Are you a traveller or a tourist?

image of map for multi country travel

We have read many articles on the net recently as to what is the difference between a traveller and a tourist. I think i am qualified to be a traveller as I may be the only person on earth to have been to 74 of Thailand’s 77 provinces


Never been to Phuket So i will weigh in for S.E. Asia at least.

Firstly, both have big ego’s about being well travelled. Both want to brag to friends back home as to where they have been and untravelled friends usually can’t understand it and don’t give a hoot. And both can never understand those that stay in their own back yard and never travel. I consider almost everyone who goes to go somewhere different for leisure is both for sure. But there are many subtle differences within the two words. Well at least “travellers” will agree. So a few points that differentiate in a general way.

1. Tourists usually only have limited time (annual holidays) while travellers have months or even years.
Travellers have more time than money and tourists more money than time.

2. Tourist only visit one or two destinations full of other tourists while travellers visit many with mostly only locals around.

3. Tourists pre book everything while travellers just turn up and follow their nose.

4. Travellers are more likely to eat street food and eat in local only restaurants.
5. Travellers pay the local price for food and even more so for beer while tourists will pay 5 times as much and still think it’s cheap compared to back home. Ask yourself; Would you pay 500% more in a bar back home than another across the road?

6. Tourists always use taxi’s apart from the possible TUK TUK experience in Bangkok. Travellers never use anything other than local buses.

7.Tourists mostly fly between destinations while travellers seek out the cheapest,oldest waving hand 3rd class buses possibly sitting on a rice sack or even the floor. Waving hand? Stops every hundred metres or even less for every waving hand. These buses are never full either.

8.Tourists will only go to Siem Reap, (Angkor Wat), in Cambodia while travellers will visit Kratie and some even to Sen Monorom and Ban Lung. While neither will miss Angkor Wat it will most likely be the latter that you are telling everyone about back home. Angkor is amazing but no more so than the latter albeit in different ways obviously.

9.Tourists have suit cases while travellers have back packs, but not always these days, especially as the suit cases on wheels have arrived for all.

10. Tourists, again in general, travel to relax and see tourist only places  while travellers want to experience every thing local by travelling on the longest and in the most uncomfortable way as long as it’s cheaper.

11.Tourists want to go out as soon as the buffet breakfast is closed and see all there is to see in a day. A traveller only plans one thing per day. Maybe just the dirty laundry.

12. Travellers are more likely to party hard and wake up late with eggs on rice rather than a buffet breakfast.

13.Tourists will never sleep in a hostel dorm but a traveller may stay in star accommodation at times.

14. Travellers, over dinner, will go into great detail on the toilets they have visited and often their own intimate details. Whose been to a Pig toilet in Vietnam ? Or any rural bus station one in Yunnan, China? “Never seen so much number 2 in all my life”. These are real travel experiences rather than tourist ones. Boasting about how many rats passed by while eating dinner is also to be talked about if they are not on the menu itself.
The following are some wise sayings by some more famous travellers/tourists.

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” – G.K. Chesterton

The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sight-seeing.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” – James Michener

“Without travel “I would have wound up a little ignorant white Southern female, which was not my idea of a good life.” – Lauren Hutton

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux.

My final one is that a traveller is happy to spend 3 hours on local buses to get to their Bangkok accommodation whereas the tourist will always go by taxi.

All baktrax tours have some of both while tending to be more traveller orientated than tourist. So think local experience always but still with a decent quality of accommodation more suited to a tourist who wants a comfort tour also.  You will not see any of the above toilets and are unlikely to see a rat either. The first link is our most traveller leaning tour and the second three offer a more comfort tour akin to tourists wants.

A real travel experience:

Tour 1 – Isan, Insects & Laos: Small Group Adventure Tour

A real traveller/tourist holiday:

Tour 11 – Pure Central Thailand: Small Group Holiday Travel Tour

Tour 8C – Thailand Meander All: Small Group Adventure & Holiday Tour

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