40+ things locals say you should know about their cities when you visit

40+ things locals say you should know about their cities when you visit

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There are some basic rules that follow travellers around wherever they go: watch out for pickpockets in tourist zones; negotiate a taxi rate before you get in the cab; when in doubt, don’t drink the water. But then there are some specific rules for each country, and even each city. Rules about how to behave, what to never do, where to go and where to avoid, and how to properly experience the city just like the locals do.

We polled our guides, partners, and friends in 43 cities and 31 countries, and asked them the number one tip they would tell a traveller who’s just arrived in their city.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

“Do not get upset at a restaurant or café when your server doesn’t bring your bill when you ask. The typical Nederlander thinks in a linear way, which is to say service is not multitasked here. A server will do one task at time and that means your bill might not be high on their to-do list. If you need to leave quickly just get up, pay, and go. No one will be offended.”

– Sean, Amsterdam Urban Adventures

Athens, Greece

“When you think about what to drink in Greece, you’ll probably think of Greek wines, ouzo, and tsipouro, but did you know that Greek beers have received international awards?! If you’re a beer lover, Athens will surprise you. Not only for the amount of small-scale local microbrews that exist put also for the top-notch venues where you can enjoy one. While in Athens, visit Beer Time in Psiri neighbourhood which has a large number of Greek microbrews and are located in a neighbourhood favoured by locals.”

– Rebecca, Athens Urban Adventures

Bagan, Myanmar

“Whenever you enter the outside gateway to a pagoda complex, you need to remove your shoes and socks — they can be left by the doorway. At most of the popular pagodas, there are stewards to remind visitors to do this. However, at the less frequently visited pagodas, there are often no stewards so visitors will need to remember on their own to remove their shoes and socks before entering, to avoid offending anyone. As well, because you’ll be walking around the brick and tiled pathways in bare feet, be very careful on the tiled floors, as when it rains they can become very slippy.”

– Lee, Bagan Urban Adventures

young monks walking in Bagan

So many pagodas in Myanmar, so little time

Bangkok, Thailand

“If you meet a tuk tuk near the Grand Palace and the driver tells you that the palace is closed, please know that the driver could be scamming you into having him take you somewhere else. You should walk to the main gate of the palace and see for yourself. Also, sometimes, tuk tuk drivers will offer you a very low price for a tour around the city, but keep in mind that it could be a scam. The driver might have you stop at a jewellery or tailor shop on the way for a commission. But otherwise, tuk tuk riding in Bangkok can be fun, so long as you know how much you should pay. Basically, going around downtown Bangkok is not over than 150 baht unless you’re going a long distance like to the airport. If the place you want to go is within five to six kilometres, the price shouldn’t be over 100 baht.”

– Nai, Bangkok Urban Adventures

Bratislava, Slovakia

“After you’ve enjoyed Bratislava’s old town and riverbank, take a walk along the Old Bridge to the Petržalka side of the Danube. Then walk along the river in the direction of the SNP bridge, and walk back to the heart of the old town using the SNP bridge pathway. You will be awarded with amazing panorama and photo opps of the city, the river Danube and its bridges. You will love this. The best is that it will not cost you a thing — it’s a completely free adventure.”

– Lukas & Marek, Bratislava Urban Adventures

Bucharest, Romania

“While the Old Town is definitely the most touristy area of the city, it’s not a bad place to hang out if this is your first time in Bucharest. But we do recommend visiting other neighbourhoods in the city, as we think you’ll have a much better time there. Check out Amzei Square and Benjamin Franklin Street and the surrounding area for a true local experience!”

– Doru, Bucharest Urban Adventures

Inside an old bar in Bucharest

When in Bucharest, find a neighbourhood, find a bar, find some friends, and stay awhile

Chiang Mai, Thailand

“Chiang Mai’s people have a relaxed attitude. We’re easygoing and smile a lot — don’t take our smiles the wrong way! Sometimes there are misunderstandings when we talk to travellers; when a traveller asks a question or needs something right away, we will say okay first, then smile. Many travellers wonder why we’re smiling! We’re very willing to help you, but it may take some time to complete what you’ve asked or answer you, and so we smile. Please just relax and wait. It’s Chiang Mai’s nature to say ‘nevermind’ (‘mai-pen-rai’). We will try our best even our English is not 100%.”

