My country is the World. My religion is to be Human.

Are you a tourist or a traveler?

I have been traveling for years, both as a traveler and a tourist. People often use these two terms interchangeably, but they are in fact fundamentally different. Since I’ve been both and I know all the differences between them, I decided to sum them up in one post.

1. Preparation for the journey

travelerPicture taken from the link.

A tourist has its own ritual which starts with the meticulous research, continuing with booking hotels and tours. They pack three weeks in advance. They always buy a return ticket.
A traveler packs their backpack half an hour before the trip, moment they decide where they want to go. The most important thing is to have a map, but everything else will be sorted out once they get where they set off to. They typically purchase a one-way ticket since a traveler does not know where the road will take him.

2. Accommodation

Tourists only sleep in hotels, the more luxurious the better.
Travelers sleep in hostels, local people’s houses, tents, parks, beaches…

3. Taking photos

First two pictures were taken from the link and link. Third picture is from my private collection from Kenya.

A tourist uses a selfie stick because it is very important that they are in a photo with an old building they do not know anything about, nor are they interested in it, in the background. If they visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, then you already know what kind of photo they posted on social media.
A traveler uses their phone or GoPro (they rarely use expensive cameras) to take pictures of the environment, people and their interaction, colors, nature and animals. A traveler will never stand in front of the leaning Tower of Pisa and take tourist-like photos!

4. Food

Tourists in Thailand eat pizza, pasta, burgers in McDonald’s. Sometimes they eat fries.
Traveler in Thailand eat Pad Thai and other local foods.

5. Souvenirs

First picture is taken from the link. Other pictures are my private collection from Asia.

Tourists shop in expensive shopping malls or tourist spots. They must have at least one thing with I < 3 NY .
Travelers shop at local markets. They collect souvenirs from their surroundings such as sand, stones, coins…

6. Moving around

Tourists usually rent cars, or take taxis. They plan their day in advance, usually by booking some tours on the Internet or at a local tourist guide. When walking around by themselves, travel guides and maps are mandatory. They collect information in advance from many different sources.
Travelers take local buses, they hitchhike or walk. They have no plan, they go where the road leads them. They make their own tours based on things they like not based on things found online in the meaningless lists of top picks in certain city. Travelers find information they need in their surroundings by asking locals, or by using Google maps.

For example, google top places to visit in your town. I googled Belgrade and results are awful.


This list would be totally different if local people made this list.

7. Things to bring on your trip

Tourists usually carry several pieces of luggage for a ten-day trip. They pack a hairdryer, all possible face creams, multiple pairs of shoes. They pay a lot of attention to their looks and that is why they carry all this stuff. Tourists use towels that they brought from home, which take up half a suitcase, or they use hotel towels.
Travelers have a backpack for their three-month trip. This has to do with the fact that travelers do not pay attention to how they look, they wear jeans and a couple of T-shirts. More important are their surroundings. Travelers are practical and they use microfiber towels because they can be dried for two minutes. For example OKAPI towels.

8. Company

Tourists love traveling in groups, or couples at least.
Travelers usually travel by themselves. They do not like when anyone draws attention from their integration into local culture. Travelers like being flexible and that cannot be achieved by traveling with another person.


Of course there are variations and it is true that no one is solely a tourist or a traveler. These characteristics vary from person to person. The essential difference is that travelers are free, they go into the unknown and love it. They know how to find interesting things in any corner of the city. Tourists love the structure and pre-planned trips. It makes them feel secure.

You cannot choose to be a traveler or a tourist, that depends on your personality. If someone is self-confident and loves adventure and people, for sure they will enjoy being a traveler.

When I came back from my travels I went on as a tourist, I was the same Milica as before, only richer for 300 images. When I returned from a trip I went on as a traveler, I returned as a new version of myself – a much better version.

However, not everything goes in favor of travelers, these are two advantages ob being a tourist:

  1. Tourists experience travel as a part of their life, and travelers as their whole life. A traveler is hooked on traveling and when they are at one place longer than a few months, it can create a burden and discomfort.
  2. Tourists feel the excitement before each trip. Traveler is so used to traveling that they do not have butterflies in their stomach the night before they set off.

Whether you will be a tourist or traveler, it depends only on you. The only thing I am sure of is that once you become a traveler, you can never go back to being a tourist. You will have to live your whole life like that. If I could choose again, I’d choose to be a traveler. Things you learn by being a traveler are not taught in tourist guides.

In this post you can see the awesome illustrations that show differences between passengers and tourists: These 12 Minimalistic Illustrations Show Differences Between Tourists And Travelers

Tekst lectore: Marija Kanazir

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Milica Radovic-Mandic