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Forget About Being a Tourist! Here is How to be A Local in Cebu

Countries in Asia have been European and American tourists’ treasures. They adore the beautiful beaches, exotic food and weather. Believe me or not, some tourists not only look for leisure there but also ‘love.’ There are so many articles talking about the differences of tourist and traveler. I am not judging which one are you, but I am totally agree that there are some differences between these terms.

When I visited two biggest cities cities in the Philippines, Manila and Cebu City, I was shocked that I heard things about the foreigners there. Some of them chose to stay in a very luxurious seashores hotels. Some might have chosen the middle class inn, while the others chose the extra cheap hostels. Some travelers told me, this is what differ them with those people who stay in a very expensive hotels.

“They want to see the beaches and don’t really care about the locals. They do want to try the local food, but they choose taxi and Uber rather than joining the locals, taking public transportation. It’s not about because they suddenly become ‘rich’ after changing dollars to Philippines Peso. But it’s because they don’t really want to experience what it’s like to be the locals,” said a German girl who has traveled around Asia countries for like a year.

The Heritage of Cebu Monument

This girl, that  I don’t really want to open the name here as I haven’t asked her, knows well how those tourists who just want to sight seeing the famous places, leaving a bunch of trash and don’t really want to learn something from the locals. About the habits. The culture. The way they think and solve a lot of problems.

This girl may be right. But as I am not experienced with this annoying tourist thingy, I don’t wanna judge. You have the reasons why do you travel and stay at the high class hotels, visiting the mainstream places, and choose the taxi style while going around the city. Whatever their reason is, I choose how I travel. I want to learn about what the Philippines has. All the local things! I wanna know how does it feel if I am a Filipina, no matter how difficult it is. And then I finally did it.

What did I do in Cebu City?

In Cebu City, I took their public transportation. I ate their local food. I tried to speak in Cebuano, even if it was very hard. It was getting harder when most of the locals didn’t believe that I am an Indonesian, as we do have the same look, from the skin color to the face shape. It was hard, but I learned a lot of things. Plus, I also shared you how you can get around the city. Getting around by taxi might be safe and you won’t be confused. But I think youo’ll have a different sensation if you take the local ones.

I don’t want to experience this awesome thing alone. Fortunately, my first paid article for Travelicious World has publishes! Maybe it’s just nothing for some experienced travelers. But I hope you will enjoy this story and learn more how to be a local in Cebu City. Feel free to check it out now. Oh by the way, if you haven’t found any locals there to stay with, you can just find a cheap hotel here, on TravelBook. Not only a very nice room, but you also will get a discount, up to 50%! This is an affiliate article. I don’t get much money from this, but if you click the link here and book a room, I will appreciate it.

Click Here for Reading My Experience While Becoming a Local in Cebu City


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  • I think it is really important to visit a destination like a local. If you are being a foreigner and staying in expensive hotels, you don’t get to experience the city like a local. I think it is very important that one visits the city and stay there as a local as they can experience way more than while being foreigners.

  • neha says:

    Nice post. I always want to visit a place like a local. Do as the locals do…applies to everywhere. I can understand the sentiments of locals resonated in the statement above – “They want to see the beaches and don’t really care about the locals. They do want to try the local food, but they choose taxi and Uber rather than joining the locals, taking public transportation” . And it’s a great experience for the tourists also if they really assimilate with locals and then explore the place

    • admin says:

      Yep! Well, maybe it’s just because they can afford it. Like, staying in nice hotels, going around by taxi. Anyway, thank you for coming by.

  • Abby says:

    I’ve been to Cebu only once before but I haven’t seen much since we only get to spend one day in the city and spent most of our time in Bantayan Island. Would really love to go back to Cebu and explore some more!

    Abby of Life in the Fash Lane

    • admin says:

      Yes, please, go back to Cebu. The only thing I regret about my last trip in Cebu is the weather. It rained a lot! Make sure you choose the summer time.

  • Stacey says:

    Great post! I love doing more local stuff instead of following the crowds. Makes the trip more unique!

  • I really love traveling like a local. I use public transport whenever I can, try to find the local hotspots and avoid the touristy places as much as I can. It just gives you a completely different look into a place and local life there which I find much more rewarding.

  • Congrats on your paid article! I really enjoyed your perspective in this piece. As someone who loves to travel but also who lives in a tourist destination, I too prefer to take interact with locals. I especially love taking public transportation, both because it’s more economical but also because you get to meet tons of new people 🙂

  • Colleen says:

    I didn’t even know Cebu existed (even Cebuano was a language) until now! And I’m so glad I do. I completely agree about living like the locals, how else are you to know what life is actually like in a city?

