Top tips for authentic travel

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment." Henry David Thoreau

The term ‘authentic travel’ has saturated travel blogs, news articles, publications and travel marketing for some time now, to the point it’s almost becoming passe. Some have argued it’s a myth, and we wouldn’t totally disagree, but at être we do think there is something to be said for finding a more authentic experience while exploring foreign places. While it’s true an authentic experience can only really be achieved once you consider yourself a local, there are ways to ensure your travels are closer to bona fide than touristy. Below is a list of our top tips in ensuring your trip is as authentic as possible.


1/ Choose a private B&B

If AirBnB is legal in the destination of your choice, this is sometimes the best way to ‘live like a local’ as the famous brand’s marketing advises. We’ve had some of our best experiences staying in listings on AirBnB, because the accommodation usually feels lived-in, rather than cold and impersonal, as hotels almost always are. If AirBnB isn’t an option privately owned B&Bs are a great way to discover a place. Your host will invariably have valuable insights on the area and the setting will feel more like a home away from home.    

2/ Reseach, research, research

It sounds like boring advice but in our experience if you research your destination thoroughly you’re more likely to find the places frequented by locals. Check blogs, travel articles, Insta feeds and Pinterest boards to find local haunts, makers, and little-known tourist attractions. This might be our inner travel nerds speaking but our general rule of thumb is to find two or more positive references to a place before we’ll pop it on our list, or one if it’s written about in detail and it sounds like it’s up our alley. 

3/ List don't plan

Make a list of places you want to visit on holiday, but don't decide until the day what you're going to do. We like to travel this way because it means we get to see the best of a place but also keep our experiences as authentic and spontaneous as possible. It will also tailor your wanderings to your mood and the weather. Some days you may not feel like taking in a couple of museums, or the weather may be too inclement for a hike, but something else on your list might tickle your fancy.  

4/ Pick your base carefully

City centres are fun and exciting, but it’s impossible to discover the authentic side of a place by staying in the typically business-driven and touristy centres. Instead branch out into a neighbourhood walking distance from the attractions you’re keen to see. You’ll be able to discover parts of the city little frequented by tourists and more populated by locals. Alternatively, stay in a village or town outside the cities. This is sometimes the best way to ensure your experiences are more authentic.  

5/ Be social

If you're alone or even travelling with a friend or partner, get onto a social app to connect you with locals or other travellers. Tinder and happn are both widely used in most places and if you’re single, will put you in touch with any number of potential matches looking for company. Cliq is a great option for those looking for more platonic instant friends. If you don’t know anyone locally this is a quick and easy way to gain a travel guide or gather more authentic knowledge of the place. The prevalence of these apps are not the same all over the world, so it’s also a good idea to do a little research on the most popular social apps for your destination.

6/ Strike up conversation

Starting a conversation with any locals you come into contact with is an excellent way to get to know where you’re staying. They will give you an authentic insight into life in the area, and may even tell you where the best local haunts and attractions are. It will also give you insight into local culture and customs, which in our experience is some of the best fun you’ll have travelling.

7/ Hit up local acquaintances

Locals make the best tour guides, so if you happen to know anyone who lives in or around your destination get in touch! At the very least they can give you advice on what to see and where you should avoid going, but hopefully they’ll have some free time to show you their favourite places.  

8/ Use Google maps

The public transport option Google maps offers is a wonder when you’re staying in a place you don’t know. It saves time and takes the stress out of navigating. You can even ask Google to send an alert when it’s time to get off at your stop. The walking and driving settings are handy too, of course, and because Google maps does the work for you, it leaves you free to embrace the moment and take in all the wonderful things around you.  

9/ Take your time

Speaking of taking in wonderful things, the way you experience a place has a lot to do with how much you get out of it. In our experience less is more when you’re travelling, so be sure not to rush around marking things off a checklist. Try to strike a balance between fitting everything in and taking your time in each place, to truly experience where you are.    

10/ Get lost

Wander down the back streets to see what you find, follow hand drawn signs on country roads, turn down alleyways that take your fancy, and don’t worry about getting lost on your way. In our experience some of the best holiday memories you’ll make are the ones down an unexpected path. 

11/ Seek advice

Talk to friends and family who have already visited your destination. They can pick the eyes out of the places you’re thinking of visiting and save you from inauthentic attractions. They might even put you onto some the the most magical moments of your holiday. 

12/ Take time out

If it's a long trip have quiet time when you need it. Travelling is exhausting (in the best way possible) so if you need an afternoon to rest take it. Don't feel obliged to hit another attraction. You won't enjoy it to the fullest if you're exhausted; when you’re tired its harder to stay in the moment and interact authentically with your surrounding. 

For more help finding authentic moments on your next trip, explore our range of être travel guides. They include our favourite local hangouts and little-known finds, in some of the most magical places in the world. 

Keaton Fletcher