Follow the locals experiences from travelers all over the world

Following the locals has turned into our travel style. We realized this is how our travels become more authentic, more real and more entertaining. So whenever we have the chance, we try to follow locals in their everyday lifestyle or their adventures, we stumble upon situations we could have never imagined.

We asked around and it turned out a lot of people do travel “follow-the-locals” style. That’s how some of the most fascinating stories ended up in this post. So without further ado, here’s a collection of “Follow the locals” stories. Travelers sharing their ultimate experiences on the road, following the locals.

Rice fields of Ubud

My discovery of the Rice fields of Ubud in Bali was entirely accidental and down to the kindness of a local lady. Many visitors to Ubud will know of the beauty of this small town. Stunning ancient ruins and buildings, an incredible monkey forest and for me the stunning rice terraces.

Being my very first day in any part of Asia I was suffering a little cultural shock. I decided I would take a short walk around the town to see what it was all about. This was a few years ago when I didn’t do much research about the places I was visiting.

As I made my way through some streets away from the center of town I was approached by an elderly lady who at first, I believed was trying to sell me something. At first, I pretended to not be interested, but when I realized she had nothing to sell I was slightly intrigued she pointed towards a path that looked to me as if it led to nothing but as she led the way I decided to follow.

A few meters up the path it opened into a stunning Rice paddy, which you couldn’t see from where I was standing on the path below. The women smiled and walked back towards the town leaving me to wander through the Rice terrace at my leisure.

Afterward, I realized that she must have believed this is what I was looking for, I guess I looked a little more confused than I realized.

Even though I wasn’t in search of the Rice paddies I am very happy that this lady was kind enough to guide me on what she believed was the correct path. Any visitor to Ubud will know what I mean when I say it is truly beautiful.

Follow Dolly’s adventures on her blog and on Facebook.

Follow the locals in the rice fields of Ubud, Bali

Cycling in Barbados

We recently went on holiday to Barbados. As usual, we wanted to squeeze in some cycling. “You’re mad!” everyone said. “Don’t you know it’s super hot and the roads are insane?”

We ignored them. We spotted some local cyclists out riding and asked their advice. “Cycling in Barbados is brilliant,” they said. “Just go early and go east”.

By early, they meant 5:30 am.

So we dragged ourselves out of bed and, with the cockerels crowing, hopped on our bikes. We did as they suggested and headed east, away from the busy south and west coasts of Barbados. We headed up towards Bathsheba, the Ermy Bourne Highway, and Cherry Tree Hill. Out there you leave the traffic behind you and see the real Barbados.

We passed brightly colored rum shops, traditional chattel houses on stilts, deserted beaches and abandoned cotton mills. The roads were quiet, the sky was clear and the countryside was stunning.

Our advice: if you’re in Barbados and want to cycle, follow the locals’ advice.

You can find out more about this experience in the comprehensive guide to cycling Barbados. Or keep up to date with EpicRoadRides adventures by following them on Facebook.

Follow the locals and do Cycling in Barbados -

Follow the monks in Thailand

I used to live in rural Thailand in a small village in Kanchanaburi Province, near the Thai/Burmese border. Buddhism is a very big part of Thai culture, and laypeople regularly visit temples to give alms to the monks, receive spiritual guidance or to attend various Buddhist festivals.

There were many temples around the village where I lived, but the locals were particularly fond of a hermit monk who lived alone in a cave on top of a mountain nearby. One day, I joined the villagers for the trip to see the monk and it was one of my most unforgettable experiences in Thailand.

The monk, who the locals called the Old Abbot, was the most genuinely caring, humble and spiritual man. You could see how much the locals loved him by the number of their gifts around his cave temple. There were statues of Buddha and Buddhist monks, like those commonly seen in the temples, a small freshwater reservoir, and various other religious artifacts – all donated by the villagers.

The Abbot’s ‘temple’ on the forested mountaintop consisted of a small rectangle with a cemented floor and a corrugated iron roof supported by a few beams. All this was built by the locals from the villages at the foot of the mountain.

