Family Travel, Featured Articles, How to, Planning
comments 15

11 Reasons You Should Try Living Like a Local

live local

The term “Live Like a Local” is often translated to mean ‘experience a destination as if you are a resident.’ It’s good advice, but hard to emulate when you’re only in the destination for a short period of time. One week in an apartment will never compare to being a true resident, no matter how enthusiastic you are in your role as a local.

However, by choosing a holiday rental over a hotel, you are absolutely guaranteed an entirely different holiday experience, every time.

Here are 11 reasons we think you should give local living a try:

1. You’re an independent traveller

You want to find your own way, do your own thing, have no one to answer to, no porter to wake on return from a midnight sojourn. You can come and go as you please. You don’t have to leave the key at the reception, and no one holds on to your passport for security but you.

No, there’s just you, with your own decisions and your own key.

You are free to do what you want, when you want. Sounds liberating, doesn’t it?

2. You’re curious

Maybe you’ve heard of this local living malarkey before and wondered what it was like. You normally like the comfort and security of staying at a hotel, but there’s a little curious bird inside you that wants to escape the confines of the cage and venture out into the big open world.

It may be daunting if it’s your first time – like all first times – but like many experiences you may feel a little apprehensive about, you’ll be surprised how easy and effortless the process can be.

Sate your curiosity, and try it!

3. It’s cheaper, generally

Renting an apartment or room for a week is undoubtedly cheaper than paying for a hotel in some countries. However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and as holiday rentals are becoming more popular some unscrupulous people are out to get top dollar for their homes.

Avoid the main touristy areas and search for something a little further out of the centre if you’re travelling on a strict budget.

la boqueria, barcelona

Eat where the locals eat. Tapas are choice for everyone in Barcelona.

4. You’ll save on your food and drinks bill

Who doesn’t love to order from room service when staying in a hotel? It’s the rules, isn’t it? And don’t get me started on resident bars – they’re like beacons for the thirsty on a wet, windy night to the average hotel resident.

Living in an apartment does wonders for your purse strings when on holiday. There is no room service or mini bar to tempt the weak-willed traveller, like myself.

Keep your costs down by buying a few essential grocery items so you don’t have to eat out for every meal, and visit the local liquor store to stock up on liquid essentials, should you be that way inclined.

Look out for the wine shops in Europe that do in-store wine refills if you take along an empty bottle. Yes, Europe is that good.

5. You will experience the destination differently

Many hotels are based in and around the main areas of a town or city. It means your wandering circle is often limited, purely because everything is on your doorstep; there’s little need to venture too far from your hotel.

By booking a rental away from the main hotspots, you’ll discover a whole new side to a destination. Of course, you can book rentals in the centre too, but you’ll feel more adventurous because you’re taking control of your own holiday experience.

Just remember the sage advice: do what the locals do, shop where they shop, eat where they eat, then you’ll have more of a grasp how they really live.

6. It makes you more confident

If you’re one of those people who likes to do things the way you’ve always done them, I urge you to try something new.

On your next holiday, don’t book a hotel. Don’t go for the safe bet. Rock the boat. Stay in an apartment instead.

The feeling of empowerment you get when arranging your own holiday will make you a more confident traveller. Unless you book a place that even the locals avoid. Don’t do that!

Remember to always thoroughly research your destination before booking anything.

7. It’s perfect when travelling with kids

Any parent will tell you, luxury hotel living will never be the same once kids come on the scene. Even little angels who rarely cause trouble will go crazy being confined in one room with the rest of the family after a certain length of time.

There are only so many walks and parks to keep them occupied once you’ve visited all the child-friendly attractions.

Soon everybody crumbles. Whole families burst into tears in unison after just a few days of cramped hotel living. Apartment living is without doubt the way to go.

Space can make or break a holiday, so why risk it?

Our rental apartment in 2013 in Barcelona. It was in Parallel, which was close enough to the centre to be able to walk everywhere, but far enough away in a residential area to be quiet. A good night's sleep is essential with kids.

Our rental apartment in 2013 in Barcelona. It was in Parallel, which was close enough to the centre to be able to walk everywhere, but far enough away in a residential area to be quiet. A good night’s sleep is essential with kids.

