When you travel as a tourist, it’s too easy to miss out on a lot of valuable experiences. Many of the opportunities offered to you are the same cut-and-dry options available to everyone else.

phone travel photography

We Are Travel Girls

If you want unique experiences and photo opportunities, then you’ll have to make an effort to be less like a tourist! The options offered to you aren’t the only options available to you, so get off the beaten path and become a native in no time.

Oh, and remember that you can take DSLR quality photos on your phone with a little extra gear!

Travel Tip #1 – Immerse Yourself in the Culture

travel photography culture

National Geographic (Marco Raccichini)

For the love of God, don’t eat at McDonald’s or get a coffee from Starbucks (unless you really need wifi and a bathroom).

If you’re in a foreign country, surrounded by all manner of exotic tastes, you’re obligated to sample as many as you can. Food photography on your phone is a great way to remember your trip through the local cuisine. After all, that’s why you’re traveling, right? You’re here to experience new things!

It goes further than food, though.

Music, food, drinks, and meeting places are hugely important in many cultures and vary wildly from place to place.

You might even find a new favorite!

If you happen to be traveling during a local holiday, make sure to celebrate it. Find out the significance of the day, how celebration occurs, then partake in the celebration!

It’s essential to be respectful of other cultures, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience them for yourself! Here are some more tips for stunning travel photography so you can make sure you’re on your game.

Travel Tip #2 – Form Genuine Relationships

phone travel photography

Joe Monk (@jmmobiphoto) – We met Puck when we rumbled down the road into the Tamarack Flats Campground in Yosemite National Park, just looking for a place to lay our weary heads. What started out as a chat about camping vacancies turned into an offer to share his plot and bottle of Jack Daniels. What I remember most about Yosemite isn’t El Capitain, but Puck. So, remember to try to form genuine relationships!

Apart from being good life advice, this tip has the potential to change the outcome of a trip altogether.

Making some real friends in a new place has several benefits. The first is that you get an insider’s perspective on your locale. That insight is invaluable; you’ll experience the area in a way no other tourist does.

Secondly, you’ll feel more ownership of the place. Don’t confuse it with appropriating a country or culture that isn’t yours – the country or city doesn’t belong to you, you belong to it. For example, I have a connection with Kenya because I lived there for a couple of years and have friends that remain there.

If you have friends, you have someone to fall back on. Traveling is sometimes risky, and having a safe place nearby is an invaluable asset. If you get mixed up in any trouble and have to deal with the local government at all, having a native to defend you will help immeasurably.

It’s not always easy to make friends while you’re traveling – especially if there is a language barrier. The reward is well worth the effort, though!

Travel Tip #3 – Take Your Time

phone travel photography

Joe Monk (@jmmobiphoto) – A lovely dinner in Istanbul, Turkey. In the hustle and bustle of a place like Istanbul, it’s imperative to take time to relax and take it all in. A nice meal with your traveling companion or a new friend gives you time to synthesize what you’ve seen. Be aware of local customs though – it was tough to get a beer in Turkey during Ramadan!

This one is tough, but possibly the most crucial tip to traveling without being a tourist.

For many of us, traveling full-time is the dream. Unfortunately, that’s not usually possible.

If you have the luxury of time and money, take advantage of it to truly get to know a place. Don’t spend one week in each country – spend a week in each city.

Or live there! I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for multiple months, and Joe lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for a year. These experiences are seriously character building and give you even more of a chance to travel!

If you’re always on the move, you’ll never acclimatize. You’ll never really understand what makes a place tick.

If you don’t want to be a tourist, you’re going to have to stick around longer than a tourist would.

Travel Tip #4 – Discover and Visit Local Spots

travel phone photography

Joe Monk (@jmmobiphoto) – A cairn in Aviemore, Scotland. Joe got chatting with a local and heard of a brief hike that led to this point. The cairn is neat, but the view was better! The locals always know best.

It goes without saying that if you’re in Peru, you have to see Macchu Pichu no matter what. It would be a grievous oversight to miss any of the wonders of the world. It would be even more grievous if you didn’t capture them on your phone because you could make money from your phone photography shots!

However, spots like Machu Pichu only one part of Peru’s national treasures. You’d be missing so much if you only saw Macchu Pichu and the Nazca lines.

Fortunately, you’ve already been working on making some local friends. Ask them where they go to visit on holidays or as part of their family tradition.

You might be surprised. Something as mundane as an old family shrine in Japan can have a lasting impact on your trip. You never know, it could be a memory as strong or stronger than when you summitted Mt. Fuji.

Travel Tip #5 – See What You Want to See

travel phone photography

Joe Monk (@jmmobiphoto) – The grave of The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison in Paris, France. It’s what I wanted to see – more than the Louvre, more than the Eiffel Tower, and more than the National Assembly. It took an hour out of one day, and I’m so glad I decided to be selfish just once on my trip!

You’re paying a lot of money to go on this trip, so anything you can do to squeeze every bit out of joy out of it is advisable.

With that in mind, do what you want to do and see what you want to see. Chances are, you won’t be returning to this place, so if there’s something that’s eating at you to do, then just do it!

One good tip for helping you to learn about what’s available to do in a particular spot is to search for it on Instagram. For example, if I were going to Venice, I would search popular hashtags related to Venice to try to find where the best spots are.

Some options I might try are:

I don’t have to choose the locations in the most popular ones, and all of the photos in each hashtag together can help me understand the place that I’m going before my feet have touched the soil.

From there, I can begin to plan. The number one key to how to travel, take great phone photos, and not be a tourist is to plan, plan, and plan again.

But, be ready for the plan to go awry – it always does. By planning well, however, these problems that occur while traveling are more easily dealt with.


How do you travel without being too touristy? Tell us in the comments!