No one wants to look like a tourist. Or act like one (most of the time anyway). We’ve gotten together 9 tips to help you look like the pro traveler you are and blend right in with the locals in port. Be careful though, if you follow our list, fellow travelers may start asking you for directions and advice in port soon!
1. Speak like a local. Well, maybe not quite exactly like a local. No need to be fluent, but it’s helpful to have a basic knowledge or understanding of the local language. It can help you avoid getting on the wrong bus, negotiate a better deal on that souvenir and endear the locals to you for trying to speak their language.
2. Read the Newspaper. You likely read your hometown’s news every day to know what’s going on or what to do for the weekend. Think the same way for your ports. Most towns have their newspapers online and those newspapers list local events and activities. By doing just a little bit of research, you could attend a local festival or event in the port you’re visiting on your cruise. You’ll get a chance to see the local side of the port and interact with the people who actually live there.
3. Know the local customs. Do some research ahead of time to be familiar with the customs in your port. For example, in most European ports, tipping 15-20% can be considered rude. Also, meals there tend to last about two hours, so you’ll need to budget for that time while planning your day in port. In some Mexican ports, places can close down for a few hours in the afternoon (not as common in the tourist areas), so you’ll want to plan around that as well.
4. Keep the camera at bay. Taking pictures is a great way to remember your vacation memories, just don’t keep your camera attached to your hand at all times while in port. Tourists are often given away by snapping pictures of everything. Take a few shots of what you like and want to remember and the put the camera away and enjoy the moment.
5. Walk (safely) off the beaten path. Keeping safety in mind, explore your port by taking the side streets and back way. Obviously, this isn’t great advice in every port, but in the ones you can, take advantage of this. We found the best late night meal by walking around behind St. Mark’s square in Venice once. We also found some great local art spots and stores walking around in San Juan.
6. Rent a bike. In many ports, locals don’t have cars; they operate using only two wheels. If you want to see the town like a local – and get some great exercise to burn off some of those extra calories – rent a bike. Biking is relaxing and peaceful and a great way to see things cars don’t have access to. Several beaches and destinations aren’t accessible by car, so with a bike you’ll really get to see a whole new side of the island.
7. Pay attention. Don’t just walk around the port looking up and around at everything. You’ll want to take the sights in, but if you’re just standing there with your mouth gaping open, you’ll stick out like the tourist you are. Drink the experience in, but pay attention to your surroundings; don’t get distracted by all the ‘shiny’ things you see. In addition to looking like a tourist, you’ll become an easier target for pick pockets and con artists.
8. Dress like a local. No matter how proud you are to be an American, dressing like it will scream ‘tourist.’ Lots of jewelry, loud Hawaiian shirts and even bright white sneakers will always give you away. This is typically truer in European ports, but it’s still good to choice your attire wisely in Caribbean ports. Dress low profile with minimum jewelry and leave the fanny pack at home.
9. Leave it behind. Unless you need it with you in port – and odds are, you don’t need as much as you think – leave it behind in your stateroom. We’ve talked about jewelry – add credit cards, large amounts of cash and other valuables to this list. Think about when you head out to Target at home – you don’t bring all your valuables with you. Think the same way in port too.
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