    • Oi Meira says:

      Hehe, It’s near to Bohol island. The southern Cebu is where you can swim with the huge whalesharks. Well, staying for a week in the city isn’t enough. I was so sad when I had to come back to my country because I needed to continue my work in Jakarta. I still want to explore the beaches. There are a lot of other historical sites that I couldn’t visit. People there are very religious. That’s why you will see a lot of chapels and also Catholic churches.

  • Ah yes, I remember visiting Cebu City a couple of years ago! Honestly, jeepney’s are definitely the best way around the city – took me a while to figure out which jeepney to hop on and how it works but it was such an experience. I met up with one of my friends who currently lives in Cebu and she showed me the ropes around the local way of life. It’s a pity that some people prefer not to experience the local’s lifestyle but everyone travels differently. I’m definitely more into the “when in Rome do as the romans do” attitude 🙂

    • Oi Meira says:

      I agree! Well same as me, I waited Jeepney for like 2 hours, standing with the other locals who wanted to go home after work. Because it was the peak hour, all Jeepneys headed to Pit-Os (where I stayed) were full. Me and my travel buddy needed to wait that long. It was hard, but awesome. I know now where to catch the Jeepney and when’s the perfect time. Thank you for coming by.

  • I totally understand this because this is what happens in Fiji. The tourists are all surprised when they see the levels of poverty here because they stay in their flashy resorts the whole time and want local experiences but then to return to the comfort at the end of the day. It’s hard to find that balance though between an authentic experience and still be on holiday and enjoy your surroundings with a reasonable amount of comfort!

    • Oi Meira says:

      That’s right. Some people don’t really want to stay in a kinda poor area. Maybe it’s because I live in Jakarta. In my hometown, there are a lot of things like this. And I also often got complain from my foreign friends. “Oh my what smell is it?” Haha. It is, yes, hard to find that balance. But at least we are trying, tho. 🙂 Thank you for coming by.

  • Natalie says:

    Going local is the best way to get a real flavor for a destination! Sometimes though you need to pick and choose the local choices vs something easy – like hiring a taxi instead of taking public transportation. For example, when you are traveling with children or someone who, from age or physical ability, is just DONE for the day then making it easy is really valuable. Local is best, but……getting it done one way or another is great, too! Excellent post. I now want to look up the language Cebuano. I have never heard of it!

    • Oi Meira says:

      Oh right. When you’re traveling with children, you cannot force them to take Jeepney, because it’s very hot and you know, maybe it’s just so hard for them. I saw a foreigner in Manila, who traveled with her kid. They were taking Jeepney and sat in front of me. The kid seemed so tired but their journey was still far. The mom couldn’t make it because there was no way to get off and catch a taxi. That’s why, she said, she should have considered all the options and plan everything very well. Oh, about the language! Cebuano is one of the most common used by the local people. Another one is Tagalog. But I was told, actually there are many more languages in the Philippines. 🙂

  • Suma Jain says:

    While travelling sometimes I and my sister ( with whom I run the blog), like to indulge ourselves by booking a stay in a luxury hotel, or maybe a taxi ride here and there, when we are tired with all the walking. But that is not to say we wont be out and about enjoying the local culture and trying out new things. I honestly feel there is no right or wrong way in travelling as a place cannot be viewed only from how poor/ rich a country is.

    • Oi Meira says:

      Well yeh, at the end of the day, everyone has their own style while traveling. There’s nothing wrong with staying in luxury hotels. 🙂 thanks for coming by!

  • So cool that you got to experience the authentic Cebu. I can imagine how hard it must’ve been to learn the local language. I hope to visit there myself one day!

    • Oi Meira says:

      It was hard and there was a time I forgot how to say stop while I was taking Jeepney. Haha. So I said “stop right here!” and suddenly all people there stared at me. haha. Thank u for coming by.

  • nancy says:

    What lovely photos! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • SamH Travels says:

    Very interesting post and you are indeed correct. For me, travelling to a new country should be about the whole expereince – the sights, the atmosphere, the food, the people and the only way to truly achieve this, is if you live like one of the locals and interact with the surrounds like they do.

  • love the way you tell about this place. It’s amazing information the places with wonderful pics. I’ve never gone there before. Noted it!

  • I think experiencing the destination as a local is a more memorable experience but it can be hard for people to get out of their comfort zone. It’s handy if you know a local that can show you around. I don’t think tourists are bad but they are missing out on the local experience.

    • Oi Meira says:

      I didn’t think they’re bad too. Sometimes they cannot do it. And of course, traveling in budget and experiencing the culture is hard. We need to be open, flexible. I learned how to be grateful what I had back then when I was in Cebu and Manila. I accepted everything my hosts offered. Thank you for coming by. 🙂

  • Suz says:

    To me, I think there is no other way to travel than to act like a local! It’s how we do it, and I feel like we always leave a place feeling a little more alive, a little more energetic because we’ve experienced another part of the world just as the people who live there have.

