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How Not to Look Like a Tourist When Traveling in Africa

Traveling in Africa can be an exhilarating and eye-opening experience. From the majestic wildlife of the Serengeti to the vibrant cultures of Marrakech, this diverse continent offers a wealth of adventures waiting to be explored. However, standing out as a tourist can sometimes make you a target for scams and unwanted attention. To truly immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy a more authentic experience, it’s essential to blend in and avoid looking like a tourist. In this article, we’ll provide you with valuable tips and insights on how not to look like a tourist when traveling in Africa.

1. Dress Appropriately

Dress like a Local

One of the quickest ways to stand out as a tourist is by dressing inappropriately. While Africa is incredibly diverse, it’s essential to research and respect the local dress code in the specific region you’re visiting. In many African countries, conservative clothing is the norm. For women, this often means covering your shoulders and knees. For men, long pants and shirts with sleeves are generally more appropriate. By adhering to these guidelines, you’ll not only show respect for the local culture but also blend in more seamlessly.

Avoid Flashy Clothing and Accessories

Leave the flashy jewelry and designer labels at home. Wearing expensive items can attract unwanted attention and may make you a target for theft. Opt for modest and understated clothing and accessories instead.

2. Learn Basic Local Phrases

Speak the Language

While not every African country has the same official language, it’s a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in the local language of the region you’re visiting. Simple greetings, “please,” “thank you,” and asking for directions can go a long way in breaking the ice and showing respect to the locals.

Use Local Slang Sparingly

Conversely, be cautious when using local slang or idioms. While it can be fun to connect with locals on a deeper level, using slang incorrectly or excessively can make you sound insincere or clueless.

3. Be Mindful of Photography

Ask for Permission

Africa is a continent of stunning landscapes, vibrant markets, and diverse people. It’s tempting to capture every moment with your camera, but always ask for permission before taking photos of individuals, especially in rural areas. Some cultures believe that a photograph can steal a person’s soul, so it’s essential to be respectful of these beliefs.

Avoid Being a Camera-Toting Tourist

Carrying a massive camera with a telephoto lens around your neck is a surefire way to stand out as a tourist. Consider using a smaller, more discreet camera or even your smartphone for photography. This way, you can capture the essence of your surroundings without drawing unnecessary attention to yourself.

4. Use Local Transportation

Opt for Public Transport

Instead of relying solely on taxis or rental cars, consider using public transportation whenever possible. Not only will this save you money, but it will also give you a chance to mingle with locals and observe their daily routines. However, be cautious and research the safety of public transportation options in advance.

Learn the Local Transport Etiquette

Different African countries have unique customs and etiquettes when it comes to public transportation. In some places, it’s common to haggle over the price of a bus ticket, while in others, you may be expected to queue in an orderly fashion. Do your research and observe the locals to avoid looking lost and out of place.

5. Eat Local Cuisine

Explore Street Food

One of the best ways to experience the local culture is through its food. Don’t stick to the familiar fast-food chains you might find in urban areas. Instead, be adventurous and try the street food and local restaurants. Engaging in the culinary traditions of a region can be a gateway to understanding its people and their way of life.

Learn Dining Etiquette

Every culture has its dining etiquette, and Africa is no exception. Research the customs of the region you’re visiting to avoid unintentional faux pas. For example, in some African countries, it’s customary to eat with your right hand and not your left.

Traveling in Africa can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s crucial to blend in and avoid looking like a tourist to make the most of your journey. By dressing appropriately, learning local phrases, being mindful of photography, using local transportation, and exploring local cuisine, you can immerse yourself in the culture and create lasting memories.


Q1: Is it safe to travel in Africa? A1: Safety can vary widely across different African countries and regions. It’s essential to research your destination thoroughly, follow travel advisories, and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Q2: How can I avoid scams while traveling in Africa? A2: To avoid scams, be cautious of overly friendly strangers, only use reputable tour operators and transportation services, and keep your belongings secure. It’s also a good idea to stay informed about common scams in the area you’re visiting.

Q3: What should I do if I get lost in an unfamiliar African city? A3: If you find yourself lost, stay calm and ask for directions from a trusted source, such as a shop owner or a police officer. It’s also helpful to carry a map or have a GPS app on your smartphone to navigate your way back to your destination.