The most memorable travel experiences often happen when you see a destination from a more residential perspective. Here, we detail 10 simple ways to ditch your comfort zone and explore a new city with a local’s eye.
1. Rent an apartment.
Hotels are great when it comes to amenities, but hanging your hat in a vacation rental is a surefire way to immerse yourself in the local vibe. Companies like Oh Barcelona, VRBO and Airbnb offer chic, affordable apartments in destinations across the globe.
2. Skip the tourist traps.
Though tourists do tend to hover near some legitimately must-see sights, research the areas before you hit the road. You can easily check out the hottest museums and most iconic landmarks without falling prey to nearby souvenir stores and overpriced restaurants.
3. Explore the outer neighborhoods.
When you go off the beaten path, you’re more likely to find some serious gems. Head out to the less central districts to truly immerse yourself in the local culture. College campuses are often packed with cool cafes and quirky boutiques, and residential art districts give you an inside look at the area’s creative vibes.
4. Take your travel guides with a grain of salt.
Destination guides are invaluable for introducing you to a city, but don’t limit yourself to their recommendations; even the best books tend to focus on well-trodden experiences. Just be sure to heed your guide’s advice about making sure you have the right travel insurance coverage. That’s one bit of inside information you can’t afford to ignore.
5. Hit a local bar.
Depending on your destination, neighborhood pubs can be the best places to rub shoulders with the locals. Pop in for a drink, and watch the city in action. You might even get to sample a local speciality.
6. Shop like a resident.
Rather than spend your hard-earned cash in the bustling tourist centers, take the time to uncover locally owned markets and boutiques. The products in many of these shops are truly one of a kind, and browsing the wares gives you an unbeatable look at the regional point of view.
7. Make a few new friends.
This one might seem easier said than done, but talking to people is the single best way to get to know the heart of a destination. Start a conversation with your waiter or bartender, ask a shop assistant about any upcoming festivities, or talk to a fellow patron at an art gallery. You’ll be surprised how much information you can get simply by asking someone who lives there.
8. Put away the camera.
Pictures are only valuable if they help you remember a personal experience. Ditch the camera for an afternoon, and focus on being present in the moment. The memories you create by paying attention to your surroundings will feel much more captivating than a picture you snapped hastily.
9. Grab a local paper (or chat up an ex-pat).
Alternative newsweeklies and local websites are fantastic tools for finding out what’s happening in a region. Similarly, ex-pats tend to be veritable cornucopias of knowledge; they’ve experienced the city from both a local and tourist perspective, so they have a special understanding of what to see and what to skip.
10. Leave your fear at home.
We won’t lie: It can be nerve-wracking to sidestep the safe experiences for something a little more unique. Don’t let those nerves hold you back, however; travel fearlessly, and you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable journey.
Do you have any more tips? Please share them in the comments below.