There is an uncountable number of people who want nothing more than to pack a bag and take a holiday, preferably to an exotic foreign location. They plan out their days, they book their tickets, and… they take a guided tour. Complete with a group of other families, fancy hotel stays and packed Indian food. Seasoned travelers will tell you that it is not the best way to take in the essence of a destination. Being able to say that you’ve seen the Golden Temple or the Eiffel Tower is, sadly, not the same as saying that you’ve seen Amritsar or Paris.
Here are seven tried-and-tested ways of experiencing a city, like a local!
1. Ditch the guided tours
Yes, budget hotels do look like that!
Take a break from the fancy hotels and the group travel. Plan your own itinerary, and stay at
a Bed and Breakfast. TripAdvisor (and similar websites) are your best friends while planning such a holiday. They give you the low-down on the best budget hotels and BnBs, not to mention the places to visit that are tactfully off the list of guided tours.
2. Ask hotel staff about local hangouts
Hotel staff members can be your best local guides. They know all the good places, shops, and restaurants. Ask away about the best nearby eating joints and local markets. TripAdvisor may not tell you the best time of day to visit a local beach near Rome, but the hotel receptionist will certainly give out such handy tips.
3. Travel by local transport
There’s no better way to experience a city than by using its local transport. Be it metros, buses, trams, or rickshaws – they are teeming with life that is unique to that city, and it gives you an insight into how people of a different culture go about their days.
4. Don’t be afraid to try out the street cafes!
Eat at the local cafes. Those small, corner ones that give out a comforting smell of food and coffee that, in your heart of hearts, you are dying to try out. Well, don’t be afraid, go for it (unless you have a Sheldon Cooper-like OCD, of course). The food in these mini restaurants are often the perfect representatives of the locals’ favourite meals. Who knows, you might even find a regular spot to eat at!
5. Walk when you can
Live the city, walk with its people. If you’re lucky and are staying in a central location, from where your chosen destinations are just a few hundred meters, walk it! Not only is it a great way to see the local shops, it also serves as a form of exercise!
6. Go to the local shops, get some fruit!
Funnily enough, the fruits of different countries are a must-have. Stop at one of those street fruit markets, buy some delish exotic berries, and make a local vendor super happy!
7. Talk the talk
Strike up a conversation with your fellow passengers in a metro train or a bus. You usually find fellow tourists, and it’s never bad to swap notes! You might find out about a place you’d missed, or bestow some of your new-found local knowledge onto nervous first-timers. Also, the added advantage of making friends in a foreign country!
It’s time to travel like a traveler, citizens, not like a tourist. Go ahead and start making plans!