How to Travel like a Local

How to Travel like a Local is a sponsored post from “The Good Stuff by”, an online journal about beauty, health, DIY crafts, entertainment, home, fashion, food, travel and life, backed by a team of experienced journalists and writers. 

Travelling is always fun, but sometimes, it can get so easy to get wrapped up in the planning and excitement of everything, that you only see the touristy things. Besides the fact that tourist attractions are typically a lot more expensive than the things locals do, you're not really getting to taste the culture of the place you're visiting if you never step out of the box.

To help you travel like a local, we've compiled a few simple tips:

1. Talk to Your Servers and Bartenders

Nobody knows your city's fun (and un-fun) places better than service-industry professionals. They live and breathe their cities every day; they know the fun spots, the spots to stay away from because only tourists go there, and the places that are hidden from people who aren't locals.

If you don't do anything else, make sure you chop it up with your servers and bartenders. These people are key in helping you uncover some of the local flavours of the town you're visiting.

2. Stay in a Place Where You'll Get to Connect with Others

There are plenty of overnight venues that stray away from the standard hotel or motel scene. Hostels, for example, thrive on the engagement of the community that stays within their walls. You'll likely meet travellers from all over the place, many of whom have probably researched weird ways to explore the city that you haven't even considered.

Beds and breakfasts are another great option. When you pick a place that's quaint and tended to by an innkeeper, you'll have access to firsthand knowledge so you can ask questions and learn the lay of the landscape by someone who gives this type of advice for a living.

3. Chuck Your Itinerary in the Trash for a Day

Sure, you have a ton of things you want to see while you're away, but that doesn't mean you need to adhere to a regimented schedule every second of your days. Instead, strap on your walking shoes and chuck your itinerary in the trash for a day. If you're someone who has to schedule everything, schedule a trash day on your calendar because useless meandering without a real destination can truly serve up a ton of unexpected adventures.

Be prepared to stumble upon fun spots you haven't read about, and be open to talking to random strangers who are willing to give you their pointers from a local's perspective. (Be safe, of course!)

4. Research the Best Establishments, Then Go Five Blocks Left

The easiest way to come across overpriced, cliched food is to stick solely to the recommendations listed in tourist review information. While many of these establishments are awesome in their own right, they're often catering to the tourist crowd, not the locals.

If you want to taste the cuisine the way locals do, figure out where the people who live there eat. You'll likely find an incredible assortment of flavours that simply wouldn't be available on the main strip. Look for local blogs, and ask your hosts for recommendations.

5. Decompress the Way Locals Do

Finding happiness is different for everybody, and that varies just as much by region as it does by the individual. Figure out how people in the area you're visiting unwind. Maybe they ride bikes after work. Great! Grab one and start pedalling. Maybe they go fishing in a quiet stream. Perfect! You might need to sign up for a fishing lesson or get a license, but you've got this! Perhaps everyone gathers around an outdoor concert every Friday. Perfect! Grab your blanket or water bottle and get to it!

Scour the local free magazines and online blogs so you can see what's going on around the part of town you're visiting. Put on your "live like a local" goggles, and you'll find plenty of entertainment options.

6. Donate Some Time

Volunteering may seem like another form of work, but if you connect with the right organizations, you'll learn a lot about the things locals do in that area while giving back to the community you're visiting.

A single day at a non-profit organization can be life-changing for you and the people, groups, or animals you're helping while you're there.

7. Use Local Transportation

It's great to be able to rent a car, but chances are, you probably won't need one. No matter where you're going, many of the locals probably get around via rail, bus, bike, scooter, or foot.

Forgo the expenses of car rental or other luxury items and hit the city the way locals do. Not only will you get to see things from a different (slower) perspective, you'll save money and meet a few people along the way.

Where are you heading this summer? Do you plan to travel like a local? If so, please share some of your ideas with us in the comment box below!

40 thoughts on “How to Travel like a Local”

  1. Travel like a local is the way I like to travel and to know the place truly I prefer to live or behave like locals. Traveling in public transport and living in local neighborhoods is the best way to understand the local’s way of living. Researching new and local establishments by reading local city blogs or asking hosts is also a good idea to feel like a local.

  2. Indeed, engaging with the locals in can lead you to hidden gems and they can even give you tips on how you can get deals on places. I definitely agree with using the Local transport. Aside from being able to get close to the local, you can take a look around of the place you are visiting.

    1. I always keep blank space in my itinerary for recommendations by the locals. I’ve never regretted doing that.

  3. Traveling like a local is something I always try to do during my journeys. Additionally, I think the best way to learn about a country is through talking to locals. This article is a great starting point for everyone that want to travel like a local and avoid the tourist traps.

  4. Immersive travel experience is incomplete without local interaction. This can happen only when you break from your itinerary and spend time living like a local. Eating where the locals eat gives you an authentic food experience and also more understanding of the culture. Using public transportation is always best to see how locals live their daily lives.

  5. Skipping the obvious and travelling like a local is definitely something I enjoy. But I also like to see the famous attractions of the place also. I usually enjoy walking in a city or town, and in that way, I have often found some great unknown gems. These are some great tips for travelling like a local. I myself follow a few of them. I might as well try volunteering the next time.

