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Here at MY Travel BF, our big focus is on authentic travel experiences that allow travelers to immerse themselves in the local culture and learn from others around the world. We know many of you want to travel this way too, which is why we want to share 6 Ways to Have a More Authentic Travel Experience!
Having any authentic travel experience means avoiding tourist traps where you are surrounded by other tourists and non-locals who are just there to snap a few photos of “popular” places and not really soak up any of the local culture.
If you are like most travelers, or at least most probably reading this travel blog, you hate getting stuck in tourist traps! You can’t even stand the thought of being stuck in some overpriced location with no locals and a bunch of people who care to know nothing about where they are and just want to be able to say they’ve been somewhere and have a few photos of the place.
Well, you’re in luck! These recommendations for how to have a more authentic travel experience will allow you to more easily get to know the local culture and escape the normal tourist experience. This tips for authentic travel work well even if you are visiting a place and don’t know any locals or have plans to do anything with locals.
6 Ways to Have a More Authentic Travel Experience
The first way to have a more authentic travel experience is petty obvious: learn the local language!
In order to get to know local secrets, culture, and stay away from tourist traps, you have to talk to locals, and the easiest way to do that is to speak their language—Spanish, French, German, Thai, Japanese, or whatever it might be!
If you are traveling somewhere for a week, 99.9999% of you don’t have time to learn a language and become totally fluent in it before traveling to a place in order to speak to locals. However, almost everyone has time to learn at least a few basic words in the language of wherever they are traveling.
Simple words and phrases go such a long way and often open doors to being able to speak with locals. Some of our favorite words and phrases to learn before traveling somewhere are:
Do you speak English?
Where is the _______?
Most people really appreciate your ability to try to learn their language and will be more willing to talk with you about recommendations and local tips. A little time spent on memorizing these phrases and words can make a world of a difference when traveling and give you a more authentic travel experience.
Being able to at least speak a little of the local language, will get you further than any guide book. We know it’s not always easy, and some languages are more difficult than others, but this small investment of time will absolutely pay off and let you have a travel experience closer to the local culture.
Check out the app Duolingo for simple language learning.
2. No Tour Groups
Being able to speak the local language will help bring you closer to the locals themselves, so why remove yourself from that and spend time with a tour group of…well…tourists!
We are not necessarily speaking ill about tour groups because they definitely have their benefits for certain travelers, but they are not the best way to travel if you want to be close to a destinations culture and have that authentic experience traveling.
It’s also important to acknowledge that not all tour groups are created equal either. Some are much better at helping travelers experience the place they are visiting, while others only allow you to see the highlights but keep you secluded from the actual destination.
Traveling on your own, either in a small group, as a couple, or solo, will help you experience the local culture much easier. In fact, traveling solo is one of the best ways you can have an authentic travel experience and get to know locals and their way of life because you are forced to interact with others, instead of isolating yourself with the people you are traveling with.
All in all, for the most authentic travel experience, it’s best to avoid tour groups and try to interact with locals, which bring us to our next way to have a more authentic experience while traveling.
3. Talk to Locals
Get out there and actually talk to locals!
While this may be difficult for introverts, it’s absolutely necessary to get immersed in local culture while traveling and have that authentic experience you are looking for.
Locals have the best tips, recommendations, and advice when it comes to what to do, where to eat, and insights on what’s not worth it when visiting.
Knowing the local language and avoiding tour groups is important because you can meet locals more easily. They can then tell you, or better yet show you, local secrets giving you a more authentic experience on your travels.
4. Free Tours
Most major cities throughout the world have free walking tours organized by local guides. These tours can be general tours or offer unique perspectives, such as architectural or historical.
The free tours are a great way to see what a local’s perspective of the city is and have a chance to get a local’s insight that a guide book just wouldn’t be able to tell you. You will also have the opportunity to ask the local guide about their recommendations and authentic experiences to have while visiting their city!
5. Avoid Chains and People Pulling You Into Restaurants
When you are traveling, you will undoubtedly be looking for places to eat at some point, or like every hour if you’re like us and just want to try everything!
However, finding a great local place that serves authentic local food can be difficult. You don’t want to be paying for some overpriced, shitty “local” food that they serve to tourists because tourists don’t know any better.
Every traveler out there wants to have a delicious, authentic meal that represents the local culture and cuisine, but finding this meal can be challenging for some. There are, however, a few tips to find authentic food when traveling.
Make sure to avoid chain restaurants. This may be totally obvious if you are thinking McDonald’s, Subway, or something like that, but take the time to look up if the place you are thinking about eating is a local chain, or a national chain in the country you’re visiting. Some restaurants are obviously chains, while others are more conspicuous, and chain restaurants won’t offer the most authentic travel experience when it comes to food.
In heavily touristed cities—think major cities in Europe, like Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, etc.—workers will be outside restaurants trying to convince travelers to come inside and try their absolutely fantastic food, while even offering special deals.
Don’t go into these restaurants.
The workers will be persistent, and if you hesitate and think about going in, they will continue to push. It can get annoying, but remember that it’s just their job. Be polite, even if you are annoyed, and don’t feel bad walking away and going somewhere with more authentic food.
If you are trying to find the most authentic local meal, once again, talk to locals. They can almost always point you in the right direction!
The final way to have a more authentic travel experience is to try to stay at an Airbnb.
In saying that, there are good Airbnbs and bad Airbnbs. Airbnb has caused huge housing displacement in some cities and forced locals out by turning city centers into tourist rental properties, which is why you should try to stay at Airbnbs with a host.
Many hosts buy properties and rent out the entire place forcing out local residents and skyrocketing nearby rent prices, in turn forcing out more locals. This is terrible.
If you see an Airbnb where you have a private room in a local’s apartment or house, that is the way to go. Likely, this person has extra space in their home and is just trying to make a little bit more money with it.
By staying with a host, it gives you a super easy way to talk to locals and find out excellent recommendations on how to have a more authentic travel experience wherever you are.
We have been able to experience many things we never would have seen had our Airbnb not recommended them, including some of our favorite restaurants! We’ve also avoided a few things we might have done and the host not told us they are scams or not worth visiting.
While traveling, it’s also important to keep in mind that you are a traveler and without staying in one place or a longer period of time of living there, it can be difficult to have a truly authentic local experience.
However, with these 6 tips of how to have a more authentic travel experience, you are more likely to experience local culture, avoid tourist traps and things not worth seeing or doing, and have that authentic travel experience you are looking for!
If you are looking for an authentic experience in your travels, we offer Travel Planning Services where we work with you to help you plan and book a trip that fits what you want to do, while giving you an authentic cultural travel experience, so you can learn about the place you are visiting.