Meet the locals
The first step to living like a local on the road is meeting the residents around. To start these connections, try staying in a local home. Search for home stays, couches, castles, local hotels and more, wherever you go. It’s a great opportunity to search a large inventory of local people..
This is a great start, though your host doesn’t need to be your only resource. Take public transportation or take a cab and chat with your driver. The more time you spend off the well-beaten tourist drag the more likely you will be to connect with new people.
Be willing and ready to wander
While a bus tour might be the most efficient way to hit the tourist attractions, try exploring the city on foot to better absorb the sights, sounds and smells of your surroundings. Put down the guidebook, put the map away and get lost. Don’t race around with an ambitious itinerary; instead, follow your feet and the people around you. It’s amazing what kind of things you can stumble upon. You will find interesting things you did not know.
Eat where the Locals eat
One of the best ways to connect with a new place is through your stomach. Eat where the locals eat. Search local blogs instead of consulting your guidebook. Ask your host for recommendations, seek out local markets, try the street food and/or find the food trucks. Search the internet for cooking classes or opportunities to eat in local homes.
Try Local Recreation
Vacations should be relaxing and rejuvenating. While getting spoiled at a spa has its place, see how the locals decompress from their work days. Borrow a bike and hit the trail. Jog through city parks. Maybe go to the beach or grab a fishing rod. Watch for flyers announcing local concerts, festivals and celebrations.
If you have time and feel good about giving back, think about volunteering during your travels. Opportunities like visiting orphanages let you help out while facilitating a cultural exchange and, perhaps, discounted and/or free food and accommodation. You can contribute your skills to the local community or build new ones, through helping on a farm, with eco-building projects, with animals, with web design, with language exchange and more. The choice is yours.
Learn a few key phrases
When you travel to a destination where English is not the first language, having a few key phrases in your back pocket can be a good way to feel more connected to the people around you. Whether you buy a phrasebook or use an app, make a point of learning some basics such as greetings, thank you, an apology (sorry or excuse me), some numbers, and directions. Most locals appreciate the effort and will respond positively.
Travel is about going with the flow. Rigid plans mean you might miss out on seeing or experiencing something unique. Having a set itinerary is fine and can help you maximize your time, but don’t discount serendipity. Sometimes it pays to create space in your travel schedule for unexpected surprises.
Look for markets and grocery stores
Seeing what the staples are in any given destination can offer a lot of insight into the local culture. Make a point of seeking out markets and wandering into grocery stores. If you have cooking facilities at your apartment or hostel, buy a few things and try your hand at a local dish. Bonus tip: If you have time and it makes sense for where you are, take a cooking class to get even more of an insider’s perspective on local cuisine.
Ask for tips at hostels (even if you’re not staying at one)
The people who work in hostels often have great advice on where to get the best food, local bars to check out, and off-the-beaten-path things to do. Even if you’re not staying at a hostel, poke your head in to see if you can glean some useful tips.
Think in terms of experiences, not must-see lists
For every city you go to, there will be countless best-of lists filled with the top things to see and do. Checking these off your list will ensure you do experience some of what a destination is known for, but it can also limit you.