I live in and work just outside of Washington DC. This means I encounter dozens of tourists every single day. And it occurs to me daily that often, as soon as people become tourists, they forget what it is to be a local. Here are some tips and reminders for your next trip!
- Stop at the Grocery store for water and snacks. If you live in New York, Paris, Tokyo or anywhere in between you never pay $5 (5 Euro or 500 Yen) for a bottle of water. When you are local, you usually bring a snack from home, a bottle of water or even a refillable bottle. The same theory applies while traveling, stop at a grocery store or even a newsstand/kiosk in town and you will save yourself both frustration and money.
- Don’t eat at the tourist sights. Likewise, rarely is it a good idea to have lunch or dinner at a tourist attraction. There are obviously some exceptions, but for the most part, these will be expensive, crowded and not particularly good. I wager that regardless of what city you live in, you’ll agree that some of the best places to eat and relax are just 1-2 blocks off the main drag. It is really no different in a city you are visiting.
- Remember that people live and work in the city you are visiting. If using public transportation, especially during rush hour, remember that people are trying to get to or from work. Don’t clog up the escalators by standing on both sides and don’t stop the second you get off an escalator to figure out where you are. Step off to the side. Likewise, the same applies for entrance ways and sidewalks. These are not a place to congregate, figure out where you are or to walk 4 across.
- Keep your voice down. If you are eating out, visiting a church or in a business district. Locals are likely having dinner with families, discussing work or even praying.
- Ask questions and watch the locals. Have you ever once not tried to help a tourist who asked you for help? It is no different elsewhere in the world. People will almost always go out of their way to help you. And you will probably get some valuable advice and learn something you didn’t know. And if you are too intimidated or not sure how to ask, just watch people!
It’s exotic and new to you. But it is home to thousands (or even millions) of others. There are some key times to remember what you do at home and bring those instincts and habits with you. It will make your trip more enjoyable for yourself and those you encounter.