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For the longest time, I thought the best way to have an authentically local experience was to avoid touristy cities. I’ve gone out of my way to visit places like Telouet in Morocco or Laguna Lachua in Guatemala and absolutely, I escaped all throngs of tourists and enjoyed my explorations.
Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to find off-the-beaten path destinations. The internet has made it much easier for travelers to learn about previously hidden sites. Overall, I think that’s a good thing, but it does mean that you’re likely to find a crowd just about everywhere you go.
So what should you do? Skip the big name cities and head somewhere you’ve never heard of? Maybe sometimes, but that means you’ll also miss out on some global favorites — these places attract travelers for a reason!
Luckily, I have a secret on how to have the best of both worlds. It works for me, 9 times out of 10, no matter where I am. Even after I tell you, it’s guaranteed to continue working. It’s simple and provides huge rewards for the little effort it requires.
I call it…the 100-meter rule
All you have to do is walk 100 meters off the main drag. You’d be amazed at how often this 60-second walk away from souvenir shops and English-language menus can lead to surprisingly authentic experiences. After all, locals still live and work in these cities and therefore have “real” experiences every day. Even the most touristy of neighborhoods usually still have a local hideaway nearby for workers trying to grab a lunch break or a taxi driver who’s stationed in that part of town.
Taking the time — even just a minute — to head in the opposite direction of every one can help you find genuine experiences no matter where you are. Just the other day, instead of eating at a mediocre, overpriced restaurant in the center of town, I found myself eating a feast of fish, rice noodles, and vegetables for $3.50…as long as I agreed to sing karaoke. Thank goodness for new friends and local beer to help me get through “Hotel California.”
So next time you’re thinking about how to avoid tourist traps, don’t sweat the details of which cities to go to and which ones to skip. Head to the places you want to visit and just be sure to take part of your day to head 100 meters off the main drag…then let me know if it worked for you.
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8 thoughts on “How to Avoid Tourist Traps”
The first time I visit a place, I tend to stay in the ‘traps’. Until I know the area better, I’m hesitant to wander too far off!
@Scott, Does it matter where you’re traveling? Sometimes there are great finds even a block away (and that can be in the USA too, where communication/safety usually aren’t an issue).
Your travel tips are great. I love the 100 meter rule.
Thank you so much for sharing this! My favorite part of traveling is finding the spots that everyone else just misses!
@Audrey, There’s something special about that!
We haven’t traveled much, but when we do, I can’t wait to try the 100-meter rule. It sounds like a great way to explore without having to stray too far in places we are unfamiliar of.
@Erika, It’s all about balance. Getting deep into local neighborhoods can be fun, but potentially uncomfortable.
Yep. Sometimes not even 100 meters. 20 steps down a tiny street in Istanbul got me away from $3 coffee to the world of locals squatting on cushions and 50-cent coffee.