I’m big on living like a local, no matter where I am. What does that mean? It means that rather than standing in line to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I’m around the corner drinking kir and people watching. Rather than eating at the expensive tourist restaurant (which may not be as good as you’d like it to be), I’m eating where people who live in the neighborhood I’m staying in, eat.
I find that traveling this way makes for a more enjoyable experience for me. Here, I share my tips so you can travel the same way.
1. Skip the Hotel
Hotels are not what everyone wants. Instead, why not consider a vacation rental through home share sites. France also has great gites, so it’s worth the extra effort to see if there are any for rent in the area you’re visiting, or even house sitting and volunteering opportunities that offer board and lodging and the chance to really live life like a local.
Why You Should: Renting a home or apartment lets you feel like you live there, at least temporarily. Often, homeowners are more than happy to make great local recommendations for dining and things to see.
2. Shop at the Grocery Store
Of course I eat at restaurants when traveling, but what’s more fun is buying groceries and cooking. I love going to a store in any country because I can find new and interesting foods to try, and of course, because it’s generally cheaper.
Why You Should: You might stumble upon items that tourist shops mark up 200%! I bought a large bag of sea salt in Provence for less than €1. Look online for similar and it’s $10 or more!
3. Make a Friend
I tend to be introverted when I travel, but I still find that whenever I’m brave enough to strike up a conversation, I’m glad I did. In Saorge, we made friends with the owner of the apartment we rented. In addition to inviting us out for wine one night, he also invited us to his mountain home for a picnic. We got a first-hand tour of the 1-hour hike up the Piedmont Mountain where he lived, and an amazing meal, as well as a friend we will visit again and again.
Why You Should: A local will give you a different perspective from what you would get reading tour books.
4. Take a Tour
While having a tour guide doesn’t seem like a very “local” thing to do, it will help you get to know a city at the local level. Tour guides who are locals and love their cities know the best places to show you and steer you off the beaten path.
Why You Should: Tour books only take you so far, guides can take you to places that aren’t tourist landmarks but are really cool!
On your next trip to France (or beyond), shift your thinking on how you travel. What would a local do? Where do they spend time? I guarantee you’ll leave with a different view of a city than any tour book will give you!
When Susan Payton isn’t running her marketing company, she’s traveling and writing about it on The Unexplorer. She’s written several books (business, as well as travel) and has been published on Forbes, Mashable and other sites. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.