    That being said, I do know some travellers who sometimes splurge after months of hostel living and choose to stay in a seaside resort for a few days instead of another hostel. I think it’s important not to judge others for how they travel, as you said, because you don’t know their circumstance. Everyone is entitled to treating themselves when they can and need to!

    • Oi Meira says:

      Yep, that’s right. Sometimes, you cannot stay with the locals. Because you need your own time. Maybe you’re tired or just need some time alone. And yes, everyone has their own reason to choose the travel style. Thank you for coming by. 🙂

  • I am more of a want to the locals feel when I travel but I definitely don’t judge anyone. For example I loved it when I went to a house party with a bunch of locals on the island of Tobago and ate and drank with them for hours. However, if someone offered me a free room at the Four Seasons or Mandarin Hotel somewhere, I wouldn’t snub it.
    I also give a little credit to travelers, especially Americans, who at least try to travel somewhere unique or exotic even if they are staying in 5star hotels. Its so hard to get americans to leave North America that if someone told me that they were going to see you in Cebu, I would be like, “Awesome” Good job!

  • I used to consider myself as a tourist before whenever I visit Cebu however my family moved their in 2015 so I guess I am now considered a local and speaks fluent Cebuano.

    Whenever I travel I try as much as I could to be enjoy the city like a local. No guided tours, enjoy the food and use public transport. The only thing I can’t do without is a good accommodation. I just feel that whenever I go as a tourist or a local – i deserve a nice bed. 🙂

  • Hi it’s nice . First time understand the diffe between travelling and tourist…I like use locals when move anywhere and love to enjoy Local foods as it let us know that city closley

  • When I was in Cuba, I’ve seen something similar. I couldn’t wait to get out there and explore, I went around the island, visited so many places. But there were tourists that didn’t even leave the hotel, not for a single day. They have booked all inclusive hotels, spend their two weeks on the same beach and went home to tell their friends they were in Cuba. A waste of time and money if you ask me, they could have found the beach closer to home if that was the important thing, right! 😀

    • Oi Meira says:

      Haha, right! I know that every traveler has a different style to explore the place. I would rather explore without going back to rest, but that’s impossible. I wish I could visit Cuba someday.

  • Fiona Mai says:

    I also enjoy immersing myself into local activities most of the time. But I think sometimes the idea of being a tourist is also alluring to me, especially when going on a short vacation just to relax and de-stress. During those occasions, I think as long as I behave responsibly towards the local community where I visit, my trip will still worth it 🙂

    • Oi Meira says:

      That’s true! As long as you have responsibly and respect the locals, I think any styles of traveling can be awesome. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  • Brianna says:

    I would love to visit Cebu! Is it a fairly affordable place to travel? I try to mix up my itinerary with both tourist and local activities. I think it gives a well-rounded view of the city!

    • Oi Meira says:

      The Philippines is cheaper than Europe, of course. But I heard from a fellow traveler, this country isn’t as cheap as Thailand. Though, you still can travel on a tight budget. I didn’t stay at a hostel there because I used Couchsurfing. But the hostel in Cebu city is cheap. Try to use Agoda or Book.com to get the best offer. Also, any kind of food there are also cheap. But, be careful while trying to eat street food. Ask the local if it’s safe and clean. I only spent about USD 149 for 5 days in Cebu. But yeah, I was very careful and maybe too careful while spending money there. :p

  • Veronica P. says:

    I don’t support that German girl’s attitude towards the people who stay in luxurious hotels. I think she generalizes.
    It is really a lot about people’s habits. For example, I love staying in really nice places and I rarely take public transportation. But I communicate a lot with locals everywhere I go.
    I stayed in the Philippines for almost three months and I rented a floor of a house from a local family. They stayed on another floor. We shared cakes and fruit with each other, talked, etc.
    Then I stayed in a luxurious villa with a private beach. Why? Because I loved that place and I wanted to stay there.
    I never took public transportation, but I rode a bike all around Bohol and Panglao. Does it make me a “worse” traveler? I really doubt it, I think some people just want to put tags on the others. I respect and accept how others like to travel.

    • Oi Meira says:

      No, riding a bike around Bohol and Panglao doesn’t make you a bad traveler. Everyone has his or her choice how they want to travel. Hmm, what did the Germans do, btw?

  • Dominic says:

    Cebu is one of the many great places to visit in this country. Taking the opportunity to do more than the touristy stuff is great – and getting close to the locals is key to this. Leaving without understanding more about the country is a risk that people take when they do this. Great write up.

    • Oi Meira says:

      Thank you very much, Dominic. I hope there will be more travelers who try to get closer to the locals and get to know them, also the culture. Because it is important to them, and to us as travelers.

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