Episode 41

How to Be a Better Tourist

Published on: 4th July, 2024

Do you want to have a richer experience when you travel? On this episode Time to Talk Travel hosts Desiree Miller, Maureen Dennis, and Nasreen Stump share their tips on how to be a better tourist including finding out what is important to the locals, immersing yourself, tasting the food, public transportation and more.


Bermuda - St. Georges, Dockyard, Southampton

Arcos de la Frontera, Spain

Porto and Lisbon Portugal


Puerto Rico- Spoon Food Tours

Airbnb Experiences

With Locals

Sri Lanka

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Playa del Carmen

Charlestown, Nevis

Positano and Amalfi

NYC Subway MTA and Atlanta MARTA

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We include transcripts to make our podcasts accessible. Transcripts are lightly edited during the course of episode development to correct spelling for the names of places and clarity. There may be further grammatical or spelling errors that are not addressed. Please know the transcripts are a guide/raw product not a polished piece of journalism. Thank you!


How to Be a Better Tourist


[00:00:16] Nasreen: Hi, we're back with Time to Talk Travel. Today's episode is going to be centered around how to be a better tourist. We don't necessarily mean, how to not behave badly, which we've covered before in excruciating detail with all the cringey things that people do when they're on vacation in other places.

More about how to really get the most out of your experience and respect the area you're going to and just Make it so that you learn while you're there and you have a great time.


And having spent six weeks in Barcelona last year, I can tell you, it's true. They have the best bus system that I've ever seen when I go traveling. But there are certain times of day where you can't get a seat, you can't get even on the bus. It's just so overcrowded, especially in the hotspots.

This comes out of over tourism and I would say to me, The number one tip when I go to any destination, you really do try to shop local, be local. And the best way I have seen to do that and still learn the culture is a food tour. I have done food tours in every city and you get the history of the area. You're eating in Four or five different local shops minimum. I did a food tour in Puerto Vallarta and there were 10 different food trucks, taco trucks. So that's my big one. Shop local, eat local get the real flavor of the community, but that is one easy way to do it.


And Took us to historical things. We were learning about the local liquor and how it used to be made in the bootleg way. And now there was a legal version and it was fascinating. Same thing when we were in Sri Lanka, we went to a village and they made us a meal the traditional way and we got to see the whole thing.

If you don't kind of immerse yourself in the food while you're there, you're missing a giant opportunity to learn more about the location.


The drink tours often have the same sort of history and fun. You can taste everything. You don't have to get smashed on it. But if food isn't really your, your thing, then that's another option.

If you ever have the chance to go home with a local, we were talking about going with you Des to was it Ventura Beach? And, and,

uh, Ventura. Where?


[00:03:29] Maureen: Bureau. Sorry. Yeah, that is my first choice. I would talk to friends and see where they can be my tour guide and basically, take me home. , I would love to take a bunch of Texans to Canada. I think that would be Awesome and hilarious all at the same time. Look at going with a local, go with a friend. Don't put the pressure on them to necessarily be her tour guide because that can be a very stressful position, but, at least get their list, go on your own and get their list of where to go.


And so getting into conversations with people who are sitting there and just being like, hey, I left some time free, what is cool about your town that someone wouldn't normally go to, or what should I look for that's unique that people don't realize? And you'll hear the most random stories, like why the porches are designed this way because of something that happened back when, or did you know that this on the house signifies that a captain lived there.


When they rebuilt, they rebuilt specifically so that the streets ran perpendicular to the water so that if water went up, it would be able to run back down. That was fascinating to me. And I wasn't going for a history tour. I was going for a relaxing sunset thing, but I love when you can find out little things.

And Mo, to your point, I agree a hundred percent. I'm going back to Lisbon and I'm leading a group of women to see different hotspots. I hadn't been to Porto before, but I'm part of a Facebook group of women who travel and there's a gal in there who begged, please come see my town.

Please come to Porto. I will show you around. I will get you the best wines. And you're right. The locals know exactly where to go. Typically when I go to a hotel, I don't like to see the concierge for tips. I like to ask the desk clerk because I say, Hey, where do you go on Friday nights?

