Thursday, 25 September 2014

Travel like a local

Visiting a foreign country, takes me back to the days of wide eyed wonderment, when everything seems fascinating. Every time I visit a place I have not been before, there is a hunger to explore. To see more, in the time available. Sometimes, even broken roads and unpredictable weather seem fascinating.

The inquisitive explorer in me always tries to experience the destination like a local. Some travel tips below.

Give hotel stay a miss, and choose a home stay instead

For a valuable insight on the local life, bid goodbye to hotels, and choose a home stay instead. In addition to being a form of cheap accommodation, it also gives a closer look into into the lifestyle of the locals. Interacting with hosts can give you true sense of the community, along with some useful tips on the destination.

Don’t waste your money on expensive hotels, use it to explore unique experiences which give value alternative to a hotel or vacation rental - 

   Walk and Explore

An interesting way to explore a city/town is on foot. If time is not a concern, ambling around the town with no fixed itinerary is something I would suggest. Walking will not only give you the luxury to move and stop at your own pace but also help you to keep the holiday fat at bay.

A traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see - G.K. Chesterton

Know a few basics of the local language

Make a little effort to learn a few basic words and greetings in the local language. Also, being aware of the local traditions before reaching the place is a wise idea. Its amazing how a smile and some politeness can break the ice. Talk to a few locals. Ask them for suggestions on what what to see & eat, where to shop.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

 Ditch the Taxi, and use the local train - Be a responsible traveller 

For long distances, use the public transport. Whether its the tram, train, or bus, hop on and experience how the locals travel.  Its fun plus its interesting to see life on the move in a foreign nation and you also end up reducing your carbon footprint.

Try the local food

Entering McDonalds, KFC, Pizza hut etc. should be  a crime while in a foreign country . Why waste calories on common junk food when there is a entire culinary treasure, waiting to be discovered. Be adventurous and try some local dishes. You will be surprised that if you search a little, in most places you will find vegetarian food too. Contrary to belief, you can find vegetarian food in most cuisines. I was always under the impression that turkish food is all meat, but the best potato dish I have had is in Turkey - Kumpir

 Experience a local art form

Being a part or experiencing a local form of art like a local dance or any local performance, not only gives you a sneak peek into the local culture but also encourages the local artisans. Whether its the Rajasthani folk dance or the whirling dervish of Istanbul, do take time out to watch and appreciate these cultural performances.

Celebrate with the locals

Be in time for a festival. Experience the celebrations, joy and  enthusiasm with the locals. A closer look in to the local culture is guaranteed. Don't hesitate to be part of the local traditions. Get amazed by how similar or dissimilar the traditions are from your own.

Visit a local market

Give your senses a treat. Enjoy the different sights, sounds and smells of the marketplace.Whether its the Arabic souk in UAE or a farmer's market in Europe, let your senses loose. Experience the locals in action. Don't miss the opportunity to sample some local foods.

Go to a traditional wedding
Its a rare situation that a foreigner visiting a city/town, gets invited to a local wedding, but if you manage to get invited, don't miss it. Its the best occasion to experience local traditions in full form.

Converse with the locals

Create genuine conversations with locals, but, don't be pushy. Conversations can happen in pubs, cafes and almost anywhere. Also, simply asking for directions can lead to great encounters

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