Tourist vs. Traveler: Which One Are You?

tourist versus traveler

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between someone who travels and a tourist?

The traveler versus tourist debate is certainly not a new one. For years, travelers and tourists have been defined as being separated from one another and placed at two ends of the travel range.

I’m a hardcore traveler and have traveled all around India and some foreign countries. I invite you to read some of my travel blog posts for a joyful experience.

PS: This blog post is a result of my personal experiences and inspiration from fellow travel bloggers.


Travelers and tourists are people who travel to different locations. The difference is that they have different meanings and that one is a broader term than the other. All tourists are travelers, but not all travelers are tourists.

So what’s the difference between the two?

First, let’s inspect some of the major components of travel, and the differences between the two groups of explorers.


Tourists make a plan for their trip, every minute of it outlined. They know where they’re headed, and there’s a list of sights to be checked off. They go directly from point A to B, then end with pre-defined points. Organized travel gets glory points for being simple.

Travelers realize that the journey is worth more than the destination. They deviate, take wrong turns to change their minds, go with the flow, and have no idea where they’ll end up. Impulsiveness is embraced, and organized tours are of no interest.


Tourists are usually seen with tour groups, reserved buses, or cars, etc.

Travelers walk solo, with a worn-out walking stick to lean on and a journal to talk to. While they love the flexibility and spontaneously of solo travel, they’re ready to exchange tips with fellow travelers and mingle with locals.


Tourists prioritize stuffing in as much as possible into a short amount of time, and every minute is planned. The more sights, the better.

Travelers move at a slow pace, preferring to experience and learn, rather than merely see. The more time in one place, the better.


Tourists get homesick thinking about their beds. They try to seek the familiar and surround themselves with similar minds, common languages, and the comforts of home. They go home to relax after stressful trips.

Travelers realize that home is not a physical place, but, rather, a state of being. Home can change every day, as it’s built upon perspective, a sense of belonging, and potential host families.


Tourists are on a determined mission to get as many selfies in front of as many famous sights as possible. Every meal must be documented, every location must be checked-in to, and it seems that most of the trip was spent behind the smart phone’s screen.

Travelers take photos of other places, not their faces. They walk to the edge of the world for the experience, not to prove it to anyone else. They have no problem setting up a tripod and waiting for the perfect sunrise; one good photograph is worth a thousand point-and-shoot clicks.


Tourists are proud of flaunting T-shirts or mementos that advertise the cities they visited. Souvenirs are bought in gift shops, and the only trace tourists leave of themselves is the occasional plastic water bottle.

Travelers stick with carrying culturally-significant items and stories when leaving countries, most of these provided by new-found friends, local organizations, and interaction with the environment. They leave only their footsteps in new places and their impression on a stranger’s heart.


Tourists are always checking out the listicles. They listen to restaurant recommendations, are drawn to monuments, visit museums, follow traces drawn on maps, and read their guide book.

Travelers just travel!


Tourist tends to opt for air-conditioned taxis, when not being shuffled around in big tour buses. They prioritize comfort and speed.

Travelers treat transportation as part of the journey; they’re patient and prefer to move slowly. They get into unknown cars, opt for the longest train journeys or even walk a long distance.


Tourists view travel as an escape from life; a getaway of fun and. They stay in comfort zones and look for traces of home abroad.

Travelers understand that travel is a lifestyle, not something to be put on a calendar for ten days. It’s a mindset to seek the unknown, learn from the world, and mingle with local cultures.


Tourists check-in luggage, pack a shirt for every day, and invest in the latest fashions. They can easily be spotted wearing fancy clothes and accessories.

Travelers focus on essentials and neutral colors. They carry their home in their backpack — and still manage to keep it light — ready to sleep anywhere and to enjoy any sort of adventure.


Tourists stick to hotel chains that have been carefully-reviewed, offer comfortable facilities.

Travelers are grateful for a roof over their heads but don’t mind sleeping under the stars when the weather permits. They surf on couches, pack together in hostels, and are experts at setting up tents.


In short, both travelers and tourists are people that go to foreign lands. However, the purpose and mentalities of the traveling are drastically different, one relying on convenience and the other embracing new experiences. Tourists travel fast and tend to base their travels around money, while travelers move slowly and invest time.

The beauty of travel is that it’s a personal experience; it’s not a tournament, and there are no winners.

So, which one are you?

16 thoughts on “Tourist vs. Traveler: Which One Are You?

      1. कृपा भगवद गीता की और चाकन | आनंद परम और स्तिर है, जो आप कह राह है वो मज़ा या इंग्लिश में pleasure | और विअसे भी हर जीव को हर जगह में अलग-अलग अनुभव होता है | यही आनंद भी है और जीवन का स्वाद भी | अति धन्यवाद् |

      2. जैसे हर एक की सोच अलग हो सकती है, वैसे परिभाषा भी अलग हो सकती है, स्वामी जी।

      3. जो मैं वेद, गीता से समझा वो आपसे अलग हो सकता है। सबके लिए अलग।

  1. Great post. Really interesting to see the differences between holidayers and travelers set out like that. In my later life (as a card-carrying Generation Xer), I holiday with the kids, then reserve part of the trip to show the kids how travel works. We don’t plan anything, we give the kids the guidebook and let them make all the decisions, and we focus on travelling cheap. Because that’s what forces you out of the resorts and into places where you spend time with the locals and see how they live.

  2. I would say that the difference between a traveller and a tourist is that the tourist would typically travel to a city and Want to see and do all the typical touristy things, and not be cost savvy, whereas a traveller is wiser and is able to sniff out tourist traps, but still see those sights just in a more cost effective way. A traveller also likes to venture out and take trips to other parts of the country not just stay in one spot. I would say I’m more of a traveller!

Leave a Reply