“Also there are two important signs to note throughout Chiang Mai. The first is ‘Women are not permitted.’ You’ll see this at temples, in the ordination halls where the monks study and pray. The old story is that woman attract male attention, so monks are not allow to touch (or have any private talks with) woman — it’s too distracting for them. The second is ‘Please take off your shoes.’ It is quite common in Thai culture to remove our shoes before we enter a temple hall or even a house, for cleanliness.”

– Amy, Chiang Mai Urban Adventures

Copenhagen, Denmark

“The first thing you should do as a visitor in Copenhagen is rent a bike. The city looks completely different once you experience it by bike. Stay away from the touristy city centre and take your bike towards the hip urban areas such as Nørrebro, to see how Copenhageners really live.”

– Barbara, Copenhagen Urban Adventures

Delhi, India

“The best, and safest, street food spots in Delhi are always the places where there are a lot of people waiting in line, and where you see lots of people eating already. It’s always a good sign if there are lots of locals queuing up at a particular stand — if the locals trust the food, you should too!”

– Rakesh, Delhi Urban Adventures

Street food cooking in Delhi

The best rule for street eating in Delhi, and anywhere: follow the locals’ lead

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

“Book you first night’s accommodation and an airport transfer before you come — there is nothing funnier to locals than people loaded up with luggage thinking they will barter a good deal. Also. stop moving, sit still, and listen. Get out of the tourist areas — go east, north, or west but find a small town, find the night market, and sit and have a chat and laugh, and enjoy — that’s the real Bali.”

– Brett, Bali Urban Adventures

Florence, Italy

“If you’re going to go for the perfect gelato in Florence, your best bets are Carapina on Via Lambertesca, Vivoli on Via Torta, and Perché no! on Via dei Tavolini. You’re guaranteed creamy, fresh flavours, seasonal fruit sorbets, and gelatos made in-house with local ingredients, like delicious pistachios from Italy’s pistachio capital, the town of Bronte in Sicily. For Celiac sufferers, Carapina offers gluten-free cones, and Vivoli is the most traditional of the gelato shops.”

– Linda, Florence Urban Adventures

Heraklion, Crete, Greece

“When you order a meal at a Cretan restaurant, don’t order dessert! That’s because as soon as you pay your bill, a plate or two will arrive at your table courtesy of the venue’s owner. Yes, that means dessert for free! It might be a plate of yummy local sweets or seasonal fruit, or even both. And know that it might very well be accompanied by a bottle of raki (a strong, local alcoholic drink) — in Crete we consider it medicine!”

– Rebecca, Crete Urban Adventures

Platter of fruit on a table in Crete

No Cretan meal is complete without dessert… for free!

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

“Crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City is easy and totally safe as long as you get the basics: (1) Go with a group and walk slowly. (2) Wave your hand up and down as you walk. (3) Never ever, stop, never ever run, and never ever walk backwards — the bikers will go around you if you have a steady pace, trust us! If you’re very nervous, in the centre of town (near the post office and Notre Dame, for example), there are men in green uniforms who can help you cross the road.”

– Nhi Pham, Ho Chi Minh City Urban Adventures

Istanbul, Turkey

“Time your visit to Süleymaniye Mosque during a call to prayer and grab a seat overlooking the Bosphorus. You’ll be treated to one of the best sound shows in the city as the muezzin (the person at a mosque who is appointed to lead and recite the call to prayer) calls the city’s faithful to prayer — this happens at 3,000 mosques in the city at the same time! Listen to the melodies echoing off the walls of the mosque and take in this surreal Istanbul experience.”