8. It is less noisy. Usually.

If you’ve ever been ‘lucky’ enough to land a hotel room by the lift/stairwell, you’ll understand the importance of finding a quiet place to stay. Listening to the door slamming or ‘helpful’ lift voiceover is never conducive to a happy holiday.

By staying in a holiday rental you generally cut out all the annoying noises of hotel living, especially if you hire a cottage or lodge in the middle of the forest.

I would argue my own point by saying, holiday rentals are not always perfect. Some central apartments in European city centres are shockingly noisy as they often have a shared lightwell. Sound carries up, so unless you want to hear everyone else’s television and conversations late into the night, take steps to ensure what you’re booking is quiet.

9. You get to meet the neighbours

Hopefully, your first meeting is not when you complain about their noisy television. Many neighbours know when a nearby flat is rented. Some keep their distance, with quiet nods of acceptance or dismissal, while others wait patiently for your pending arrival hoping to show you around their ‘hood.

Ask them where they think you should go rather than relying on guide books, and find out some of the destination’s secret spots. Their experience is something you’ll never find at a tourism information centre.

10. You get to practice your language skills

Of course, you can let your language skills loose at any time, regardless where you’re staying, but long-term rentals will allow you to hone your language skills. And no matter where you travel, locals are delighted when someone speaks to them in their own language.

Some English-speakers take it for granted that everyone else can speak English, and yes, we’re often totally shamed by multi-lingual speakers in many parts of the world, but it’s good to try at least a few words of the country you’re visiting.

Never be afraid to practice with your neighbours or at the grocery store. You may not speak perfectly, but they’ll love you for trying and often cut you some slack.

11. It’s a great way to test the waters for ‘real’ local living

While you may not be a true local when renting an apartment, holidaying this way allows you to observe more closely what life could be like should you decide to move to your favourite destination.

Try a new area each time, investigate how easy it is to get employment and see how they interact with newbies.

These trial rentals may sway the final decision on where you chose to live long-term, or may even change your mind about the destination completely.

Playing in the park in Badalona town centre, and revisiting an old apartment rental in El Born, Barcelona.  We tried four different types of accommodation in four different areas before deciding where to live.

Playing in the park in Badalona town centre, and revisiting an old apartment rental in El Born, Barcelona. We tried four different types of accommodation in four different areas before deciding where to live.

Living like a local is another one of those confusing travel terms that means different things to different people, so it’s hard to define. And while it suits some people and their lifestyle perfectly, it may not suit others.

Whether living like a local is right for you is up to you to decide.

In my experience, I find it hard to travel any other way now, and the choice is expanding in terms of what’s on offer all the time. Home owners are waking up to the fact that people do want to experience a little of their lifestyle and their locale so are providing more accommodation options.

If the idea of living local is in line with your travel philosophy and suits your circumstances, you should try it! Once you’ve given it a go, you’ll never look back.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by HomeAway, who connect homeowners with travellers seeking an alternative to hotels. They have more than 570,000 properties on their books across 139 countries, and offer some exciting eco-friendly rentals. Ecolodges, treehouses, gites, yurts and beachfront villas are just a few of the different accommodation options available.

If you liked this post on reasons to live like a local, you might like these posts:
~ Tips for Choosing an Excellent Eco Travel Company
~ How to Find Family-friendly Accommodation Online


  1. Absolutely yes. We tell all our friends to consider an apartment instead of a hotel. We did that the last time we moved overseas. It made all the difference in feeling like we were a part of the community and getting acclimated to the culture.

    • I’m glad you’ve had good experiences, too. I agree, you can feel part of the community, but I guess sometimes it depends on how acceptable the community are and willing the traveller is to get involved.

  2. Great list of tips. I really enjoy the local aspect when traveling. My favorite thing to do is to visit the local markets for food.

    • Glad you liked the article, Adelina. Local markets are without doubt the best way to discover the soul of a destination. Nothing but raw life there, and guaranteed good food… mostly. I still haven’t taken a liking to chicken feet on a stick!

  3. It sounds great. I’m tempted to try it. It must be such a reqarding experience living with the locals,getting to know the customs and language, and having more time to explore the place. I hope you’re enjoying Melbourne.

