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Ways to Experience Any City Like a Local


travel in hanoi

When you’re headed to an unfamiliar city, and your goal is to avoid the touristy neighborhoods and see how the locals live, how can you get the authentic flavor of a place fast? Here’s how travel experts and savvy frequent travelers do it.

1. Hit the supermarket.

“There are usually very few tourists there, so you can watch the locals go about their business and check out all the unfamiliar foods and brands on the shelves.  Bonus: Grocery stores are the most affordable places to buy edible souvenirs to bring home.”

2. Take the public bus.

“Especially in London or New York City. In London, with an Oyster Card, you can travel all day by bus for ‘free’ once you reach a minimum daily spend. Some cities have unlimited day or weekly passes (sadly, not N.Y.C. any longer).  You can often hear interesting conversations and see the same sites you’d see on a tourist bus.”

3. Go for a run.

“It’s the best way to get a feel for the landscape through the eyes of someone—a runner—who lives there. Map My Run has good, local intelligence on the best running routes.”

4. Rent an apartment.

“I like to rent an apartment rather than stay at a hotel to get a sense of what it is like to live in a new place. I shop the local grocery store, and walk or take the bus to immerse myself in a new place.”

5. Talk to strangers.

“I just pick someone with an ‘open’ face and either compliment them or ask a random question.  In Poland I’ve gotten tips this way – from a cool local restaurant to ideas for a nice walk.  In Vienna I’ve gotten great local shopping tips this way:  Locals are always better dressed than me, so I compliment them on it!”

6. Seek out farmers’ markets.

“Farmers’ markets are great not just for shopping, but because they’re in neighborhoods where people live and work—and you get to see what’s grown and/or made where you are at that moment.”

7. Go to church.

“I attend church. The people are wonderfully welcoming, and it is interesting to see the differences in congregations. A bonus is often a concert, supper, or other church-related event that is certainly not on the usual tourist itinerary.”

8. Play your favorite sport.

“Find out if there is a pick-up basketball / soccer game, a good place to swim, a local surfing break, a skate park, or whatever.  Sports unite people, and you’ll make fast friends who may turn you on to local attractions or even invite you to their home!”

9. Find a park.

“Head to the nearest green space for a family outing. If the weather is nice, picnic, if not, just take a stroll. Even in very touristy areas, parks always attract locals. Bring a ball or frisbee and you may find opportunities for your children to play with local children, the ultimate joy in local engagement.”

10. Get a haircut.

“I always go to a traditional barbershop. I’ve had my hair cut in about 40 international cities and towns—Rome to Rio, Sicily to Shanghai. The group hanging out there invariably likes to chat and has lived there forever, and the ‘ceremony’ of the haircut is a little different everywhere, but taken very seriously and in a way that often gives you a feel for the way men interact.”


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Add: 64 Trieu Viet Vuong St., Hai Ba Trung Dist., Hanoi, Vietnam.



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