Living Like A Local: 13 Tips for More Authentic Travel Experiences

Living like a local when you travel offers a deeper understanding of your destination.

While you won’t truly be a local, your trip will be much richer and save you money, too.

Follow these 13 easy tips to have a more authentic experience abroad. Even if you only incorporate one or two of these suggestions below into your travel plans, you’ll have a more rewarding trip.

living like a local - dining with friends

CONTENTS – In this article, you learn how living like a local creates the most authentic travel experiences, including:

  • The Possibility of Living Like a Local
  • Set Your Budget Accordingly
  • Visit the Non-Touristy Places
  • Learn Basic Language Skills
  • Stay With A Local Host
  • Shop the Local Markets
  • Be Aware at All Time
  • Fit In By Dressing the Part
  • Build In Time to Relax
  • Use Public Transportation
  • Tune in To Local News
  • Hire a Local Guide
  • Plan to Get Lost Sometimes
  • Become a Regular Customer
  • Be Safety Conscious
  • Final Thoughts
  • Next Steps

Is It Really Possible To Live Like A Local?

Visiting a new country as a tourist is great.

You get to see all the most popular destinations. Wherever you look, an experience or a souvenir is waiting for you.

But what if you want to avoid all of those tourist traps, spend less money than you expected, and truly fit in with the locals?

Then you want to travel like a local.

Many people think it’s impossible to blend in as a true local.

That’s not true.

If you appreciate the culture you’re visiting; then every local will welcome you with open arms as one of their own.

Sure, there are countries where it’s easier to live as a local, but that all depends on where you’re coming from.

Here are some tips to help.

1. Set Your Budget Accordingly

Budgeting is the main problem people face when visiting a new country.

When you travel abroad, you can easily spend $1,000 in one week, when you add up accommodations, attractions, food, and transportation.

There’s a more affordable way.

One of the first things you need to know is that the most popular cities are usually more costly to visit. Because there are a lot of tourists, all of the prices near tourist spots are incredibly expensive.

So, you need to scratch the spending itch in the outskirts of the center.

The plane ticket will probably be the highest cost for your trip.

If you’re not using the best VPN, urban legend says your browser will store cookies from the airline website. Then, you will see higher prices every time you check for new flights.

Of course, this can lead you to panic as your trip nears and prices rise!

Instead, use a VPN to mask your IP address. It makes it look like you’re using a different computer each time.

The same thing is said to happen with tourist agencies and accommodation sites.

While it’s hard to find evidence of this practice, why take the chance?

2. Go Where the Tourists Aren’t

Travel costs tend to vary based on the season.

For example, if you decide to go to Spain in mid-summer, it may seem like one of the most expensive places on the planet.

Book your stay right after the season; the opposite is true.

Plus, there are no crowds in the shoulder season.

It will be much easier to find friendly locals during the spring or fall.

They’ll be happy to tell you what are the best things to do in the area, and might offer you tips on the best places to eat, drink, or shop.

3. Learn a Few Basic Words

Before you visit a foreign land, try to learn 10 to 20 basic sentences to use in conversation with the locals.

It might not seem much to you, but for them, it’s a sign that you appreciate their culture, language, and heritage.

Doing this will help you build friendships immediately.

You’ll also want to research gestures and body language. This will be incredibly beneficial if you plan to go to places like Japan.

And, if you plan on staying abroad for an extended period, it’s a good idea to enroll in a class where you will meet other travelers.

4. Stay at a Local’s House

The only way to truly get a feel of the local life is to spend a few days with someone born there.

Apps like Couchsurfing let you stay free with someone who has an extra bed or a spare room in their house.

Of course, not everyone will be comfortable staying at a stranger’s house.

So, the next best thing is a hostel or renting a room in locally-owned accommodations.

In that case, you could talk to the host and ask them a few questions about living like a local.

5. Shop the Local Markets

visit a local market

If your accommodations come with cooking facilities, you’ll want to head down to the local market to stock up.

Here, you’ll find the seasonal ingredients of the region — and usually at a fraction of the cost compared to dining out.

Go ahead and try unfamiliar flavors. You might even want to work in a cooking class to learn how to cook regional specialties!

Even if you don’t have a way to prepare food where you’re staying, stroll the markets for fresh fruit, tasty snacks, and prepared foods. Chances are, you’ll find something to enjoy like a local.

6. Fit In By Dressing the Part

They say Americans stand out like a sore thumb when traveling abroad.

Before you visit, do some research to find out what the locals are wearing.

