How to meet locals while traveling

The best kind of travel helps you truly get to know your destination. If you want to have an authentic experience of your destination, there’s no better way than to meet the people who live there.

But this can be tricky. As a tourist, you’re shuffled along on a certain path every day — from hotel (likely in a business district, not residential) to attraction to restaurant to bar to hotel. It’s completely possible to go somewhere and never really see it.

A perfect example of this is Florence, Italy. Florence is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I recommend it highly; but the No. 1 complaint most people have about the ancient Tuscan town is that it can feel a bit like Disney World. Flooded with tourists, the only interaction you have with locals — especially during high season, from June through August — is with those who work in the tourism industry, serving your food and drink and checking you into your hotel.

Fortunately, it is possible to break from that path, but it takes conscious effort. It means overcoming shyness and positioning yourself where you’re likely to meet them. Here is my best advice for people who want to meet locals in their destination:

Note: In 2014, I wrote a weekly blog series on budget travel for eHow. This post is from that series, so you'll have to head over to their site to read it in full. Thanks for reading!

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Travel TipsMegan Van Groll