Where do you go dancing? Where do you like to go get lunch? It's a whole different answer than the concierge is going to serve up where they have a different relationship or maybe even different expectations.


Yeah, they know a few better spots. They took us one road over. You just don't know to go one more road over, right? Or like four more blocks to a super quiet beach or, into a neighborhood with ruins in it that you would never know. I do talk to the person at the desk rather than the concierge as well. And when you stay there for a few days, you get to talk to people like that. If you only go and you're going from here to here to here, and you don't spend any time, you don't meet those accidental tour guides. So, we took a taxi off the resort in Nevis into Charlestown, Our cab driver was so enthusiastic about her town that she drove us around for half an hour.

This town is not even a half an hour big, but she drove us up and around and all through. And you know what? I would have walked past the beach and would have been that's a beautiful beach. And she's well, that's where they used to hang pirates, right? And then, and she goes, every Island has one. And I'm like, awesome. What tour is that on? You know what I mean? I love those accidental tour guides. They're just passionate and they just want to tell you.


The towns count on the tourist dollars a lot of times, and if you're not actually staying overnight having dinner and then having breakfast. If you're just kind of running in on a bus and grabbing a bottle of water and maybe a sandwich, because you're hop, hop, hopping, they're not getting the benefit that they count on to, to survive in a lot of cases.


[00:08:42] Nasreen: I think everybody, whether they're a travel writer or not, has had an experience where they've seen an article about an area they grew up in, or an area they visit a lot,

and they're like, that's what you picked to tell people about to do here? What are you thinking? That's crap. That's not what we do. Or that's not the best, but that's what only people who come to visit. It's not immersive. And so I think there is that recognition that we all know that. That locals have a better place.

I know that I'm coming fresh off a trip to Bermuda with my friend who grew up there. And so having that perspective from her and listening to her talk to the different taxi drivers that we were in with about what's changed around the island . I would have gone and been like, Oh, the roofs are pretty here.

I love them. And when I told her that she was able to tell me that the reason they have the the white roofs with the white. ridging is because the houses have rainwater collection tanks underneath them and that's how they get their water and so the roofs are limestone which filters covered with a special mix of whatever and it makes it so that the water comes down and starts the filtration process before it even has to go through the tanks and I'm Are you kidding me?

And then she's like, , locals rent boats and go raft up and hook together and go in a cove and play on the boat all day and snorkel and take naps and drink and eat and picnic and we did that with her friends who were locals. If I was a tourist there, I would have gone on a tour, paid a bazillion dollars more, and not got to see three different types of parrotfish.

I mean, I got, I got a fun saddlebag sunburn on my thighs because I spent so much time with my butt up in the air looking at fish.


[00:10:29] Maureen: I was gonna say, unless you're not in an area where you should do that, there are some places where it's best to stay put at a resort, be safe, enjoy the all inclusive, sometimes there's a reason for that, so do your homework, but if you can, go.


I almost did for my Iceland trip because I was so sure I'd have these amazing videos. And I was so glad I didn't when I got there because it was a massive windstorm. The drone would have been gone in two seconds flat. I would have lost all that money, but these days it's so common. I mean, we all know what it's like, even in our homes, in our backyard neighborhood. Why does my neighbor need a drone to come see what's going on? And everybody's no. So let the professionals use the drones .


guys ever done a Airbnb experience? Locals offer up things to do

. I've only done a couple of them and they've been amazing. We did one where we made pasta in an Italian woman's house just north of Lake Garda. We still make gnocchi that way, right? You learn something. It's a life skill now that we learned from someone and I got to see in their home and we got to support her locally.


You could book through a flying dress company and pay triple what I paid through the Airbnb experience photographer. And I worried about it cause I was why is she so much less than everybody?

Well, she was so much less cause she's not going through this massive company that's promoting it and advertising everywhere. It was probably a hundred bucks to hire her for three hours. She did all the photo editing afterwards, sent it to me. I had to pay an extra 20 euros to her friend to make the dress actually fly, you know,


[00:12:26] Desiree: I mean,


was awesome.


so doing that next year.

