Cosmopolitan tells you, that there are 15 secrets to traveling like a local. Tripadvisor recommends you 25 most authentic activities, when you look for the things to do in the country you are heading to. And if you’ve been checking travel offers in the last years you may have got an impression, that it’s freaking expensive to travel like a local. Tours to all these last-of-its-kind authentic villages and all these special local experiences. But that must be worth it, right?
Yes, it might. I’m not here to tell you to skip everything simply because you need to pay for that experience or it seems super expensive to you. It might be for a reason as well. It’s up to you to make a judgment.
But at the same time I can tell you – no, traveling like a local doesn’t necessarily cost a lot.
I’ve been traveling like a local for most of the time. Mostly it meant traveling much cheaper than if I would do the other way, taking the easiest path.
And, no – there are no secrets to be learned to do so.
I knew how to travel like a local before even my first ever trip abroad. You know it already, whether you are a well-traveled person or haven’t left your hometown even once. We all know that. It’s just common sense.
How? Because we know what does it mean to be a local. Just look at it from your own perspective. We all, ok, most of us are locals somewhere. Does it really take something extraordinary to live like you? To do things your way? Does it requires a big amount of money to do so? Think about ordinary things. About what you do daily. Where you shop. How you get around. Where you eat. What is that what you eat. What do you do in your free time.
Traveling Like a Local is Easy
And now let’s transfer it to traveling. So how do you travel like a local?
You just do what locals do.
If you don’t take a taxi everywhere at home, why would you do so while traveling? So you use public transportation like most of the locals do. Take a bus or metro and go until its last stop to see something new and unexpected! Wanna see more? Take a bus or train to that village you know nothing about 2-hour bus ride away from the place you are now and go there! But you don’t necessarily need to spend your time like this, you can also go to these specific places you want to get to. But use a public bus or train instead of a tourist bus or taxi.
You walk. And sometimes you aimlessly wander around, too. Leaving behind the “must-see” places mentioned in your guide book and on Google. Because that’s how you do when you are at home. It’s not just one street, one part of the city, where you spend ALL of your time, right? You sometimes go also to some other places. And you sometimes go to new for you places, too.
When looking for a place, where to eat, you don’t look for the one with most foreigners! Would you go to such a place at home? Most likely not. You would choose a cafe or restaurant, where your friends, family and co-workers go. Do the same way when you are abroad! Look where locals are going! In some cities, especially in the most tourist popular destinations, such a place may sometimes not be on the main street. But there, around the corner. And they may not have a menu in English. Or there may not be a menu at all. Try and ask what they can offer! Order something other person is eating, if nothing else works. You’ll figure it out!
You shop at local grocery stores and you go to the markets. You don’t shop only at the most expensive shops at home? Why would you do so abroad?
It’s OK also to stop once in a while and just to observe, what’s happening around you. Because this is how you really notice, where you are and how life is going on here. Not by googling everything and all the time. But by observing and also asking around.
Yes, there are dangerous countries. There are dangerous cities. And dangerous neighborhoods you should better keep away from. But in most situations you are safer than you probably think you are. Or how media has taught you. Or your friends and relatives, who have never been to that place themselves.
I’m Afraid, It’s My First Time in That Country
I know that fear and I understand it well. Because I have felt it myself.
But why are you afraid of normal things like taking a bus or going to some new place if you wouldn’t be afraid to do so at home? Simply because you are in another country and you haven’t been here before? There’s no reason to be afraid. And I don’t really have any other recommendations than to simply pretend you are brave and go for it! It becomes easier after some time. And eventually you start to feel very comfortable in places, where you know no one around you. It’s a pretty cool feeling and it helps you to get to know foreign to you places better.
Another great solution would be to find some local, who can help you with tips and maybe even show you around. It’s more than easy nowadays. Ask on Facebook groups, check out meetup.com once you arrive or before, use hangout option on Couchsurfing. Chances are there is even some friend of a friend of yours living there, where you are traveling to. Ask your friends on Facebook to find that out!
Don’t let that fear to stop you!
For about 3 years of traveling extensively I only rarely was asking others for tips or help. I would just google everything I didn’t know and go! And then google again, if I wouldn’t know what to do next or where to go to get what I want. Lately, however, I have been challenging myself to go and speak more with random people. To other foreigners, to hotel staff, random people on the streets. And it’s been awesome. It really makes the whole experience better. Because you never know where that one conversation may lead to and what you may learn from that person.
And it’s just very convenient, practical and you can get things done fast – people are smarter than Google.
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.