There’s no doubt the world is getting smaller and there’s never been an easier time to travel. Budget airlines, cheap package deals and whistle-stop tours have all made travelling more accessible to the masses but at what cost? Can you really get to the heart of a city by riding the hop-on-hop-off bus? Can you be certain your guide will take his large tour group to the little back-alley restaurant that does the best local delicacy and not the café that gives him 10% commission? How can you be sure the money you bring in as a tourist is befitting the local economy as opposed to lining the pockets of the corporate overlords? But do not fear, considerate traveller! Thanks to the power of the internet and peer to peer sharing sites it’s now easier than ever to connect with a new destination in deeper and more meaningful ways while also supporting local businesses. Below are some sites that help visitors feel instantly at home in a new city by making travel more of a social affair and helping them connect with local people and attractions.
1. Airbnb: Originally viewed with skepticism by the travel industry, Airbnb has gone on to prove the naysayers wrong and seen its popularity skyrocket since its launch in 2008. Its calling card is simple and effective: link local people with spare accommodation with travelers looking for a place to stay. However Airbnb offers more than just accommodation. The site markets itself as platform for people who are interested in social connection rather than those just looking for some extra income. This means hosts are often more than willing to interact with their guests and assist them with getting to know the area.
2-4. Eat With Locals: When visiting a new destination it can sometimes be over-whelming to seek out off-the-beaten-track restaurants that serve authentic local dishes, even more so if you aren’t able to translate the menu! Eat With Locals sites provide the perfect solution for those wanting to sample local cuisine but need some guidance. There are various sites which co-ordinate community dinners between travelers and locals including aptly named Eat with Locals, VizEat and Meal Sharing. A country’s cuisine is irrevocably tied to its culture and history so dinners can be eye-opening as well as mouth-watering and the aim of these events is to foster social interaction as well as eat tasty food.
5. Nightswapping: The Nightswapping community is centred around the idea that travel should be about the people you meet as much as the sites you see. People with a spare room or bed make it available to any travellers needing a place to stay and, in exchange, guarantee themselves a free night of accommodation with a fellow Nightswapper when they next travel. Even if you are not in a position to host yourself, you can still use the service with NightSwaps ranging in price and accommodations in over 160 countries worldwide. People set up a profile on the site which lists dates their Nightswap is available and some info about themselves, meaning those looking for a bed can choose a host they share common interests with, leading to both a unique travel experience and a new international friendship.
6. Trip4real: No one knows their city better than the people that call it home and Trip4real allows travellers to tap into this valuable resource. As well as offering tours with local guides who just really love to show off where they live, they also provide unique experiences that travellers can book on to. These are also led by locals and can range from having a cooking lesson to attending a community football match.
7. Daytrip: There’s no substitute for local knowledge and having a resident tour guide can undoubtedly make the logistics of a trip easier. Daytrip provides an ingenious service that transports visitors by car from Point A to Point B, stopping off at pre-selected stops along the way to really give travelers a taste of what an area has to offer. Using photos and short place descriptions, visitors select their own itinerary and a local guide accompanies them for the whole journey. As suggested by the name, these excursions are completed within a day and can really help visitors get away from the touristy cities and experience more of Europe.