Better yet, bring a few extra bucks and stock up on a few outfits that look appropriate for the destination.

You may not know what that looks like until you get there, but take a few moments and study what the fashion scene is once you arrive.

Remember to look to the local population’s attire rather than the tourists.

And then, take the cue to add a few key items to your wardrobe so you’re living like a local.

After your trip, you’ll wind up with some nice fashion souvenirs!

7. Leave Time in Your Itinerary to Relax

It’s understandable to want to pack your itinerary with a full schedule while you’re traveling. After all, you don’t want to miss anything, and who knows when you’ll have the opportunity to return?

However, when you do that, you miss the experiences that are in plain sight.

When you slow down and immerse yourself in the culture, you’ll have a deeper understanding of a place.

In the interest of living like a local, take the time to do what the locals do.

That might mean taking an afternoon siesta, eating dinner at 10pm, or living the dolce vita by lingering over a delicious glass of wine with friends.

Your trip will be richer for it.

8. Use Public Transportation

Maybe you’ve hired a driver to bring you from one destination to another when you travel. There are many benefits of doing so, among them, having a personal guide and not worrying about directions.

But the locals won’t likely be doing that.

If you really want to try living like a local, embrace public transportation.

Most countries in Europe have excellent train systems and bus routes.

So, schedule your travel using public transit.

It will give you better insight into how the locals get around, and save you a lot of money, too!

9. Follow the Local News

If you want to tune into the local happenings, look no further than news sources.

That might mean picking up the local paper, listening to the daily news, and scanning other print and online publications.

Even if you don’t understand every word because of a language barrier, you’re bound to get the gist of what’s going on.

Look also for local event listings that might be of interest to you.

Perhaps you’ll find some live music, a festival, or educational course you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. When you’re living like a local, these will be worthwhile opportunities to socialize!

10. Hire a Local Guide

hiring a local guide

It might sound like fun to take a bus tour when you’re traveling, but you’ll have a more authentic experience when you hire a local guide.

They can give you an inside look at the best places to eat, drink, socialize in addition to sharing the highlights and hidden gems.

Plus, they usually have local stories and anecdotes that will make your experience fascinating. They can tell you what living like a local is truly like.

When you hire a local guide, you may have a personal guide to yourself, or be part of a small group.

Either way, you’ll have far more attention than taking a big group bus tour.

11. Be Okay with Getting A Bit Lost

Remember the saying, “Not all who wander are lost”?

Well, if you’re really committed to exploring a place and traveling like a local, you’ll need to wander.

That might mean getting a bit off track – and that’s exactly what you want!

Sometimes, you’ll discover the best places to eat, most beautiful scenery, and local shops that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Of course, make sure you know if there are any unsavory parts of town to avoid, and look to your GPS if you get really turned around.

But usually, a local will be happy to point you in the right direction if you get truly lost.

12. Become A Regular Customer

Part of living like a local is becoming a familiar face in the community.

That might mean you have your morning coffee at the same cafe each morning, or read the newspaper on the same park bench each afternoon. Maybe you take an evening stroll along the same route night after night.

When you do this, it creates an opportunity to connect with others you will see more than once. The experience becomes less transactional and more personal.

Introducing just a few small routines to your stay will make you feel more at home and part of the local community.

13. Be Safety Conscious

Just because the people you talk to are friendly and hospitable, that doesn’t mean everyone’s the same.

There are bad people all around the world.

So, you shouldn’t let your guard down, physically or digitally, when you’re living like a local.

For the physical part, pay attention to your surroundings, and never show money or luxury items in public. That makes you an easy target.

As for your digital safety, using the best VPN and antivirus software is a must — especially if you plan on connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.

Someone could hack your phone or try to infect your device with malware and steal your personal information.

You don’t want to be stranded in a foreign country without money and documents, so take every precaution when you travel.

Always backup your devices before you leave for your trip.

Make sure you have emergency funds or a spare credit card and your original passport stored in your room safe or locked luggage. (Carry a copy of your passport with you at all times.)

Even though you’re traveling like a local, it’s important to be smart about it.

Final Thoughts on Living Like a Local

Living like a local can be an incredibly fulfilling, immersive travel experience.

Instead of just learning about a destinations tourist attractions, you’ll return from your trip feeling deeply connected to the culture, people, and your unique experiences.

Next Steps

Now that you know how to travel like a local, read these articles next to help plan your trip:

When to Visit 36 Dreamy Destinations

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.