– Jen, Istanbul Urban Adventures

Jakarta, Indonesia

“Say ‘terima kasih’ (it means ‘thank you’) in every transaction — locals really love to hear that.”

– Candha, Jakarta Urban Adventures

Food stalls in Jakarta

Chat up Jakarta’s locals with a few easy phrases and you’ll make friends

Kolkata, India

“Nicknamed the City of Joy after Dominique Lapierre’s novel of the same name, Kolkata is nothing less than a rollercoaster ride in extra-slow motion. The laid-back nature of the city will drive you a little crazy, but just wait till you see the happy faces of its people, dancing to the beat of their own drum.”

– Ashish, Kolkata Urban Adventures

Krakow, Poland

“In Poland, you need to know that public toilets have different pictograms than in other destinations. Instead, we use a circle for women and a triangle for men and, to be honest, there is no official explanation for this. Among many different theories is this one we like the most: the circle means gentleness and peace (feminine elements) and the triangle symbolises the sharpness and roughness of a man.”

– Monika, Krakow Urban Adventures

Kyoto, Japan

“Arashiyama is a district on the western outskirts of Kyoto with everything the city has to offer, but in a smaller, more picturesque package… but there are thousands of tourists who seem to be there for the sheer enjoyment of annoying you with their humongous cameras and incredibly slow walking pace. I believe the most enjoyment can be had here in the low season, or really any time when the grove is next to empty. If you get stuck in a wave of tourists, though, I know of a hidden gem to escape to. If you walk a while into the forest, you come to a hill. Continue straight at the first house you see until you come to a cross-way. If you continue left here, you will come out of the grove and up a hill with a small playground on the side. Keep on climbing this hill and you will reach a small vantage point. This vantage point has the most amazing view you can imagine. You can spot large, majestic mountains crammed with leaf tree forests separated by a river flowing calmly into the horizon. It is like the nature you see here was arranged for a beautiful painting, rather than the opposite.”

– Carl-Ray, Kyoto Urban Adventures

Bamboo forest in Arashiyama park in Kyoto

It’s not hard to find a bit of serenity in Kyoto, so long as you know where to go

Lima, Peru

“If you are looking for something more upscale, one of the most spectacular dinners in Lima is at the restaurant at Huaca Pucllana (General Borgoño cuadra. 8), where you dine overlooking pre-Incan ruins, and can even take night tour of the ruins. This is elegant, so dress appropriately, and I recommend you reserve a table in advance.”

– Teresa, Lima Urban Adventures

Lisbon, Portugal

“Taking the tram up the hill will cost you time and money. Instead, hike up through the wandering streets of Alfama or look out for the newly built elevators, which will take you uphill faster, cheaper, and with better views. If you must take the tram, be prepared to get there very early or late in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the queues.”

– Joana, Lisbon Urban Adventures

Los Angeles, USA

“When you come to LA, you’re most likely coming to visit multiple cities — Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood. They are just a few of the 88 incorporated cities that make up the 500 square-mile county of Los Angeles. (Not to mention Disneyland and Universal Studios, which are like cities in themselves!) To reduce your travel stress and perception of LA as a concrete jungle, we highly recommend staying by a Metro Rail stop. You can explore the major highlights of the city (Hollywood, downtown, Santa Monica) as well as hidden gems (Chinatown, Pasadena, East LA) all via the metro and you will save yourself the hassle of dealing with traffic, finding parking, and missing out on the real LA.”

– Summer, Los Angeles Urban Adventures

losangeles_tacos

Stay near a metro stop and you can see (and taste!) more of LA

Marrakech, Morocco

“Locals love it when you can roll off a few words of Darija (Moroccan Arabic), even if it’s just salam alikum (hello), hafak (please), and shukran bezaf (thank you very much). There is no easier way to score a smile than with a little Darija!”

– Kym, Marrakech Urban Adventures

Mexico City, Mexico

“Always try the salsa (our spicy sauce) first before you put it on your food. Even when the Mexicans say it’s not spicy (no pica), it’s definitely spicy!”

