1. Go grocery shopping
Whether we are talking about a cool local market like Dolac market in Zagreb, or a standard supermarket chain store, one sure feels the vibes of a place when getting groceries like a local. Ah, nothing makes me feel more local than being lied to and cheated about prices and products by the locals at the market in Sibenik!
2. Go to the hair dresser
One of the experiences I enjoyed a lot during my recent stay in Como, Italy, was actually a really simple one – going to a hair salon. I don’t speak Italian and the stylist spoke only Italian, but we managed to figure it out. It was interesting for me to compare prices, too. I know you may not trust a new hair dresser (at least I don’t), but going for a simple procedure like a blow dry would do no harm.
3. Use the public transport
Not everyone uses the public transport in their own city. For instance, I have friends who haven’t used any bus lines in Sofia for years and are not even aware of the ticket price… Still, using the underground in London, the trams in Lisbon, or the ferries in Malta and mixing with the locals really makes a difference. A guy pushed me hard on an escalator in London’s underground because I was not standing on the right side. This is so London, if I have to be honest.
Even if you are staying in the city center and don’t need to use any transport, go for it.
4. Get a taxi or Uber
Similar to the previous point, riding a taxi or some kind of a shared drive service can lead to interesting conversations. After spending two years in a row in Croatia, a taxi driver in Sofia, Bulgaria, blew my mind with his personal life stories which were not at all appropriate to share. Another time, an Uber driver from Zagreb and I discussed religion and the impact it has on the Croatian youth.
5. Do something the locals are known for
Just like reading a book by Remarque calls for a glass of rum, some places call for a certain action. Eating gelato in Italy or croissants in France may sound like a cliché, but you would do it, wouldn’t you? Enjoy whatever it is the destination has to offer to the fullest. Observe what the locals are doing and do it yourself.
6. Celebrate with the locals
One of the loveliest memories I have from my honeymoon is being in Porto, Portugal for one of their most anticipated holidays, São João. We were not aware this day existed and happened to be in the city for its major holiday which was awesome. Everyone was out cooking on the streets, drinking, enjoying music and bumping each other’s heads with plastic hammers. As strange as it sounds, it was really fun, especially the first several times when people hit me and I couldn’t figure out why they would do such a silly thing…
Spending Christmas in Graz a couple of years ago gave me another perspective on that special time of the year, because everything was closed after 14:00 o’clock on the 24th of December, which would never happen in my hometown.
7. Spend enough time at the destination you visit
As a young woman, I usually spent a couple of nights at a new city and felt it was enough. Maybe due to my low budget, maybe because I tried visiting as many attractions as possible in a day, I felt this was enough. Getting older, I realize that to really feel a place one must spend a lot of time there. For instance, my recent trip to Malta lasted 8 days and I didn’t feel it was enough. Also, I spent 8 days in Como, Italy, which is not a large city by any means, and I felt the amount of time there was ok.
If you cannot spend a whole week at a place, try spending both weekdays and weekend days there. Como felt really different during a weekday compared to the weekend.