Blog, Travel Tips, & News

The Joy of Local Experiences – Feeling Like a Local in Foreign City

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The start of the year is a time for imagining and planning of the future. In my weekly newsletter I want to provide all sorts of inspirations as you look at your travel dreams – sometimes I talk about destinations, sometimes about experiences (watch for a future article about what we did in Budapest – awesome). And sometimes I talk about things you can do to enhance any trip you take. Since I’m all about authentic experiences and getting into the local vibe, today’s article gives you some ideas for that…

This week I was working with some clients on their arrangements for Europe and we got to talking about traveling on the metro and what an empowering experience that can be. There is something about mastering the transportation system in a foreign city that always make me feel smarter, and that I belong there, and it also gives a great sense of the city and daily life. That inspires me to talk about some of the ways that you can feel a little more like a local when you are traveling in a foreign city.

Family of three in Paris, looking at the Parisian subway mapTake the subway/tube/metro to get around. First of course, is to take the local transportation such as the subway or the tube, the metro or whatever they call it to get around and use that as your primary means of transportation. Cabs can be convenient but traveling the way the locals do somehow gives you a better sense of the place that you’re visiting. Studying the subway maps and routes improves your understanding of the city layout, and you might discover some stops along the way that you’d like to explore.

Ask your taxi driver for his best recommendations. If you do take a taxi, ask your taxi driver for some of his favorite places, such as where he likes to eat in a certain area of town, or what special items you should shop for in the area. Local cab drivers are very knowledgeable about the entire city and they get lots comments and complaints about the travel experiences of their passengers, so they have some great insights if you are open to some ideas for some of those ‘hidden gem’ sights.

Customers at tables and waitress in busy restaurant interiorGo to a local bakery for breakfast each morning. Rather than eating in the hotel, have breakfast at a local bakery. Go to the same place each morning, as you might if you lived in the neighborhood. It’s a great way to get a feel for the pace of the neighborhood, see the local people hanging out and maybe make some friends.

Sit at the bar and chat with bartender. When you visit a bar or pub, don’t sit at a table by yourselves, but rather sit at the bar, where you can easily interact with the bartender and other patrons, who are typically locals. By sitting there, you have a better opportunity to meet some folks and get suggestions and personal recommendations into the local area. The bartender should be full of great ideas for you as well.

Shop or wander at the market. Most cities tend to have a market that is the center of activity for the local goods and produce, so it can be a great place to explore. You can experience a little bit more of the culture, and try new foods, and see the vibrancy of the city and its merchants. It’s great fun to look at the range of goods, haggle a little and maybe experiment with some new tastes.

Take a food tour. I’ve talked before about how much I love food tours, and I think it’s another wonderful way to get a better feel and understanding of a city. Food tours are usually walking tours and by their nature, they tend to concentrate on certain neighborhoods within a city. They are often those neighborhoods that you might not easily discover on your own as just as a regular tourist, so a food tour can really get you moving around the city, experiencing the local cuisine and understanding its history.

Attend local events and festivals. Just like we tend to have local events, such as concerts on the green or a book reading or local festivities, that is happening all over the world. Try to experience those types of events during your travels. Look for the local flyers and neighborhood newspapers that highlight local events and see if there might be something during your stay. By exploring the type of activities that are geared toward the local population, you can have a more authentic experience overall.

I hope these ideas inspire you on your next trip. Getting more in touch with the destination that you’re visiting can deepen your experience and broaden your appreciation of other cultures.