I feel like there is a lot of debate on the tourism v. local living topic when you’re traveling. I am personally on the side of doing both. While yes, it is great to see the sights of what that place is known for, I think it’s also worth taking the time to walk around and take it in as a local. So in today’s post, I thought I would talk about how to balance tourism with living like a local when you’re traveling.
See the sights you want to see
My first and biggest tip is to just go and see the sights you want to see. You’re already spending a good chunk of change to travel, so you might as well sightsee. This is my philosophy when it comes to traveling. If I’m visiting a new city (like I will this weekend), I want to make sure to see the sights I want to see. For example, on my list for Chicago is the Art Institute, the Bean, and the Sky Tower. Everything else will be left to chance. Bottom line, your trip is for you, so make sure to take the chance to see what you want to see because you don’t know if you’ll ever make it back to that destination.
Walk the city
To balance out the sightseeing, take some time to walk the city. Any major city is going to be very walkable, with everything pretty close together. You’ll probably find some hidden gems or explore some neighborhoods that you originally weren’t intending to in the first place. Plus, you can really take in the city, the architecture, and the people. I loved walking around London, Paris, and Tokyo. You end up stumbling upon some really cool shops and photographic spots along the way. Plus, it’s a great way to get your steps in!
When it comes to food, check out local restaurants or bistros for local fare. These places are easy to find and often times a lot less expensive than a larger chain restaurant. My all-time favorite food deal was in Montmartre in Paris — my mom and I got a three-course authentic French dinner (French Onion soup, duck, and creme brûlée), all for 21 euros! This way, you get to try some authentic food in the place you are going. However, once in a while, a chain like McDonalds is fun to go to in a foreign country just to check out what’s on its menu and sample some of it for yourself!
Take public transportation
Other than walking, I love utilizing a city’s public transportation system, specifically, the metro. Major cities such as London, Paris, New York, and Tokyo all have great public transportation systems that take you exactly where you need to go at a low cost. Many places also have train systems you can utilize to get outside the city pretty affordably. For crowded cities where taxis are expensive, the metro can save you time and money. Plus, you really get the experience of how locals get around on a day-to-day basis.
Buy city/transportation passes
One of the tricks I’ve found to seeing all the sights and getting around quickly, easily, and affordably is to take advantage of city passes. Places like London often have a city pass you can purchase for the duration of you stay to get you into all the major tourist attractions. My mom and I did this when we were in London, and it saved us a bunch of money. Instead of paying for everything separately, we could pay a flat fee and get all the attractions we want to see. Similarly, you can do the same thing for the train system. In Japan, I got the Japan Rail Pass, which allowed me to travel locally around the city on a specific train line and go to different parts of the country via the bullet train. The cost of the pass was much less than what a roundtrip bullet train ticket would have cost, so it was a win-win.
So these are my biggest tips for balancing tourism and living like a local. What are your tips?