My friend is there today. And don't think she's doing it and it's killing me that she's not doing it.


And I just thought I'm going to bring it. Even if they just have to throw it on in a bathroom and just stand, we'll take one or two.


[00:13:03] Desiree: I did. Oh, on Etsy. Yes. Because again, it was , A 500 photographer experience to wear a dress that they had eight choices in different colors. Or I could go on Etsy for 60, buy the dress, have it sent to me, pay this gal on Airbnb 100. Ultimately she did have dresses as well, but she didn't when I booked it originally.

Someone said, man, did that take up your whole suitcase? No, I roll everything. It was fine. Took up maybe a fourth of it, but it was fine.


share the flying dress love.


[00:13:44] Nasreen: I was going to say there are also other sites as well. It benefits to go on through a site because there's usually some type of vetting process . They may have insurance on their guides. They may require a background check.

You can feel a little safer. There's a site called With Locals and that also does matches where you can do local experiences or pair up with a private guide if you want one. And I cannot remember which one it was, but there was something similar when I was in Texas. Houstonians that used to do

unique tours. You could go under, the buildings in Houston, there are tunnels that connect a bunch of them, the office buildings downtown. And I was writing an article that had some of the weird and strange things to do around Houston that wouldn't necessarily be The ones you would think of, and I remember going in the tunnels, I remember doing the water wall over near the mall that you can take pictures in front of, feeding the police horses, which I didn't even know was a thing, but you could go to the police stables and feed the horses, and my son was little at the time, and he thought it was just the coolest thing ever. There's these things wouldn't pop up on a normal tourist site, but again, If you're looking for someone who may have been vetted, a site is usually a better way to go, or you can ask them if they have any certifications or insurance.


[00:14:58] Desiree: That's wise. That's wise. Even if you have the Find 360 on your phone when you're in a zone that doesn't have wifi, they're not going to find you. So agreed.


No, there's a ton of local information that can be super helpful. Like Nas says, you got to vet it, but as far as recommendations on stores and restaurants, events, things like that. It's a great source because it's in the now it's not, Oh, well, this was from four years ago, you know?


Now it's. Tiktok.


What can I do when I'm there? And they want their clients to kind of feel at home when they get there. So I'm finding that the realtors are actually doing a really great job. If you look up a realtor in the area on TikTok, you can probably find a couple things to do that are very local.


[00:16:50] Maureen: Especially if you're relocating from out of state or out of the country like I did. I had no idea. We were starting from zero with where to go and what our options were. I actually did find a real estate agent on Facebook who helped us remotely do that and kind of gave, what kind of lifestyle do you want?

You know,


And in Vermont, everything is about local and produce, so going to a farm meal if you're there during the summer can be a great experience and a way to Meet with locals, too, because a lot of times it's not a tourist event. You may just happen to snag it while there's other people from the community there because it's an event for them as well.


[00:18:00] Desiree: When I was in Arcos last year, it was purely by accident that they were having their San Miguel Festival the same time we were there. It's this big festival that all of the women wear their flamenco dresses. And they have tent after tent after tent with different companies sponsoring each one where you go in and it's a different live band playing and different drinks being served up. It's like all the old culture comes back. They have the men riding horses in their old hats. It's really embracing the deep historical culture of the community. And I thought, I loved that we landed there at the same time and got to experience that. I was just upset that I didn't have a flamenco dress to put on.

You stand out like a sore thumb. It's like going to Oktoberfest. My friends warned me, you must wear a dirndl.

He must wear a leiderhosen. You do not show up at Oktoberfest in jeans or skirt. No, you have to wear the garb. And I wish I'd known that. Cause I, first of all, I like to own a flamenco dress. I just think it looks fun.


What are the local Facebook pages, the towns, posting about? If you Google the town or area and ask donations. A lot of tour companies or hotels will give back to the community. You can see what the community supports. If there is a site that they are all supporting, even if it's not one of the top ones, there's a reason.

