Top 10 travel tips to avoid looking like a tourist in Europe

Traveling to Europe? You DO NOT want to look like this:

Ummm no

Guy on the left: socks with sandals and short shorts.

Next guy: backpack with white runners, camera around the neck and water bottle.

Third guy: trying to hard to look European?

Girl: Can she even walk in those heels? The answer is no she can’t.

The last lady: Umm fanny pack and hot dog. No.

You do not want to be these people when visiting Europe. If you’re visiting Eastern Europe, you will be easily targeted for any scams they might try to pull on you and this could be something as subtle as tripling the price of a taxi ride. If you’re visiting Western Europe, you’re going to get a lot of dirty looks and you might even see people pointing and whispering about your attire.

So to avoid looking like a tourist in Europe, see these ten tips below.

1)  Find out the currency of the country your visiting. Its not always the Euro. You should always get the currency before you leave from your bank. You will probably have to ask them to order it in advance if you going to countries like the Czech Republic, Romania, etc. By doing this, you will avoid being scammed at the 0% commission exchange houses and you don’t want the first thing you do when you arrive is to stand in line to get money. Also you don’t want to find yourself with no currency for the taxi/bus/train from the airport.

2)  Check out the weather before you leave. You might be surprized if your going somewhere warm and it ends up being cool and rainy or if you’re going somewhere known for colder weather and you find yourself in 25 degrees (C) weather without shorts. Pack according to the current weather not necessarily the forecast, everyone knows they aren’t reliable and another tip is to check websites that can give you a yearly overall average temperature. Then you can check the average, the high and low during the month your visiting. It will give you a better idea on what to pack.

3) Charge the battery for your camera and bring an extra memory card. Don’t forget to pack the plug in and make sure to check that your plug matches (North America vs. Europe). In Europe it is the rounded prongs and you might need a transformer because its a higher voltage over the ocean than in North America. If you have to pack your massive camera, leave the camera bag in the hotel. Take the extra memory card with you and put the camera in your purse or jacket pocket. You don’t need that tourist sign handing around your shoulder. Its also bulky and will be a hassle when trying to enjoy the sights.

4) Hotels. Yes everyone’s looking for the best deal – the cheapest hotel, unless you’re rich or going on a free trip – luck you. Make sure to consider the transportation to the city center. Hopefully you won’t be spending too much time in the hotel, but the less time you spend traveling on the bus/metro etc. might be worth the extra 10-30 euros a night. For example, if visiting Paris or London, you might not want to take a 45 minutes metro ride to get from the hotel to the city center. You want to maximize your time in the city in addition to the fact that if you want to go back to the hotel sometime throughout the day, its going to cost you a lot of time.

For at home or in-hotel reading only

5) Leave the travel guide at home! Read it and leave it. If you really want to experience the place you’re visiting, don’t walk around with the travel book in hand with the city your visiting in HUGE CAPITAL LETTERS on the cover. These guides are very helpful, you learn about the culture, find out about all the attractions you want to visit and are able to map out your way around the city. BUT using the guide as your only trip planner is really short changing the experience and you stick out like the geek who follows someone else’s advice for a trip. Make the trip your own.

6) Map out some must-see tourist attractions. Think about if they might require good footwear, a swimsuit or some other item you haven’t packed yet. Visit these attractions at the beginning of the day. If it’s the main attraction, make sure you’re the first one to arrive when it opens for the day. You don’t want to lose half your day just to see one thing. Yes this means waking up early on your vacation, but trust me, you’ll get much more out of it with a shorter wait in line and fewer people to get in the way and distort your view. You can sleep in when you get home.

7) What to pack. Pack light. Yes ladies, I know it’s hard to choose just 5 outfits for your 7 day trip. Pack 3. Yes, only 3 ok maybe 4. Mix and match. But you’ll be thankful for not hauling around a heavy suitcase and struggling in the airport. Plus you’ll have room to bring back souvenirs and gifts and maybe even a new outfit. No backpacks, no white running shoes, no fishermans hats. These are non-negotiatble. Practical yes, but you stick out like a very sore, throbbing red thumb. Gross, yes it is. Do an internet search on the country’s fashion. If you’re going to Paris or even Luxembourg you get to pack nicer clothes and maybe an extra outfit and pair of shoes to match, but they must be comfortable and no the 4 inch heels for everyday walking are not necessary. Just don’t buy white runners. Get some black flat heeled shoes. You’ll be fine.

