5 ways to meet locals in Southeast Asia

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It’s refreshing to take a break from temple traipsing and escape the tourist trail by meeting local people. But with language barriers and different customs, it can be difficult to know where to start. Don’t let this put you off! There’s no better way to understand a country than to get chatting to some of its residents.

1. Have a home-cooked meal

Have a home-cooked dinner in Hanoi

While skipping street food is certainly not recommended, a home cooked meal with a local family is well worth sparing a few hours for. With a cup of tea (or something stronger!) in hand, delicious wafts escaping from the kitchen, and a spot at the family dinner table, you’ll be chatting like old friends in no time – and learning a cookery tip or two along the way.

DO IT: Tuck into home-cooked food with an English speaking host in Vietnam.

2. Take a tour with a local guide

Andy with our lovely guide Bunthan – the fount of all knowledge and a firm friend by the end of our week with him.

You know when you’ve been to an amazing new restaurant, art exhibition or event and want to tell anyone who will listen? As well as showing you the sights, local guides have access to this insider info. Whether it’s a niche interest you want to know more about, questions you’re desperate to ask, or the very best street food stall to try, local guides are your best bet.

DO IT: Explore the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh with a local insider.

3. Bed down in a homestay

Often tucked between mountains, or in small, traditional villages, homestays are an immersive way to experience rural life. Explore some of Southeast Asia’s wildest expanses and beautiful landscapes before a well-earned rest, a hearty meal and spirited conversations over dinner.

DO IT: Whether in Mai Chau, Danang, Ha Giang, Ba Be, or Cham Island, we’d love to help you arrange a night at a homestay in Vietnam.

4. Lend a hand

Learn new skills, meet master craftspeople and more about local industries by getting stuck in. Many organisations offer hands on experiences that benefit the community and contribute to sustainable tourism.

DO IT: Get involved on an organic farm in Luang Prabang, channel your arty side with an oil painting class in Siem Reap, or learn about artisan weavers in Vientiane.

5. See a local event or festival

With traditional rituals and visits to temples, festivals in Southeast Asia often have religious significance. But by the evening locals let their hair down and enjoy spirited celebrations – a no-holds barred insight into the country!

DO IT: Get the lowdown on all the best events and festivals in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with When to Travel.


For more information about travelling to Southeast Asia (and making some new friends), contact our friendly team of experts.

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