It is one thing to go to a new country and “see the sites” but if you want a deeper, enriching travel experience what you really want to do is “meet the locals.” Our world is filled with so many interesting places but in many cases, the most interesting part of traveling is getting to know a few local people and really seeing a new culture. Hang out with locals on your travels and you will learn more, make lifelong connections, and have unique travel experiences that you’ll never forget. So, yes, meeting and hanging out with locals on your travels is great… but how do you do that?
Stay With Locals
Stay in a hotel and the only locals you will probably meet are the ones working at the front desk. Hostels can sometimes be a better option since the locals working at hostels are often encouraged to hang out with guests. The best option by far though is to skip both and stay in a local family’s own home. You can do this a number of ways. Couchsurfing is a site where locals offer up space in their homes (sometimes on a couch other times in a private room) for free in hopes of promoting international friendship and exchange. Another option is a house-sharing website like Airbnb where locals rent out spare rooms in their homes for prices much less than local hotels. In both cases, you will have a chance to meet and interact with locals in their own homes, often sharing meals, getting great local travel tips, and making a new friend. In the end, if you can’t stay with locals, consider a locally-based travel company like Latin America For Less as they would have more local knowledge.
Research Local Groups Online
There are countless websites now that help people plan classes, meetups, and fun events in their local areas. Even if you are not a local though, many of these meetups and groups will be happy to let a traveler join. If you are into hiking, look up local hiking clubs and see if you can join them for an afternoon hike. Foodies can often find local dinner clubs or “puertas cerradas” for a unique dining experience with both other travelers and locals. You can also find classes and events online where you can meet locals and learn a new skill from calligraphy to pottery making at the same time. Strike up a conversation with a few locals at these events and you will often end up with more than a local connection, but a local friend.
Book a Walking Tour or Spend the Day with a Local Guide
Even if you don’t have a lot of time to get off the beaten path, you can still spend some time getting to know a local or two while “touring the sites.” Consider signing up for a walking tour which are lead by knowledgeable locals. They will show you around the city and they are filled with great tips on where to head to meet other locals or to at least get a feel for the local culture. Hiring a local guide can also be a great opportunity to interact and even become friends with a local. With Locals can facilitate these types of interactions for you. You can book anything with “your” local from a city tour to a meal in their home or even a cooking lesson! This is a great option in places like Asia where there might be a strong language barrier making it difficult to meet locals. Guides are of course there to show you the sites but are also usually more than happy to chat about the local culture and give you a few insights into local everyday life.
The best advice though for meeting and hanging out with locals is to smile. It is a universal sign understood by all and it makes you instantly more approachable. Share a smile and next thing you know, you might be introducing people to your “local friend.”