Locals Only. Whatever.

Adventure travelers tend to describe their favorite places abroad like this: “There are no tourists there, it’s just the locals.” That, of course, does not include the writer, who is, inevitably, a tourist. It’s just that he/she thinks he is slightly better (more worldly, less loud, etc.) than the other tourists.

I have always been torn about this issue. When I travel, I like to think that I go to the less touristy places, but the “locals-only” tags scare me. First of all, it is a bit hypocritical to go to a “locals-only” place as a tourist. Next thing you know, it will be in Lonely Planet described as a locals-only joint and locals will have to find a new place. And, those same tourists will also stop going, realizing that a locals-only place has go tourists-only or expensive, or both. At that precise moment, it disappears from Lonely Planet or is renamed “tourist trap.” Here is an example.This has happened to quite a few wonderful Czech pubs, too, for example U Fleku. It’s quite sad, if you think about it.

But that is not the only thing that intrigues me about people’s attraction to “locals only” places. I first discovered it when I realized that I am about the only person in Prague not concerned about “touristy places.” As a Czech native, it would never even occur to me to go to places where only locals hang out. I actually prefer to go to more cosmopolitan hangouts; a lot of natives do. Just like you would be hard-pressed to find New Yorkers hanging out in fried chicken joints because that’s what a lot of locals do, it is the same way in Prague. It is my foreign friends in Prague who always demand to go to some “locals only” place. I guess they derive some weird pleasure out of fulfilling their stereotypes of Eastern Europe: crusty old men playing cards and drinking beer. It’s like observing wild animals in their natural habitat…