Traveling to new cities and countries, exploring new places — hopping a plane and jetting off to a place you’ve never been to before is always exciting! But there are different ways to travel the world.
Some people prefer to fly first class, stay in a luxury hotel, and eat at five-star restaurants every night of the week. Others prefer to strap on a backpack, buy a bus pass, and head out for a rugged adventure.
But there’s another way to go. An approach that just might be the best way of all — and that’s to have a unique, local experience.
If you’re tired of looking and feeling like a tourist when you vacation, it might be time to rethink your travel plans. Here are seven tips on how to travel like a local.
Forget the Hotel: Rent an Airbnb Instead
We love a six-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton as much as anyone, but if you want to travel like a local, the first rule of thumb is to ditch the hotel reservation. Book an Airbnb and live like a local instead!
Before you book a stay in a private home or apartment, do thorough research.
Ideally, you want a location that’s not touristy, but that is safe for tourists, especially if you’re visiting a foreign country. Staying in a local home is a great experience, but it’s certainly not worth putting yourself in danger.
Your Airbnb host can also be a great source of information. They can give you tips on where to eat, where to hang out, and what you should see and do in the neighborhood.
Certain cities and countries are tourist magnets during specific weeks and months of the year.
To have a local experience, it’s better to take your trip in the off-peak season. That way, you’ll surround yourself with more locals and fewer tourists.
Keep in mind, peak travel seasons often revolve around the weather, so do your research to know what weather to expect in the off-season.
Eat Where the Locals Eat
There’s no point in traveling to a new city or a foreign country to eat in a restaurant that you could eat in at home.
If you go to Tokyo, skip McDonald’s, and find a sushi place instead. Are you spending the week in Florence? Forget about that Hard Rock Café and find a cozy Italian restaurant instead.
Look for local hot spots instead of crowded tourist spots. Try the local cuisine. Eat at a restaurant you’ve never been to before and will probably never get to experience again.
An easy way to find those places is to avoid dining in touristy neighborhoods. Look for local joints where the locals who live there actually spend their time.
Do What the Locals Do
It can be tempting to want to book a massage at a hotel spa or lounge on a chair by the pool — but you can do those things at home!
Instead of having experiences that you could have anywhere, find things that are unique to the local culture.
It’s fine to hit some major tourist attractions, but make sure you leave yourself enough time to do and see other things. We don’t expect you to go to Paris and not visit the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.
By all means, check out the famous sights! Just don’t spend all your time in those iconic tourist spots.
Explore on Foot
Instead of creating a strict schedule and a full itinerary, take a leisurely stroll. Allow yourself to discover unique places that you didn’t even know existed.
Walking a city on foot is the best way to stumble upon a great restaurant, a unique shop, or a beautiful park that’s not in the tourist guidebooks.
Jumping on a tour bus or hiring a tour guide can be a great way to explore a new place, and that’s what a lot of tourists do. But discovering new places on your own is even better!
Just be careful of your surroundings. Wandering is excellent, as long as you walk in a safe place.
Don’t like to walk?
Get a local metro card or a public transit pass and explore the city by rail or bus.
Wear Traditional Garb (as Long as it’s Respectful)
Heading to a foreign country with a unique culture and a specific style of dress?
Ditch your American tee shirt and jeans and dress like you belong there.
If you’re in India, wear a tunic over pants. If you’re in Dubai, step out in a modest kaftan. If you’re in Miami Beach, bust out your teeniest bikini.
(We’re not suggesting you wear a beret in Paris or a rice paddy hat in China or Vietnam.)
If you do attempt to dress like to locals, do so with respect. You don’t want to look like you’re wearing a costume, so maybe ask some locals what’s appropriate first.
Make Local Friends
One of the best ways to feel like a local is to hang out with local people and make local friends!
When you’re having a cocktail or a cup of coffee in a local bar, strike up a conversation with the locals. They can become excellent tour guides while you’re in town, or they may even end up becoming your friends for life!
Making local friends is also a great way to learn about places to go and things to do and see while you’re in town. Those new friends will also be able to give you tips on what areas to steer clear of.
Ready to travel like a local instead of a tourist?
Here’s what to do:
● Rent an Airbnb instead of a hotel
● Travel in the off-season
● Eat at local restaurants
● Do what the locals do
● Explore your destination on foot
● Dress like the locals
● Make local friends
Living, dressing, eating, and hanging out as the locals do will surely make any travel experience much more unique!
Ryan Sundling is a Group Marketing Manager at Cardinal Group Management and works closely with Wildwood Baton Rouge to help them with their marketing efforts. He has over ten years of experience in the student housing industry.