Taming the Tourist – How to See a City Like a Local
Right, here’s a good idea: the next time you visit a new city, before you explore anything or go anywhere, find a coffee shop on the main square and just watch people. Apart from the fact that coffee is amazing, it’s a bit of a social experiment. There's a good chance you'll see folks from all walks of life, but there's an even higher chance you'll spot droves of humans that stick out like handfuls of sore thumbs. These people are tourists – and you, my friend, are one of them.
But just by doing what you’re doing now – sitting and reflecting – you have changed your usual M.O when it comes to visiting new destinations. You will no longer be one of the sheep! You will be your own person! You will explore this city like someone who was born from these very stones and you will not be overcharged for ice cream as a result!
So, put that selfie stick away and listen to travel gurus Agness and Cez, who are here to give you some awesome advice on how to see a city like a local.
Learn Some Lingo
Before you’ve even set foot off that plane, train or automobile, one of the best things you can do is to learn a little bit of the local language. Trust us, this is one of the most important things to consider when travelling anywhere and it can make the difference between a good holiday and a great one.
You’ll find that even if you have zero ability with another tongue, just the basics of hello, goodbye, please and thank you will go a long way to winning over the locals. Seriously, even showing a little bit of effort will have them beaming in no time – and that might just open a few doors for you.
Don’t Look Like a Tourist
As much as tourism is responsible for a massive boost to the economy for most countries, nevertheless you’ll always come across residents who don’t like it. So, not actually looking like a tourist is half the battle.
Leave the guidebook at home, keep your belongings to a bare minimum, do your very best not to flash expensive cameras or selfie sticks around and try to blend in as best you can with whatever clothing you happen to have packed.
Get lost in the city. Roam the streets free of baggage and maps. Take wrong turns. Stumble upon hidden gems. If there are sights and attractions you do want to see, make a mental note of where they are, jot them down or pin them on your phone. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – because you’ll learn from them and see a new city in a relaxed, chilled out and alternative way.
When in Rome…
It’s super easy to fall back into taking guided transfers everywhere, so resist the temptation to do so. Sure, you might meet some nice people, but you won’t really be rubbing shoulders with the locals – and that’s what you really want to do.
Instead, do as the Romans do! Or in this case, the city residents. Learn the basics of the public transport system. Use the underground if there is one, take the tram or the bus, or just walk around until you get your bearings. Remember that you’re not on an alien planet and people are only too pleased to help if you do happen to get hopelessly lost. You’ll save yourself a small fortune in the process too.
Meet a Local!
Without a doubt, the best way to see a city like a local is to meet one and have them show you around. There are several ways you could do this, each of them having their own advantages and disadvantages. You might strike up a conversation with a friendly person over a beer, or maybe try an expat or couch surfing meetup. You might even be lucky enough to already know someone living in the city.
However, one of the best ways to meet an accommodating local is using Showaround. That way you can easily find someone available when you're visiting to give you the grand tour, while at the same time teaching you the culture and traditions of the country you happen to be in. It's a win-win situation. No guidebook in the world beats insider knowledge after all, because seeing a city with a local is the best way to see a city like a local.
Agness & Cez
Best friends and long-time travel companions Agness and Cez originally hail from Poland, but they’ve been exploring the globe since 2011 when they both ditched their 9 to 5’s. They set up eTramping shortly after to inspire, educate and promote adventure travel and a healthy lifestyle.