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Travelling across the globe has become much easier with the rapid strides in technology. There are entire social media apps for travelers, you can research your destination in detail before you ever leave, and you can even use Google Maps to be your own guide. But true travelers know that a local’s knowledge is incomparable.
Technology can help there too, though. And we don’t just mean like niche communities for digital nomads, but for the general public. With the right websites, communities, and apps, you can find a local person wherever you are going, and check out their city through their eyes, indulge in a home-cooked meal with a family, or even go partying.
Global Greeter Network (Web): Get a Local Tour with a Passionate Volunteer for Free
The Global Greeter Network (GGN) has its own philosophy towards travelling. They encourage travel enthusiasts to form a network of like-minded souls in their own city, who can show a newcomer around the place. Each Greeter network for a city has their own website, where you can learn about the members, the sights you can see, and other information.
You’ll find everything from the languages the local guides speak to how big a group they can serve. Plus, photo albums of past visitors from the GGN and their experiences will tell you everything else you need to know. The best part? Every greeter network on GGN is completely free!
MeetUp (Web): Find Local Groups, Meet-Ups, and Events
MeetUp isn’t actually a platform to meet local travel guides, but it actually works out that way quite often. We’ve already shown you a few event calendar apps to track new events, but when you’re in a new city and want to check out what’s happening or what locals are doing, then go to MeetUp.
Just key in the city you’re in and you’ll see a full list. You can browse either by groups or by calendar. As a visiting tourist, the calendar view is probably going to be handier since you can see what’s happening soon. Just contact the group and ask if you can join. MeetUp is based on the idea of meeting new people, so tourists are almost always welcomed.
Bon Appetour (Web): Enjoy a Home-Cooked Meal with Locals
There are plenty of apps to find a good restaurant anywhere in the world. But restaurants can’t compare to the experience of eating a home-cooked meal by someone who has lived in that city for ages. That’s what Bon Appetour wants to bring to your table.
Find the city you’re visiting, check out the options, and book a table at the best-sounding home cook. There’s a full description of what you can expect, a brief introduction to your hosts, and reviews from people who have visited them already. It’s not free, but it won’t cost you more than what you’d spend at a restaurant anyway. And hey, you can even sign up to become a host yourself!
Bon Appetour is filled with such home meal experiences around the world, but if you’re visiting Asia specifically, check out Travelling Spoon. It has more cooks from countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and others offering great meals, so you’ll get a wider variety to choose from.
Party with a Local (Android, iOS): It’s Party Time!
Is the nightlife more your scene than an early dinner and resting at your hotel? Oh boy, you need to download Party with a Local (PWAL) right away. Get the app, sign up, and you’ll see locals as well as fellow travelers in the city. Set a status to announce what you’re looking for, like going to a club or just going for a drink. And then find others yourself or wait for the messages to come in!
Party with a Local’s focus is on the nightlife, so you’ll actually find more things to do here than regular tourist guides. Just a quick search by me and a colleague in two different cities showed us bars and clubs that us locals didn’t know about, but others were keen to go to. It’s super easy to set it up and start using it.
And hey, if you’re worried about safety, remember that your phone can be your personal bodyguard, so set it up to do that before you leave the hotel.
WithLocals (Web, Android, iOS): The Marketplace of Local Tours
WithLocals is just one of many marketplaces for locals to offer customized guides to tourists at a price. It’s simple. The “local” has to sign up and get verified (so you’re assured of safety and of their following certain guidelines), after which they can sell a type of tour for a price.
WithLocals helpfully categorizes their tours into three sections: Eat, Tours, and Activities. Choose what you want to do and you’ll see a bouquet of different guided packages in each. For example, if you think the best way to see a city is by taking a food walk, someone at WithLocals will probably offer that.
Rule #1: Travel Safely
While all of these experiences are great ways to get a local flavor of things in your travels, do remember that your personal safety comes first. Much like the tricks to stay safe while couchsurfing, do your research beforehand and don’t get exploited.
Which also brings us to our question of the day.
What are your best tips and tricks to stay safe in a new city? How do you protect your passport or other valuables? What information do you like to keep at hand? And what sets your Spidey-sense tingling for danger?