One of my favorite ways to take in local culture when I travel is through food, both by sampling local cuisine and cooking. I make a point to buy from local shops and markets, and try to stay away from larger stores that cater to tourists. Not only do you stand to find more interesting items at local stores, it may also be less expensive and above all it makes for a fun experience.
It's great to research local markets and stores before traveling, but really, the best advice always comes from locals — talk to your taxi driver, a waiter, tour guide, or even a cashier at the grocery store.
On my recent vacation in Turks and Caicos, there were two things that stood high on my priority list (aside from beachy things, of course) — eating as much local seafood, like conch and red snapper, as I could fit in my stomach, and taking advantage of the grill at our rental house to cook freshly caught fish.
Early on in my trip I learned the best place to buy fresh seafood. The locals buy their fish not at a grocery store (where the selection is small and expensive), but in a small lot on the side of the road.
I was a little skeptical, but mostly really, really curious and determined to find the fish seller.
Mission accomplished! Not only did I score a fresh and delicious snapper, but finding this gem made for a really fun experience.
Sure, I've had great snapper at home in New York City, but it wasn't pulled from the ocean hours earlier and the fishmonger has never shared his mother's favorite fish recipe with me.