It's important to them. Go there. And the other thing I like to do is look at hotels that offer resident specials, you can Google hotels, Porto resident specials, because a hotel that is attracting the residents and offering those resident specials, if they're staying in a hotel in that area, there's a reason why they're going there.

And if it's successful, Then that might be one you want to look at and they're giving back to the area as well by allowing locals to have the same experience. When we were in Sri Lanka, there was a pricing for people who had Sri Lankan, residency and people who didn't. And tourists paid more so that Sri Lankans could also go and enjoy the sites as well.


[00:20:12] Desiree: that is a good tip. I'm trying to think of other places that have done that, but all I can think of right now is florida with their Disney, the resident discounts . But that's probably just a way of saying thank you to the people who can go anytime and


[00:20:26] Desiree: Another thing you don't have to take an Uber everywhere. If you can just take the time to figure out their bus system. Google Maps helps with that now.

It'll tell you get on this bus at this corner


I love taking local transportation. I just, I like it. I feel like it gives you a better feel of everything. And obviously it's cheaper and I'd rather save my money for food and fun things. But when we were in Bermuda, we took the bus a bunch of places, but then we took the bus from one end of the island to the other, got off there, and then we had bought a day pass, and always look for the day passes if you're in a new place, because a lot of times the pricing is great, and it allows you to get on, get off, look at things, get on, get off.

It included the ferry, and she had never done the ferry back from St. George's, and it comes all the way back to the other side of the island at Dockyard. It was these amazing views. And she turned into this little mini tour guide on the top because she's like, Oh, that's where that is.

Oh, see that tower? That's the incinerator. That's where they burned all the Island's trash. You used to have to take your trash there. Now they pick up. All these people are coming in, they're asking her questions, but she had never done that before because she had never taken the ferry back and forth.

It was never a necessity for her because they had scooters, but it was so cool. I love public transportation.


But I know I should,


It's a difference if I'm by myself at night, or if it's a difference when I'm with my husband, or a group of friends, like, all of those will play into those sorts of decisions.


[00:22:37] Desiree: You mean MARTA? Yeah.

On Marta. Yeah,


These kids are getting on the buses and the bus driver knows them all because that's how the kids get back and forth to school on the public buses. And she's, Oh, hi, see you . Oh, have fun. You know have fun all summer. You were good. You're great. You know, and she knows them all right.

We get to the stop and we hear her having a conversation with this little kid. We can't see the kid. And she's like, Oh, you have to give that to one of your friends. You can't bring that on the bus. You got to give it to one of your friends. The kid had just bought a snow cone. And was eating it and can't get on the bus with it.

And the kid's like, I'm going to stay here and get the next bus. And she's like, what am I going to tell your mama? And the kid's like, it's fine. She won't mind. And she's like, fine. I'm going to tell your mom I saw you, but you get on that next bus. And if that next bus, you're not done with your snow cone.

You give it to a friend or throw it out. And it was just so funny. It's the little moments, they knew everyone and the kids were so funny. And it was just, It was part of the culture. It's feels like you understand things a little bit more. And my friend had told me what it was like to grow up on an island where people know, you know, your parents, you say your family name and they know who you are.

And it was just such an illustration of it.


It wasn't fun walking from our hotel to the, because it was up and around a corner, but that's Amalfi, everything is up and down and stairs and windy. And but it was a 10, 15 minute walk and you'd wait at the bus stop. You'd buy your little bus ticket right there at the corner store. And then you'd wait for the bus, the five minutes, it was. a fifth the cost. And we went back and forth twice in one day because we thought it was going to be too cold for bathing suits. And then it wasn't. So we had to go back Daly to get her bathing suit, then go back again. We just kicked back and relaxed. But that same bus was the school bus the city buses that run. And I thought people are living in these homes right there on the cliff of the Amalfi coast, going to school. This is amazing. And it'd be fun. Some of them would say, Oh, you coming to my house today? And similar conversations.

Like you said, they just, they're living their life and you're sitting amongst the locals.


What's the bottle of wine the mom's grabbing?


[00:25:43] Maureen: In a lot of places that you do go every day. You just get the food for what you need today and go back again the next day.


