There are vacations where the entire goal is to get away from it all. A once-in-a-lifetime resort in the Maldives, an exclusive cruise around the Mediterranean – anything that takes you out of your daily routine and into a complete escape.
Then there are trips where you want to get rest and relaxation, yes, but with a side of living like a local. You might seek out these kinds of experiences in places where the culture and customs appeal to you, and where you’d like to get to know them a little better. Big cities with distinct personalities – think Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City – are often great locales for “local” travel.
And, unlike what you might have read in travel guides, or heard on your favorite travel show, you don’t have to stay in a hostel or skimp on quality to get there.
Here are tips to help you live like a local while traveling – without compromising on luxury:
Book Lodging Outside of the City Center
Many city centers have turned into tourist traps. A first-time traveler to New York City might think Times Square is the best place to stay, simply because they’ve heard of that area before. But this bustling, frenetic touristy area is nothing like the experience of staying in one of NYC’s locals-friendly neighborhoods.
In Paris, for example, look at neighborhoods like the sixteenth arrondissement or Neuilly-sur-Seine, where many of the city’s well-heeled residents live their daily lives. You’ll still be just a short métro ride away from the main attractions, and you’ll have a better chance of finding a real Parisian café or bakery to come home to.
For any major city, check out real estate listings to see which neighborhoods real residents inhabit. Look at hotels outside of traditional hotel clusters. Think about what kind of local experience you’d like (i.e., the serenity of the Upper East Side vs. the energy of the Lower East Side) and then explore lodging options in an area known to match your tastes.
Starting out in the right location will set up your entire trip to have a more local feel.
Shop at the Market and Prepare You Own Meals
Local markets, such as a weekly farmer’s market, or a covered market hall, are chock-full of local flavors, culture, and encounters – they should be one of the first stops on your neighborhood tour.
Grab a picnic lunch in Madrid and head to the plaza for a lunch of manchego and regionally-sourced salami (and a glass of Rioja). Or pick up some fresh fruit and antipasti to bring to your beach day on the Italian Riviera.
If you book lodging that comes with a kitchen, shop for the ingredients to a local dish and teach yourself how to prepare it at home. Later, head out to a local watering hole for a night cap.
Talk to the Bartender
While enjoying your night cap, it can be a good idea to chat up the bartender or server, language (or gesturing) skills permitting. In a truly local setting, they may have worked there for years, and are well-versed in local happenings and know all the best spots in the neighborhood.
Genial wait staff are often a better source of information than the hotel concierge, who is largely used to steering visitors towards the main tourist destinations.
Travel During Off-Season
During high-season travel, you’ll mostly find yourself surrounded by other visitors. In the off-season or “shoulder seasons,” you’re more likely to be among the locals.
Different destinations have different high and low seasons, so be sure to do your research before you book. Low seasons often mean less desirable weather, or fewer large-scale festivals to attend, but if those concerns don’t bother you, this is the prime time to get a local’s feel while on vacation.
Schedule Your Days Like a Local
Take note of the rhythm of local life, and plan your days to match it. Do the locals eat late, for example? If you usually prefer the early bird special, consider adjusting so you can join your temporary neighbors for dinner. If you’re working remotely while on the road, set up shop in a laptop friendly café that welcomes local nine-to-fivers.
Sign Up for a Class
There are classes aimed at tourists, and then there are classes that attract the local residents. Yoga and other fitness studios are a good place to start, and many will offer single class passes. Art institutes are another option, and, bonus, the piece you create makes for an excellent, non-touristy souvenir.
Become a Regular
If you find a restaurant, café, or bar that you particularly enjoy, why not visit it again and again? You’ll get to know the waitstaff, and possibly even other regular patrons. There can be a pressure to try all of the top options at your destination, but finding one or two that make you feel at home has its own, unique value.
Buy Souvenirs at Local Boutiques
Tourist-trap souvenir shops abound in most well-traveled parts of the world. It’s normal to want to bring home something to remind you of your stay, but you’ll get a more accurate representation of the local culture if you avoid the tourist shops in favor of a popular local boutique.
Ideas include a work of art from a well-known local artist, a collection of high-quality regional wines or spirits, or an item of clothing or an accessory from a truly local shop.
When in Rome…
You’ve heard the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” which just might be the original call to travel like a local. Keep this advice in mind as you go about your day, observing local customs, habits, and activities. What do they enjoy eating? When do meals start and end? Where do they gather? Noting these details and joining in will get you living like a local in no time.
Book Your Luxury “Live Like a Local” Experience with Lugos Travel
The trip-planning experts at Lugos Travel all have first-hand experience visiting dozens of locations around the world. They’ll use their local know-how to help you travel like a local – without compromising on luxury. Contact us to start booking your high-end local travel experience today.