When they see my photos or stories from my travels, many people often ask me, ‘how did you find out about that place?’ or ‘how did you get to there?’. Well today, I’m going to tell you my secret: My main travel hack is to travel with a local.
When you are shown around by a local, suddenly you unlock a whole new world within the place you are staying. You get taken to the cheapest and best food, you don’t get charged tourist prices, you stay safe and avoid scams, and you get your own personal translator. And of course, you get to discover places most tourists could only dream of. For me, the only way to truly know a place is by talking to a local about it, and being shown it through that local’s eyes.
If you are travelling alone, to travel with a local is to make sure you have friends wherever you go and that you are never lonely. Yes, it is great to meet and travel with fellow backpackers, but do you really know a place if you never meet its people? When I travel alone, my goal is always to make at least one local friend and at least one other traveller friend in every place I go.
How to Find a Local:
If you have a friend who will host you and show you around your destination, this is ideal. If you don’t know anyone in the place you are visiting, there are still tonnes of resources which will help you explore and travel with a local.
It is amazing how many people around the world are so eager and willing to show off their hometowns, and so keen to make the travellers’ experience a good one. In most common destinations, there is no shortage of them. Some will expect payment and others do it from the kindness of their hearts (and because they love meeting travellers).
Paid travel with a local
If you want to make sure the information that you get is 100% correct or don’t want to get too close to a stranger, paid travel with a local is probably the way to go for you. This is also a great way to contribute to the local economy and ensure no-one is being ripped off. Even if you choose a paid service, you can still travel with a local at a pretty reasonable price. Here is a list of resources to help you find someone to show you around:
Search by the city you want to go to and choose from one of the locals available. Lets you browse their profiles, their interests and what they can offer.
Search by tours that people are offering -i.e walking tours, food tours, pub crawls etc.
Similar to Tours By Locals, Show Around lets you browse local people and see who they are. It also operates on a reviews system, and shows hourly charges upfront.
Air BnB is a great way to meet locals as it is often just regular people renting out a room or two in their house. You still have the security of a paid stay and a third party booking system, with the added benefit of hanging out with or (if you’re lucky enough) to travel with a local, or at least get some awesome advice.
Air BnB is now also a platform for tours and experiences, as well as accommodation.
If you want to learn the language of the country you are visiting (which you should), a great way to do this is to meet up with local people who are also interested in learning your language. If you meet up with a language partner in their home town, chances are they will be more than happy to use the opportunity to practise their language skills by showing you around.
My Language Exchange has a free version, but if you want to reach out to the people that interest you and send messages freely, you really need to pay for the gold membership.
You can use Italki for free as well, but if you want serious lessons or a language tutor or teacher, that is charged.
Free travel with a local
If you are keen on making friends and having authentic experiences but are travelling on a tight budget, free travel with a local is probably for you. There are so many resources available that will help you ensure you find your perfect local travel buddy for free.
If you are reaally on a tight budget, you might be lucky enough to find a tour guide offering their services for free on this website.
Free Walking Tours
Almost every major city in the world has a free walking tour. So far I have done this in Paris, Lisbon, Seville, Taipei, Sao Paulo and Lima. I find them a really cool source of local information and knowledge on everything to do with the city. It’s a good thing to do on one of your first days visiting, because you can meet other people and get the insider knowledge on the best places to eat, shop, discover, etc.
Couchsurfing is for staying with locals as well as meeting up with locals and travellers alike. It is a great site in that it lets you really make a connection with a local – a stranger lets you into their home with open arms. They are often more than happy to teach you about their culture, food and language, and sometimes you will be lucky enough to have one who becomes your own personal guide and bestie to hang out with as well!
If you are apprehensive about staying with a stranger, Couchsurfing also has a great hangouts feature which lets you see who is nearby and willing to hang out. This way, you can find other travellers to meet up with as well as locals.
Not only do you get to find language partners on this website, but you can also just find absolutely anyone willing to make international friends (“pen pals”).
I have mentioned Conversation Exchange in my how I learned a language and learn a language while you travel articles. This is the site I personally use to find the majority of my language exchange partners. It is easy to use and has only one goal: to match you with the language partner you need.
If you are concerned about stranger danger, Speaky gives you the option of video calling before you meet up.
So there you have it. I have laid out to you exactly what I do to find local people to hang out with everywhere I go. What’s your main travel hack? Do you have other tips for ways to travel with a local? Let me know in the comments!