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How To ‘Live Like A Local’ When You Travel

Let’s play pretend, shall we?

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Ain’t travelling great? Some of my favourite memories with loved ones fall during trips abroad. Like that time I made Mark recreate the Titanic scene with me on the ferry from Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty when no one was looking, or accidentally taking drowsy anti-travel sickness pills when I was away on a trip with Lily that made us so tired that we fell asleep in our hands during dinner. Oh how we laughed the next day when we realised. Trips tend to fall into two categories; either they’re the real touristy ones where I’m visiting a new city and want to see ALL THE THINGS, or they’re repeat visits to places that I’ve been to before where I try my best to blend into the neighbourhood and live like a local. I personally love both, but sometimes it’s hard to switch into ‘local’ mode when really you’re a tourist and feel like you should be standing in a never-ending line somewhere for something that you’ve already seen last time you visited. So here’s how to make the best out of a spot that you’ve visited before and shake away the ‘I should be queuing‘ guilt…

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ASK YOUR MATES

Now is the time to ping over a WhatsApp to your mate who knows your destination like the back of their hand to hit them up for recommendations. We’re pretty lucky in this sense. We’ve got a friend who lived in Madrid for a year, pals who have just packed off to Amsterdam and I met a lovely lady during my travels who knows New York and L.A so well that I keep on telling her she should write a whole dedicated blog about them. If your friends and family are really organised they may have even written notes or a diary last time they visited. Get your hands on it if you can and snoop away – take notes yourself. Mark’s cousin who lived in Barcelona has a pre-written email guide that he sends out. GENIUS. Bypass the usual tourist spots if you’ve already seen them and instead focus on food and neighbourhood recommendations; think a café to read a book in or a place to mill around with no end goal except to get a bit lost.

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BE AN INSTAGRAM STALKER

Once you’ve annoyed your friends by pestering them for suggestions off the beaten track, it’s time to become an Instagram stalker. This works really well for bigger cities where there are a hive of bloggers constantly churning out location-tagged content. SWEET. If you have a gal or guy that you follow already and find yourself tapping away on their Instagram pictures then have a scroll through their feed and stories to see which spots they’re always hitting up. Chances are they won’t be the tourist hotspots and you won’t find yourself waiting an hour for a table, but instead you’ll have infiltrated the local circle. Play it cool. No ‘Instagram food photoshoot that takes 15 minutes until your food gets cold’ allowed. Nonchalant Instagram Stories only.

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BUY A SUPER COOL GUIDE BOOK

Buying the relevant Wallpaper guide before we visit a place has become tradition for Mark and I, and not only do these guides look visually appealing (and are super small, so are actually good to carry around with you), they feature spots that have always impressed us – whether it be a museum suggestion or a food recommendation – but aren’t crazy, crazy busy. I’d definitely recommend. Another super cool guide book comes in the form of Cereal. There aren’t many cities included (some are available online and some in print), but they pick out the most achingly cool spots. Definitely not one to wear your bum bag too. In terms of online guides, I’m always impressed with The Guardian’s picks, which again seem a little off piste from the usual, but feature spots that your mate who lived there previously will ask upon your return if you visited. SCORE.

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GO FOR A MOOCH

When all else fails, go for a wander. Explore a neighbourhood that’s attraction-free and go get a bit lost. Last time I visited New York I ended up finding a little green spot in the centre of Soho, sat on a bench and read a book. The book was so good that I ended up crying behind my sunglasses and the guy next me handed me a tissue. It was lovely. If you’re on a repeat visit then imagine that you were at home and you had the day off work – what would you do? Try and not spend 24 hours holed up in the hotel room watching U.S Netflix (which is SO MUCH better than U.K Netflix btw), but go and have a drink on a rooftop bar, spend the afternoon in a bookshop, go and get your nails done or book in for a pilates class. You’ll look like a local with a day off and no-one will even know. Just keep your guide book in your bag…

