One of my favorite travel tips is to visit grocery and convenience stores when you travel. It may sound odd at first, but there are actually some great benefits to shopping while on the road.
No matter who you are, no one wants to waste money, especially while on vacation. Instead of stopping at touristy shops or buying snacks from your hotel, find the nearest grocery store and stock up. Grocery and convenience stores don’t exist for tourists, they’re there for locals and so the prices will be the best in town. I’m a Diet Coke fanatic, so whenever I visit a new place I stop by the local grocery store and buy several packs of my favorite product, savings lots of money in the process. They’re not just great for drinks though; grocery stores are also the perfect place to buy snacks for long days of sightseeing and even souvenirs to take home. That bottle of regional honey you loved at the tourist shop will be a fraction of the price in a grocery store and is a great gift to take home.
Tip:Bring your own bag as many grocery stores around the world either don’t provide bags or will charge you extra to use them.
While getting a good deal is important, grocery stores are also an important part of the travel experience. Food is arguably the most important aspect of any trip and one of the best ways to gain insight into a new country and culture. The fastest way to gain this exposure into the foodie soul is by going shopping. While certain staples can be found in any grocery store, it’s the nature of the wares that is important. In Madrid a store I went into had three aisles of olive oil and in Taiwan they had yams roasting, fresh to take home and eat. Say what you will, but these quirks are important reflections into the cultures and provide a level of education and understanding you won’t find by just seeing the major tourist attractions.
Tip:If you find a food that is highlighted, be sure to ask questions about it. What makes the ham in Spain so good, why are you roasting yams, etc?
3.Feel like a local
Ultimately, the goal of most travelers is not to stand out like a sore thumb, but to look and feel like a local. We all want to pretend, even if only for a few days that we really do live in Milan and attend fancy fashion shows; that we are great Berliners, on the cutting edge of art and design. The best way to feel like a local is to act like a local and grocery stores afford us that luxury. Whenever I shop in a foreign grocery store I feel less like an awkward tourist and more like I belong there. That feeling is priceless and is a great reason to visit a grocery store overseas.
Tip:Leave the cameras and fanny packs in the hotel when you shop to complete the look and feel of ‘going local.’
Do you visit grocery stores while traveling? What is the most unusual item you’ve found?