“There’s no general rule for salsas — sometimes red is spicier, other times, it’s the green.”

“You shouldn’t drink the tap water in Mexico. Only drink bottled water and if you buy one of the delicious juices sold on the street, make sure to get only juice (not mixed with water). Or if you get a shake, make sure it’s made with milk. Brushing your teeth with water from the tap is totally fine — you just don’t want to ingest it.”

– Pilar, Sergio & Sofia, Mexico City Urban Adventures

Moscow, Russia

“Anyone visiting Moscow for the first time should set aside a couple of minutes to actually appreciate the architectural beauty of Moscow’s metro stations. Not only are you going to discover marvelous pieces of art, but you’ll also gain insight into the Russian culture, values, and history.”

– Katya, Moscow Urban Adventures

Man sitting in the metro station in Moscow

Moscow’s subway stations are filled with artwork that will make you stop and stare

Nadi, Fiji

“To blend in like a local, dress like one! Locals wear bula shirts every Friday as casual wear (ladies wear a bula dress called a chamba). As well, remember that it is appropriate to dress modestly when visiting a village, and to follow the clothing protocol of a village as a sign of respect. For example, no one is allowed to wear a hat in the village — even the locals — unless the chief allows you. Ladies should not wear short skirts or pants.”

“Beware of con artists when roaming around Nadi town. They’ll sell you a necklace for $20 or more when it’s worth $5 or $10. Stick to people selling in shops and dressed in bula shirts or uniform. Also, when catching a cab, look for a taxi that has a meter rather than taking a private car. Or catch the bus, it’s way easier.”

“Lastly, the vegetable markets on Friday and Saturday are good for shopping, but go in the evening before sundown, as that’s when market vendors try to clear their produce quickly by dropping the prices on produce and other foods. Also, don’t forget to buy fresh bread from a hot bread kitchen, just like the locals.”

– Ray, Nadi Urban Adventures

New York City, USA

“Go do things outside the normal tourist spots. Everyone wants to see Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building, but there is so much more to NYC and at those places you’ll only be surrounded by other tourists. Get downtown and shop on the Lower East Side, go have a drink in the East Village, go to eat in Brooklyn, and then you’ll discover why so many people love NYC.”

“Ride the subway. It’s safe, fast, and will get you anywhere in New York for one flat price. That being said, also walk around because the best way to discover New York City is to see the neighbourhoods and the communities change from one block to the next.”

“If you’re walking slowly in NYC, or need to stop to take a picture, or check your phone, then move out of the way first! Our sidewalks are like our streets — if I went to your city and stopped my car in the middle of the road to take a picture, it would be crazy, right?! Same thing with NYC sidewalks.”

– David, Brian & Nikki, New York City Urban Adventures

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

“Mallorca is the perfect island, where you can do many different activities all throughout the year — for example, you can hike through the Mountains of the Sierra Tramuntana to discover the best local villages, hidden bays and delicious food! So be sure to put your walking shoes in your luggage before coming here.”

– Marialaura, Mallorca Urban Adventures

View overlooking the sea on Mallorca

Visit a Mallorcan village and find a view!

Panjim, Goa, India

“Goa is not just parties and pubs — the real beauty and simplicity of Goa can be realised in the beaches located in the southern-most part of the state. South Goa is very much the rural part of hip Goa, and you’ll experience untouched beaches, villages, and local life that feels so different from what you might expect in a state known for its parties. Agonda, Colvo, Betul, and Utorda beaches are our personal favourites.”

– Ashish, Goa Urban Adventures

Philadelphia, USA

“If you find the urge to run the ‘Rocky Steps,’ do it on a Wednesday evening. You’ll be able to get in a real workout with the locals (yes, locals actually use the steps to work out!). Keep on running through the doors because on Wednesday evenings, this world-renowned museum is Pay What You Wish and is open until 8:45pm.”

