When traveling to foreign places, your best guide to discovering a city is through its residents. They know the best kept secrets of the locality, which can likely be those not disclosed in your travel guide!
If you are lucky, you just might find a friendly and generous local that will introduce you to a group of other friendly and generous locals. Before you know it, you are being led to one remarkable spot after another. If you are even luckier, you just might get a nice dinner with new found friends at the end of the day.
I always tell friends not to pass up on the opportunity to meet the “locals” of the destination they visit. The “locals” will not only show you the best spots, they will also give you a rich insight into the very soul of their community – the culture of its people. It has always brought a treasure of great memories with extraordinary individuals. In fact, some of them are a part of my network of friend that I continue to stay in contact with.
Where do you find “locals” and how do you connect with them? I’ve learned from my long years of traveling that most do not hang out in the same places the tourists do. You may have noticed that in the tourist spots you mostly find just a handful of local guides, a throng of tourists and a bunch of souvenir vendors. The same goes for restaurants catering to tourists where the food is over-priced and the crowd is composed of travelers whose knowledge of the area is limited for the most part to what is stated in their travel guides.
Go instead to parks, markets, coffee shops and bars near a local neighborhood. It is where the locals usually chill out with their families or their friends. Be friendly. Smile at them and greet them. You should remember that locals usually take pride in their home towns and are most likely to show you the best parts of their region. So, a sincere interest and appreciation of the area and customs will win you a lot of friendly faces and some great destination suggestions.
If I find someone who looks interesting, I always make it a point to ask for directions from them – even when I know exactly where I’m going. It’s an effective way to start a conversation. You can also ask for suggestions on which part of the town is worth exploring.
Also, one of the best places to meet friendly and helpful local folks is in a church. If you are a churchgoer, visit a local church. The members are always happy to meet a new face and will go the extra mile to extend a helping hand.
Finally, a charity event, a concert or a Sunday market also provide great opportunities for a local connection. Go where the locals go and mingle. You will find out that it is a very satisfying, rewarding and enjoyable way of experiencing a new region.
Where have you gone to connect with the locals?