Travel Like You Live There



Many travelers, unsatisfied with the typical travel experience, are starting to discover the myriad joys of “traveling like a local”. For those unfamiliar with the term, it simply means that the traveler really digs in to his or her destination to try and experience what it might be like to live there. Thanks to the vast array of options available to globetrotters today, this type of experience is within grasp of most travelers.

How does one go about traveling like a local? Our number one suggestion is to rent an apartment or house at your destination instead of staying at a hotel. This can serve to get you off of the streets that are geared for tourists and into places where actual residents live. In most major cities, there are plenty of apartments available to rent on a nightly or weekly basis in the more residential parts of the city center. There are many cottages and homes available in rural areas as well, if a city trip is not what you’re after. Many of these places cost less than a hotel, and you can save even more by cooking some of your meals. In any case, by doing this you will be staying in a home that an actual local might live in, mixing with said locals as you come and go. To avoid getting scammed, stick to reputable booking sites that offer some level of consumer protection, like Homeaway and Airbnb.

Another great way to “get local” is to shop for food at a market or grocery store instead of eating out for every meal. Even the largest chain supermarket in a foreign country can be an exercise in learning how the locals live, but smaller markets and specialty shops (like bakeries or butchers) are even better. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try something new that you can’t get back home. Ask questions, or look it up on your smartphone, if you can’t figure out what some items are or how to cook them. If you’ve followed our first piece of advice, you can store and cook your foodie finds in your kitchen. Not only will this save you money on food costs, but it will give you a more authentic feel of what actually living there might be like.

If you’re staying in a major city, be sure to use the public transportation system to get around if you want to feel like a local. Taxis are typically expensive, and your average resident is more likely to use the bus or subway system anyway. Don’t feel intimidated. Most public transportation systems are easy to figure out. They’re designed to be simple so that everyone can use them. You can usually find maps of the transport system at subway, bus and/or train stations. There are also smartphone apps that help you map out your public transport route (like citymapper, our favorite) that make using public transport even easier. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can master a subway system.

If you aren’t put off by a little unpleasant weather, try traveling in the off season to get a more local experience. Feeling a little cold or hot or wet is nothing in comparison to the experience of being in a popular city when it is not swarmed with tourists. Not only will restaurants and attractions have more locals and fewer tourists in them, but things like accommodation can be significantly cheaper. You may even get mistaken for a local because tourists aren’t as prevalent (this has happened to us multiple times). Be sure you pack appropriate clothing and make sure that the things you want to see are going to be open when you want to travel, as some attractions and sights close or reduce hours in the off season.

It probably goes without saying, but you definitely won’t feel much like a local if you are large group tour, be it a multi-night fully escorted trip or a big bus tour of a city. These experiences have their place, but the only local you will meet on one of these is your tour guide. On top of that, you will most likely be rushed through every aspect of these tours, which will not give you the time to absorb or appreciate what you are seeing. If you really want to feel like a denizen of your destination, give these tours a wide berth. If you are a planner, make your own itinerary and use public transport (or your own two feet) to get there. Or, take the time to enjoy the oft-overlooked pleasure of just wandering the streets of a city or a rural countryside, without having any specific destination in mind. You might be surprised at the rare treasures you’ll stumble across.




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