    • Hi Lyn, it really is a great way to get to know a city/destination. I’ve been lucky to only ever have good experiences. It helps to think I’m fluent in [insert language here] after a few too many wines. It’s amazing how many people you meet then!

  4. This is a great post! I’ve been on the “live like a local” bandwagon for a long time! It’s easier (once you get your bearings), cheaper and it just feels nicer having more space to yourself and interacting with real people over people who are used to tourists. When I was in Sigon I found the locals were keenly interested in me because they never really saw white faces in that neighbourhood before. Most thought I was an expat and were much more warm and welcoming than I think they would have been to a tourist who would be there one moment, gone the next.

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to travel with kids and to keep them cooped up in a small room. That’s something I’d never want to deal with!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Stacey. Much appreciated. I honestly do think you get a better experience if you have a bit more time to explore a destination, but then that’s hard breaking news. However, even on limited time, I think there is a way to try local living without going the full hog and still get a taster of life there.

      As for cooped up kids… as soon as we see the first signs of things starting to unravel we get outside and do ANYTHING. The fresh air works wonders.

  5. Actually, I would argue that most bloggers absolutely do *not* know how to live like locals, since most of the ones I know of A) don’t speak the local lingo, B) don’t live in local residential areas but instead rent from English-speaking landlords who charge 2-3 times what local rental rates actually are, and C) tend to stick to English-speaking tours, bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels and etc.

    There are very few (I can count on one hand) bloggers I know of who actually “live like locals”; that is, speak the local language, live for 6+ months in a destination in local subdivisions outside of centro and the English-speaking downtown/beachfront areas where the rent is tourist-oriented.

    Also: holiday rentals are a far, far cry from a long-term lease. Here in the Riviera Maya, for example, most landlords won’t give you a discount unless you rent 6-12 months; anything less than 6 months is nearly impossible to get a real discount on, even if you speak Spanish, and the only “good” discounts come when you are willing to sign a 12 month lease. Anything 3 months or less is considered a vacation rental, and they charge accordingly.

    • Hi T.W, thanks so much for your considered reply. I guess I’ve had a very different experience. I’ve also never tried living in Mexico so can’t compare. But I have been able to get short term leases in a few places. The key in those cities was to look in the local listings not ex-pat. Of course, this requires a little knowledge of the area and a lot of research. I do A LOT of research! And I’ve always paid the same as the locals.

      Although, in saying that – it is almost impossible to find cheap, short-term rentals in OZ. We’ve been here for 3 months, 4 months and 6 months at different times and just got lucky with friends vacating their houses and having a period before new owners moved in, or stayed with relatives for short stints.

      As for bloggers, I guess I made that remark on the Facebook page as it was on a bloggers group, but, yeah, I dare say many just enjoy the ride and stick to what they know. But as I said in the article, that’s not a bad way to travel either – if that’s what you’re into, it’s just not local travel. I’ve definitely been guilty of that in my younger days, and it was great then, but I did mix it up and meet locals, too.

      I remember, when travelling alone in Turkey, everyone else in the backpackers seemed to be besties. I went out for a walk, met a lovely backpacker couple who were keen to see more than the inside of the hostel and we had a great time. Got invited to dinner by a man selling carpets. Ate with his whole family. Had a great night (and didn’t even have to buy a carpet). In Penang, a lovely Muslim family invited myself and the girl I was travelling to live with them for a week, and I barely managed to leave an amazing housestay in Melacca! All of those events happened in my 20s, but I still enjoyed the times sitting on the beach in Thailand with other English-speaking backpackers and drinking Sang-tip around a camp fire. As long as you do a little of everything, it’s all good.

  6. Pingback: Best Reads: April 2014 : Pack Me To

  7. It definitely suits our style of holiday. (And with the kids? Yes – I think it’s not just the space, ours seem to feel more relaxed if we’re staying in a home, it’s more similar to what they’re used to than a hotel room).

  8. Great read. Pretty late on this but was nice for a relaxing Saturday night. And other benefit is that in many cases you support the local economy bypassing the exploitative practices of most large hotel chains. At one time I stumbled into a hip hop video shoot and was asked to be part of the “crew” scene. Fun things like this you miss out in structured conventional travel!

  9. Pingback: Discovering Barcelona’s Gràcia District

  10. Pingback: Community Gardens: Your Home-Away-From-Home

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *