Written by Nancy Lova
Image by @camilacoelho
Of course you’re going to want to do the touristy things when you’re on holiday and rightly so. There are so many popular landmarks, things to do, places to stay in and eat, that are a must to experience. On top of that, social media has caused a frenzy of photos and videos that many feel obligated to capture in certain destinations. For example, head over to Pisa in Italy and find plenty of tourists posing the same way by the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When in Paris, it’s almost impossible to come away without a selfie on a balcony with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
The touristy things are great to do, for sure but in my experience, embracing a country, city or town like a local is even better! There are hidden gems like restaurants, boutique stores, activities and places of worship that visitors may not know about but offer a greater sense of the place. In this article, I’ll share five examples on how to feel like a local in some place new…
Eat at family-run restaurants
This is by far my favourite way to feel like one of the locals. Tourist traps have strategies to entice customers but not always necessarily impress through their dishes and this can often takeaway from the food. Smaller, lesser known (to tourists) restaurants, I have found, are usually run within the family and my goodness is the food better. The flavours are authentic and because such restaurants are more intimate, the passion given to the food when cooking, is usually greater. Not only is the food more authentic but so is the atmosphere, you’ll be surrounded by wonderful locals, soaking up the language and culture of your destination.
Research nearby cities and towns
I know I’m a tourist myself when abroad but that doesn’t mean I always want to be surrounded by a crowd of other tourists as it can be harder to embrace the character of a place. Researching towns and cities nearby is another way to feel like a local. A lot of the time, the places just outside to where you are, are pretty similar but with fewer crowds, allowing you to really explore and appreciate your destination. The best way to do this, is to go on your maps and look for the neighbouring (somewhat) big town
or city and research what the place is like. I’ve done this a bunch of times and discovered places I’ve never even heard of before but they turned out to be even better than the destination I was initially visiting.
Ask your hotel receptionists or property hosts
Who better to ask for recommendations than your hotel receptionists! I love how knowledgeable they are on surrounding areas and more. They’re one of the big brains behind tourism and how to make their guests really enjoy their trip by suggesting things you may not come across through a simple Google search. They’ve lived and breathed the area you’re visiting, for years so they’ll be able to provide expert knowledge on how to really immerse yourself in a place.
It’s really that simple. Before jetting off, you probably already have a list either written down or mentally of where you want to go, where you want to have drinks or go clubbing but free yourself and go with the flow and you can discover some real hidden gems. Sometimes it’s nice to just stroll with no intention and just remain open to whatever will come your way and because of that, you can stumble across some of the best bars or restaurants you’ve ever been to.
Do the things you usually do but abroad
I’m very much a creature who likes to try new things but I also do enjoy familiarity and the two go hand-in-hand when trying to feel like a local in some place new. For example, there are activities, hobbies and interests you probably already pursue regularly when at home. You may be an art lover and spend your weekends gallery hopping. Running in the early hours of the morning may be part of your daily routine or simply grabbing a latté in your local coffee shop before work, is the way you like to start your day. Whatever it is you usually do back home and brings you joy, do whilst you’re away too and you’ll practically be a local.