop at Locally Owned Stores

Shopping locally is essential when you’re trying to fit in. You’ll find the best quality of food and goods at local markets. This is because everything is organic and fresh. They don’t sell things in mass consumption so you get the best of the best. You get to talk to locals as you shop. You get to meet the local farmers and sellers that give you the background of your goods. You can talk to them about great things to do in the area and the best things to buy. They’ll also be very thankful that you’re giving back to their economy by buying their goods.

Bring a Backpack

No, not a backpacker’s backpack, but just something you can throw over your shoulders. This will especially come in handy if you’re doing a lot of shopping and don’t want to be lugging around bags all day. This is also beneficial for carrying any of those extra items that you don’t want bulging from your pockets, like a camera or passport. Consider a lock if you’re concerned about someone reaching in and taking things out of your backpack.

RELATED: Why I’m Proud to Call Myself a Tourist

Have a Tour Guide

This often screams “tourist,” but having a tour guide can often magnify your travel experiences. Consider having a personal tour guide or going on a group trip. This will save hassles like worrying about what to wear, sweating over maps, or having to learn the dialect. Sure, it’ll mean more money, but that’s often worth having a stress-free trip in which someone else has done all the work.

Use Public Transit

Not only is it a lot of fun to use public transit, but you’ll meet and see so many unique things. You’ll probably get to meet locals that are going about their daily lives. You get to talk to these people about their favorite things to do in the area. Many times, buses and rail lines connect the biggest sights of the cities. This means you get to see some spectacular things on your way to the next big sight. You can view things that you’ll want to write down to visit later. You get to explore without doing the driving yourself.

Get Lost

It might sound scary to get lost, but you’ll find the best adventures along the way. Find the hidden treasures of this place. Of course, it’s still important to have your lodgings written down so you can find your way back. While you’re wandering, find the beauty in everything around you. Talk to locals as you roam around, asking them to point you in the direction of these hidden gems. You should also ask them areas to avoid so during your roaming, you don’t accidentally step into a forbidden location.

Eat Local Cuisine

One of the biggest things about immersing yourself in your destination is to eat the local food. It’s important to experience the local culture. A country’s heritage is rooted in its traditional foods. You won’t find fresher food than the traditional foods of that country. You can get food straight from the source instead of waiting for it to be shipped across the sea to your grocery store. It’s a great idea to buy from local markets or farmers selling food on the side of the road. They often can give you insight on the best ways to eat their traditional food as well. You’ll come home with a new appreciation for fresh food.

Travel Solo

You can connect on another level when you travel by yourself. You don’t need to please anyone. If you want to visit the historical sites and spend all day immersed in the culture, go ahead and do it. No one is pulling at your sleeve to go hiking or swimming. You can learn another language so you can talk to locals and meet new pals while you’re traveling. The options are endless when you’re by yourself in a new place.

Ask the Locals for Ideas on What to Do

If you want to be a local, you have to play like a local. Ask locals how they spend their free time. They’ll know all of the cool places that aren’t touristy. They’ll tell you about special natural trails or the best restaurants. This is a state of mind. If you walk around confused and scared of everyone, they’ll know you’re a boring tourist. If you open yourself up to learning all about the locals from their own mouths, you’ll become a part of the destination.

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