You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?

28 03 2008

Spot the local

Always blend in with the locals







I don’t think anyone ever really wants to look like a tourist, unless the government is rounding up locals to serve in the military or is randomly stopping them for extra taxes. Although being a visitor often attracts genuine warmth and friendliness it can occasionally bring about the less attractive attention of the pick-pocketing or souvenir-selling variety.


Blending in with the locals isn’t always possible even if you visit the hotel gift shop and buy the fez, clogs and kilt, carry a local newspaper and memorize the phrase book. Even countries that have rich multicultural diversity seem to be adept at spotting visitors…and not just by the mammoth backpack that’s bending them double or the map that’s sticking out of their pocket. No, there seems to be a little flashing neon light above most travellers’ heads that says: “Hello, I’m on holiday”.


Many places charge residents considerably less at museums and occasionally even hotels. This discrepancy is sometimes posted as separate tariffs for residents and visitors or as a tourism tax or surcharge. Either way, the temptation to try and pass as a local can be quite strong. Assuming you speak the language, aren’t wearing loud polyester, following in a group behind someone holding an umbrella, or waving your passport, you may get away with it.






A friend of mine from St Petersburg was showing me around that city’s great sights not long after the end of communism.  After seeing me paying double or triple entry-fees for most places, she decided to smuggle me in as a local. I was dressed nondescriptly, or so I thought, devoid of all flags and souvenir McLenin t-shirts. She instructed me to stand a few feet away, handed me a Russian magazine to feign reading and then she stepped forward to buy the ducats.






She approached the kiosk, requested two resident tickets and handed over a small wad of rubles. The woman looked up from behind her half-spectacles, took a cursory glance at me through the scratched glass, and said a cheerful and smiling “Hello”.




“Hello.” I promptly replied to the attendant.


She turned to my friend and dourly exclaimed a loud “Nyet”, before demanding the extra fee for a visitor’s ticket!


Post and photo by: Simon Vaughan © 2008




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