At night, the Abbot slept in the cave right there near the ‘temple’. As a biologist, I was fascinated to discover that he shared the cave with four different species of bats. One of the bats – the Bumblebee bat is the smallest mammal on earth and one of the rarest bats on the planet.

I have visited the Old Abbot many times after my first visit because simply being at his ‘temple’ was more healing and meditative than spending hours in the larger temples or retreats.

Learn more about Margarita Steinhardt’s experience in this article. Follow her adventures on Twitter (@WildDiaries). 

Nature and religion intertwine at the Old Abbot's cave temple in rural Thailand

Hiking with the locals in Sapa, Vietnam

What better way to experience beautiful places than with the locals. Sapa in Vietnam is one of the most amazing places that we have ever been to and I am glad that we didn’t book a tour with a big company. Instead, we chose to see Sapa with a local tour guide name Bee. And this was the most memorable, adventurous and cultural experience ever!

Unlike the other groups, we enjoyed a private hike that took us down a less beaten track through the spectacular Hoang Lien Son Valley. This way we felt more like the locals, just walking together and checking out the sites. Our friendly guide took us on a very informative adventure, telling us about the local culture and their way of life. On top of that, we got to experience what it is like to live in the local villages as well. She welcomed us to her house, we met her family and enjoyed a cup of tea with everyone. We made a new friend.

We loved everything about our hike in Sapa, but what made it even more unforgettable and special, was hiking with the locals. Simply do what the locals do, and you too will create your own ultimate cultural experience. And here’s how to prepare your 3-week Vietnam itinerary.

Follow Andrzej and Wanderlust Storytellers on Instagram.

Hiking with locals in Sapa, Vietnam

Celebrating Tet as a local in Hanoi

Living in Hanoi can sometimes be lonely and when the TET holiday approached, I found that many places closed for the New Year’s celebrations. My good Vietnamese friend Sophie invited me to her family home for the holiday though I was unsure what to expect.

I arrived at my friends’ family’s abode quite early in the morning, well-dressed and with a bottle of whiskey as a gift. The front garden was decorated with beautiful orchids and orange trees.

Before I had the opportunity to sit down, I was already invited to help with preparing food. I had never made spring rolls before but I learned almost intuitively. I also made sticky rice and meat parcels wrapped in banana leaves or at least tried to.

The patriarch of the home offered me a glass of whiskey while the matriarch offered me tea. I was conflicted and didn’t want to come across as rude so I chose both.  

Other members of the family started to arrive, bringing gifts and even more food. The splendid feast was underway now that everyone had arrived and the whole experience reminded me of Christmas. There was one large dish known as Banh Chung, commonly made during this time of year. My friend told me it took a few days to prepare and it was like a huge square of green sticky rice with a meat filling inside.

Near the end of the evening, I was given a small envelope which I opened and found money in, lucky money. Lucky money is essentially fake money but is considered to bring good luck, hence the name. Lucky money is normally given to elders or kids within the family so I felt honored to have some.

After the grand meal, we then headed into the city for a fireworks display. I noticed some locals near the Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter district praying and then burning incense. I was told this was to show respect to ancestors.

Overall, Tet was the most relaxed holiday I’ve ever experienced and I stopped feeling so alone in Hanoi. Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.

Follow Derek’s travel stories here and on Instagram.
Celebrating tet as a local in Vietnam

Kayaking in the canals of Utrecht

Recently, I ended up going blindly into a meet-up with a local telling her that she should show me her favorite things to do in her city: Utrecht, the Netherlands. One of the coolest activities we did together was going kayaking along the canals of Utrecht.  Many people don’t realize that renting a kayak is affordable – and dismiss it.

However, it’s an amazing way to see a city from a different perspective.  As we followed a longer kayak trail outside of the city center, we were able to talk a lot about her life in Utrecht and I saw a modern side to Utrecht that I had never seen in my many visits – and even got a good workout. It was a really memorable experience and it’s so important to realize that a city through the eyes of a knowledgeable local is completely different than seeing it as a tourist.

