There are so many great facets to traveling, and one of the wonderful things about exploring is being able to learn about other cultures. As travelers, we are usually exposed to other cultures while traveling, but you can specifically plan a trip to experience as much culture as possible, from various cuisines to religious practices. By planning ahead, you can get the most out of your travels by doing some research and looking for the best experiences that will expose you to a truly cultural experience.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your trip when you want to experience different cultures.
Make an itinerary or join a tour group
The best way to experience as much culture as possible is to create a detailed itinerary. Consider everything you want to experience so that you can fit those elements into your trip. Also be sure to see if there are any local holidays during your trip. You may want to specifically experience a holiday during your travels, but in other cases, you may want to avoid particular holidays.
Start by researching your flight, and do as much as research as you can, from hotels to food. For example, you plan to fly Moroccan Airlines (الخطوط المغربية), and you want to visit Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez and Rabat, and do a Saharan Desert tour on a camel. Consider some other stops, like experiencing a Moroccan tea ritual, tasting tagine and pastilla, and visiting mosques and souks (open air markets). There is a lot to consider within your cultural tour, and you will likely have to prioritize which places and events you want to check out. Creating an itinerary and mapping out a route will allow you to be efficient and see as much as possible
If you do not want to handle the planning aspect of your trip, the best option would be to go with a tour company that can tailor your experience and handle all the details. There tour companies that specialize in cultural vacations, and will book everything for you, from hotel accommodations to transportation to food and sightseeing.
Learn the language
Before traveling, try to learn some basics of the country’s language you are visiting. It is helpful to be prepared, but is also part of the experience. By knowing some of the language, it will be easier to converse with the people in the country you are visiting. There are lots of great programs and apps that make it easy to learn a language, and you can also use a language translator to help along the way.
Study the culture
Before traveling, educate yourself about the cultures in the country you are visiting, from customs to traditions to religion. Learn about the history of where you are going, from the fascinating rise and fall of the Mayans who built amazing cities like Coba in Mexico, to the history of silk production in China. Having some background knowledge can give you much insight into your everyday travels.
Not only will you be learning about other cultures, but it allows you to be respectful and understanding of the country you are visiting. Whether you are attending a Japanese tea ceremony or a religious event, it is important to be aware of the cultural customs that are part of it.
Choose a hotel location carefully
Often, going on a vacation means picking a place such as an isolated resort that does not expose you to local culture. You may want to consider something in the heart of the city or near a cultural landmark. Search through different hotels (الفنادق) to see what is closest to the activities that you plan on doing, but also those that are more unique. If you are lucky, you can find hotels that are renovated historical buildings or perhaps an old hacienda. Take for example Hacienda San Agustin de Callo in Ecuador, which incorporates Incan walls into their rooms.
Another strategy is finding something more remote, where there is very little tourism, so that you can see more of the daily life of people. Keep in mind that this can mean more rustic accommodations, but will provide a more genuine experience.
Local markets are a great experience. Some are more touristy, but if you can find a market that the locals shop at, it is a wonderful way to see what it is like to live in the area. You will also find lots of great items to shop for as well, from local fruits and vegetables to truly handmade items that make for great souvenirs. This is a great place to try out any language skills you have learned and support the local economy as well. Remember to bargain fairly and respectfully
Enjoy local foods
Trying local foods is a must! See if you can find authentic cuisines and places that the locals visit, versus larger restaurants or even chains. Another great reason to learn the language is because if you visit local-owned businesses, you may run into a language barrier, and it will make it easier to order food when you can speak some of the language.
Be open to trying some new foods as well. For example, cuy (guinea pig) is one of Peru’s famous dishes, and is also considered a delicacy. When else will you have this kind of opportunity? Not only are there new cuisines to try, but local fruits and vegetables that are not available in your country, or in tropical areas, certainly not as fresh as locally picked fruits.
Try some less touristy places
Often, the best glimpse into a culture is to go off the beaten path and explore the non-tourist parts of a city or country. Tourist areas are almost always bound to be different and tailored to international visitors, and you can get a more genuine experience traveling outside of the area. You may want to consider renting a car so that you can go places not available via public transportation.
During the course of your trip, it is good to support as many small, local businesses as possible. You can do so by purchasing food, handcrafted goods, and other items during your travels.