8 Reasons to Start Traveling Like a Local

Spotted by Locals started in 2008 as a way to provide travelers with an alternative to the classic tourist guide. As a way to get off the beaten track and to really start exploring a city. But why is it so much better to see a destination through a local’s eyes? We give you 8 good reasons. Hopefully that will be enough to persuade you!

1. You get to avoid the crappy tourist crowds…

Piazza San Marco Venice

This clearly isn’t the image of Piazza San Marco in Venice that you had in mind (by Camille Van Puymbroeck)

Let’s be honest, nothing is as frustrating as when you’re looking around and everyone is holding the same tourist guide as you. Maybe they’re even doing the same route. Which means you’ll be bumping into that annoying couple all day long. On top of that, the most touristy places are often a bit overrated. Maybe they weren’t at the beginning but now they’re just so well-known that it gets a bit boring. Yes, the Sacré Coeur in Paris definitely has its charm. But there’s the overly loud people in front, the multicolored miniature Eiffel Towers being sold everywhere, and the fact that you just can’t manage to find a seat. Takes away a lot of the initial charm. While the usual tourist guide will try to hide this ugly truth from you, locals won’t. They know how frustrating it is.

2. … and see the best spots

View from Hostel Les Piaules in Paris (by Adam Roberts)

View from Hostel Les Piaules in Paris (by Adam Roberts)

Instead of telling you to go to the Sacré Coeur, they’ll tell you from which street you have the best view over the landmark. And which spot is the best to enjoy the city’s skyline. It takes a while before you know these things – sometimes it even takes a lifetime – so it’s logical that your usual tourist guide won’t know this. Sometimes you have to wander through the most boring neighborhoods to find that one hidden gem of a viewpoint. Or that one almond croissant that’s simply mouthwatering. It would be too easy and not fun at all if everything would just be within reach. Sometimes it takes luck, other times knowledge, yet another time timing.

3. A local knows when to go where

Piazza San Marco Venice

All alone at Piazza San Marco – except for the pigeons and some newlyweds (by Camille Van Puymbroeck)

Yes, timing is key. In loads of different ways. Of course, there are the seasons. Do you need to visit that one national park during summer or winter or somewhere in between? What’s the best season to eat the local fish delicacy? Time of day can also matter. Just like time of the week. A local will be able to tell you the exact hour at which you need to buy your vegetables at the farmer’s market. And whether or not it’s a good idea to visit that museum on a Friday. Maybe there’s some kind of festivity going on which means that you’re almost entirely alone to visit the local cathedral? And last but not least, some places are just doomed to get touristy. Only a local will be quick enough to spot it in time. Making sure you can visit it before everyone else will. Timing truly is a tricky thing.

4. You don’t feel like an outsider

Venice local

Feeling out of place? Travel like a local and you won’t (by Camille Van Puymbroeck)

Do you know that feeling when you’re visiting a city and you feel like you don’t really belong? Like it’s obvious to everyone that you’re a tourist? There’s nothing wrong with that of course unless it bothers you. What you need then is a local to tell you how to perfectly blend in. Where to blend in. Maybe it’s just not done to uncover your shoulders? Or maybe that one place is known as a tourist trap – meaning that every single person who’s not a tourist will know that you are. When you don’t stand out as much from the locals, it’s also easier to feel at home. Which is one of the greatest achievements when you’re traveling around.

5. Making friends is easier

Spottersweekend local

Our Spotters found some good friends in each other! (by Maarten van Poll)

Although it’s interesting to mix different cultures, looking like a tourist and not visiting the local spots can make it difficult to make contact. If, however, you go to that one bar that’s only visited by regulars they may start to talk to you because they’re curious. How did you hear about the place? Do you like it? Did you try the local liquor? And you’re off for an interesting evening. They may give you some more tips for your next days or you might have started a lifelong friendship. You never know but it’s definitely practical to have friends from all over the world.

6. It’s better for the environment and the economy

Market Athens

Try going to a local market instead of a supermarket chain (by Marilena Salamanou)

Not buying your groceries at the supermarket but at the local market instead means two things. Your environmental footprint is smaller as the ingredients are locally sourced. And you support the local farmers instead of the big multinationals. The same goes for a café with local brews, a shop with handcrafted pottery from in town, and a hotel that employs people who have difficulty with finding a job elsewhere. If everything would work this way, the world would be a better place and that’s what we’re aiming at.

7. It’s cheaper

Where to drink cheap beers in Milan? At Colonne di San Lorenzo apparently (by Matteo Banchi)

It’s quite logical that tourist attractions try to make money off of it. Tourists have the means so why not charge them a little more? As long as the benefits are put to good use we can only encourage that. Sadly, that’s not how it goes most times. When you visit the local alternatives, however, you really can make a change. Maybe it’s your 5 euros that lacked to make a restoration happen. Locals always know where the food has the best value for money and which people can use it to do something meaningful. Besides, when you just happen to bump into a local garden party on the edge of Florence, there really is no better feeling in the world at that moment.

8. It’s just more fun!

Malta Valetta local

Not your usual Instagram picture (by Camille Van Puymbroeck)

You might get it by now but traveling like a local has a lot of benefits. Literally and figuratively. But the best of all is that you get to have more fun and make more (unique) memories. Every destination has its own specifics and those often get a bit lost at the main tourist attractions. Besides, you don’t want to end up with exactly the same Instagram feed as everyone else, do you? So, get off the beaten path, let go, and just enjoy.


Do you want to know more about traveling like a local? Read about our philosophy or watch some of our Spotters’ testimonies about why they like being a Spotter!

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Last Changed Date: 2016-05-19 11:45:13 +0200 (Thu, 19 May 2016)