A Tourist v.s. A Traveller

We all love travelling, but we love it for different reasons. Some of us call it “holiday” while some others call it a “journey”; some of us are tourists, and some of us are travelers. Neither is innately good or bad, they both possess different characteristics that enables them to experience ultimately different things while venturing out into the world – to suit their own needs.

From a female’s perspective, we put some of the key differences into a fun image, and let’s have a deeper look into each of them.

travel v.s. tourist


A traveler cares less about what she wears. She is unconcerned about whether the clothes are cheap or designer stuff. She doesn't care whether it's slacks and jeans or an elegant dinner dress; what she cares about is that her clothes must be free and convenient for her to explore whatever comes her way.

As a tourist, she prefers to dress to kill, as she likes strolling the sights of the city, going to parties, taking pictures to share with friends or on social network. She often brings a big selection of clothes and shoes to suit all occasions, and would get up in the morning and try to look as perfect as possible for the day to come. Yes, she does look lovely and her friends and followers would get to enjoy the trip with her.


A traveler would be comfortable with hitting the road without any initial plans. Because she actually prefers to go with the flow that comes with wherever she is going, and let life surprises her. So she would usually just land and see how things turn out.

Before leaving her base, or home, a tourist will tend to have everything mapped out. From accommodation to places to visit, to how to get there; in short, she feels more comfortable with everything being planned out before she leaves. Because they do not like to be stressed during her time off.


A traveler packs for freedom. She packs light so she’s always ready to move or stay at any time. There are only four essentials for her: passport, wallet, phone and home keys. She would be excited for a last-minute trip, with only having time to take these things with her. A pair of hiking shoes, a book, a silk sleeping bag… are some bonus for her backpack. What if she finds there’s something missing? Not a problem, she would always find out where to get it.

A tourist packs so she can focus on enjoying herself. She’d rather get stressed by listing and packing everything she would need into a suitcase than finding out she needs to get something later during her trip. With things well planned out, she rarely need to face the hassle to drag her suitcase from one place to another, and can enjoy every moment in the right outfit with the best tools. After all, it is a holiday, no stress needed.


A traveler prefers to take part in everything that the locals are doing than go onto sight-seeing tours. She would try to learn their language, look for insights about their culture, learn their dance moves, drink with the locals, get invited to their homes a small party. She would get up in the morning without a plan, as she sees the unknown journey as the most important ingredient of travelling.

An experience is the best when it is shared. A tourist loves taking photos while going from one sight to another, so she can capture the moment and share with others who cannot be a part of her trip. She also tries to tick all the “top 10 things to do” on TripAdvisor’s list. Before going to bed, she would have the following day all planned out so she can avoid any troubles and best use her holiday time.


A traveler would try out food from a small street stall and be best friend with toilets for the next day. You would find her in a small rundown local restaurant pub among the locals, while eating something she probably has no idea even what it is.

Her list is not complete until she ticks the best restaurants off her list. A tourist researches before deciding where to eat, even the ice cream or a sandwich need to be from the top places with best reviews. She would never risk her stomach by stepping inside a place without the TripAdvisor badge.  


A traveler gets up and goes out without a plan, ready for a day of new adventures.  She would take the road where she does not see tourists; she would take a bus and gets out wherever catches her eyes. She’s not afraid of getting lost, as she’s comfortable with asking for help or initiating a conversation with a stranger. She opens her heart to accept anything comes her way.

A tourist does not go anywhere without her phone. She uses TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Google Maps like a bible. After all, if the best places are already being selected by tons of others, why take the risk of venturing to somewhere may not be great. And if you can find the best route to go from A to B, why waste time to wander around.

What really matters…

The above are just some differences in behaviour, and it is not all that black and white. What really distinguish a traveller from a tourist is the mindset.

A traveller on one hand hits the road with the aim of seeing the places for what they really are, meeting the locals, learning about their culture, and most importantly, finding more about herself. She travels to explore, to grow, to live her life. So whatever she does, she’s present.

A tourist on the other hand travels to escape her daily life. So she would worry about whether she has made the best of her trip, and she would constantly think about what to do next than just enjoying what she’s already doing.

Travel is a magical experience – for a tourist, or for a travellers. As despite how much we plan it, we are venturing into a world of unknown. We all need to take some risks, and open our heart to others and to ourselves. A tourist can become a traveller – what’s the tipping point?

I cannot speak for everyone, but in my case, it was when I desired to broaden my perspective and get connected with the world; when I wanted to understand more about myself; when I started to pursue personal freedom. It is a change of the heart, not one of behaviours. There’s a chance that you might fall into the tourist mood sometimes, but the truth is, at heart, you stay as a true traveller.

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