Some travel destinations seem so well documented they begin to feel like home. Comfortable—too comfortable—you yearn for something new to excite your senses. Hidden gems—it’s a traveller’s version of striking gold. They can be found right under our noses (amongst our usual haunts) or off the beaten track, to find them you need only put down your itinerary and follow these simple tips.
Walk to explore or go on free walking tours
A change of pace is what everyone needs when looking for a destination’s hidden gems. Photo credit: Unsplash
Primitive and raw as exploring can get, setting out by foot is undoubtedly one of the best ways to discover the intricacies of a destination. While taxis or tour buses allow you to switch off, walking invites and even demands, you to pay attention to your surroundings, giving you the luxury of time to explore whatever it is that catches your eye. You’ll find yourself wandering down alleyways and small roads that hide quaint local businesses, novel stores and other gems.
If walking around by yourself isn’t quite your thing, sign up for free walking tours. Just search for one online, register and be there at the stated date, time and location. You’ll meet up with your group and guide before traversing the city for the next few hours. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides will fill you in on local culture, history and all that good stuff. Take the opportunity to speak to your guide to gain their unique perspective on the destination.
Take public transport
If it’s how the locals get about you can be sure you’ll be going to authentic local hangouts. Photo credit: Unsplash
Taxis don’t count. Beyond the sense of accomplishment gained from purchasing bus and train tickets in a foreign land, the storied past and history of some countries’ public transport systems (e.g Moscow Metro with its famed art) are enough of a reason to hop onboard.
Hopping on and off public transport doesn’t just give you a good idea of how the city is laid out, but brings you through, past and to places locals frequent. To avoid getting (too) lost, do some research and speak to locals before attempting to figure this puzzle out.
Talk to locals
Asking Google, Siri or some other AI about Destination X will never give you the same experience and understanding about Destination X a living breathing human being living there will. Photo credit: Unsplash
If there’s a tip Anywhr never fails to give travellers, it’s to have conversations—especially with locals. They hold the secrets and nuggets of knowledge that you—the intrepid traveller—wouldn’t know about.
You’ll find that most locals are not only friendly but will enthusiastically point you in the direction of their favourite spots for anything and everything—for example, that after hours hole in the wall or elusive push cart that hasn’t been picked up by social media, just be sure to ask nicely.
But use technology as well
Don’t leave your phone at home just yet! Photo credit: Unsplash
Well, this seems to contradict the previous point, but with the boom of travel apps it’s never been easier for travellers to get into the spirit of exploring. Anywhr’s advice is to use technology to complement the other tips and methods.
Use downloadable maps and public transport network guides to get a better idea of how a city moves and functions. Other apps to consider using are of the language variety, allowing you to learn and practice a language during your travels.
Look up and check out local events
Experience the passion of a local sporting event. Photo credit: Unsplash
Veer away from events that have been organised to bring tourists in and put your feelers out for the ones locals are streaming to.
Look for online sites and groups that locals (or long term residents) use to keep themselves in the loop for flea markets, concerts, sport events, art festivals and more—pick the ones that interest you and immerse yourself in whatever it is locals do for fun!
If you have trouble finding any, the key phrase “events in (insert destination name)” usually work well for a start.
Hidden gems often lie in plain sight but when discovered, they’ll draw the adventurous traveller in you like a moth to a flame. Photo credit: Unsplash
Hidden gems require travellers (you) to go down to the ground, to mingle and explore. This often means getting a little lost and stepping out of your comfort zone. Think about it—would you rather bring friends visiting from other countries to your hometown’s latest (and not so greatest) tourist trap or your favourite heartland hangout with local prices and authentic vibes? The team at Anywhr thinks the answer is pretty obvious.
If you’re still left unconvinced, remember, it’s not the jam-packed tourist spots but the discovery of hidden gems, secret hangouts and the experiences we have with them that we enthusiastically recount to friends and family for years to come.
Article written by Matthew Leu, in a collaboration with Anywhr.
About Anywhr: Anywhr sends you on personalised surprise trips off the beaten track. Discover your specially-chosen destination only at the airport. Choose between an Adventure, Getaway, or Experience, tell them your budget, and the Anywhr trip curation team will do the rest. Now flying out from major international airports, including Singapore Changi Airport.