Image: Le 21ème
There’s hardly a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to travelling. Some travellers shuffle from one tourist hotspot to another, ticking them off an unending travel bucket list with relish. Others prefer an experience that’s closer to the ground, one that immerses them in the indigenous cultures and local ways of life. Want to know where the locals hang rather than be led through another maze of tourist traps? These tips will show you how to travel like a local.
Follow local hashtags
Do a bit of sniffing around on Instagram to find out the hashtags that local communities use. Travellers to Singapore, for instance, should keep tabs on hashtags like #exploresingapore or #seengapore to get a sense of where the locals are going and hopefully stumble upon a few spots that appeal to their particular tastes and travel style. You can also trawl for other popular hashtags people in the city are using by entering the name of the city you are visiting in the Instagram search box. Don’t forget to add the same hashtags to any photos you post of that city for more likes and shares. You might even find Instagram fame if your post gets picked up by the local tourism board.
Crowdsource for tips
If your search for the best hidden gems in each city isn’t turning up much, posting a question on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook could yield unexpected results. There’s bound to be a friend or two who has travelled to where you’re going and who will be more than willing to point you in the right direction.
Learn a few key phrases
When you find yourself in a destination where English is not the first language, having a few key phrases up your sleeves can make any experience much more pleasant. Take the time to learn a few basics like greetings, yes, no, thank you, sorry, some numbers and directions. Even if you make a slip of the tongue, most locals appreciate the effort and will warm up to you
Image: The Haute Pursuit
Sometimes the easiest way to feel like a local is to dress like one. A little prior research on what the locals wear can save you from being the obvious tourist. Borrow style cues from the locals and keep your eyes peeled when you’re browsing shops or the local market. While our first instinct may be to dress for the weather, many countries outside the West tend to regard exposing too much skin as immodest so do your due diligence and be sure to show respect for traditional or religious dress codes.
Trade your hotel room for a local’s apartment
To experience life as a local, get out of the tourist clusters where most hotels and hostels are situated and put up in the heartlands instead. You’ll want to arrange your own independent or local accommodation in areas where residents actually live for a more authentic experience. Platforms such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing easily lets you meet locals who will be willing to host your stay for a fee, and in the case of Couchsurfing, even for free! If you’re lucky, you’ll land a host who will be happy to show you around and take you to those hidden spots you’d never find on your own.
Study a map
While there are a dozens of apps designed to help travellers navigate each city, nothing beats a good ol’ foldable map. The map shows all: Mark out the spots you absolutely want to visit and you’ll soon be able to discern the best route to take. Figure out which neighbourhoods or areas you’ll be spending the most time in and arrange your accommodation within walking distance. That will save you both time and money on transport. Keep the map reading discreet though, or you risk looking like a lost — dare we say it — tourist.
Read before landing
Almost every guidebook or inflight magazine will have a “best of” list of some sort and going through them should net you some worthy hangouts and restaurants. Once you’re on the ground and exploring the city, pick up a newspaper or weekly arts and culture publication and give it a quick read. It’ll help you get up to speed with the city’s most raved about local restaurants, exhibitions, events and more.
Skip the tourist sites
No doubt, the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, and Notre Dame are formidable tourist palaces worthy of awe and admiration.Checking these off your list will earn you some bragging rights for sure, but it will also guarantee that you will be surrounded by a hoard of tourists. Instead of seeking the tried-and-true, why not step off the beaten track and explore the lesser-known parts? The best discoveries are stumbled upon, never planned, so walk the streets at length and swallow deep lungfuls of foreign-scented air as you hike the local nature trail. Otherwise, hop on a bike and let your natural curiosity take the wheel. You never know where you’ll end up!