If you love traveling not for the sake of adding new places to your list but to have wholesome and memorable experiences exploring and learning about new cultures, you likely go out of your way to blend in with the local scene rather than stand out as a tourist. If you’re still learning the ropes of how to travel like a local on your trips abroad, here are some tips to help you have a fulfilling international vacation.
Don’t be wary of the locals
Especially when traveling to a city or country not known for its safety, visitors tend to carry misconceived notions about the locals, based on what they see on the news. If you truly want to have an immersive local experience on a trip abroad, leave your fears and perceptions behind and arrive at your destination with an open mind.
It is important to ensure your own safety and make responsible decisions when you’re out of your familiar surroundings, but that should not stop you from mingling and making friends with the natives. Exercise your instinct and you’re sure to find good people everywhere.
Stay in a holiday home or apartment instead of a hotel
When you stay in your own private accommodation in a new place, you can plan your days the way you like, explore your surroundings at leisure, invite locals to dine with you and have a more intimate experience of local lifestyle, food, culture and festivities.
So find a rental for your holiday overlooking the ocean, perched in the hills surrounded by nature or set in the heart of a European town away from the mad rush of tourists. Staying in a bespoke vacation house is the perfect option if you value your privacy and want an easygoing holiday with your spouse, friends or family.
Take long walks
If you’re a traveler who loves to soak in new cultures and subcultures, you know how walking can make your holiday abroad so much more memorable. Instead of hopping from one tourist site to another, keep things slow and plan easy days so that you have ample opportunity to explore the town on foot.
Nothing beats the joys of strolling through the by lanes of a city or town you know nothing about. You discover so many elements of local life and culture that you can never do as a tourist. In addition, you’ll discover local eateries and shops that are way cheaper than those at tourist hotspots.
Learn the language
This doesn’t come easy to everyone, but every traveler can learn a few common words and phrases that locals use every day. Knowing a few slang terms will make it way easier for you to befriend the locals and blend in your new surroundings.
If you’re traveling for work and will be staying longer, you may want to consider taking a crash course in the native language. When traveling for leisure, you can get by with a bunch of everyday terms. Speaking in the local language breaks the ice and makes people more willing to interact with you.
Respect the local way of living
Even if you don’t agree with a local custom, way of dressing or any other behavior or trait unique to the community, remember that you are here to learn more about how people live and act in a setting entirely different from your own.
When visiting a distant land for a truly local experience, educate yourself about acceptable social behavior, learn about their rituals, customs and traditions, and go with the aim to enjoy and relax rather than make judgments and harbor disrespect or ridicule. This is particularly important if you’re visiting a place where life has not advanced as much as it has back home.
Eat with the locals
While you can always grab a quick and easy meal at restaurants and cafes, it doesn’t usually allow you to savor local food as you probably wanted. These days, with experiential traveling taking over touristy trips, there are numerous ways to enjoy local cuisines in an authentic setting.
Visit the local farmers’ market, take a guided food tour with a native, eat at least one meal with a local family, or enroll in a group cooking class. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal eaten with a resident in their own home. You can easily book such experiences online. Also remember to bring back local spices, condiments or staples to conjure up your own versions of native dishes for your friends.