Whether you’re staying in a rental home or sleeping at an adults-only resort while you’re on vacation, you don’t need to stick out like the sore tourist you are. In fact, attempting to blend in with the locals and embrace their culture is actually a better way to travel safely and walk away with a more memorable experience. Speaking of resorts, we love this Jamaica all inclusive resort, best place to spend a vacation.
If you’re ready to try traveling like a local instead of a cliché tourist, here are a few ways you can do that while still maximizing your vacation’s fun and affordability.
Don’t Dress Like a Tourist
Let’s be real: a fanny pack, shorts, and a baseball cap are the equivalent of a neon sign reading “I’m not from here.” When you start to pack for a vacation, do some research to see how the locals in that area dress. If you’re heading to Morocco, for instance, a woman wearing tiny shorts and a spaghetti strap tank would certainly turn heads.
Likewise, wearing tennis shoes with your fav patriotic T-shirt in London won’t help you feel like a local. Plus, dressing like a tourist can be dangerous because it attracts the attention of thieves and con artists who prey on unsuspecting visitors.
Volunteer in the City You Visit
You don’t have to visit a third-world country to dedicate a part of your vacation to helping others. When you’re planning your trip itinerary, look into volunteer options near your lodgings. This is an excellent way to get a non-touristy view of the area, as well as an opportunity to meet kind-hearted locals who will tell you about themselves and their home. Another bonus: it’s free!
Avoid the Packed Tourist Bus Tours
Unless you absolutely have to take a guided bus tour to see something, try to find another way around it. These tours are pricey, crowded, and in all honesty, the complete opposite of what most locals would recommend doing. Instead, research your options for hiking on foot or using public transportation. You can also download audio tours on your phone that are just as informative as a real-life guide, but way less expensive.
Try a Few of the Local Dishes (Even If They Seem Strange)
When you’re in Cambodia, you eat things like crispy tarantulas. It’s just what you do. Sure, it might not be the kind of food you usually go for back home, but that’s part of the experience. Do some online research to find out what the locals eat on a regular basis so that you can get a literal taste of their culture.
Have Frequent Conversations With Locals
If you really want to act like a local, then you’ll need to actually meet a few of them. Strike up conversations with shop owners, waiters, drivers, and random people on the street. You’ll get so many great recommendations for your trip by speaking to people who truly know the area and culture.
If you’re vacationing at resort for adults and you don’t feel comfortable leaving it, you can converse with the employees. Most of the employees are likely locals or have lived in the area for a long time. Furthermore, you won’t feel like you’re stuck in a vacation bubble filled with other tourists.
Attend a Religious Service
Nothing is more eye-opening than witnessing a powerful worship service in a foreign place. Even if you don’t practice the same religious beliefs as the locals, there’s something incredibly fascinating about being a fly on the wall during their most important traditions. Obviously, you must participate in this activity with the utmost respect and discretion. Don’t take pictures when you shouldn’t and ask others how you should dress or behave at particular services to avoid offending the other attendees.
Utilize Public Transportation
When visiting a popular destination like New York City, which just set a tourism record in 2017, don’t call an Uber every time you need to move to a new location. That’s just not how the locals do it. Most big cities have public transportation systems that are fairly easy to figure out. They’re usually pretty cheap to use, as well as more environmentally-friendly than using a cab for all of your transportation needs. You’ll certainly feel like more of an authentic visitor when riding a subway instead of sitting in a luxurious car you paid $15 for.
Read About the History of the Sites You Visit
When you stand in front of a famous piece of architecture or some kind of tourist destination, it’s extremely important that you understand what you’re looking at. You can bet that the locals living in the area know why that place is special to their country or state, so you should, too.
For instance, in Edinburgh, Scotland, there is a stone heart embedded on the floor of the Royal Mile. Many tourists think it’s cute and take couple photos in front of it, but in reality, it marks the entrance to an old prison where people were tortured. See how it pays to do your research? A simple Google search can arm you with a basic background of the area and its valuable buildings and historical significance.
Learn Some Phrases in the Area’s Language
Last but not least, don’t be one of those travelers who gesticulates wildly to get their point across to people who don’t speak the same language. Before visiting any foreign country, brush up on the local language. This will help you communicate much more effectively with the people living there and improve your overall experience of the place.
Although you might not be a true local when you visit new places, there are plenty of ways to experience life through a local’s eyes during your stay. Bond with people who live there and do as much research as you can before arriving. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t embarrassingly wave your blazing red TOURIST flag around.