The difference between Travelers and Tourists

Do you travel to get away from life? Or to find a new one? Do you travel to see the sights? Or meet the people? Are you sticking to the beaten path? Or you do like exploring with the locals?

These are just a few differences between what makes someone a “traveler” and what will have you pegged as a “tourist.” And to be honest, most travelers will at some point be tourists, though not all tourists will turn into travelers. Confused? That’s okay, today we are going to be breaking down some of the biggest distinctions between those that see travel as a way of life, and those that are just looking for a week of relaxation.

brown and white concrete building
Photo by Fede Roveda on


The biggest difference between a tourist and a traveler is their mindset and the motivation behind their travels.

Tourists: Typically use trips as a way to escape their usual life, whether it’s a week on the beach to relax, or an adventurous safari, they are looking for something completely different than life at home.

Travelers: See travel as a lifestyle. Working just enough to get to the next place, or working from the road. They typically avoid the 9-5, in favor of some quick and dirty cash to get them down the road.


Tourists: Stick to safe food, only ordering what they can read from the menu, or sticking with what they know their preferences are. Often choosing food they are familiar with, or that mimics food from home.

Travelers: Will sit down with the locals and have what their having, whether it is familiar or not. They enjoy sampling local cuisine, and understanding how it relates to the culture of the area.  

woman in white and red floral top standing near road
Photo by Loifotos on


If you have ever lived in, or near, a tourist town you can probably spot a tourist from a mile away just based on what they’re wearing right? But hey, there’s no shame in the tourist game, sometimes it’s just convenient!

Tourists: Dress comfortably and with what they’re familiar with. Typically opting for comfortable sneakers, since they will be seeing lots of sites in a short period of time. Often brand themselves with T-shirts and hoodies of colleges, and sports teams from home.

Travelers: Dress for the culture, usually opting for anything that will allow them to blend. Travelers often wear neutrals since it is easy to “look the part” in most countries in neutrals. In addition, travelers usually aren’t afraid to dress up, since they are in places for a longer period of time, they may look like just another local headed to the pub.


Keep in mind this is just a generalization, there are many tourists who might try to learn the language and maybe travelers who aren’t comfortable in places outside their native language. Either way, just remember if you’re traveling somewhere that speaks a different language than you, it is always a nice gesture to learn at least a few common phrases/words before you go.

Tourists: Typically try to stick to areas that cater to their native tongue. Either choosing countries or areas that also speak their language natively, or try to stay on the tourist side of town where there are more likely to be translators or people in the industry that are multilingual.

Travelers: Aren’t afraid to head right to the heart of a country, that has no one who speaks their native tongue. They usually try to learn the language, more fluently than just a few phrases, which can often be a direct correlation to the fact that travelers usually spend more time in an area than tourists do.

chapter in textbook
Photo by Ian Panelo on


Which leads us right into pace! While again, there is no hard and fast rule on how long a tourist can stay in one place verus a traveler, we do have a general idea.

Tourists: Cram everything into 10 days, since most tourist’s are borrowing time away from work they want. tobe able to see as much as possible in the short time they have. Itineraries full and wallets at the ready, to see all the best sites before they have to wait another year to travel again.

Travelers: As we mentioned before, travelers often work odd jobs to get to the next place, and view traveling as a lifestyle. Because of this they take more time in an area, either saving up money, or really getting to understand the culture. Travelers will spend weeks or even months in one area before moving to the next one.


Pace and itinerary go hand in hand, one always influencing the other. The slower your pace is, the smaller the itinerary and vice versa.

Tourist: Want to see the big stuff, they’re the ones lining up to see the Mona Lisa or taking photos under the Eiffel tower. They have 10 days in France and want to see it all! They often use the internet to decide where to go and what to see.

Traveler: Already seen the big stuff, since they’ve been there longer they have often had their chance to see the big stuff and now choose to wander around to find hidden gems. They talk to the locals to find the good stuff and aren’t afraid to get lost.


I will admit I am a sucker for a souvenir shop. After spending 3 weeks in Toronto I came home with more than one “I <3 Toronto” memorabilia. But I also brought some really close to the culture clothing from this little Canadian shop called Roots.

