Living Like a Local: Affordable Alternatives to Tourist Hotspots

Traveling to a new place, whether for work or pleasure, means immersing yourself in a culture that isn’t your own. While it can be nice to experience some of the most popular tourist destinations, it’s worth bearing in mind that there are usually affordable alternatives to these spots that are just as entertaining, while letting you live like a local.

Here are some tips and alternatives to typical tourist hotspots that will help you have a unique, culture-filled experience without breaking the bank.

Ditch the Typical Tourist Restaurant and Eat Where the Locals Do

Dining out is always a great way to familiarize yourself with the local cuisine. Unfortunately, tourist restaurants located in popular areas can be overpriced and often don’t provide a very authentic experience.

For a local spin on dining, you could try:

• Walking a few blocks further away from the major tourist hubs. You’ll usually find prices lower the further away you get from these areas, plus you’ll see more “real” establishments that the locals frequent.

• Asking the locals. If you’re staying somewhere like an Airbnb, you could also ask your hosts or any local friends you make what their favorite spot is. Chances are, they’ll recommend something that isn’t in the guidebooks.

• Researching online. Sites and blogs that are targeted towards locals are some of the best resources for finding delicious, unique, and affordable restaurants.

Stay with a Local Instead of Going for the Usual Hotels

Staying in a hotel is an obvious choice for travelers, especially when your budget is limited. For more affordable and local options, some alternatives are:

• House-sitting. If you’re an animal lover, you may be able to arrange some house (or pet)-sitting jobs instead of shelling out for a room. Websites like TrustedHousesitters offer a range of opportunities across the globe, and they may even give you access to the kitchen, so you can whip up some local dishes too.

• Hostels. Hostels are typically cheaper than hotels and often give a much better insight into the culture of the city you’re visiting. Plus, they often offer a shared kitchen, providing a great opportunity to meet other guests and whip up a meal together.

• Couchsurfing. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the safest option, so if you’re a solo traveler, it’s best to proceed with caution. Still, this is one of the most cost-effective ways to stay somewhere with a local and gain an insight into the place you’re visiting.

Don’t Overlook Free Activities in Favor of Pay-to-Enter Hotspots

When seeking out activities for your itinerary, try to think about the type of activities you can do for free as well as those you’ll have to pay for.

Free activities are great for tourists because they can often give you the time to take a leisurely walk and explore the city, or perhaps visit a lesser-known museum or park.

Some no-cost activities can include:

• Taking a free walking tour. There are often free guided tours that can give you a comprehensive overview of the city’s history and cultural spots. Look out for tours that are advertised on tourist websites as well as free events offered by the local government.

• Visiting public parks. In some cities, you can also visit public parks for free or at a relatively low cost. These parks often offer great views and may even host events such as film screenings or concerts.

• Engaging in cultural events. During your stay, there may be events taking place that are open to the public. These could include open-air concerts, street markets, or even festivals. Check out local newspapers and websites for announcements.

Travel Smarter to Save Money

Finding the most efficient way to get around is one of the best ways to save money when you’re traveling.

Forgetting the fancy cabs and private vehicles, some smarter public transportation options include:

• Subway. If you’re visiting a big city, try and use the subway system as much as possible. Depending on the country you’re visiting, there may also be discounts available for travelers.

• Buses. While not always the quickest way to get around, buses can often be the cheapest, especially if you’re visiting smaller towns.

• Taxis. If you’d rather take a private vehicle, try and avoid hailing a cab from the street and look into a ride-share app, as you can get discounted rates this way.

Visiting tourist hotspots when traveling doesn’t mean you’re locked into high prices and crowded spots. If you’re looking to experience a place authentically and affordably, use the tips above to avoid the usual tourist crowd and find ways to live like a local.