Tourist Vs Traveler

In the world of travel, people tend to use the words “tourist” and “traveler” interchangeably as if they mean the same thing. It’s actually very common for people to do that but for people deeply rooted in the world of travel, there is a major difference and they take more pride in one title versus the other. Now, there is nothing wrong with identifying as one or the other but deciphering whether you’re a traveler or a tourist will help you to better enjoy your travels.

Decipher a Traveler From a Tourist
Decipher a Traveler From a Tourist

One of the ways to figure out which title better fits you would be to figure out the difference in the two titles. Neither a traveler or a tourist is a bad thing but travelers and tourists display distinctive characteristics that essentially give the person traveling different experiences. USA Today points out some notable differences in the two. Take a look at some of the differentiating factors.


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Tourists Tend to “Stick Out,” Whereas Travelers Blend In

You’ve heard people say that tourists “stick out like a sore thumb?” Well, that phrase has negative connotations behind it but there is also some truth behind it too… that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing though. If you think about it, a  well-established traveler had to start out as a tourist before growing into a well-traveled traveler, right? It’s like learning to crawl before you walk.

Becoming A Responsible Traveler photo by Jeremie Cremer via Unsplash
Becoming A Responsible Traveler photo by Jeremie Cremer via Unsplash

When it comes to traveling, especially internationally, the first thing that comes to mind is the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In particular, the scene when character Walter Donovan said character Marcus Brody would “stick out like a sore thumb.”  Indiana Jones then made mention that Marcus Brody had a two-day head start, spoke a dozen different languages, and that he’d blend in, disappear, and with any luck, he’s got the Grail already…

The very next scene shows Marcus Brody in the middle of a fair in the Middle East “sticking out like a sore thumb” wearing a brightly colored suit with a white hat on asking people if they spoke English!

In short, you can expect selfie sticks, socks with sandals, and causing a human pile up on a sidewalk all while looking at directions on their phones. A traveler tries to blend in with the locals of the location they’re in.

Tourists Eat Chain and Travelers Dine on Local Cuisines

Local Filipino carenderia foodtrip flatlay
Local Filipino carenderia foodtrip flatlay

There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating at chain restaurants during your travels but it just seems like you’d want to eat food that you can’t get at home just for the experience. Travelers know that the local cuisine is the bridge to understanding the culture at any destination, therefore, they’re looking for food authenticity. They typically have no problem stepping outside of their comfort zone to try something new… a tourist usually sticks to foods they’re familiar with.

Tourists Travel for Sightseeing and Travelers Travel for the Experience

With tourists, you tend to see them at all the popular destinations taking tons of pictures for their social media accounts and “likes,” and again… that’s perfectly fine. Travelers don’t travel for the “likes,” they travel for the experience of it all and if their taking pictures, it’s typically for their blog or something like that.

Solo Female Traveler
Solo Female Traveler

If you want to set yourself apart from the tourists, try traveling for the experience. If you take pictures, use them to actually document your journey, whether it’s to start your own travel blog or to start a travel consulting service.

If you were starting a travel consulting business, your pictures would be great and it would especially be more appealing to other travelers because your niche would more than likely be for off-the-beaten-path travelers looking to steer clear of typical tourist destinations and activities.

Tourists Stay in Their Comfort Zone With Language Barriers. Travelers Attempt to Learn the Language

With international travel, tourists will barely make the effort (if at all) to learn the language of the destination they’re visiting. They typically will keep their communication limited to the people they’re traveling with. Travelers try to immerse themselves in all aspects of the culture, including the language; a traveler has no problem sparking conversations with the locals.

Learning even a little bit of the language is not only a great way to add to your own native tongue but it’s also an important travel tip that could save your life. Speaking to locals in the simple universal words like “please,” “thank you,” and “hello” can make all the difference in the world of the quality of your trip when you’re in a country that speaks a different language.

Female Traveler
Female Traveler

Tourists are Quick to Buy the First Overpriced Souvenirs They See… Travelers Will Wait It Out For the Local Deals

Understandably so, tourists are drawn to the allure of souvenir shops wanting to buy all their knick-knacks and trinkets all in one place. Travelers have traveled enough to know that those little shops are complete rip-offs. The tourist will then get to a few more souvenir shops and see that they could have gotten the exact same shot glass for a fraction of the price.

Travelers are not fooled by the shiny and sparkling things in souvenir shops as easily. They require a little more time and effort in their search for location-specific treasures and gems. They’ll even talk to the locals in the area and ask their opinions on where to go for the most authentic souvenirs.

Mobile Apps for Travelers
Mobile Apps for Travelers

Tourists are Dependent on Google; Travelers are Dependent on Their Instincts

Now, all travelers aren’t necessarily wandering around in a foreign country with a lost sense of direction but they typically don’t have a fully outlined itinerary based on the suggestions they saw on Trip Advisor. They’ll have some locations they want to see and visit, of course, but they will definitely be looking for adventure on the way there. Tourists are the ones who will have that Trip Advisor itinerary, and that’s perfectly fine!

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