Living like a local and travelling off-the-beaten-track have become popular travel trends in recent years, encouraging people to become travellers over being a tourist. There are arguments that by immersing yourself into the local community you get a more satisfying vacation, that it provides you with a better experience by avoiding over-crowded tourist attractions and only shopping at farmers markets.
It seems that being a tourist has become cheesy. I have been guilty of thinking this, at times I didn’t want to get my camera out when I saw something interesting for the fear of looking stupid. However, looking back I realised this was a big mistake.
Now I’m not saying only visit tourist traps! I think we can have it both ways. There’s nothing wrong with seeing the highlights of a new destination whilst enjoying the local culture.
Here are my do’s and don’ts for effectively living like a local whilst being a tourist.
Don’t miss out on the big attractions and sights
You wouldn’t go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower, would you? Whilst it may be tempting to avoid the crowds, there are reasons tourist attractions are popular: they are often beautiful. Rise early to dodge large masses of people or if you can, travel out of school holidays. But, don’t be ashamed of seeing the sights.
For example, Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is one of top attractions in Nova Scotia. It’s visited by masses of people each year. When we went in October it was difficult to get a picture without everyone else in the frame. However, visiting in January there were far less people.
Do rent an apartment
Air Bnb is making it extremely easy to achieve this one. Renting a holiday home or apartment gives you incredible freedom, you can leave the bed unmade and clothes on the floor without feeling guilty when housekeeping comes knocking. In addition, many Air Bnb hosts leave detailed information of their favourite places to visit as well as maps for you to use.
Don’t forget to visit your local tourist office
If your hosts haven’t left you a few maps, then one of the first places to visit when exploring somewhere new is the tourist information office. Not only will they have information on the local area they often have discounts and vouchers.
I like to collect maps from tourist information centres as souvenirs and to use in scrapbooks when I get home and have the holiday blues.
Do use public transport
If you want to do as the locals do, then public transport is the way. You often see streets you wouldn’t travel down on transit routes so it’s a clever way of going off the beaten tourist track. It also tends to be more cost effective than getting a taxi or uber. Do a little research before you leave on where to buy tickets and passes as well as where stops are to ensure a smooth journey.
Don’t be scared to take photo’s
Sometimes you don’t want to stand out as a tourist by whipping out your camera and snapping at everything you see. But I say go ahead! We tend to take pictures of things we see beauty in, which is nothing to be ashamed of. My parents have a huge box of photographs from family holidays that I love to paw through every now and again. You are making memories, so snap away!
Do visit the local grocery store or market
This is by far one of my favourite ways of indulging in local life. Roaming around the neighbourhood store and trying all the delicacies is always fun. I enjoy seeing the deli counter as there is always something different in each country (and sometimes free samples!) Plus, you never know what bargains you might find, for example 1 euro beers in Lidl!
Don’t go to Mc Donald’s
Yes, they are everywhere and yes, they are convenient, but I would suggest avoiding them. I can eat these at home, so I try to steer clear of the Big Mac whilst exploring. I know sometimes, around bigger attractions food can get expensive and this is when the lure of Mc Donald’s is strong. Instead have a look around and see if there is somewhere you haven’t eaten before. You don’t have to avoid chains all together, as I’ve commented before, I’ve enjoyed visiting fast food restaurants you can’t get in the UK. A&W, Tim Hortons and In & Out have been great alternatives to Mc Donald’s without breaking the bank.
Do you prefer being a traveller or a tourist? Or like me do you like a bit of both?