Tourist vs traveler: Which One Are You?

tourist vs traveler.png

¡Hola! It’s time for the third post of my series of travel blog posts in English. I know that the last two times we talked about traveling (Mendoza and Buenos Aires), we talked about very short trips (I’m talking about 2 to 4 days long). Now, since I consider myself a world traveler, I know that a lot of travelers hate those short trips they consider “touristy”. Yep, I get it, I personally do think those short trips don’t allow enough time to fully immerse yourself in getting to know a new city, BUT let’s face it… Whenever I get the chance to go on a little getaway (even if only for 2 days) I WILL TAKE IT. Period. That’s how much I love traveling. I can’t relate to those travelers who despise touristy trips. You guys, true travelers are open minded and respect people with different interests, duh. So, I’m going to talk about 5 ways in which tourists and a travelers are different. This doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, I’ve told you I’m a little bit of both, it simply means there are two main ways of traveling according to time, money, interests, etc. Keep on reading and see for yourself.

1- Time: Like I said, one of the main differences between a tourist and a traveler, generally speaking, is that a tourist goes on short trips, and a traveler goes on long trips. That is to say, a tourist will typically allow one to two weeks for a trip, whereas a traveler spends AT LEAST a month in a new place. This way, the tourist has to see the main attractions of a city because they don’t want to waste the little time they have. The traveler has more than enough time to wander around. They will even get lost on purpose. In my experience, when you get lost is when you find the absolute best hidden spots that you’ll never forget. I actually get a little excited when I’m in a new city and I realize I’m lost (as long as the place doesn’t seem dangerous, of course!)

2- Place: Usually tourists stay in nice hotels, even all-inclusive hotels in big, populated cities or trendy beaches, whereas travelers enjoy staying at cheaper hotels, hostels, or even camp in less ventured areas. And why is this? This needs to be said, tourists often go on trips as a way of taking a vacation from everyday life. Therefore, they enjoy relaxing in a place that’s similar to home because they don’t have enough time to devote to learning a new language or finding spots in a map. They book tours at travel agencies and follow a tour guide around. Again, generally speaking, travelers make traveling their way of life. Therefore, they don’t have a 9-5 that pays for their travel expenses because they spend a long time abroad. This way, they have to find cheaper places to stay in. With all that wonderful time in their hands, they get to truly explore by themselves, asking locals for directions, making friends in the way, getting lost, and finding hidden spots.

3- Packing: Tourists check the weather forecast during those two weeks and pack accordingly. They also pack nice clothes, like high heels, night dresses, or even suits for those glamorous nights they plan to spend at restaurants or theaters. Travelers can’t rely on the weather forecast because, remember, they’re staying for months at a time! They check the usual weather during that season and travel light. Travelers know they’ll walk a lot, and I mean A LOT, with their backpacks on (no purses here!), so there’s no room for fancy heavy shoes, or anything of the sort. They’ll wear the same pair of super comfortable shoes almost every day. They know they need to pack comfy clothes because their trip will involve a lot of walking, sleeping in tents, hiking, or eating meals sitting on the grass.

4- Plans: Both types of adventurers will make plans, but differently. Tourists will usually know exactly what activity they’ll be doing every day during their trip because they’ve booked them through a travel agency. These activities tend to be group activities, and take all day. Now travelers’ plans are different. Travelers spend a lot of days learning the local language, trying to find out about manners because they don’t want to offend any locals, learning about the typical food, and local lifestyle. Once they arrive to their destination, they have no idea what they’ll do each day because they just go with the flow. Tourists always wear the same clothes they do at home, some even wear clothes that will FOR SURE let people know they’re foreigners, on purpose (sports jerseys, anyone? I’m guilty of this one!) I get that we love our countries and are proud of them, but travelers usually make friends with the locals and try to immerse themselves in what consists of a regular day in the new city, trying their best not to interfere with anybody’s business. On the contrary, they try to blend in, not stand out. By participating in the local’s day-to-day activities, travelers achieve what they were looking for, which is transforming themselves into new people with a broadened view of the world.

5- Pictures & souvenirs: Tourists LOVE taing pictures of famous monuments and places to show and remember that they’ve been there. Travelers love taking pictures too, but here’s the thing: they’re usually not in them. Why? Because travelers are too busy taking it all in to even remember about snapping pictures. They tend to take pictures of landscapes, quiet areas, and less known spots, as well as the main attractions. Or, they’ll take pictures of themselves but with the local friends they’ve made to cherish those moments forever. Tourists will usually take time during their trip to shop for souvenirs for their loved ones, usually a gift shops. Travelers don’t travel to bring their family and friends souvenirs, they travel just for the sake of it. The things they bring back home are memories, new friends, and new plans for the next trip ahead.


So those are some of the main differences between a traveler and a tourist. Of course there are many more, and many times the things I listed overlap or aren’t completely true of one or the other, and this is because most of us are a little bit of a tourist and a little bit of a traveler. It really just depends on the time you have, money, work, goals and objectives, and the moment in life you’re in. It’s not the same, for example, to be in your twenties and single, than to be in your fourties and have little ones to take care of, plus a 9-5 job. That said, being young and single is not necessary to be a true traveler AT ALL, same way being older and married is not the only reason to go on short fancy trips. The main thing, though, is that if you’re judgmental, look down on other people’s lifestyles, and think you’re better than everybody else, you’re probably not ever going to venture too far away from your neighborhood, by all means stay there! Now, if you’re reading this, traveling is probably something you enjoy, or maybe you’d like to try it out, which is amazing! Stepping out of your comfort zone is worth it, and something you’ll never regret. Damn, even take a bus to the nearest town if you don’t have time or money to go too far (I do this when I’m travel-sick), just keep an open mind, and think like a traveler. Find joy in being amazed by the different. Thank you for reading! If you have any thoughts, share them in the comments! XO

          – M


14 thoughts on “Tourist vs traveler: Which One Are You?

      1. Well, there seems to be a conscious effort to add meaning to the words. For example : a traveller is some who has made a passage to a distant land. There is no further meaning behind that beyond describing the person making a journey. To add on: that a traveller does this or that…while a tourist is implied not to do…to us that’s additional definitions. If these definitions hold, would it be only the privilege of those who supposedly does those things can only be called travellers? What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. To think that being a traveler is a privilege would imply that I myself am not good enough as a tourist, like I said above. The connotation of the words is different, that’s a consequence of society that won’t ever be different, and it could change again in the future. The dictionary definitions won’t change, those are static.


  2. Really like where you’re at on pictures! I think the reason I consider myself a traveler rather than a tourist is because I think of a tourist as someone who goes to see something specific where as I go to see whatever is wherever I end up!! Sure, there are things I hope to see after I’ve figured out my direction, but it’s really just about the journey!


  3. It’s really funny how we love labeling everything 😉
    You are this and I’m that, no matter what “name” you’ll chose be kind, loving and open-minded. This way no matter the kind of exploration you’ll get the most of it.
    PS: I really enjoy the way you’re writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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