5 Ways to Have Authentic Local Experiences when Traveling

If you want a true change of scenery and a trip that will actually teach you a lot of new things, it’s smart to aim for authentic experiences that will allow you to grow as a traveler and as a person. So how do you treat yourself to such a fun, exciting and unique trip every time you travel? 

Ask questions

People generally love to talk about themselves and their culture, so don’t hesitate to ask questions and show genuine interest in what they have to say. For instance, when traveling, feel free to ask a friendly local about certain buildings, food and habits. If they have time, they’ll gladly share their knowledge and offer to tell and even show you many new things. When you’re genuine about your intentions, most people tend to be amazing hosts ready to offer you the best travel experience. 

You don’t have to be fluent in a language to notice the benefits of speaking the local language. Before you leave or whenever you have some free time on your trip, use the time to learn a few useful words and phrases. Saying hello, thank you and please is a great way to soften people up and encourage them to help you and share information. 

 

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Photo by Nishant Aneja

 

Try volunteering

If you don’t know how to meet locals out and about, check out some volunteering programs at your destination. Volunteering is the best way to come in contact with people from all sorts of different backgrounds and lifestyles and get familiar with current events in the country you’ve traveled to. Plus, you’ll get to spend your time doing something positive for the local people and share your blessings. Before you sign up for volunteering, though, make sure to do some research about the organization and ensure your help goes into the right hands. 

Experience the food

Food is an integral part of travel, and you want to try as many new and authentic dishes as you can. If you have time for a slower feast, ask the locals about the best food in the area and go there. You’ll most likely get recommended small, family-owned restaurants that serve old recipes and local ingredients. Even when you’re in a rush for a quicker bite, you can skip McDonald’s and opt for more authentic fast food. If you ask around about the best hamburger restaurant, locals will most likely give you various recommendations of locally-inspired burgers, fries and all those familiar dishes, but with a twist. You’ll get much more than your money’s worth and leave with a full belly and a better understanding of the local cuisine. 

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Photo by Marvin Sacdalan

 

Time your trips

Almost every place in the world has a celebration or an event that’s authentic to them. If you can, time your trip in order to attend these celebrations. This is a great chance to learn about local customs, try local treats and drinks and meet festive people. You’re guaranteed to have a blast as long as you need your mind open and behave respectfully. 

Additionally, while not many of us can take month-long trips a few times a year, what you can do is reduce the number of destinations during your one yearly trip. This allows you to stay longer in one spot and really experience the way people live there. Instead of including several countries in your European trip, settle on one destination and get to know it more thoroughly. Once you go through all the classic tourist spots, you’ll have plenty of time left to relax, spend your days people-watching, and even meet a few locals. 

Buy locally

No matter how light you like to travel, you’ll most likely grab at least one souvenir from your trip. Instead of visiting those souvenir centers, focus more on small manufacturers that create authentic art and products. Most experienced travelers choose to shop at farmer’s markets and similar spots that allow artists and artisans to display and sell their handmade souvenirs—these usually have a much nicer story behind them. You can talk directly to the maker and get the most accurate information about the product, materials and the meaning behind the memento. 

Not all authentic experiences require you to hike for miles and stay in shabby hostels. As you can see, there are many ways to have a fun local experience and stay comfortable and safe so give these ones a try and enjoy an upgraded way to travel.