11 Ways to Go Local on Your Next Trip

We’ve all heard the buzz about local travel. Trouble is, exactly how do you begin to travel more locally?

We think we can help. In our travels, we’ve found some great ways to get more involved and immersed in the places we visit.

Here are 11 ways to help you go more local on your next trip.

Live with the locals. Use an apartment rental site like Airbnb to book an apartment in a great local neighborhood. You can check reviews by fellow travelers, and Airbnb doesn’t pass on your payment to the owners until you arrive and verify the the apartment is acceptable.

Looking for a great deal on your next Airbnb? Follow our link to get a $35 USD credit! (And we get a credit, too).

Beer Keg Delivery in Bairro Alto Lisbon
Delivering a keg of beer in our Lisbon neighborhood

Get social. Ask for advice on great eateries on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Check out asknative, a fun app that lets you connect with locals and ask them questions before you leave.

Travel slow, if you can. The longer you spend somewhere, the more you can learn about the culture. Also, the longer you spend in an area, the cheaper day-to-day living becomes.

Order local foods. Or better yet, try to whip up a new, local recipe in your kitchen. If you can’t cook, take a local cooking class and get not only immersed in the food but also the local food culture.

Maestro Churrero in Madrid
mmm… churros con chocolate in Madrid

Learn a little of the local language. TripLingo is a great place to start learning essential phrases and slang. When locals see you trying to speak their language, they’ll often open up. We’ve seen more than one smile break out on a normally taciturn face due to our failed attempts at communication. At the least they’ll appreciate your attempts at fitting in.

Talk to the locals. Strike up a conversation with your bus driver, the local family in the park or your waiter at the local cafe to start. Be open, honest and friendly. If you’re truly interested in what they have to say, you’ll be amazed how much you can communicate using hand signals and the occasional common word.

Take your kids. Children can be a great way to break the ice. When you travel with young children, you’re much more approachable and you’ll be amazed at how easy people will open up to you.

Put the guide book away, and just wander around. Our favorite memories are often not the big landmarks, but the little things we see along the way. Remember that a guide book is simply someone else’s documented findings. Their point of view and areas of interest can vary greatly from your own. If a local attraction gets only a sentence in a guide book though you find it terribly interesting then enjoy yourself and leave the giant statue that the book is raving about for another time.

Do it old school and read the local newspaper. Not only can this give you a great feel for what locals think, but the events pages are often a treasure trove of great local activities and events that your guidebook will never mention.

Take public transit. Public transit can run anywhere from open air chicken buses in the Philippines to gleaming modern subways in Taiwan, but they’ll always give you a great feel for a city and are a quick way to measure the pulse of  the local population.

Run your normal errands. Go to the laundromat, the local market or the hairdresser. It’s a great way to meet people, and you’d be surprised how much fun regular shopping for everyday items can be in a new place.

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”~ Bill Bryson

19 Responses

  1. Freya

    Great tips. Reading the local newspaper can be tricky sometimes due to language issues but all the rest I will definitely give it a go.

    • Micki Kosman

      Freya, You’re so right about the language issues. I recall trying to scan through a local paper in Thailand; not much luck there. I’m having better luck in Spain and Portugal, though 🙂

  2. T.J. & Charlotte

    I love the fact that sites like airbnb keep popping up. It’s more competition for hotels, which should help keep prices down. Great post. 🙂

    • Micki Kosman

      We actually use airbnb more than even VRBO or Homeaway these days. We’ve found that hosts are often really flexible with long term discounts on airbnb, which is great for us.

  3. Talon

    So true about how kids can really help break the ice. We had lots of great conversations with locals in Cuba because of that. Some great tips here!

  4. grasya

    i do almost all the points mentioned whenever i go on long term travel.. i enjoy living, speaking and dressing up like a local coz its where i feel the authenticity of travel.. sa much as possible, i dont just want to pass a place and take pictures, i want to feel the place, build relationships and understand people ‘s different ways of living. ^_^

    • Micki Kosman

      Hi Bethany, I read a quote from Andrew MacCarthy where he says something to the effect that traveling with our children tells people that we trust them, and that we trust our children to their country, and that it sends a powerful message.

  5. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    I often travel asking myself if I could live in the destination, which pushes me to do a lot of the things you guys have listed. When you make it down to Seville, I’ll help you feel at home and like a local (your kids better plug their noses with some of the smells, though!!)

  6. Nicole @thewondernuts

    Great idea! Some of the best things to do are to just get out there and talk. Eating at an outdoors restaurant, booking airbnb places are all great places to meet people.

  7. Larissa

    Love this list. . . we stay in local apartments whenever possible and I totally agree–no better way to immerse yourself!

  8. Charli l Wanderlusters

    Great list, we house sit all over the world and as such get the opportunity to immerse ourselves in local culture frequently. I love those churros, it’s 7am here but I’m already thinking about whether or not I can attempt to make some for my supper tonight!

  9. Heidi @WagonersAbroad

    We follow all of these! I have just one more for you…we like to hang out where the locals do. So if it is at the local park, fountain or promenade you can interact with the locals. Play with the dog as they are walking it by. Kids are a great icebreaker and if you add pets to it, you are golden. Thanks for sharing.

  10. John

    I like renting a bike. I did that a few weeks back in Munich and was able to ride out to some near by neighbourhoods outside of the centre. Here I was able to be amongst locals and was able to stop wherever I wanted for a coffee to to grab some lunch.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.