How to acquire local knowledge on your holiday
Just how can you get hold of the vital local know-how on holiday that can provide you with a much more authentic (and often rewarding) experience?
When you go on holiday it often requires taking that extra bit of effort to really scratch under the surface of the place. It's all too easy to stick to the well-trodden tourist trails, but the danger of this is that you may miss the chance to really get to know a place properly and experience it at its best.
Ask hotel staff
If you're staying at a hotel, one of the most effective ways to acquire local information is to ask the staff. From the best restaurants to visit, to lesser-known local attractions, and how to get from A to Z cheaply, those who live and work in the destination will know everything that you want to know. Of course, you're not always guaranteed to get completely impartial advice. The hotel manager's brother might own the restaurant or taxi firm that they recommended, for instance, but it does, at least, give you the opportunity to explore for yourself.
Consult review websites
Ideally, this is something that you can do before you go on holiday, but if you haven't had time, get online during your stay and consult review websites such as TripAdvisor to find out what people are saying about the place. Guidebooks are still a good bet for general information, but advice can date quickly.
Wander off the beaten track
Much of what you can discover about an unfamiliar place will involve asking locals or those who know the area well, but let your own senses guide you whilst you are there. Have a good wander around the area and form your own impressions. Don't be afraid to verge away from the usual tourist haunts, as you can often stumble upon a great gem of a restaurant, cafe, bar or local handicrafts shop, just a street or two away from the main tourist throng. Quality often tends to be higher, prices cheaper and you're likely to encounter a more authentic experience. If you find somewhere that seems hidden away and looks busy, that's a good sign.
Take a guided tour
Often one of the best ways to gain local knowledge about a place is to take a guided tour with an expert who knows the area well. These can vary significantly in quality, so do your research beforehand to find a tour that provides everything you want to find out. Some tours, for instance, may offer a more historical slant than others, so if you want to understand the heritage of a place, this may be preferable.
Learn the lingo
It makes it much easier to get under the skin of a place if you understand a bit of the local language. Knowing a few words will make it easier to connect with locals and ask them questions about the location, and they will appreciate you making the effort.