Tips and Hacks

Ditch the guidebook: Here are 5 ways to travel like a local

Lady standing with a street performer in Piazza Navona, Rome

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 alley way, 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.

Man walking through Kathmandu Durbar Square

#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.

A woman eats seafood in Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

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.

A Malawian man smiles near Livingstonia, Malawi

#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.

Watching the Yangon suburbs fly by circle train

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Danielle Wakeling
    November 2, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Spot on advice! There’s nothing like getting lost in a new city and discovering it step by step with local food filling your tummy (luckily, with all that walking, you end up working off all the calories anyway!) would love to explore with Urban Adventurers and get the insider scoop.

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 2, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks for the comment Danielle, and yes, you’re right, you walk so much that you can walk off all the brilliant local food! haha.

      Thanks for entering the competition and good luck!

  • Reply
    Sara @ Sara Sees
    November 3, 2016 at 1:26 am

    This is such a great list! I think getting lost is the best place to REALLY explore a city!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 3, 2016 at 7:35 am

      Thanks for the lovely words and yes, we’re ALL about getting lost (safely, of course!)!

  • Reply
    Christina
    November 3, 2016 at 5:44 am

    Awesome post guys!! I especially agree with the part about getting lost. Whenever I’ve gotten (safely, lol) lost in new places, I always end up finding the best hidden gems and meeting the coolest people. I also entered your giveaway 🙂

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 3, 2016 at 7:34 am

      Thanks so much Christina! And it’s true, you open yourself up a lot more when you’re lost, and dare we say it, vulnerable. You have to trust your judgement and you end up experiencing so much more!

      Thanks for entering and good luck!!

  • Reply
    Salt in our Hair
    November 3, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Great tips guys! Are you coming to Holland soon as well? You seem like great people to meet!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 3, 2016 at 7:32 am

      Never say never – we’d love to get back over to Holland sometime soon (London really isn’t that far at all!). We should organise blogging, vlogging and photography weekend somewhere!

  • Reply
    Tasha
    November 3, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Traveling like a local is the absolute only way to experience a place. The Urban Adventurers have got a good thing going! SO COOL!!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 3, 2016 at 7:31 am

      Urban Adventures are brilliant – seriously, local guides and local experiences that aren’t all ‘same, same’.

      And yes, immersing yourself in the local way of life is the ONLY way to travel!

  • Reply
    Patrick
    November 3, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Love the advice guys. I definitely might need to look into some Urban Adventures tours for South America.

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 5, 2016 at 5:35 am

      Totally Pat! Have you been on one before? Some of the biggest highlights of our trip were on Urban Adventures.They are THAT good.

  • Reply
    stylishtravlr
    November 5, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    What a great post !! You wrote everything what people should do when they travel!! I see you guys in London now! Are you here for a while?

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 10, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      That was the objective! We want people to have the best local experiences possible! 🙂

      We are basing ourselves in London for a while! Do you live you here?!

      Mark and Mim xx

      • Reply
        stylishtravlr
        December 16, 2016 at 12:24 am

        Yeah ! I live here with my husband who also love travel ! We should grab a coffee sometimes !!

  • Reply
    Arika Hussain
    November 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    I’m an anxious traveller but the best experiences I’ve had have always been outside of my comfort zone.
    Great tips guys!

    • Reply
      The Common Wanderer
      November 10, 2016 at 11:11 pm

      Thanks for the comment Arika!

      You’re right, you’ve got to put yourself outside your comfort zone to have the best experiences. Remember to always think positively 🙂

      Mark and Mim xx

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