Finding more authentic, “real” experiences is an important part of travel for many of us. Authentic and real in terms of experiences that let us experience some of the local life in the places where locals actually go to. Not judging those, whose perfect getaway includes an all-inclusive hotel, the pool and a tropical drink.
We like good things in life, we do like luxury and love pampering ourselves, but always try to combine it with activities that let us dive better into the local everyday. See even a little of the actual life.
Even if you have no local contacts in advance, coming up with places where you will be surrounded with locals or experience authentic moments is not hard. Just do some homework. Think of places where people gather in their everyday lives and find those places from your destination. And please, share your tips for us as well!
1. Markets and marketplaces
Where ever you are in the world, head to the markets where people buy the fresh produce like fruit, veggies, meat, fish, poultry and bakery goods. You’re likely to see local specialities and also take-out food. Flowers are often sold as well.
Look for local Farmers Markets, they’ll pop up weekly or at least a couple of times every month. Farm to table brings locals to admire the produce, find delicious cooking items and mingle.
If you like books, birds, antiques, new design – look for those market days. Talk to the sellers, ask suggestions from other shoppers.
2. Places of Worship
A lot of places of worship around the world are open to visitors, even during the ceremonies and events.
Always remember to respect those whose place of worship you enter. Even if it is a huge, famous site. There are endless places like this.
Learn about the customs, what to wear and such in advance. Religious traditions may be far from your own, but getting basic information before going is easy these days.
But still: ask about the traditions, you don’t have to know everything. Should I take my shoes off? Should I proceed in a special way as a visitor? Am I allowed to enter all areas as a representative of other faith? How about photos?
Keep quiet and avoid going crazy with snapping photos even if that is allowed.
Libraries bring people together in their own special way. Wander around, check out the shelves and your favourite titles. If you love wandering around, checking out book covers and titles, this is for you.
If you don’t know how to approach other booklovers on the customer side, go and talk to the librarians. Books about the place you’re visiting are worth checking out.
4. Local transportation
We know that it’s an exotic experience even within our our country, using local transportation in a different city. Or using local transportation those times of the day you rarely do.
But do try the tube/underground/metro/bus/tram/local train/boat rides/ferries. What ever the place has to offer. These are the forms of transportation that allow you to sit in the middle of the locals, see how they spend their time commuting.
In big cities nobody knows if one is a tourist only by noticing someone checks out the map. In the huge cities, people will likely regulary ride some unfamiliar lines – just like you.
5. Participate in a local festival
Old, local festival traditions that bring people together are interesting to follow and participate in one way or another. Some countries are filled with all kinds of festivals.
Even the very crowded and at times touristy events like Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year or Saint Patrick’s Day teach you about the traditions and both the locals and visitors joins these festivities, where ever you celebrate them. Excellent possibilities to ask more about these events, their history and the local way of celebrating.
6. Sit at the bar
We like sitting at bars. In the busy districts of the bigbig cities/super popular touristy areas you may not get into those in depth conversations, a lot of the staff is likely not that good at recommendations as many are new to the city.
But any smaller city or a more remote part of a metropolis will give you hours of fun, education and insights. Also, look for long-running restaurants, bars and pubs of the bigger cities. They will likely have knowledgeable staff.
Some people always want the table at a restaurant, but the 2 of us, we sit at the bar if possible. Best insights, analyzes, forecasts, predictions, praises and curses come from behind the bar.