I LOVE to travel, especially to fabulous, far-off places where the food is scrumptious, the beer is cheap and the culture is mesmerising.
Last week my boyfriend whisked me off to Marrakesh for my 30th birthday. It ticked all of the above boxes apart from the cheap beer, which was on par with UK prices, because it’s a Muslim country and alcohol is rare.
Perhaps it was my relative sobriety compared to past holidays, but for the first time I thought hard about how to travel ethically, and came up with one rule of thumb: THINK LOCAL.
Living like a local once you arrive in a tourist-driven economy is the best way to make sure your money reaches needy hands.
A few tips:
- Get in! We chose to stay in the old walled city called the Medina instead of the modern “European quarter” with high rise hotels and much wealthier citizens. Every Dirham we spent on food, water and daily necessities went to the locals around in our non-touristed neighborhood, who don’t benefit as much from wealthy travellers
- Sleep like the locals. We stayed in a traditional Marrakeshi-style house called a Riad. Not only was it beautiful with a rooftop terrace, open courtyard and lovely decor, we learned much about Marrakeshi living from the local hostess and cook. Our money for the spa and meals went to her deserving hands, but next time I’ll strive to choose locally-owned digs as this spot was run by French ex-pats.
- Eat like the locals. Buy fresh food from stalls and market stands instead of restaurants packed with tourists and you’ll be helping one man or woman tremendously.
- Use local tour companies. We went on a day trip to the Atlas Mountains and booked through a Marrakeshi-based tour company instead of a number of UK-based organisations listed in our guidebook.
- If you’re happy and you know it, tip! If you’re in a country where tips are common and you get great service from a local, give them a tip. What seems like change to you is a big deal to hard-working locals struggling to make a buck.
Travelling local brings you closer to the people and culture you’re visiting. And best of all, it’s substantially cheaper!
Watch out for tomorrow’s blog on bargain hunting abroad!