Without doubt, the best way to see a place is to travel like a local. It’s the only way you can really get to know a destination and have travel experiences that are both authentic and enjoyable.
Avoiding tourist traps, getting away from crowds, finding hidden gems – it’s all about knowing where to go.
To find all this out, you need to talk to the locals themselves.
As residents in our destinations, we’re able to access insider information straight from the source. By talking to a diverse cross-section of local residents, we’ve collected hints, tricks and tips for how to travel like a local.
For an insider experience in Asia, here are our 9 tips to be a traveler, not a tourist.
Tip 1 – Travel like a local by avoiding peak seasons
High season is not only the most expensive time to travel, it’s the most hectic.
When you’re always surrounded by tourists it’s impossible to slow down and really appreciate your surroundings, which is why we recommend traveling in low or shoulder season.
Tip 2 – Travel like a local by going off the beaten track
To truly have a local experience, you need to take a break from the big sights – resist the temptation to see a landmark just because it’s famous.
Sometimes this means taking a chance on a place you may not have even heard of – somewhere like the little-known Macleod Island or these secret islands in Indonesia.
To make sure your leads are reliable, get your insider tips from Travel Specialists.
Tip 3 – Travel like a local by meeting locals
You haven’t really experienced a culture until you’ve spent time with its people – and not just airport and hotel staff.
Fun ways of meeting the locals include taking a workshop, like a cooking class or a sake-tasting session, eating in packed local restaurants in Japan, finding that hole-in-the-wall bar that only the locals know about, or even enjoying a homestay in a local Khmer community.
The more locals you meet, the more insider info you’ll get. Don’t be shy!
Tip 4 – Travel like a local by learning the local language
No one is expecting you to recite the national anthem of every country you visit (though that would certainly be impressive) but being able to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ in the local lingo is good etiquette.
The more words you learn, the greater insight you gain into the culture and the more people will open up to you.
Even terrible pronunciation is guaranteed to break the ice, and maybe even get a laugh.
Tip 5 – Travel like a local by asking real local experts
What better way of finding out what places the locals like than by asking them?
Even better if these locals are also expert Travel Specialists with years of experience crafting amazing journeys through Asia and compiling unforgettable experiences in little-known pockets of the world, such as in Laos.
Not all travel companies have deep local knowledge of their destinations, so if you really want the insider experience, inquire with an agency that has locally based experts. Like us for example 😉
Tip 6 – Travel like a local by learning local customs
No one wants to be that person – the one who unwittingly offends all the locals.
Therefore, it pays to spend a little time finding out the cultural dos and don’ts of each destination. When should you wear a headscarf in Bali? Is it rude to point at people in Thailand? Why should I not blow my nose in Japan?
Asia is home to myriad cultures and customs, so research each country you plan to visit to avoid committing any social faux pas.
Tip 7 – Travel like a local with a private tour guide
Getting off the beaten path doesn’t mean getting lost or visiting places you’re not interested in.
It means going beyond the guidebooks to have experiences that aren’t necessarily on a top ten list. To make sure you’re on the right track, hire a private local tour guide who can lead you in the right direction.
Our Travel Specialists are not only locals, they’re passionate about creating incredible tours through Asia and happy to share their knowhow with anyone who inquires about a tailor-made trip.
Our tour guides are also locals, with insider information of our destinations, and who receive training every year to make them the most knowledgeable and travel-savvy guides in the region.
Tip 8 – Scour local press and forums to travel like a local
Most places around the world have an English-language newspaper or even an online events guide. Look at local exhibitions, market events, dining news and even scan the ads. And pick your tour guide’s brain – they’re bound to have plenty of leads.
Tip 9 – Eat like a local
This doesn’t mean grazing indiscriminately from every food cart your travels take you past. It means keeping your ear to the ground for the word on the best restaurants and vendors.
You can usually tell which places are the best by the amount of people queueing up at a cart, or waiting for a seat. Weekend papers are a good place find out where there’s a buzz. You could also join a local foodie tour. Or better yet, ask a local.
Avoiding crowds, learning local customs, taking part in workshops or cooking classes – all are great ways to have an authentic travel experience. If you’re interested in traveling like a local, just contact our Travel Specialists at info[alt]backyardtravel.com about creating a bespoke trip just for you.