Are you a tourist or a traveler? is a question often asked for travel-lovers by travel-lovers! Some say a tourist goes on a holiday, while a traveler goes traveling. Others say a tourist is okay with being a tourist, while a traveler is offended when being called one! Bottom line is you may choose to be a traveler on some days and a tourist on some others.

Read on the seven criteria that basically distinguish a tourist from a traveler and let us know which team you’re rooting for 🙂


1. Appearance

We all agree that judging is wrong especially when based on appearance, but truth be told, tourists can be spotted a mile afar.

A tourist looks like a tourist; carrying a selfie stick and dressed too comfortably with a map in hand. Add to that, the kind of vibe they give off of being afraid to get lost.

A traveler, on the other hand, looks forward to getting lost. Getting lost in a place other than home means it’s adventure time! Surely, they use Google Maps (no shame in that), but their laid-back attitude gives off an air of self-confidence. A traveler’s outfit is comfy, stylish, and often not too different from the locals’. Taking into consideration the customs and social norms of where they are, sometimes it can be hard to spot them.


2. Company

Tourists tend to travel with family and/ or friends. For them, the more, the merrier. They’re pretty much satisfied with the group they’re traveling in and don’t feel like getting to know locals. It’s understandable, as meeting new people could be too much effort for some especially if a language barrier exists.

Travelers opt for traveling solo or with a friend or two. For them, traveling in large groups is restrictive and defies the purpose of travel which is freedom. They make an effort to communicate with locals to find out the secrets of the place and unravel its uniqueness. Such details you can’t find in travel guides!


3. Sightseeing

A tourist often sticks to major cities and popular sights; the stuff usually found in guidebooks. They rarely go on excursions on their own, but prefer tour buses and guided tours. This is a safer and much convenient option which appeals to many. After all, people have different views of what adventure is like. To each their own, right?

A traveler most probably started off as a tourist; they’ve seen all the well-known tourist attractions, but feel there’s much more that isn’t in the guidebook. They seek smaller towns and less traveled areas in hopes of seeing something different or something no one has seen before. Walking the area on foot is a thrill, and by taking public transportation, they get a feel of locals’ lives there.


4. Photos

A tourist takes photos of all famous sights or to be accurate; they take selfies with whatever is famous in the country they’re visiting.

A traveler sees beauty in the ordinary and takes pictures with what might not seem thrilling to most. Be it the locals they befriend, old streets and buildings, and more.


5. Food

Tourists will try local dishes, but cautiously. You won’t find many lining up in front of a food stall for hygiene concerns (a valid point). They play it safe with regular local dishes in restaurants or with popular food chains where they can get the meal they regularly order when home.

Travelers are willing to step out of their comfort zone and try questionable dishes (hygiene-wise), even if it means having to bear with an upset stomach for the rest of the trip. They eat whatever they lay their hands on. The stranger the dish, the better. For a traveler, food is a way to explore the culture even if it involves taking risks which they’ll wholeheartedly go for.


6. Communication

A tourist expects everyone to speak their native language or at least English. It’s not their fault really as no one can learn all languages, but putting in a little effort would be appreciated.

A tourist will go to the trouble of learning useful phrases in the language of the country they’re visiting. Even if they don’t nail them all, locals will value the try, especially with phrases like ‘hello’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’!


7. Spending

A tourist is an easy target for rip off and bait-pricing as they will probably pay double what a traveler would pay for an item. Buying overpriced souvenirs is common among tourists even if they think they haggle like a pro. That is because it takes time to become aware of prices which obviously many tourists can’t afford.

A traveler knows how to haggle and bargain. They’ve been traveling for so long and the tricks sellers play are no longer new to them. They make more effort to discover local hidden gems that buying imported souvenirs at gift shops.


Traveling is a personal experience and what matters most is how you feel about it. Choose what makes you comfortable. If you feel like taking a relaxing break doing nothing, go for it. And if you’re up for an experience of a lifetime, pack your backpack! Just don’t fall into the trap of looking down on tourists who do their thing differently. If you think of it, we should all get selfies with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

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