Read more on Utrecht on Karen’s blog.

kayaking in Utrecht, the Netherlands

Petting a Wild Crocodile in Bangladesh

I love traveling to remote places most people have never heard of or would never want to go to. Bangladesh is one of these places – some people know that the country exists but very few people would ever dare going there. It is also the country where I made some of my most authentic experiences while traveling. Most of the locals I met were not used to foreigners at all. Some of them have probably never seen a Westerner before.

On my first evening in the south of Bangladesh, I visited a market with my camera and suddenly all the locals stood in line to have their photo taken by me. The next day, I met a local student who told me his family had a pond with crocodiles – and invited me to visit them. The pond turned out to be a full-sized lake that was inhabited by two massive crocodiles. The younger brother of my newfound friend lured them to the shore by whistling into the lake. I was somewhat afraid that the animals may attack us but somehow I ended up petting one of the crocs on the head. What a crazy experience. Looking back, I wonder if it would have been wiser to just run away and avoid the situation. But I was lucky not to be eaten and I also made one of my best travel memories as I followed the locals of Bangladesh.

Follow Mike’s adventures on 197TravelStamps.com.

Petting a Wild Crocodile in Bangladesh

Hiking to Matheran near Mumbai

When you think about Mumbai, you don’t necessarily think of trekking or hikes. And as a rule, my husband and I try to avoid big cities when we travel and just hide in nature. However, we couldn’t avoid Mumbai as it was our landing place. But we were lucky enough and met some great locals with whom we spent a lot of time.
We got excited when they told us that they are huge fans of trekking and go often to hikes in Nepal or the northern states of India. Were curious to know where they train as Mumbai is not exactly located in a mountainous area and they told us that there are hikes nearby. We started laughing thinking that they refer to some hills. But they insisted that the hikes are really good and worth trying so they invited us to do one. We were reluctant at first as we know that locals tend to overestimate certain things but decided to accept their invitation.
They took us in their car and we drove 80km until we reached a village right next to where our hike would begin. We were going to climb up an 800m hill up to the hill resort called Matheran. The trek was easy, but we had a blast on our way. And reaching Matheran was incredible as we got to the top right in time to see a beautiful sunset. We spent the night there, in an abandoned mansion, slept in the open and got woken up by monkeys and various birds.
It was a great experience and it proved us once more that when locals recommend you a place, most of the time you should listen to them or follow them. They know better than any guidebook.
Follow Andra and Vlad on their blog and on Facebook.
Matheran Sunset, Mumbai, India

Visiting Communities on the Abatan River in Bohol, Philippines

Just a few hours away from it’s larger neighbor Cebu, Bohol is a green corner of the Philippines well known for its “chocolate hills”, beaches, and river trips. There are plenty of cruises on the Luboc River in Bohol (we found them over-commercialized and tacky), but following a local tip-off, my trip to the Abatan River offered a very different experience. Set up as an NGO, the Abatan River Foundation offers tours managed by Process Bohol. The aim is to use tourism to provide funding to engage locals in employment on the river as kayak guides, and as hosts, which in turn provides a powerful incentive to look after this delicate and valuable ecosystem that is rich in wildlife.   I traveled by kayak and boat along this mangrove basin, stopping along the way to disembark and meet locals. My first stop was at a weaving village where I joined ladies making thatch from palm leaves for houses – to be specific for traditional Nipa Huts, the traditional simple houses of the Philippines. With the help of my guide, I learned about the weaving process, house construction and labor conditions for the ladies who were weaving. Being an off-the-beaten-track kind of activity it seemed the ladies were more curious to know what I was doing there and why I was alone!   We passed cocoa plants and I learned something of the production of chocolate, as well as learning all about the mangrove ecosystem in the river basin along the way. Local fishermen in small creeks were the only other type of boats we came across. I wound up the trip with a seafood lunch at the Savima Mangrove Center where I got to chat more with locals and understand their perspective on many topics; from tourism to Bohol, Mangrove conservation, and current affairs in the Philippines.

