15 Ways to Travel Like a Local

Vacations are an ideal time to immerse yourself into a new culture.  Many people want to feel like they are part of a new community and experience what everyday life is like there.  So how can you feel like a local when you are a tourist?    Here are 15 ways to travel like a local:

  1. STAY IN A RENTAL OVER A HOTEL: A rental will surround you in every day life.  Staying at your own place lets you immerse yourself into the community.  Enjoy some coffee in your backyard, people-watch from your front stoop, and say hello to your new neighbors.
  2. TRY THE LOCAL CUISINE: Even if it’s not something you ever thought you’d eat, it’s always fun to sample local food.  Puffin, octopus, pig ear, and squid are all food that my girls have tried on vacation.  I research local dishes to try while we’re there and always order local fish or cuisine. 
  3. DON’T TAKE TOURS: Yes, a tour is the easiest way to see the sights, but wouldn’t you rather be in control of your vacation? Going out on your own allows you to set your itinerary, determine when you’ll do things, and stop whenever the scenery calls to you.  In Iceland, our fondest memories were made by just driving around exploring.
  4. LEARN KEY PHRASES:  No one is expecting you to speak the language fluently, but a few key phrases can make a difference.  ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’, and ‘Hello’ are always appreciated.  Even if you think you sound silly, people will think it’s considerate you made the effort.
  5. TRAVEL DURING LOW SEASON:  Not only will you find better deals, but you will also find kinder locals.  Imagine how grouchy you would be if your beautiful town was inundated with tourists every summer.  During low season the locals seem friendlier and more willing to talk to tourists. 
  6. GET LOST: Put that guide book down and just start walking!  Stroll down winding cobblestone streets until you find an adorable café, boutique, or chapel. 
  7. USE LOCAL MARKETS AND FARM STANDS: Some of the best ways to experience local food is buying it from the people who grow it.  We love to stay in and cook some meals on vacation using local ingredients we’ve bought at the market.  Locally-made bread, cheese, fruit, and vegetables make the perfect meal.  Trying something new? Ask the vendor how they like to prepare it.   
  8. DON’T EAT AT CHAINS:  When eating out, find a place away from crowds.  Family-owned restaurants that make traditional cuisine are usually a good choice. 
  9. BE RESPECTFUL: Be polite, courteous, and open to their customs.  Always be respectful to locals since you are on their turf. 
  10. DRESS LIKE A LOCAL: There is a huge difference between how you dress in Paris and how you dress in Iceland.  Before packing, research the style of your destination.  Do people dress up for dinners?  Will you be eating at casual pubs? Try not to stand out too much with your wardrobe.  The key is to blend in.
  11. START TALKING: You can get the best recommendations for restaurants and activities from cab drivers, waiters, doormen, and hotel staff.  We’re had cab drivers that taught the girls about what their schools are like, what people do for a living, and the sad poverty that exists there.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions because most locals love to share their culture. 
  12. DO THINGS LATER: When in Europe, switch it up. For example, eat dinner at 9:00, go to bed at 11:00 and wake up at 9:00.  Let your schedule go out the window and adapt to your surroundings. 
  13. TAKE NAPS: Ok…maybe not actual naps, but maybe have downtime in the afternoon as you rest up for your night.  Take full advantage of “siesta” time!  
  14. TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Public transportation can show you what everyday life is like.  You’ll see people heading to work or running errands and it’s a great reminder for kids to appreciate they’re on vacation.
  15. BE A TOURIST:  Places are tourist attractions because they should be seen!  Don’t try so hard to be a local that you skip popular attractions.  In Iceland, go swim in the Blue Lagoon.  In Rome, go see the Colosseum.  In Athens, walk among the ruins of the Parthenon.  You’ll regret it if you miss these once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

How do you travel like a local?


  • Christine Johnson

    Travel blogger and founder of MyTravelingKids.com

    Christine loves to share her passion for travel and believes the entire family should have fun while on vacation. As a former teacher, Christine loves to explore different cultures and new destinations. Her site offers informative reviews on locations, hotels, and attractions. In addition to making you laugh out loud, she also offers loads of useful tips on family travel, couple getaways, and girls’ weekends. This site will make you want to pack your suitcases!