Photo by Artem Beliaikin
Whether you’re traveling to a tourist destination or going somewhere off the beaten path, shopping like a local has its perks. It’ll engrain you in new and interesting cultures, it’s usually cheaper, and you’ll be helping your destination boost their local economy. As a bonus, shopping like a local is usually a more sustainable activity than going to big-box stores or falling into tourist trap shops.
But, how can you shop (and eat) like a local while traveling? How can you enjoy the same things as the people around you without falling victim to flashy restaurants and overpriced markets?
Let’s cover a few tips that will put you in the thick of local shopping and dining culture, so you can get the full experience of a specific location and culture.
Go Beyond the Brochure
The best place to start if you want to shop like a local is to ask the concierge at your hotel where to go. They’re used to providing tourists with information. But, they also live in the area! If you specifically ask them for information about places you can go that aren’t on any travel brochures, they’ll likely be more than happy to tell you.
If you’re not staying in a hotel or you want to immerse yourself in the local lifestyle, walk around the neighborhood wherever you’re staying (as long as it’s safe). Seek out local hot spots and talk to people who live there. You’ll quickly find out everything from the best places to eat to the best bargains you can find.
Going off the beaten path might require you to get out of a larger metropolitan area, so make sure you have adequate transportation wherever you’re traveling. You can stay within your budget by optimizing your driving and maintaining your rental car’s efficiency to save on gas, so you won’t feel as bad about driving a few extra miles to go somewhere beyond the typical tourist trap locations.
Immerse Yourself in the Experience
If you go to local markets or individual small businesses, do your best not to appear so “touristy.”
That might be easier said than done when you have no idea what you’re getting into. But, if you want to shop like a local, getting to a store, market, or restaurant is only the first step. You don’t have to know what you’re looking for when you’re shopping. But, it’s important to understand the quality of whatever you want to buy.
Ask questions and expect detailed answers from the shopowner. They may have made the item themselves. If not, they likely know where it came from and how it’s made.
One of the great things about shopping like a local is being able to bargain. In fact, a shop owner will usually be more likely to cut a deal with you if you don’t just hand over your credit card or cash right away. Keep these tips in mind to bargain the right way:
Be willing to walk away – don’t act like you need a specific item
Tell the owner you’re going to “think about” it
Learn some local language and slang
Show the shop owner what you’re willing to pay
When you’re on a budget, bargaining is a fantastic way to save some money at local markets and shops. It might feel a little unfamiliar at first since it’s not an everyday practice in the U.S. But, bargaining is extremely common in many other countries and can earn you some respect.
Why It’s Important
Feeling like you’re “included” in what some of the locals do is fun and exciting. It’s a great way to feel less like a tourist and more like a part of something bigger than yourself. But, there’s a greater purpose to shopping like a local, no matter where you are.
Yes, it helps to boost local economic efforts. But, if you’re trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, choosing local shops and markets over chain restaurants and big-box stores will always be more eco-friendly.
Shopping small usually helps with efforts including:
Carbon emissions (less supply chain travel)
Accountability to specific communities
When you shop small, you’re also more likely to get quality goods. Many small business owners or people who run market booths make their own items and grow their own food. You won’t have to worry about “fast fashion” or handmade items breaking down a few weeks after purchasing them. That creates less waste. By choosing to shop with artisans who are passionate about sustainability, you’ll take things one step further in your eco-friendly efforts.
Whether you’re a frequent traveler or you’re looking to gain something more from your yearly vacation, keep these ideas in mind to shop like a local. You’ll create an unforgettable, immersive experience for yourself while doing something good for the economy and the planet.
Sea Going Green is a sustainable tourism consultancy specialized in measuring and mitigating the environmental impact of clients. Once this impact has been measured, we provide custom strategies to lower their impact and engage tourists to take part in their sustainability journey.
Want to know more about what we could do for your business? Schedule a call.
Whether you’re traveling to a tourist destination or going somewhere off
the beaten path, shopping like a local has its perks. It’ll engrain you in
new and interesting cultures, it’s usually cheaper, and you’ll be helping
your destination boost their local economy.
Read more about how you can get the full experience of a specific location
and culture by shopping like a local.Read MoreSustainable LivingBlog – Sea Going Green