Ditch the guidebook: Here are 5 ways to travel like a local
I’d arrived into Kathmandu weary after a long flight and with a strong urge to fall head first into bed, yet all I could hear was the chaos surrounding my hotel in Thamel; horns beeping, people shouting and music blaring. Against my better judgement I decided to head out and explore a city I knew nothing about - without so much as opening my guidebook first.
I got lost. Like, totally, completely, ‘no-idea-where-I-am-or-where-to-go’ lost. Following a crowd of locals seemed like a safe bet, and somehow I stumbled upon Kathmandu Durbar Square. It left me speechless.
This seemed a good place to take all the chaos in, so I propped myself on one of the many intricate temples and watched the vibrant scene below. It was mesmerising and took me completely out of my comfort zone.
It wasn’t long before a local man started speaking to me. Saroj, it turned out, was keen on learning english and before long we’d discussed our backgrounds, love life, and Nepali life and politics. Asking if I was hungry (famished!), Saroj took me to the best momo restaurant in Kathmandu (his opinion, now mine). Noticing my gradual decline into exhaustion, he then guided me back to my hotel. It was a truly authentic local experience and one that would’ve never happened if I was locked up in my hotel room.
Experiences like this are not easy to come by if you follow a guidebook and stick to the beaten path.
here ARE FIVE WAYS TO TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL
#1 GET LOST
When you arrive in a new city, drop those bags, leave your accommodation, and get wonderfully lost. Take the wrong turn, walk down that alleyway, chat with the friendly local, sit in a beautiful park, and sample that delicious local cuisine. Do it all. It’s the perfect way to gain your bearings in a new city.
#2 STAY LOCALLY
It’s easy to book into a hotel or hostel in the city centre, close to all tourist amenities. But that isn't how you travel like a local now, is it? No authentic, local experience was had staying in a tourist hub.
With the growth of peer-peer websites such as AirBnb, couchsurfing and housesitting, your ability to have a truly local experience has grown considerably. Now, you can eat, drink, shop and commute to areas where people live their day-to-day lives. It’s by far the best way to truly experience a city.
If you’re thinking of using AirBnb, do it. It’s awesome, easy and generally cheaper than hotels. Click here to get £30 off your next booking.
#3 EAT THE LOCAL CUISINE
Who doesn’t like sampling exciting new local delicacies? Pretty sure no one raised their hand there, right?!
Don’t sit in your hotel room and order room service or stop by the local McDonald's for a cheeky burger. Travel like a local and eat alllll the local food! An added benefit is the price is often (a lot) cheaper.
Some of our favourite street food includes samosas, croissants, tostadas, pizza, crepes and sliced tropical fruits. Oh, and how could we forget Gelati. Here’s a brilliant post by Thrifty Nomads on the world's best street food. Be warned, it’ll leave you salivating.
READ OUR POST ON THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN CRAZY, CHAOTIC KATHMANDU, NEPAL
#4 MAKE LOCAL FRIENDS
We get it, it’s hard enough to strike up a conversation with a stranger in your own town, let alone in a foreign country or city. But by taking a risk, you open yourself up to a whole world of possibilities, including new friends all around the globe.
So the next time you’re in a foreign city, ask the local you meet about their family, the city and neighbourhood, the local culture, or their favourite restaurant or bar. You’ll be amazed at what you get in return.
#5 USE LOCAL TRANSPORT
Depending on where you are, local transport can be intimidating at first. Is it safe? Will I know where to go? What if I get lost? Will I be trapped on this Burmese train going around the Yangon circle forever!? All valid questions. Yet by using local transport, you’ll not only save a lot money, you’ll enjoy truly authentic experiences.
Let your fears go. Instead of a pre-booked taxi, jump aboard a bike, rickshaw, boda-boda, motorbike, train, or bus. You’ll soon realise that local residents travel via these means every day and you’ve nothing to worry about.