All geared up for your next travel destination? Why not ditch the travel guide and spice things up by traveling like a local? There’s no better way to have those truly remarkable experiences than soaking up the undercurrents of a place and hitting up all its hidden spots.
Traveling like a local allows you to have that authentic experience – giving you the freedom to be absorbed into the culture as much as possible.
So, how do you start? Here are some tips to inspire you to dig deeper and travel like a local.
1. Go Off the Beaten Track
Unfolding a map and taking guided tours and group excursions are a great way to explore new terrain, but you might miss out on moments that no itinerary could prepare you for. Exploring like a local doesn’t mean you need to skip the interesting sights altogether, but you can incorporate more of the local flavor by tweaking your travels based on your interests.
Read up on those hidden gems and DIY your own day trip. Avoid the peak seasons – when all the crowds and lines of tourists everywhere make it impossible for you to relax and appreciate your surroundings. Turn your trip into an amazing adventure by just wandering around aimlessly. Take in all the sights and see what everyone is doing.
2. Make Friends with The Locals
Who knows better about what to do and see in a place than a local? Having your own local guide is worth it because he or she can give you all the good suggestions beyond the basics. Locals have a far better idea of what’s fun to do, what’s a tourist trap, where there’s good food, and more. The best part about it is you’ll learn more about the local culture on a deeper level while making new friends.
Not hiring a private guide? Not a problem. You can try fun ways of meeting and spending time with locals by engaging great conversations with your cab driver, the waiter, or even the person next to you on the bus or at the restaurant. The more locals you talk to, the more insider info you’ll get. Keep in mind to treat everyone with respect and show that you genuinely want to understand their life and culture.
3. Enjoy the Local Gastronomic Delights
Get out of your comfort zone and let your taste buds travel, too. It sure is easier and more convenient to dine in the best restaurants in the city, but you’ll also be missing out on all the “real” food. Street food is a must – so wander the streets and check out all the stalls where the locals go to. Interact with the vendors while you’re at it and get a deeper look into the locals’ food habits. You can also contribute to the place’s economy by supporting family-owned small restaurants.
If you enjoy cooking, then head out to a local market to get fresh produce. You might even find fruits and vegetables you have never seen before. Scouring the markets and grocery stores can be a bit of a challenge, but it’s also a good way to enjoy the simple pleasures and save money while traveling.
4. Walk and Commute
Walking as much as you can is good exercise that helps you see more of the new place from different perspectives. There are always small alleys, quaint cafes, and dainty shops to look into. Instead of hailing a cab or renting a car, use the local modes of transportation. It may not be as quick and as comfortable, but it gives you a great window into a new culture. Local bus rides and trains are an adventure in themselves, you’ll get more opportunity to people-watch while being your eco-conscious self.
5. Learn the Customs and Language
It pays to spend time finding out your destination’s do’s and don’ts. The new place you’re heading to may have some special customs and religious beliefs you have to take note of. Training yourself to be more conscious of the people around you will also be most useful.
Knowing the local language is definitely worth it. Starting with simple words and phrases like “Hello,” “Thank You,” and “Goodbye,” go a long way. It’s not about being fluent so don’t be afraid to commit mistakes. Most locals will appreciate the effort and will warm up to you. More than the day-to-day interactions, being able to speak the local language helps you build more meaningful friendships with the locals. Don’t forget to smile and be generous with your gestures, too.
When in doubt, ask. Doing as the locals do is no easy feat, and there’s no harm in asking for a little help. Wherever you travel in the world, the experience is learning through observation and participation. It may be daunting at first to meet random strangers, but there’s that good chance that they will point you to something new and exciting.