How to go local when traveling

Taking a trip overseas is all about broadening your cultural horizons and stepping out of your comfort zone.

But, far too many of us just stick to what we know. Next time you find yourself in a foreign land, why not indulge your adventurous side and completely immerse yourself in a foreign culture?

Here are four ways to go local when traveling afar.

One of the most exciting aspects of traveling is the chance to expand your culinary horizons and sample the local cuisine. Unfortunately, many tourists eschew these gastronomic opportunities in favor of familiar fare.

For a more immersive traveling experience, try getting tips from the locals or hotel concierge on the best local hotspots, and find out as much as possible about the native specialties.

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“If you’re going to eat local, be prepared to ask wait staff and fellow diners for advice on the best food to try, what it is, how it is prepared, and also how to eat it” says Dean Foster, travel expert and contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler.

Remember, dining protocols and etiquette can vary greatly between different countries, so try finding out about the proper customs before you eat.

Music has been a cornerstone of culture since mankind’s earliest days. It transcends language barriers, soothes the soul and reveals much about a culture’s history and spirit.

One of the best ways to experience a new culture is to seek out authentic indigenous music at a local theater or venue. Alternatively, for a more hands-on approach, local nightlife usually provides a great way to sample the local beats and interact with the natives.

When traveling, try not to let yourself get held back by language barriers. After all, you don’t need to be fluent to communicate with the locals. You might be surprised at how far a basic understanding and a few core phrases will go when you’re abroad.

“Most people are eager to help you understand their language and are very grateful when you make even the slightest effort to speak theirs,” says Foster.

After gaining a basic understanding of the language, Foster encourages travelers to be as inquisitive as possible.

“Ask, engage, respectfully and humbly, and your experience will be far richer for being far more local, than if you just stay protected in the antiseptic tourist bubble," Foster says.

Vacation time is often limited, so prior research can help you maximize those precious few days. Try finding out as much about the destination, the people and the culture before embarking on your travels.

Check tourist guides and travel websites for recommendations from fellow travelers on the various cultural hotspots, and get information on nightlife, restaurants, sights, attractions – preferably from locally written sources. You should also research the best ways to steer clear of the tourist traps and where to venture off the beaten path.