Travel can allow you to explore new towns, experience different ways of life, and delve into completely different cultures. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, foreign or domestic, you definitely want to make the most of your time away in this new and unfamiliar place. Some people like to check landmarks and tours off of their to-do lists and call it a day. Others prefer to go beyond site seeing and learn more about the true identity of a place.
You won’t find locals spending their free time in the tourist hot spots in their cities, and for good reason. Touristy areas can become so focused on their many travelers that they lose part of what made them so special in the first place. They are often filled with crowds, restaurants offering cheap versions of stereotypical local food and drinks, and gimmick after gimmick.
If you are a non-touristy tourist, here are some travel tips that will help you take a deeper dive into the place you are visiting.
- Talk to the Locals
Guidebooks and websites can give you lists of places to go and sites to see, but the true keepers of a city’s secrets are its locals. Don’t be afraid to pick out a friendly face, and ask if they mind answering a question or two. This is a good time to get out of your shell. You might end up with a walking tour, some interesting history, maybe a bit of local gossip, warnings about the latest pickpocketing tactics, or a great story to tell the folks back home.
Some things you could ask about include recommendations for bars and restaurants, local delicacies, places often left off of tourist lists, and what sorts of activities they like to engage in. When you sit down at a restaurant, another good resource is your server. Be sure to ask them for suggestions and tips on what to do next. Talking to people who actually live in these places will most likely help you avoid any watered down gimmicky stops and instead get a true taste of local life.
- Find and Read Local Papers
Even if you are in a foreign country, you should be able to find at least one English-language paper. Not only will you get to know about the local weather so that you can plan your day and your wardrobe properly, but you will learn about things that may not be as loudly advertised, including current events, local gossip, and any events going on like festivals or street fairs that you could visit.
- Be Open to Changes in the Plan
Adhering to a set list of to do’s can be great for organization’s sake, but it can end up adding a significant amount of stress to your travel day. If you start running behind schedule, you may cut certain stops short or get snippy with your fellow travelers for taking to long. This does not like a relaxing vacation.
Of course, it is great to go on a trip with ideas for activities or places to visit, but if something interesting catches your eye, explore it and go with the flow. You may find something even better than you had planned in your schedule.
Get out of your comfort zone and try a little diner, casual bistros, or little hole-in-the-wall place that will give you a unique glimpse into what people like to eat in that area. Try local specialties or dishes with local ingredients. There is a chance that it won’t be exactly what you wanted, but it is all part of the experience of discovering new places and things.
- Walk, Walk, Walk
Choosing to walk to the next spot on your list instead of taking public transportation can lead you down unexpected paths and allow you to see things you would never have if you had been underground on a subway or metro. Of course, some distances are just too far and some days of walking are just too exhausting, and public transportation can sometimes be the hero that you need in these cases.
- Take a Car Outside of the City
If your travel plans are centered around one specific city, grab a rental car and take a drive outside of the hustle and bustle to get a feel for the surrounding area. Oftentimes, cities can become so overrun by tourists that the real heart of a place can be found outside of that city in the smaller nearby towns, natural wonders, and hiking spots.
When you rent a car while on vacation, get a non-owner insurance policy ahead of time instead of opting into the insurance policy offered by the rental company. This will protect you in case you get into an accident while you are driving around in an unfamiliar place and keep costs down.
Getting out and exploring beyond the limits of a typical tourist will give you a deeper connection to the place you are in and a memory that will serve you long after you’ve returned home.