When one travels, especially with children, you either travel like a tourist: visiting all the popular must-see attractions or you travel like a local: getting out of the touristy circuit and experiencing day to day life of a town.
We like doing both – but our favourite part and the part that we think that has enriched our travels the most is to experience ‘traveling like a local’.
Here is what we like about ‘Traveling like a Local’:
- It gets us as close as it can to the local culture, mannerisms and way of life in that town or country.
- Especially when traveling with our daughter, it helped us give her a flavor of how life is outside our home city (how the markets are in that town, how people travel to work, the local street food or even kids parks in that town).
- And of course the larger mass of tourists aren’t doing this, so at least here – there is a chance that we wouldn’t be one amongst a herd of tourists trying to get a selfie in front of a monument or in a queue to buy audio guides.
Here are 5 ways that we like to experience ‘Travelling Local’:
Stay at a Home Stay
Home stays are the best way to see and perhaps even live a ‘day in the life’ of a local. Most home-stays often serve you food cooked in the home kitchen by the home owners or their domestic help – that’s food as authentic as it can get.
You can strike a conversation with the home owner’s family (if they are open to – which they are in most cases) – and get insights into life in that place.
If you are traveling with infants and have special food needs, home stays often give you the flexibility to get meals of your choice or warm up that glass of milk yourself in the kitchen.
The only caveat here is to look for home stays that are truly home stays (preferably with owners living in or around that house). Hotels camouflaged as home stays (and there are plenty) defeat the purpose.
Visit a local vegetable or fish market
Take time out to visit a local (non-touristy) vegetable market, fish market or maybe a weekend market that locals buy from. It’s interesting to see locals buying (and sometimes haggling) fish or fresh produce of vegetable & fruits. We enjoy a weekend market the most – everything from vegetables to clothes to dairy products & toiletries sold in bulk – it’s a colorful feast for your eyes. At a weekend market in Selcuk, Turkey, our daughter enjoyed seeing a variety of fish or fruits (varieties that she hadn’t seen back home) while we struck up a conversation with local vendors.
Eat where locals eat
The best way to try authentic local food in any place you travel to is to eat where there are no tourists and only locals eating – the best way to get the true flavour of the local cuisine. The only caveat here is that – unlike touristy restaurants where the staff is often adept in some form English – staff in these local restaurants may not speak English.
In this case, it helps to look up translations of the food menu on the internet – isn’t that fun too? :). Once at small local restaurant in one of the by-lanes in Hong Kong, the staff spoke only Cantonese. Fortunately, as a home work, we had carried a handwritten list given by a friend containing 20 different local dishes written in Cantonese and their English equivalent – this way, we would just point out to what we wanted (and we knew what that meant in English).
Use local public transport
Enjoy a ride in a transport that locals use to travel. Mass transport (trains, trams, buses) are even better than individual transport like tuk-tuks/ auto-rickshaws – as this way, not only do you experience traveling the local way, but often also get a chance to strike a conversation with locals on their daily commute. Kids also enjoy that ride in the tram or tuk tuk… and of course this is also cheaper on the wallet. When traveling with kids, if you think the transport is overcrowded and may end up being claustrophobic for children, give it a try during off peak hours.
Visit a local park
Head out to a completely non touristy area (residential) area of the town you are in and visit a park where local children play at a playpen and people take their evening stroll. Especially when traveling with kids.. Kids enjoy their time at the park (in any new place – a slide or swing is still as much fun!). And while your kids play with local kids in the play area, you can take a quiet break and watch on from a park bench while catching up with other parents. Of course there are some things that you do back home that you will still end up doing here – being a referee between your kids and others on who will use the swing first 🙂
How do you travel like a local… Share your experiences with us in the comments…