There is nothing worse than feeling like an outsider or foreigner when you go on vacation. Even so, all too many people arrive in another country and subconsciously act in a way that simply screams foreign tourist. This is not only bad for your overall travel experience, but it costs you a great deal more money than the alternative form of traveling.
Smart travelers have learned (often times the hard way) that it pays in many ways, and not just financial ones, to travel like a local. Besides saving money and experiencing the real country to which you are going, you just may end up with some friendships that last far longer than your original trip does, even for a lifetime. Follow five helpful tips to start traveling smarter and to feel like you belong in your chosen destination.
1. Preparation is the Key to Traveling Smart
The difference between a person who travels prepared and one who does not is much like the difference between a person who has a large umbrella with them versus the one who lacks one in a torrential downpour. They my both get wet, but one is far better protected than the other. There is no reason to be the person caught without an umbrella on your trip when you can simply do a little research before you leave. Thanks to the Internet, this is now easier than ever before.
Something that may not come immediately to your mind includes checking online for recommendations or warnings about the place you will stay before prepaying and arriving to find out that it was really something a hundred years ago. You should also learn as much as you can about the customs, traditions, history, social taboos, and even geography of the place to which you are traveling before you arrive. Your trip will go much more smoothly, and also turn out to be far more meaningful, if you have some appreciation for the lands and people around with which you will be spending your vacation. This will also save you embarrassing and likely costly mistakes along the way.
2. Avoid the Touristy Places in Favor of the Local Hangouts
Touristy places generally were set up to part you from your hard-earned money. Sometimes they are worth seeing, and sometimes they are merely boxes to check off on a page. Either way, the places to which the locals themselves go and recommend are the ones that you really want to see. This includes more off the proverbial beaten path types of destinations such as local music scenes, popular open air markets, and locally beloved restaurants, pubs, clubs, views, or bars. These are the places that make up the local culture and real life in any case. Chances are good they are also considerably less expensive, sometimes even 30%-50% less.
3. Stay Like A Local
This means avoiding expensive, overpriced hotels in favor of local houses or apartment rentals. Locals in many countries simply do not stay in hotels when they travel around their own nation or region. As an example, in Europe the local Europeans know how much smarter (not to mention cheaper) it is to rent an apartment, house, farmhouse, or other local dwelling as opposed to an overpriced and probably cramped hotel room. For a lower price or the same amount as that tiny hotel room, you can have a several bedroom apartment or house, complete with a sitting room and a kitchen that will allow you to cook and eat in as many nights as you would like, making it a double-edged sword. Now that’s smarter and more economical.
4. Make Friends Wherever and Whenever You Can
There is no better, not to mention more fun, way to travel than by making friends with the locals. This is not so difficult as you might think if you put in some time at each town or city you visit and frequent the same restaurant, grocery store, or watering hole a few times. Besides getting to better understand and enjoy the area, you can make some friendships that will make it easier (and give you a good reason) to come back.
These local connections will also further help you to learn what are the best places and events that the online guides may not know or share with you. Some of them may even offer for you to accompany them to such events, giving you an even better local connection to the places you visit and activities you undertake. Why pack in so many places on your trip that it all feels like a blur when you are finished, when you can go to fewer locales and actually enjoy the time spent and people met to take home some wonderful and personable memories?
5. Learn A Few Words of the Local Language
Just because English has become the de facto “Lingua Franca” of the world does not mean that you should not make the effort to pick up even a few local words and phrases. Apart from helping you to find important places like the bathroom, supermarket, bank, and bus stops far quicker, it will likely assist you in securing better quality goods and services at fairer, more local resident prices. Most peoples in the world appreciate when you make an effort to learn even a little of their language. This immediately puts them in a better disposed mood towards you just because you cared enough to try.