We passed on the fried spiders in Phnom Penh, but enjoyed other Cambodian munchies at the evening food markets of Battambang and Poi Pet. In London, we sampled local cheeses and scones from a kosher bakery in the Golders Green section of the city. Global goodies have stamped our passports with real adventure.
Eating regional cuisine and enjoying public spaces provide immediate and affordable tickets into local culture. Soak up the atmosphere with these thrifty strategies.
Festivals: We love seeing the sights in Venice for free during the annual Carnivale when area residents march in elaborate costumes and pose accommodatingly for tourists with cameras. David Douglas (www.traveldave.com) recommends Munich's Oktoberfest and Nurnberg's annual rock festival as must-attends in Germany. Annual Calle Ocho festivities in Miami are like taking a ride to Old Havana in Cuba. Likewise, in Manhattan, the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village provides onlookers with colorful snapshots of theatrics and fun.
Food: From sipping honey schnapps at the farmers market along Slovenia's Lake Bled, to enjoying roasted chestnuts with mulled wine at Copenhagen's Christmas market, we enjoy exploring culture through food. Grocery shopping in Puno, on the Peruvian shores of Lake Titicaca introduced us to area residents and great food. Michelle Stoddart of the Queens Economic Development Corp. recommends an annual event her organization sponsors called A Taste of the World held in Queens, New York. It features foods from the various cultural groups and restaurants in the borough, making it a foodie's fantasy come true.
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Public Places: We've strolled for free among the ancient ruins of Rome, and the Otavalo animal market in Ecuador. The alleys of Cairo's Khan al Khalili have provided hours of cultural immersion, as have the market stalls in Jerusalem's old city.
Guided Tours: For less than the price of lunch, we've received in-depth tours from knowledgeable locals of the Vatican art museum and ancient Egyptian ruins, as well as insider tips for photographing Petra and the Amazon headwaters. In Jerusalem, we enjoyed a free walking tour of the old city offered by a scholar. Other popular outings include walking tours of the Lower East Side in Manhattan and a guided tour of the historical Art Deco District in the South Beach section of Miami.