Visiting a new country is usually exciting and daunting in equal measure, but whether the vacation lasts a couple of weeks, a month or even a year, it often feels like there’s never enough time to see and absorb everything we want to. When you have a limited amount of time, the need for efficiency becomes even greater.

You may be able to make it to the big tourist hotspots, but you are unlikely to be experiencing the true spirit of the destination. To experience more of what makes a new country unique, here are 6 tips to help you explore.

  1. Do your research 

In order to experience as much as you can, it’s important to start your research as early as possible. There are plenty of blogs, websites, and guidebooks that can give you an insight not only into the sights and attractions you should be looking out for but also for the culture, traditions, and cuisine you will be experiencing.

Be aware that some countries will require you to get a visa. One such is Saudia Arabia where you will need to pay a Saudi visa fee.

You may also be able to pick up some money-saving tips to help you make your budget stretch further.

  1. Hire a car

If you are reliant on public transport or tour guides, you will be missing out on at least some of the ‘real’ culture of a country. The main attractions and landmarks are great, but how do people live outside of the tourist map? Hire a car at the airport with International Car Rental and spend some time visiting the less well-traveled routes.

  1. Stay with local people 

In years gone by, the only options for accommodation were B&Bs, hotels, and hostels, but the homestay era is here. There are now several websites that enable you to book a stay in the home of a local person.

These people are ready to welcome you into their home and are likely to be enthusiastic about sharing their country with you and recommending where you should go and what you should do. Some may even prepare home-cooked meals.

  1. Stray off the beaten track

While a guided tour can help you to get your bearings in a new town or city, you shouldn’t be afraid to take an alternative route sometimes. Heading away from the crowds and towards the lesser-known areas will often provide you with a very different experience. If you do lose your way, you can always ask for help to get back to a familiar place.

  1. Learn some basic language

You don’t necessarily need to become fluent, but learning the basics of the local language will make a huge difference to your experience of a place. It’s not only a polite thing to do, but the local people will also be far more likely to help you and you’ll be able to make genuine human connections with people there.

You may even discover new places or benefit from some freebies as a result of your conversations. It often doesn’t matter if you make a mistake as simply making the effort is almost as important.

  1. Eat the local food and drink 

While it can be tempting to opt for familiar fast-food chains and global brands, try to eat and drink in independent restaurants and bars. You will learn a lot about a culture from where they socialize and there is usually an iconic food and drink associated with a country which you should make the effort to try while you’re there.