This is what NOT to do

8) Don’t try to hit every major tourist spot. Take a wander, with the map in your purse or pocket NOT in a backpack because you didn’t bring a backpack. Enjoy getting lost. Ask someone to help you find your way back, it’s much more fun and imagine the stories you will be able to tell your friends. In Europe, you might think its easy to get lost, but if you look for the church steeple or tallest landmark, you can find your way back through the maze of streets.

9) Ask someone at the hotel for a non-touristy area to have dinner. I know every travel guide will recommend dozens of “the best” restaurants, which in the end tend to have mediocre food and mediocre service. You’ll get more authentic food, service and will probably learn something from the locals about the city if you go off the beaten path for dinner. Not to mention you can get more for your money because the high-traffic tourist areas have higher prices.  You can now get drinks and dessert without worrying about counting the cash you have left.

10) Take a moment to sit at a café or stand at a great viewpoint and just look. Sometimes you tend to get so excited and you must go, go, go to make the most of it, but in the end the city tends to become a blur of standing in lines, running around snapping pictures here and there and spending time in the tourist office getting the same spiel as the 10 people in front of you. Put the camera down and take a mental picture of the place. Soak it all in and remember the experience. Smell the air, look at the colours, think about what makes this place unique and different from your home. Feel the vibe of the place. It will make it much more memorable and leave a lasting impression.

Of course this guide is for those visiting capital cities in Europe. If you’re going backpacking, staying in hostels or going to “rough it”, these tips don’t really help you. There are many ways to see a place, but these are just a few tips to help you enjoy the capitals of Europe to the maximum and look good while doing it.

What’s the ugliest or most practical article of clothing you’ve worn on a trip? Do you have any travel regrets (something you did or didn’t see or do)? Or do you like wearing a backpack, white runners, a camera around your neck while holding a map and travel guide?

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About Nicole Basaraba

Nicole Basaraba is a Canadian writer focusing on topics of travel (Mondays), writing and literature (Wednesdays), lifestyle (Fridays) and her experiences living in the capital city of Europe: Brussels, Belgium.
This entry was posted in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Top 10 travel tips to avoid looking like a tourist in Europe

  1. sartenada says:

    LOL. I love the first photo at top. I have been helping tourists when I see that they need for help. Yes, just before when they ask help. Everyone has been very grateful and very happy that there are kind people in our world. Sometimes if I have time I have been walking with them to the sight which they were looking for. Well, I love that tourists are looking like tourists. They are representing their country, their habits and culture etc.

    Every time when I have helped some people, I felt inside me very happy too. This the best way to announce to tourists that we care them.

    Happy blogging!

  2. Jodi says:

    Cute photo at the top, it initially attracted me to this post. A great line-up of tips for beginning travelers – I think #10 is my favorite piece of advice.

  3. Loved the tourist photos. The fifth lady with the fanny pack? Curious minds want to know. Do most Europeans shave their legs? If not, she’d fit right in.

    LOVE the last bit of advice best, too. I remember a day in London–clearly–when we went to SPEAKERS corner on Sunday. We had no agenda. I remember watching (in amusement) as a man stood on his box and shouted his philosophy that men RULE the household, wives must OBEY in order to achieve WORLD PEACE! Did I agree with his philosophy? SNORT! But, I did enjoy the experience. We never EVER travel with tours. I don’t like to be hustled off to a bus b/c it’s “time.”

    Love your observations. I guess we only broke the rules in Frankfurt. It was the only city where our taxi driver chose the circuitous route to the hotel. LOVE your snippets and pics of Europe.

    • Good question Gloria. Most European women wear nylons so you’ll never know if they actually shave their legs.

      Yes, I’ve heard many horror stories about taking those guided tours. I don’t think I would ever take one unless it was a free trip of course annnnd maybe a guided safari in Africa.

      Yeah, its hard sometimes with the taxi drivers. I always take the metro or bus where I can. 🙂

  4. Awesome advise, Nicole! Oh, I miss my native Europe so much. Thank you for sharing these tips — I’m the guilty of packing too many clothes, shoes, jewelry 🙂

    • I know the feeling of missing home. I pack too much as well. As the saying goes “do what I say and not as I do”. But I think I’m getting better and limiting the number of outfits I bring.

  5. Pingback: The End is Near (and we deserve it). . . . Bride Answers Text Message at Own Wedding « Author Piper Bayard

  6. EllieAnn says:

    Okay, so if I’m reading this right–you mean to say that fanny packs are no longer in?!

  7. Hotel rooms says:

    Great tips Nicole Basaraba, I liked ‘What to pack’ advice. Thanks dear for sharing the tips. May I re-share this at facebook?

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