– Jason, Philadelphia Urban Adventures

Prague, Czech Republic

“While a lot of Europe is in the Eurozone and therefore uses the euro, here in the Czech Republic, we’re still relying on our faithful pre-EU currency: the crown, or koruna, as we say in Czech. There’s a popular belief among travellers that the euro can still be used here, interchangeable with Czech crowns. This is only partially true. In certain places, such as souvenir shops and big chain stores in downtown areas like Wenceslas Square, you can use euros if you have them. However, there are a few things to be wary of. Firstly, the euro to Czech crown conversions displayed are often rough versions that don’t necessarily reflect the current value of the euro to the crown. The second concern is that smaller souvenir shops of the less reputable variety may let you pay in euros, US dollars, or the like, but not inform you that they also add on a charge for converting the money into the local price. The third issue is that it just doesn’t look cool. I know, I know, being cool is something that we were supposed to stop caring about after high school, but if you use euros here, it’s not only almost always annoying to the shop clerks, but it’s also a flashing neon sign announcing you as a foreigner.”

– Brianna, Prague Urban Adventures

prague currency

If you want to blend in, use the right bills when you’re in Prague

Riga, Latvia

“Don’t pay a hefty fee to enter one of Riga’s tall buildings that advertises a view, and avoid the expensive drinks at Sky Bar. Instead, enjoy the free view from the top floor of Riga’s National Library.”

– Santa Munda, Riga Urban Adventures

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Although the arrows along the oceanfront streets point to the right (if you’re standing on the building side, opposite the ocean), from 7am to 10am, all lanes are turned towards downtown (or to the left) on weekdays. Tourists must be aware when crossing the street and going to the beach early in the morning!”

– Luiz, Rio de Janeiro Urban Adventures

San Diego, USA

“One tip you should now about San Diego: although public transportation in SD is very efficient and can take you pretty much anywhere you would like to go, it can be very time-consuming, so plan your schedule accordingly. We don’t want you to miss the wonders of this city!”

– Mayela, San Diego Urban Adventures

botanical gardens in San Diego

Wouldn’t you rather be exploring San Diego’s Botanical Gardens than stuck in transit?!

San Sebastián, Spain

“To enjoy pintxos, you don’t have to stay in the old town, very often called “the theme park of the pintxos.” Instead, head to other nearby neighbourhoods for more local plates. And locals know that the best day to enjoy the pintxos atmosphere is when there is the ‘pintxo-pote’ promotion.”

– Tomasz, San Sebastian Urban Adventures

Shanghai, China

“Please look left, right, up, down, and all around 360 degrees when you cross any street. Know that cars will not stop for you, especially when they are turning right at an intersection. Watch out for electric scooters since they are quiet and will creep up behind you when you least expect it! Best option is to stay on the sidewalk and stay alert as a pedestrian.”

– Linda, Shanghai Urban Adventures

Siem Reap, Cambodia

“If you want to try Khmer barbecue (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?!), cross the bridge from the Old Market and turn to the right. There are six or more barbecue restaurants here, serving up good food with cold beer. Afterwards, the Angkor Night Market is open til late and has a variety of textiles, jewellery, and art at reasonable prices. Walk right to the end of the original night market street (accessed off Sivatha Boulevard) to find some of the market’s better-quality items.”

– Jo, Siem Reap Urban Adventures

Street food stall at night in Siem Reap

Find some authentic Khmer barbecue and dig in

Singapore, Singapore

“To experience the local food scene, your best bet is to head to the hawker centres and coffee shops in any of the suburbs or neighbourhoods (referred to in Singapore as ‘the Heartlands’). You can also find many 24-hour food places that cater to shift workers or anyone who is just sleepless and craving a snack. In fact, food is so closely associated with our lifestyle that people actually greet each other with food questions. The Chinese will say ‘chiak pa buay?’ when they meet a friend, while the Malays will say ‘suda makan?’ — both of which mean, ‘Have you eaten?'”