(Dear Canadians, that is a joke but also Roots is really comfy and warmer than anything we sell here in the South)

Tourists: Buy the flashy oversized hoodies and T-shirts with the words “Panama City Beach” across the chest. They stick to museum gift shops and corner souvenir shops, almost always chosing something that has the name of the place their visiting on it.

Travelers: Prefer to support locals and buy culturally significant items. Sticking to local markets and hand crafted items that are unique to both the culture and the artist. Since many travelers live on the road and every pound/kilo counts, they are also more likely to spend their money on the mundane, leaving a city new shoes or shampoo.

I heart NY written on M&Ms


Tourists: Tourists are less concerned with how they get some place and more concerned with just getting there are quickly and easily as possible. Typically opting for planes, taxis, and tour buses. Not to say travelers don’t use these methods as well, just not as often.

Travelers: Will take pretty much any method to get to where their going. While they will use planes and taxis, they also use trains, rideshares (ex:Uber/Lyft), hitchhiking, camper vans, bikes, motor bikes, and even just walking. This is in part to their naturally slower pace, and the fact that they view the ride, just as important as the destination.

Did you know that air travel is responsible for almost 3% of greenhouse gas emissions world wide, the number jumping to 12% in the United States alone. While that may not look like much, experts believe that by the year 2050 carbon emissions from planes will take up a quarter of the worlds carbon budget. (source) In the United States transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gasses and carbon emission, at 28%.(source)

As travelers and tourists alike, it is our responsibility to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint. This could mean walking instead of taking a taxi, taking a train instead of a plane. However, sometimes you just can’t avoid those long haul flights! In those instances, you can donate to an organization committed to carbon offset. Some airlines such as Delta, United, Jet Blue, and Alaska Airlines have programs provided to their customers to help with this. has various donation options to assist in offsetting your carbon footprint, as well as resources to help you reduce your footprint in your everyday life, not just when traveling.

Find out more information on your carbon footprint here.


Tourists: Will be found around the resorts and hotels, viewing an Air BNB as “exoctic.” Typically choosing accommodation that is closer to the city center, the airport, or the attractions.

Travelers: Pretty much can be found sleeping anywhere else. Many travelers view a bed as a luxury, opting to couchsurf or camp, due to financial reasons. Or they stay in hostels with dozens of other like-minded travellers, sleeping dorm style, sometimes even working at the hostel to earn their keep rather than paying.


When it comes to photos, remember the following: Always get permission when photographing locals/others, always ask before attempting to take photos in a place considered special or sacred, ONLY take photos that make you happy. If that’s you and your friends taking a selfie, or only taking in the views don’t let anyone make you feel inferior for wanting to capture a memory.

adult backpacker blur camera
Photo by David Bartus on

Tourist: Want something to bring home to show all their friends, a picture of the fam in front of Big Ben or a selfie under the Eiffel tower. Often used as bragging rights among coworkers or for a flashy Instagram post.

Travelers: Use photos as a way to remember where they’ve been, taking more photos of their environment and less of themselves. There are of course exceptions to every rule, as the trend of “travel influencers” grows, more travelers are opting for branded photos, rather than the same one you could get from Google.


5 doctor who companions, Rose tyler, Donna Noble, Martha Jones, Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song.

No not that kind! Although, I guess kind of? Whether traveling in space and time (which if you are, call me!!) or around the world travel can always be enriched by those you share it with.

Tourist: Travel in groups, usually family or friends. Typically using the getaway as a chance to catch up or bond with family.

Travelers: Travel solo or in pairs, and when they are with a group it is usually of other travelers met on the road. Travel companions for travelers changes all the time as they move from city to city.

photo of two women posing in front of eiffel tower paris france during day time
Photo by Skitterphoto on

So what do you think? Are you a traveler? or more of a tourist? Still not sure? take this fun quiz on Instagram to find out! Remember, it’s all for fun and as long as you’re being safe, kind to the environment and those you meet, and respectful of others travel is something we all can enjoy, in our own way.

Safe travels, until next time!

Are you ready to plan your next trip? Fill out an Expression of Interest form and we will get started on your next big adventure! Or visit us at for more information.