16 ways to get off the tourist trail


Ever tried to ‘get away from it all’ and then realised with a sinking heart that everyone else had the exact same idea as you? Here’s how to successfully wander off the beaten path.

  1. Don’t have too much of a plan. That way you’re free to explore and let yourself be taken to new and exciting places. Imagine if you passed up the travel opportunity of a lifetime because you were too busy trying to get to the Great Wall of China or the Machu Picchu?
  2. Talk to the locals. They’ll tell you more than any guide book or pinboard on the wall of a hostel will.
  3. Have the desire. Have a genuine interest in learning more about the area you’re in.
  4. Speak to others travellers. They’ve been there and done that.
  5. Hire a car and just drive, stopping anywhere that looks nice.
  6. Take a risk. If you haven’t heard of a place, visit it.
  7. Learn a bit of the language of the country/region you’re visiting – and not just “hello”, “thank you” and “beer please”. The locals love it if you’ve made the effort and are more likely to share tips and advice with you – and maybe invite you back to their family home for dinner.
  8. Try a homestay – you’ll be living with locals, eating with them and learning about them. Would you get that in a five-star all-inclusive hotel? If you’re a bit nervous about this, try couchsurfing. You’ll learn about how the locals live and work, instead of having to listen to your roommates bang on about the nightlife in Phuket.
  9. Volunteer to work with locals – from horse ranches to rice picking – as long as it’s not the type of work that only travellers do, such as fruit picking in Australia.
  10. Venture further afield. Outside of the commercial tourist areas, locals are much more likely to engage you in conversation and share their stories and knowledge with you. They might even offer you a place to stay!
  11. Be selective. Rip out the pages of the guidebook that you need – maps etc, and leave the rest at home – or use it as loo roll.
  12. Get clued up. If you insist on hauling a guide book around, at least get clued up on the lingo. Just like when you’re buying a house you know that ‘up and coming area’ means ‘crack addicts will be using your front step as a bed’, guide books try similar tricks.
  13. Avoid mega famous sights. If it’s been featured in a film or TV show, avoid like the plague.
  14. Blend in with the locals. If you look like a tourist, people will harass you constantly to get you to stay in their expensive hotel or buy their fake watches. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to lose that hilarious slogan T-shirt.
  15. Wander. Put the map away and just go. Ask the locals where you should eat, drink and visit. They know better than a journalist in an office in London putting together the latest guide book without leaving the building.
  16. Be nice. When interacting with locals, don’t act like they owe you something. Show them respect and they’ll do the same for you.