Why are we casting such a negative light onto the term “tourist”? After all, a tourist is a traveler who visits a place for his own pleasure. That defines most (if not all) of us. Yet, we use it for people who seek top accommodations, fancy resorts, and who horde popular attractions. They often have no or little regards for the local culture or ways. Funny enough, French tourism released a guide to “help” local businesses deal with such people.
But don’t let yourself be categorized as a tourist when you travel. They attracts scams, negativity. Instead, get the most out of your travel by living the local experience to its fullest. It is the best way to get the best out of your trip for safety, budget, and culture sake. Here how it’s done.
Research off-season weather patterns
If you want to have an authentic local experience, avoid being a “tourist”. The best time to do so is when the season travelers are gone and the natives have reclaimed their streets. That’s also when prices drop which means bargains for you. Only thing is that you should research the weather as well. Most of the time, you will find that the weather is at its best outside of popular vacation times. If it’s the case, good for you.
Research the local culture
The second rule for having a local experience is not to offend the natives. So, before boarding that plane, deepen your knowledge of their lifestyle. How is the daily life like? What are deemed disrespectful? Hint: focus on the acceptable dress code, tipping habits, and tolerated human interactions. If you can learn a couple of words in the native tongue, it will be all to your advantage.
Mingle with the natives
Find a local to serve as a guide, a translator, and a facilitator. The tip comes from the guy who plans Wall Street parties in some of the craziest places on Earth. He found it to be the easiest way to access local clubs, hot events and various deals.
Your local experience will be complete if you open yourself to converse with the natives. You shouldn’t fear the cultural or linguistic barriers. For the latter, arm yourself with one of these translator apps. Introverts, try AskNative, an app that connects you to locals for all sorts of questions you might have.
Eat and drink like a local
Cuisine tourism is the best there is. Food and drink give a memorable peek into the culture, history, and feel of a place. Ok, it is great to travel miles to photograph yourself next to a popular monument like the Eiffel Tower. But it’s the sublime taste of the “brandade de morue” or the “pain au chocolat” that you will keep for the rest of your life. Nothing brings people together like a meal. Eat and drink where the natives do. You will find new friends, guides, and even more tips to have a true and rewarding local experience. To help you dig out the best places to go, you could always rely on food and drink discovery apps.
Ditch the hotel
Where you find tons of hotels, resorts and such accommodations, you are sure to be in a tourist area. There is nothing wrong with staying in such places. They are safe and have all the modern amenities you can wish for.
He who seeks a local experience will try a vacation rental in the areas where locals live. Not only is this, often, a cheaper option, it will also give you a close look into their daily life, and open doors for new friendships. Here are some apps to help you in your vacation rental quest. HomeAway and Airbnb need no introduction.
Be mindful of scams!
Yes, it is great to have an authentic local experience. But it is not a reason to throw yourself at the mercy of the first stranger you see. Be particularly wary of scams, frauds and other dishonest schemes. Check out this graph that sums up the most popular schemes per destination. Also look into these travel resources to find alerts and warning related to your destination.
photo credit: antwerpenR via photopin cc
Where do you stand: are you a traveler, a tourist, or an international hobo? What do you think of these tips? Which would you use, avoid or add to the list? Tell us all about it in the comment box below.