Abatan River, Philippines, Soul Travel blog

A day with a local student in Hanoi

Following the locals in a country where you don’t speak the language can be difficult, but if you can find a way you will discover places you never would on your own.
The best example we’ve ever had of this was whilst we were visiting Hanoi in Northern Vietnam. We booked a tour with a local student, who took us for an evening of local food tasting in the narrow alleys and neon-lit back-roads of Hanoi’s old quarter.
The tour is both private and free (though a tip is both expected and polite), with it just being the two of us and Ann our wonderful guide. For the students involved it gives them the opportunity to further their English skills, for us it got us to visit places and try foods we would not have been able to without a Vietnamese speaking guide.
We sampled pork pillows, egg coffee, fresh spring rolls, lemongrass skewers, Chè Ba Mau (a jelly and cream dessert) and many other things, all from small shops and cafes nestled in Hanoi’s bustling streets. After three hours we were truly stuffed, and delighted to have experienced a side to Vietnam we would not have managed without the help of a local guide.
Fin more interesting adventures at TheSabbaticalGuide.com.
Food trip with a local student in Hanoi, Vietnam

Staying in mountaineous rural China

After living in China for a little over a year, I still hadn’t felt like I had experienced old local China. We live in a city and everything about it screams China city life, but I was craving the opportunity to enjoy local life in a village.

That’s why Ping’an village is my favorite experience with locals. Ping’an village sits amidst the Longji Rice Terraces in Southern China. With no street lights and no actual roads, you must hike up the mountain to find your hotel and carry a torch with you if you walking around after sunset. Donkeys carry food up to the locals and chickens are killed and cooked ready to order. This was local China and it will always be my favorite memory of life in China.

Find more of Katie’s adventures on CreativeTravelGuide blog and on her Instagram profile.

Follow the locals in China - a mountain village near Longji Terraced fields

Samba rivals in Rio de Janeiro

Half-empty street; lights winking flirtatiously; a few juice and popcorn stands. It’s around midnight; it’s hot and humid. We get out of the cab and try to count the change in the dark. Fifty reals for a half-hour ride – everything seems fine. It’s unusually quiet for a Saturday night. We move along the desolate street, heading in the direction pointed by the driver with a nod. A suspicion that everything surrounding us is extraordinarily strange arises in our minds. We hear odd noises nearby. Soon, picking up our pace, we walk past a band of musicians.

Each one is holding a peculiar instrument and some are singing. Sitting in fishing chairs or on cardboard boxes, they ignore our presence. At the end of the street, we can already see the bright lights which brought us here to wander around this neighborhood. We take the last few steps swiftly and wait in line with the smiling people. We made it! We’ve reached the entrance of the party organized by the Salgueiro Samba school. There is a lovely girl with sparkling eyes and white clothes next to us. Her name is Iza and she’s also a dancer.

Tonight, Iza hasn’t come only to dance; she has a mission: to spy on the Salgueiro school. Salgueiro is a famous school and throws parties every Saturday night, where fans and friends are invited. The school can afford these events because it’s situated in a relatively safe district and its location attracts both locals and foreigners. Iza is here to check on the dance numbers of the rival school, even though, in her words, it’s not that important anymore because the theme has already been set, the scenery and the costumes, as well as the choreography, have already been chosen. Her mission tonight is to learn a new move and practice it alone when she goes back to Rocinha…

Learn what happened to Iza and her mission, and find out more amazing stories in our book “The Magic of Traveling: Follow the Locals”.

Follow the locals around the world

We hope all those amazing experiences convinced you to follow the locals to have the ultimate adventure, cultural and once-in-a-lifetime experience! Maybe you just realized you have a story or two under your belt already? Then share it with us so we can show the world how to travel with authenticity and passion! Let’s follow the locals!

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  1. […] hosts with tourists creating a positive impact whilst giving travellers an authentic experience, by following the locals! Definitely jump on board this Chiang Rai jungle trek, it’s one of the top things to do in […]