While exploring a shopping district in Braunschweig, Germany, I could tell who were the tourists and who were the locals. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with actually being a tourist but it depends on where you are traveling. Screaming to the world, so to speak, that you’re a tourist may not the be the best idea. So here are five ways to travel and enjoy the local sites, without coming across as a tourist:
- Eat where the locals eat. Try to avoid the mainstream chain restaurants, or where it seems to be the most crowded with tourists. More often than not, you will be paying more and you won’t get the taste of local cuisine. The local restaurants may not be as flashy-looking or big and, in fact, they may seem quite uninteresting. But if the local people are eating there, you know the food will be fantastic. You may be able to do research ahead of time, but I’ve found the best way to find hidden-gems is by simply asking the locals where they like to eat.
- Learn simple phrases in the local language. This has helped me tremendously in bargaining for a good deal for taxi fares and in farmers markets in South America. But speaking to someone in their native tongue will leave them more inclined to help you or offer better service at a restaurant. You don’t have to master the language, but a little effort goes a long way.
- Visit the attractions where only the locals go. Using your new linguistic skills, you can ask the locals for their recommendations on beaches, parks, events or whatever it is you want to do. By going to these less-popular locations, you’ll most likely beat the crowds, and higher entrance fees. If you have access to a car, motorcycle, bike, or if things are within walking distance, use this as a chance to explore wherever it is you are visiting. You may be surprised at what you find.
- Cash is King. Not only will you save money by using cash but many of the shops and food stands only accept cash. This will save you a lot of irritation and embarrassment. I recommend getting familiar with the currency of wherever you are traveling. It’s also good to have emergency cash in your local currency and a credit card (for that run to the wrong airport and buying a new plane ticket… yes, true story).
- Learn common etiquette and customs. Many countries have different customs and social etiquette. For example, how much you tip a bartender or waitress may be quite different than what you’re accustomed to. In some countries, tipping is even viewed as an insult! So do some research ahead of time; look for things permitted or NOT permitted in that country, any visitor visas you may need, what the climate will be, and if any vaccines are recommended.