Cultural travel involves people experiencing aspects of the local culture while visiting different locations. On standard vacations, travelers may visit historic sites and sample some local foods but they may also eat at international restaurants and keep up with affairs in their own country by watching television or reading foreign newspapers. People engaged in cultural travel try to immerse themselves in local customs and activities and make a conscious effort to detach themselves from things that are associated with their home nation.
Some travel firms organize cultural travel vacations; these trips normally involve small groups of individuals so that participants are mainly able to spend their time with local inhabitants of the destination they are visiting. In many instances, travelers stay with local families or stay at small boarding houses or inns that are not typically frequented by foreign visitors. Some cultural travel trips include meals booked at restaurants and cafes that serve traditional local food rather than foreign dishes. In other instances, travelers stay in rented houses or apartments that contain ovens and other cooking facilities so that travelers can buy food from local stores and prepare their own dishes.
Many holiday firms employ tour guides who are fluent in many languages but cultural travel firms often employ local tour guides who can only speak their native tongue. Consequently, the onus falls on the travelers to learn the local dialect and many people who go on these trips enjoy practicing their language skills by interacting with locals. Cultural vacations are often arranged in destinations that do not typically attract large numbers of foreign visitors which means that participants have no option but to embrace the local culture.
Prior to embarking on cultural trips, travelers are usually provided with some information about local beliefs, practices and traditions. People eating at a restaurant that caters to foreign tourists may have no need for knowledge of local customs but people who visit restaurants where tourists seldom visit may need to know about local customs in order to avoid confusing or upsetting their hosts by acting in a way that may not seem acceptable to locals. Many cultural tourism trips involve visits to religious sites, requiring travelers to show the appropriate level of reverence while visiting holy sites or interacting with religious leaders.
Academics use cultural travel trips to acquire knowledge about customs and traditions in other nations. For non-academics, cultural vacations provide travelers with an opportunity to escape their normal day-to-day routines. While many academics and non-academics partake in formal trips, seasoned cultural travelers often visit remote locations on their own and without having made any advanced plans.