Covered guidebook

Guidebooks, in my opinion are instrumental in helping you make the most of your vacation. But there is one way that guidebooks can really let you down.

They mark you as a tourist.

Of course, that’s exactly what you are, but you don’t necessarily want to advertise the fact. Nevertheless, so many people do. Next time you’re in a popular tourist city, just look around and notice how many travelers have whipped out their guidebook – right there in the middle of the street – and are busy consulting it.

Why is this a bad thing?

Well, it sends a clear signal to would-be scammers that you’re lost, confused, distracted and ripe for the picking (or pick-pocketing). As much as I like to believe that people aren’t so malicious, and as much as I’ve experienced the kindness of strangers, the sad truth is that for every good Samaritan out there genuinely wanting to help you, there are many more bad seeds that see dazed tourists as an easy way to make a buck.

The other reason I don’t like to flash around my guidebook is that it makes me feel really self-conscious. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I feel this way, but I do. Maybe somebody else who feels this way too can help me put my finger on it?

Anyway, the question is, what to do? How do you deal if you really are lost and need to check your map or refer to your guidebook?

Firstly, it helps to make a mental note to yourself to check your map/guidebook before you leave your hotel or museum/tourist attraction. If you’ve already left, briefly step inside a shop where you’ll be sheltered from the scammers on the street.

Next, consider photocopying only the pages of the guidebook you’ll actually use and carry those around with you. It saves weight in your daypack and makes it ambiguous as to what you’re actually reading should you need to pull it out in public.

My preference? I like to have the whole guidebook with me when I travel, since I never know how my plans might change. My trick is to cover the guidebook with brown paper. Doing this means I can read my guide while at lunch, when sitting on a park bench, on a bus, or anywhere else without attracting attention – it just looks like I’m reading a tattered old book.

I do this all the time and it works a charm.


What do you think? Do you have any other tips for disguising your guidebook?