How Not to Look Like a Tourist in Washington, DC

I loved living in DC. The bottomless brunch game is strong, there’s always something going on, and the city is filled with creatives, brainiacs, and some of the world’s most powerful people.

One of the few things I didn’t enjoy about living in DC was sharing the city with hoards of tourists, summer interns, and massive groups of middle schoolers taking over the National Mall on field trips.

If you’re planning on visiting the nation’s capital soon and want to avoid irking the locals, check out the following tips on how to not look like a tourist:

Stand right, walk left!

If you take anything away from this post, please let it be this!

Washingtonians take this unofficial metro rule very seriously. When walking up or down the metro escalators, DO NOT stand on the left side for any reason! Most metro riders rely on the service for their daily commute; by blocking the left side of the escalator you are holding up everyone behind you – possibly making them late for work or keeping them from getting home on time for dinner!

Talk to almost any Washingtonian, and they will tell you this is their number one complaint regarding summer interns and tourists! If you think I’m over-exaggerating, check out this article from the Washington Post.

Dress Smart

Unless you’re headed to the gym or going for a run, avoid walking around in sweatpants and sneakers. Most people come into the city for work, and will be dressed business casual. Even on their days off, most DC residents are pretty polished looking.

Also, use common sense and don’t wear “I <3 DC” merchandise unless you want mark yourself as a tourist. If you’re in DC for an internship, don’t wear your badge more than necessary.

Display Guidebooks and Maps Sparingly

It’s easy to get disoriented in a new city. Thanks to Google Maps, you should hopefully never get too terribly lost or at least have to spend less time dealing with folding maps.  Some of my favorite apps for navigating DC are Trover, Trip Advisor, and DC Metro Transit.

If you must consult a physical map or guidebook, do so discretely. Gather your bearings and move to an area where you won’t be in anyone’s way.

Buy a SmarTrip Card

It costs $10 to purchase a SmarTrip card – $2 for the card, and $8 in metro fare. Even if you’re only in DC for a short period of time, it’s still worth it to buy the card. The paper tickets add $1.00 to each trip, so unless you only plan on taking the metro once, buying the card pays for itself.

SmarTrip cards can be recharged online or at any metro stop. If you register your card online, you can report it as lost or stolen to reclaim the value. Also, being one of the only people fumbling around with a paper ticket is a surefire way to stand out as a tourist!

How do you try to blend in while traveling? Feel free to share your tips or thoughts below. Stay tuned for more posts on DC, as I’m headed there for a few days tomorrow!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    La Travelera
    April 26, 2015 at 4:10 am

    Just found your blog, nice post, I’ll keep in mind if I come to Washington, may be one day 🙂
    I’m a new travel blogger and I’m trying to meet other travel bloggers on the net..
    Would you like to follow each other?

    • Reply
      April 26, 2015 at 4:33 am

      Sure, I like your photos and will keep an eye out for your posts! You should submit your blog to bloglovin, it’s a great way to share your blog with others while discovering new ones!

      • Reply
        La Travelera
        April 26, 2015 at 10:51 am

        OK Thank you for the advice! I will have a look on it, I am too new on this and slowly learning when I get little spare time 🙂

    Leave a Reply