Traveling is always fun, but sometimes, it can get so easy to get wrapped up in the planning and excitement of everything, that you only see the touristy things. Besides the fact that tourist attractions are typically a lot more expensive than the things locals do, you’re not really getting to taste the culture of the place you’re visiting if you never step out of the box.
To help you travel like a local, we’ve compiled a few simple tips:
1. Talk to Your Servers and Bartenders
Nobody knows your city’s fun (and un-fun) places better than service-industry professionals. They live and breathe their cities every day; they know the fun spots, the spots to stay away from because only tourists go there, and the places that are hidden from people who aren’t locals.
If you don’t do anything else, make sure you chop it up with your servers and bartenders. These people are key in helping you uncover some of the local flavor of the town you’re visiting.
2. Stay in a Place Where You’ll Get to Connect with Others
There are plenty of overnight venues that stray away from the standard hotel or motel scene. Hostels, for example, thrive on the engagement of the community that stays within their walls. You’ll likely meet travelers from all over the place, many of whom have probably researched weird ways to explore the city that you haven’t even considered.
Beds and breakfasts are another great option. When you pick a place that’s quaint and tended to by an innkeeper, you’ll have access to firsthand knowledge so you can ask questions and learn the lay of the landscape by someone who gives this type of advice for a living.
3. Chuck Your Itinerary in the Trash for a Day
Sure, you have a ton of things you want to see while you’re away, but that doesn’t mean you need to adhere to a regimented schedule every second of your days. Instead, strap on your walking shoes and huck your itinerary in the trash for a day. If you’re someone who has to schedule everything, schedule a trash day on your calendar because useless meandering without a real destination can truly serve up a ton of unexpected adventures.
Be prepared to stumble upon fun spots you haven’t read about, and be open to talking to random strangers who are willing to give you their pointers from a local’s perspective. (Be safe, of course!)
4. Research the Best Establishments, Then Go Five Blocks Left
The easiest way to come across overpriced, cliched food is to stick solely to the recommendations listed in tourist review information. While many of these establishments are awesome in their own right, they’re often catering to the tourist crowd, not the locals.
If you want to taste the cuisine the way locals do, figure out where the people who live there eat. You’ll likely find an incredible assortment of flavors that simply wouldn’t be available on the main strip. Look for local blogs, and ask your hosts for recommendations.
5. Decompress the Way Locals Do
Finding happiness is different for everybody, and that varies just as much by region as it does by the individual. Figure out how people in the area you’re visiting unwind. Maybe they ride bikes after work. Great! Grab one and start pedaling. Maybe they go fishing in a quiet stream. Perfect! You might need to sign up for a fishing lesson or get a license, but you’ve got this! Perhaps everyone gathers around an outdoor concert every Friday. Perfect! Grab your blanket or water bottle and get to it!
Scour the local free magazines and online blogs so you can see what’s going on around the part of town you’re visiting. Put on your “live like a local” goggles, and you’ll find plenty of entertainment options.
6. Donate Some Time
Volunteering may seem like another form of work, but if you connect with the right organizations, you’ll learn a lot about the things locals do in that area while giving back to the community you’re visiting.
A single day at a non-profit organization can be life-changing for you and the people, groups, or animals you’re helping while you’re there.
7. Use Local Transportation
It’s great to be able to rent a car, but chances are, you probably won’t need one. No matter where you’re going, many of the locals probably get around via rail, bus, bike, scooter, or foot.
Forgo the expenses of car rental or other luxury items and hit the city the way locals do. Not only will you get to see things from a different (slower) perspective, you’ll save money and meet a few people along the way.
Where are you heading this summer? Do you plan to travel like a local? If so, please share some of your ideas with us in the comment box below!