    1. I’ve never volunteered myself. Seems like it’s something I could give a shot next time.

  6. As a traveller myself I must admit I try and interact as much as I can with the locals but its not always possible travelling with a family with kids. Using local transport like the locals is one of the best way to experience a new city i must say and meet locals and get to know places that are less touristy. Its good to have a plan but wondering around without a map can only show you places that no one might have come across. Its a good way to knowing the food habits of a new destination and i always try to eat in one local establishment serving local cuisine. thanks for some great reminders

    1. Wandering around aimlessly and without a plan is one of my favourite things to do when I go to a new place!

  7. I love the idea of finding the best location for something (like a restaurant) and then going a few blocks away from it. There have been so many times I’ve visited a place and put this into practice. I also like chatting with locals to find out where they like to hang out and eat.

  8. Amazing article, enjoyed reading this! Now, I am staying at one of the hotels in South Delhi and exploring historical places. Street food in this place is really amazing and it’s fun to explore local places.

    1. I am from South Delhi myself, I know exactly what you mean by amazing street food.

  9. I like the thought of chucking the itinerary, and then following my instinct to wherever it takes me. The idea is to savour the atmosphere and feel at home. Getting close to being a local takes a longer time, though.

    1. I was always a planner but for the last few years, I’ve been leaving blank spaces in my itinerary for such experiences. Not having a plan, sometimes, is the best plan!

  10. I agree with you that one of the best ways to learn about locals’ culture is by talking to our servers. I can add one more tip which is getting a local guide.

    1. Free walking tours are a thing these days, and they’re quite a great way to learn about the hidden gems of a place!

  11. I 100% always talk to my servers or my guides and ask them their favorite places to visit. And parks are a great place to take a break and people watch!

  12. The chuck your itinerary recommendation almost gave me a panic attack just reading it but the best memories I have are in places I got hopelessly lost, gave up and just went with it. Love the idea of checking what’s currently happening and doing a few of them

  13. Some great suggestions on how to travel like a local. We always ask the people working in shops or restaurants for suggestions on where they like to go. We are past the age for hostels but BandBs are a great option. Hosts tend to want you to see the more unique things. But the best advice really is to get lost and wander. Especially if you do it by public transportation. I am ok as long as I feel comfortable that I could grab a fast way back to where I am staying.

    1. Very often I’ve got suggestions from the local Airbnb hosts about places to visit (or skip) and restaurants to try, and I’ve ended up discovering some really cool hhidden gems like that, so I completely agree with your point!

  14. Totally agree, and these are great tips to meet locals. The other two I would add to this list are staying with locals, via airbnb and visiting the local markets. These are also great ways to connect with locals.

  15. I love taking local transportation whenever possible in a new place. Also, I agree that it’s great to interact with locals and spend time like them to get the real feel. But Medha, I have a bad habit of planning every day spent in vacation. I don’t know if I can throw the itinerary to the trash. But sometimes I feel, I should.

    1. I know exactly what you mean Shreya and I do the same, I plan my itinerary to the day. But I’ve realised that leaving enough flexibility to accommodate last minute plans, made from suggestions from the locals, is also a great idea!

  16. This has been my favourite way to travel for quite some time now! I totally agree with your points, Research the Best Establishments, Then Go Five Blocks Left and Talk to Your Servers and Bartenders! I’ve definitely found some gems by either making friends with bar staff or asking locals on the street what their favourite restaurant is!

  17. My favorite way to travel like a local is by strolling around and getting lost. Sometimes I switch off my mobile and just connect with locals by asking directions.

  18. I always try doing all of these tips and typically I go to places that locals tell me to visit, typically hang out spots, eateries, markets and local venues that people love to congregate.

  19. The idea of throwing away the itinerary for a day is good, but for me it has to be for the whole trip. Just turn up and enjoy where the day takes you. 🙂

    1. To be honest, I cannot just turn up without any plans, I need to read up and make plans beforehand. And it kind of works many times because several things require pre-bookings else you might end up missing them. Having said that, I always keep ample room for flexibility and last minute plans 🙂

  20. Great tips! I think one of the best things you can do to really travel like a local is to ask locals for their recommendations. We’ve always found the best restaurants thanks to local suggestions. I also like taking a local walking tour.

    1. Completely agree..several times, I’ve changed my itineraries and plans based on what locals have told me!

  21. All good tips for travelling like a local. I also like to find a docent-led walking tour wherever I go. These are common for the price of a tip, and allow you the opportunity to orient yourself to a city and see some of what you wish to go back and explore more of.

  22. What a great post. I love the research the best establishments and then go five blocks left. That’s perfect advice. I also think finding out what the locals do for fun and relaxation is also a great tip.

  23. I really like the idea of throwing the itinerary away for a day. Sometimes, the best travel finds are when you’re not even looking. Talking to bartenders is a good tip; I’m certain they know a lot of good, and not so good, places to visit. I also make a point to take public transportation at least once, it’s always an experience!

    1. I am personally a fan of road trips but that’s when I am heading out of the city to explore the countryside. Within a city, public transportation is the best way to explore!

  24. I always look for parks! That’s where people go and hang out, it’s free and relaxed so it’s a good starting point to see what locals do and even meet them.

    1. I rarely head to parks myself! But I guess that’s something I can look into doing the next time I travel 🙂

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