It’s finally here, that long-awaited beach holiday that you’ve been banging on about to friends, family and anyone who’ll listen for the past few months. You’ve packed like a pro, turned the house upside down and managed to locate your passport, and sent out a few Snapchats to announce your imminent departure – you’re good to go! To get the very most out of your holiday, we’ve noted down a couple of handy last-minute pointers that you might want to remember while you’re away…
Talk to the locals
You may have read all the Lonely Planet guides out there, but often the simplest way of discovering hidden gems is by having a chat with a local. People who live in and around the area can open your eyes to destinations off the tourist track and give you the real inside scoop. So when you’re getting your morning baguette from the boulangerie or are sipping on an afternoon coffee in the piazza, make some friends and you may uncover something new that a guide book fails to mention!
Image © Athikhom Saengchai
Being aware of the cultural norms and customs is massively important when on holiday, and this can even translate down to the clothes on your back. Sure it may be hot and you’re desperate to get that sun-kissed holiday glow, but make sure your attire is culturally acceptable by reading up on the traditions and religion of your destination before you strip off the second you get off the plane.
Eat like a local
Venture out of your comfort zone and try the local food. Not only might you discover a foodie cuisine that’s right up your street, but it gives a rounded understanding of a local culture and can be a real insight into tradition and heritage. The cherished banh mi, for example, is a relic from the French colonial conquest of Vietnam, and the much-loved Margherita pizza was invented in 1889 in honour of the Italian flag, hence the white of the mozzarella, red of the tomato and bright green of the basil leaf! So ditch that portion of chips for an authentic pad Thai cooked up on a street corner, and it’ll surprise you what you learn.
Take a stab at the language
Even if linguistics is not your thing, learning the basics of another language goes a long way. Local residents appreciate the effort when you manage to stumble through a sentence, be it a simple restaurant or bar order, or if you’re trying to ask for directions. There are plenty of apps out there that talk you through the basic hellos, goodbyes, please and thank yous in a variety of languages – Duolingo being one of the most notable.
Read up on your public affairs
This doesn’t mean you have to head to your local library and absorb the entire contents of a history book, just do some googling so you know exactly what to expect. You could be heading to a country where there is political unrest and protests, an imminent religious celebration, or just a cultural norm you weren’t aware of like no alcohol consumption (in which case you’ll be in for a surprise when you try to order your first holiday cocktail). Don’t be silly, just do your research beforehand and you’ll be all the wiser.
Unleash your spontaneous side
Last on our list of top tips is to unleash your spontaneous side and just say yes! Even if you feel a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes to an excursion like scuba diving, horseback riding or hiking could make your trip, and you could discover something you love. It’s usually the more spontaneous and adventurous days out on your holiday that are the most memorable.