Photos by Mark & yours truly

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Comments

  • Zara

    Love this post Anna! I definitely feel like I try and be less of a tourist when I travel now too. Instagram stalking is literally my favourite thing to do before a trip to plan where I want to go haha! x
    http://www.misszarabelle.com

  • Oh Anna, such great post here. So true, first hunt down the experts, then move to location tagging. I’ve used the location functionality so often for my last tips. And the Wallpaper mags look really interesting. I have the Cereal issue for London sitting in my shelf. 🙂
    xx finja | http://www.effcaa.com

  • Laura Emilia

    This post made me immediately want to book a trip somewhere and pretend to be a local! Such great tips, and I think you’ve perfectly encapsulated the feeling of travelling somewhere more than once and starting to feel a bit more ‘comfortable’ about going around the place. Before I moved to London permanently that’s how this city felt to me and now I actually get the same feeling when I go back home to Finland to visit – in a way it’s a holiday, but not completely.

    Lovely post! xx

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

  • Julia Deutschen

    Whenever I visit a city I’ve never been to, I try to mix traveling like a tourist and “traveling” like a local.

    Of course, I want to see all the sights, but at the same time, I love to try out new food places when traveling and walking around a beautiful neighborhood and generally explore the city by foot.

    I think at the beginning of last year, I started to research food places to go to through Instagram and whenever I travel with my family, they love it because they know that I found the best food places in town.

    xx Julia

    http://www.talesofjules.com/

  • Connie Beck-Treadway

    I think a big part of living like a local when I travel has been putting some effort ahead of time to learn the language- whether it’s Italian, French, German, etc. It’s a little work but it makes trips so much easier. And locals tend to really appreciate the effort too, even if your skills are really not very good.

    On another note, I wrote a post on my blog yesterday about being a local in Boston.
    https://listmimsy.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/how-to-gently-assert-your-dominance-over-confirmed-tourists/
    (It’s a bit of a goodbye, because I’m moving to France for the next three years- my flight’s today. I’ll get a lot of practice trying to feel like a local!)

  • I think walking around helps with the “live like a local” feeling, you stumble upon so many lovely, but hidden places that really give you a feel for the City and don´t include a waiter offering you menues in three different languages upon sight.

    Of course going off piste includes the risk of spending a day discovering nothng and eating mediocre food as well, but that´s life!

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  • Ray

    I usually start with the museum and everything else after.

    http://www.underaytedray.co.uk

  • HarrisonBeach

    I work a lot around the food options!
    http://www.byharrison.com

  • Em

    I love these tips – we have started collecting the wallpaper books during our travels on your recommendation and they are wonderful. Loving the looks of the Cereal guides as well – especially for our LA trip in December.
    xo,
    Em
    http://www.organicallyemily.com

  • Love these tips! We do the same things! We love trying to fit in even if we are traveling to a new place for the first time. It’s all in your mindset. If you want to blend in, you will! 🙂
    -Ash & Shelbs xx
    http://www.astoldbyashandshelbs.com

  • Great tips!!! I always try to blend with the locals if I’m staying longer in a place! If I’m visiting just for 2-3 days, I go into tourist mode haha 😛

    Thanks for sharing!

    Andrea.

    Seize your Style

  • Asking friends is my number one way! Also just asking a local what to see/do is good!
    http://www.lottiegibbons.com

  • Emily Lilly

    I love Barcelona, i’m always stalking Instagram before i go anywhere to see where to go

  • When I travel I really like exploring the little side-streets and areas where locals live, eat, etc. It just makes the whole experience really special and much more personal 🙂

    Julia x
    Last Post: PARIS – The Parc de Bagatelle | http://juliaspeaksbeauty.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/paris-hidden-gardens-of-bagatelle.html

  • Loved these pictures! I definitely think its a million times better to visit a place not as a tourist x

    A Little Treat | Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

  • peonies passionfruit

    Some great tips thank you for sharing them I definitely prefer to travel as a local and beautiful pictures too!

    Eme x

    http://www.peoniesandpassionfrut.com

  • Amelia Loke

    These are good ideas and trying to blend in with the locals is a wonderful way to keep repeat-visits exciting. Great post!

