When it comes to putting together the ultimate travel experience, the twin pillars that any savvy globetrotter aspires to are affordability and authenticity. We travel to new places to absorb a different culture and immerse ourselves in a new way of life, and this can only be achieved by prioritising authentic, local experiences. On the other hand, we also don't want our travels to break the bank, so it's important to save money wherever you can. Luckily, these two aren't mutually exclusive, and actually go together hand in hand! Here's your guide to travelling authentically and saving money while doing it.
What's more important than good food? One of our favourite activities when on the road is eating, whether it's authentic Spanish paella, Vietnamese pho or Indian roti, some of the most memorable travel experiences are the ones we can taste. However, making the most of authentic local cuisine whilst spending low is an art form in itself, and requires a little bit of savvy and insider knowledge.
First of all you need to follow the locals at lunchtime. In most cities in the world, particularly outside the UK and US, workers of all stripes and occupations will descend on certain local eateries during the lunch hour. This might be a cantina, or a busy marketplace, or just everyone's favourite local trattoria, and to find out where that is all you need to do is hang around a busy district until about 12-1pm, and see where the floods of suited and uniformed worker bees head off to. These places will likely be a lot cheaper than your average touristy restaurant as well, so you'll save a pretty penny.
Another safe bet is a little known secret known as embassy canteens. In many cities, particularly in Europe, the foreign embassies will have a public area with a canteen that is usually meant for official visitors and diplomatic staff. However, anyone is entitled to enter, and they don't tend to ask what you're doing. It's a really great way to try authentic national dishes at hugely discounted prices. If you're hankering for Russian food, hit up the Russian embassy, if you want poutine, head to the Canadian embassy, and so on!
Where you decide to rest your head can make or break a good trip, so you need to choose wisely. You'll need to find the right neighbourhood to start with, which usually means a lot of research. The main things you should be looking for are areas away from the main tourist attractions that are residential but still lively, and aren't too posh to have forced out the locals. Think Neukolln in Berlin, Trastevere in Rome, Green Point in Brooklyn, Silver Lake in Los Angeles and so on. Getting the mix just right is crucial.
Once you've found a place, always try to see what bonuses and freebies you can get ahold of. Lots of industries all over the world are more than happy to give you things for free as long as you're ballsy enough to ask for them, with even online casinos like Oddschecker having jumped on the free bandwagon to keep customers happy. Just rock up and see if you can bag an upgrades or free food. In the case of many local hotels, simply asking for an upgrade can have up to a 60% success rate, so don't be afraid to test your chances.
The only way to get a true feel of the essence of a new place is to hang out with the locals. That doesn't mean dropping heaps of cash on upscale restaurants or going shopping, it means doing what normal people, not tourists, would do. Just hanging out in town squares anywhere in the world is a great way to get a snapshot of local life and maybe making some friends, and if you can crack open a beer in public, all the better!
Also do your reading and see where to locals go. Forums and events sites like Resident Advisor and Reddit can tell you everything you need to know about how locals live, and it likely won't break the bank!
If you have any recommendations for our readers on how to save money and live like a local, let us know!