[00:25:58] Maureen: Oh, right. It's cheaper than water.


[00:26:01] Nasreen: I mean, when I traveled for work all the time and, you know, if you travel for work, don't get trapped into bringing home presents every single time because it gets tricky if people come to expect them. So I used to bring boxed cereals at one point when my kids were little, and then I started picking up local candy bars or something.

I'd ask, I'd be what's the candy bar that you know is from your area that people don't normally have? But it's, It's fascinating the different food things that you pick up on. Bermuda's food is expensive. You know, the grocery stores are expensive. You go in there and you're Oh my goodness.

That's how much it's like Alaska level on TikTok where they're talking about, they're paying 18 for strawberries or something. However, again, a random local thing, They get shipments in every month. A lot of the bars and things like that, they'll order and it'll come freight and there's tariffs and importation fees for things.

And that's why they may cost a little bit more because they have to pay a very specific tax on how much liquor they're bringing in. So this one person was telling us about how this one bar has a special, and it's mostly locals, I assume, 50 all you can drink end of the month because they're bringing their new inventory in and they're trying to clear out everything else they have.

And I'm Wow, yeah, did not know that definitely don't think that's out there, you know a lot . One other bus thing that I will mention, I think I take for granted my ability to walk everywhere. I like to walk places and I assume I can do it because in the U. S. I stay in a lot of cities and things and I like to get up and take a walk and go to a bakery or something in the morning.

When there are bus routes that are really robust in other countries, and you're looking at it and it has a lot of stops, There may be a reason for that and it may be because it's not pedestrian friendly. So Bermuda, beautiful. I did manage to walk across. We were on a very narrow part of the island. I walked across to watch sunrise on another beach on the other side.

Got there fine. It wasn't busy. Came back. It was fine, but there's not sidewalks or things and the scooters and the, the cars, the roads in some areas, you would have to press yourself along a stone wall and edge along. You cannot walk. That is why they have so many bus stops and shelters. And so So I was able to do the little route.

I wouldn't have been able to walk further. I certainly wouldn't have been able to go walk to a store or find something to eat in the morning. So just one thing to be aware of and maybe ask about, that's always my expectation that I can walk places if I need to. It's not always true. No.

Capri was


And if you're walking out of a store, you better walk right back in. If you see the car coming, cause there's nowhere to go. good to know. I think we've given a bunch of tips. This is great information.


It's kind of expanding beyond that.


[00:29:35] Desiree: I agree. At least learn thank you, you're welcome, and hello and goodbye, at least. And how much. But then that gets me in trouble. I say how much and then they think I know, and I'm , okay, stop. I'm just humoring you.


Or, if it's busy, I'm not, I don't like being pushed in by people, I'll take a picture of the plaque back up and go read it somewhere else if it's in English, so that I'm not standing right up there in front. Because I just, I like to learn. I like to look things up. I want to know why things are.

I want to look at them later and see. And so my friend was teasing me because she grew up in Bermuda. And I'm like, Oh, did you know that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And she's like, what? And I'm like, yeah, I looked it up.


[00:30:46] Nasreen: I think we have covered a ton and we just really hope everyone goes out there with the spirit of exploration on your trips for the rest of this summer and as you move forward. Until next time, thanks for joining us on another episode of Time to Talk Travel.


[00:31:01] Narrator: This has been another episode of Time to Talk Travel, brought to you by HashtagTravels. com. You can keep in touch with us between episodes by checking out our site, joining our newsletter, or connecting with us on social. We've always got the information you need in our episode notes. Until next time, happy travels, and thanks for being a part of our trip.

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Time to Talk Travel
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Time to Talk Travel, a podcast for travel enthusiasts, was born out of a need for community. The voices and faces behind TTTT met over a decade ago while navigating online content creation. Their kids grew up together on press trips, they were online cheerleaders for each others successes, and there to provide support to online friends when times were tough. Life got busy. Something was missing - that supportive community they craved. Now they're back- a little older, much wiser, and with a wealth of travel knowledge to drop.
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