First, let me offer a caveat (intelligence-report writers love caveats): The title of this article is a bit misleading. It is not always possible to completely “blend in” when you are an American traveling overseas (or, conversely, a foreigner traveling to America). That is the first thing to realize when and if you do choose to travel overseas, and if you are concerned with appearing like a clueless tourist, ready to be mugged. Fear not. There is nothing wrong with standing out a little, and embracing your tourist-hood.

The secret to traveling overseas and maintaining a low-ish profile is to be smart about it, so that you are a sophisticated tourist, aware of his or her surroundings, and not aimlessly stumbling about a foreign country snapping selfies and waiting to become a victim.

With that goal in mind—being a smart traveller—this author humbly offers the following advice and tips, based upon my multiple years spent living and traveling overseas. These things will make you just a little bit more prepared—a little bit more sophisticated—in your travels.

Plan an itinerary and study area maps

Nothing will give you more confidence in traveling to a new place like doing some map study and trip planning. You should know the area to which you are planning to travel, such that if plopped down in the middle of a chosen city, you will at least be oriented and familiar with your surroundings. If you also have an itinerary planned out—even a rough one—you will be less likely to find yourself disoriented and at a loss as to what to do next in this new foreign place.

Learn a little bit of the language

First off, find out what language they speak in the country to which you are headed. If you are going to Belize, you are in luck, because English is the lingua franca. If you are traveling to Italy, learn a little Italian. At least be able to say “please,” “thank you,” “how much does it cost,” and “where is the bathroom?” Those are the important ones. It is also good to know if the average person on the street speaks English (many in Germany and Sweden do, for example), or if most won’t know your language at all (the case for most foreigners traveling here to America). Making an effort to speak a little of the local language can go a long way to endearing yourself to the natives.

Dress wisely

One of the most common mistakes Americans make when traveling overseas is to dress like they are going on a safari. If you are traveling to Paris, you do not need hiking shoes, a Camelback, and a floppy hat. Yes, you might be walking all over the city, so wear some comfortable shoes, but you do not need to have enough hydration for a day trekking through the Sahara. Dress like you would if you were headed downtown to see a movie. Dress normally, for God’s sake.

Going one step further, if you do not want to stand out as an American (for security reasons)—a wise decision in lots of countries—then leave your American flag shirts, sports jerseys, and other identifying T-shirts at home. In many countries, people dress more formally than we do here in America. Shorts and a muscle shirt are not always the best idea if you are looking to blend in.

Avoid looking like a photojournalist

Of course you will want to take pictures while you are on vacation. That is completely understandable. However, it is probably best to avoid snapping photos the entire time you are walking around a foreign city. Be judicious. The more time you spend peering through a camera lens (or phone camera), the less time you are paying attention to your surroundings. Paying attention can prevent you from being mugged or becoming a victim of some other type of crime. Do not let picture-taking come before situational awareness.