Does Travelling Like a Local Mean We Have to Skip the Touristy Spots?
When we first travel, we're so excited to be out in the world, we don't really consider there are better ways to explore it. No surprisingly, we're rather naive about it all. It's more about the number of destinations we can tick off our bucket list, the photo op's and the stories we can bring home. But we all eventually grow out of that and start to realise that there's so much more to travel.
Travelling like a local, not a tourist, means seeing the world in a different light. The end goal isn't for bragging rights, but to gain a better understanding of a different culture. So we stay put for longer, we talk to locals and we spend time immersing ourselves in the community.
Which begs the question...
Does travelling like a local mean we have to skip the touristy spots?
Let's think about it for a second.
As a Melbournian, I definitely go to the tourist spots – but not all of them and not that often. I mean, I try to get to the local art galleries, the botanical gardens, the oh-so-Melbourne cafes. I'd really like to one day watch the sun rise over the city in a hot air balloon and make my way to the top of the Eureka Tower. Both very iconic things to do.
Tourist spots are touristy for a reason, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I quite enjoy some of them.
But there's an art to knowing what's worth skipping altogether, in a country you've never been before.
First thing's first, how do you even travel like a local?
There are never-ending ways to travel like a local, but these three tips are a great combo to get you started.
1. Skip the hotel and opt for an apartment or house. This way you're more often than not, staying outside of the touristy areas and more central to the local life. So you can start your day following the local crowd to a cafe and making plans from there. By using AirBnB or Couchsurfing you'll also have a local host to show you the ropes.
2. Talk to the locals. It might sound intimidating but it's actually quite simple. When you buy a coffee or pay for your lunch, have a chat to the staff. They should have plenty of recommendations for you. Just make sure you keep your wits about you – if the restaurant is busy, then don't bug them, but if it's quiet and they're acting friendly, then ask away.
3. Stay longer than a week. You'll never really truly be able to understand a destination if you're only there for five days. Instead of moving around frequently during your holiday, stick around. Find yourself a local cafe and you'll find yourself fitting in, in no time.
How to know what's worth lining up for?
In truth, travel is a very personal experience. Some people think a panoramic view of a city is overrated, some think it's breathtaking. Some people value art, other's don't see the appeal. It's all subjective, so treat every attraction as such.
The thing is, you really don't have to do everything the guide books say. Consider what's on offer and ask yourself what actually sounds interesting to you. Sounds simple, but it's kind of difficult when you've got expectations and lists of friend's recommendations.
The best way to figure out what's worth lining up for is to gather a list of everything that sounds remotely interesting:
+ Start with your favourite travel blogs and what they recommend
+ Do a quick Google search to find the most common and touristy things to do, (eg. things to do in Budapest)
+ Check out the TripAdvisor forum for a locals perspective
+ Skim through the Loney Planet guidebook
This will give you a pretty rounded idea of what's recommended. Now all you need to do is consider what appeals to you most – what would YOU enjoy?
And when you do find yourself in front of the Mona Lisa, after telling yourself it's absolutely something you're interested in experiencing, then put that camera down, take your time and experience it.
What about you – do you like to visit the touristy spots in your hometown?