    I do try this when I can too (www.wanderingbananas.wordpress.com)

  • Ky O’Dell

    My top tips:
    – Dress normally, not like you’re on a safari in “vacation-specific” clothing. Now is not the time for white sneakers and vests with the 50 pockets on them.
    – Carry a smallish day bag. Nothing screams “tourist” like a massive tote or backpack or fanny-pack.
    – Frown (on the outside, but obviously smile on the inside because you are enjoying your travels). Nothing makes you a target like looking really excited about every bloody thing you encounter. Frowning deters potential pick-pockets or people looking to take advantage of tourists.
    – Don’t talk about “back home.” Nothing more obvious than saying things like, “Back home this is like…”
    – Choose your moments for “being a tourist.” Be specific and intentional about taking pictures, going to touristy destinations, etc. Locals don’t take pictures of every single street they walk down or monument they encounter.
    – Walk with purpose. Even if you’re utterly lost, pretend you know exactly what you’re doing and exactly where you’re going.
    – Avoid eating in restaurants with menus that are translated out of the native tongue. Now is the time for bravery and enjoying the experience of potentially ordering something a little unusual.
    Hope this helps add to the already great post!

    • Anamika

      I love the “dress normally” tip! Totally agree that nothing screams tourist like a backpack or fannypack! Also, don’t walk around staring into a map… although who uses maps anymore right? 🙂
      http://www.anamika.ca

    • These are great! I don’t understand people who dress in ‘safari’ clothes in a new city.

  • Great post, I love to feel like a local when travelling rather than being too touristy. I also love getting lost in a city and exploring.

    http://www.zekalin.com

  • Very useful post darling 🙂
    Miki x

    https://littletasteofbeauty.blogspot.it/

  • I loved this. I really need to travel more, even if it’s just for weekend away somewhere lovely.

    http://www.thejadefiles.co.uk

  • I loved this post! So many good tips, you’re making me crave a city break!

  • ella ryder

    I always use IG for travel tips! Bless the guy for giving you a tissue when you cried! Such a cute story.

    Ella xx

    http://www.ellaryder.com

  • Misia Galka

    Great tips, this is how we love to travel! But I need to know, what was that book that moved you to tears?

  • Carina

    Hey Anna,
    thank you for the tips. Especially the last one really appeals to me. That is how my husband and I love to travel.
    Just go and explore yourself. Because if you are always on a run for the next ‘highlight’ searching for the ‘perfect’ spots, in my opinion you most times miss the real beauty of a city. Even more, you won’t feel local if you don’t meet the locals, huh!
    We live in Germany but love London, so once a year we come over for a week and we love to explore new areas. This year we actually took the tube map picking places to go so randomly..it was so much fun! One day we wandered around and found ourselves in ‘Camden Market’ which I know is probably recomended in every tourist book you may find. BUT, because we ‘accidently’ found it, it was even more of a pleasure and much more exciting…
    Do you know what I mean?
    Later this year we go for our second trip to Australia, returning after 5 years. And besides the new places to explore I am also so excited to find new beautiful spots in the places we’ve already seen.
    I can highly recommend traveling like this. It slows you down and makes appreciate the small thing so much more..like a beautiful tree. Or a beautiful view. And you will find yourself blend in naturally with the local folk…

  • Love this travel advice! I like the idea of channelling what I would do on my day off into my holiday, that is such a brilliant idea! Definitely going to try that 😀 thanks for sharing your advice!

    VioletDaffodils
    xx

  • Maria

    I can definitely relate to the tips here – my favourite is Insta-stalking (of course….)! Sometimes it’s a little tricky to find local bloggers that know exactly where to go, but fortunately travel bloggers are also inspiring!

    Maria x

    Latest on my blog:

    Designer Shoe Dupes – All Of This Season’s Best Picks

  • Gabby Peyton

    These are great tips! I love both kinds of trips too! Sometimes the cheesy tourist stuff is so fun, but people watching while drinking a latte is also a favourite travel pastime for me lol