– Rene, Singapore Urban Adventures

Sydney, Australia

“When you arrive in Sydney, be sure to grab an Opal card right away so you have access to bus, train and ferry services without the need to carry cash or paper tickets. Tap your card and you are off!”

– Ryan, Sydney Urban Adventures

Taipei, Taiwan

“Don’t be afraid to go out at night! It is incredibly safe in Taipei. It is even safe for a woman to walk down the street at midnight because of the many night markets and 24-hour restaurants and convenience stores. So don’t worry, you can feel very relaxed as you travel around our beautiful city.”

– Jonathan, Taipei Urban Adventures

night market in Taipei

No need to worry when you’re out at night in Taipei, as so many others will be out with you!

Tokyo, Japan

“In Japan, you bow with your hands down, not like in some countries where you put your hands together as though you’re praying. Here, we keep our hands down at our sides, and the deeper you bow, the more respect you are showing. You don’t have to bow too deeply, though, especially as a guest in our country — locals traditionally show respect for guests and customers, so if you bow too low, they’ll have to bow even lower to show you respect! There’s no rule when to bow, just whenever you want to show respect. When greeting someone or saying goodbye, it’s appropriate, or when showing your appreciation or that you’re grateful for something.”

– Meg, Tokyo Urban Adventures

Toronto, Canada

“In Toronto, be aware that unless you are staying at a luxury hotel or a hostel, the concierge desk is probably operated by an employee of the big sightseeing bus tour company in town (actually two companies with the same owner), who happily sell bus tour tickets and will only recommend restaurants and activities that pay that company.”

“Don’t plan on driving downtown. The traffic can be very congested, there is always lots of construction, you have to find parking, and once you do, you usually have to pay a lot for it. The best way to get around is to leave your car at your hotel and walk, bike, take public transit, or hail a taxi or Uber. Also, note that a taxi from the airport to the city centre can be around $60. Take our new UP express train; it’s way cheaper and faster, and has wifi the whole way.”

– Jason & Mike, Toronto Urban Adventures

Valencia, Spain

“When you’re visiting Valencia’s popular public food market, Mercado Central, remember these three golden rules: 1) Don’t touch the produce if you are not buying. 2) Honour the ‘no photography’ signs at some stalls if you don’t want a stern stare from our otherwise friendly vendors. 3) Be careful of the Spanish grannies with their shopping trolleys — they might not watch your feet!”

“Also, did you know that lunch is typically served from 2pm onwards in Valencia? That is because most locals have a morning tea called almuerzo around 11am, when a baguette sandwich (called a bocadillo) with delicious filings such as jamón or lomo and pimiento (pork and peppers) is enjoyed. This is also when the Valencians enjoy their first beer of the day… you should join in too!”

– Lenny, Valencia Urban Adventures

produce on display in the market in Valencia

In Valencia’s market, if you touch, you buy!

Vigo, Spain

“After walking through the old port area of Vigo, take the ferry over to Cangas, a quaint fishing village and a great spot for tapas and wine. You’ll get awesome views of Vigo city from the bay, and it only takes 20 minutes to get there and the boats run every 30 minutes. They depart from the Estacion Maritima de Vigo — MAR DE ONS right at the port. Tickets are only EUR 2.20 each way.”

– Sean, Vigo Urban Adventures

Vilnius, Lithuania

“Ljubljana was the 2016 recipient of the European Green Capital Award, and everyone who lives in Vilnius goes beyond following the environmental ‘rules’ the city and country has set in place. There is a true passion and love that is ingrained in the community towards achieving a green lifestyle. Even visitors feel the community’s love for their city, the environment, and for the Earth.”

– Syed, Vilnius Urban Adventures

Zanzibar, Tanzania

“To experience a friendly and happy Stone Town evening, wander away from the tourist district and just sit down on the baraza, and enjoy some fast food or fruit from the street vendors and small shops. This is what locals do, and it’s the easiest way to meet people who are not trying to sell anything to you.”

– Aino, Zanzibar Urban Adventures

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