One question I get over and over is how do I travel like a local? Where do I find where the locals go? Here is your list of resources and connections you need to discover where the locals go in whatever destination you are visiting.
Read the blogs of local destination experts for tips
I’m probably shooting my own blog in the foot with this one, but know and recognize that when a blogger like me posts a destination guide it’s a slim highlight reel. A local is going to 10/10 have a better understanding of their hometown and the resources to back it up. (But please still read my blog!) I also highly recommend pulling information from multiple blogs that way you are getting many different ideas and opinions of a place. My favorite place to find blogs? Pinterest of course! It’s also where I keep the majority of my research on a destination stored.
Get out of the most popular cities
Even if it is just for a day trip, getting away from where everyone typically visits is going to make it more likely for you to have less curated experience of a place. There are so many neat things to see outside of a major tourist destination and while I’m not saying ignore the popular sites all together (they are popular for a reason!) just set aside some time to get beyond the top 10 lists. One of the things I do is look up “Best Day Trips from ____” for some inspiration of where to go. This has led me to visiting a lesser known French Chateau, a small Japanese town filled with temples and shrines, and small Swiss towns.
Find the best tours
Look for tours that give back to their local communities. Also, look for tours that are run by locals. One resource that I love, but still think has room for improvement, is Airbnb Experiences which allows locals to create their own tours/classes which can be booked by a traveler, this gives greater exposure to experiences hosted by people who might not be able to create their own tour business or website. I’ve used them many times! My best advice is to read the reviews and if you have any questions you can reach directly out to the experience host.
Other websites that I have found in doing research but have yet to use myself are:
WithLocals – A website that allows you to book tours with locals all over the world. There are a wide variety of categories of tours to choose from.
Showaround – Search for locals on this website to show you around. This site places more emphasis on connecting you with a local and less on the topic of the tour. Each local has their hourly rate along with a bio for you to choose from.
EatWith – These experiences focus on the food of your destination. Take cooking classes, have a meal in a local house, or even have a private culinary event. They are also currently working with contestants from MasterChef to host experiences.
PartyWith – This app is about connecting you with locals to explore nightlife. Use responsibly.
IfOnly – This website describes itself as “marketplace for incredible experiences.” I was most impressed that all of their experiences benefit a corresponding charitable cause.
Another place to find some great tours is actually from the tourism boards of cities themselves. These organizations are the authority of their destination and many offer a variety of tours hosted by locals who love where they live.
PS – If you’re reading this and there is still a global pandemic happening, some tours have gone virtual if you are interested in having a tour from home while travel is on pause.
Talk to locals
Seriously, just ask them where they like to eat/hang out/visit. Most people are super excited to talk about their favorite places. Also, you might just make a friend. I find that I do this way more when I am traveling solo, perhaps it is easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger when I’m not with a group of people and being distracted by them. This local could be your barista, your airbnb host, a tour guide, a server at a restaurant and you can start these conversations like this:
“Where do you like to hang out after work?”
“When you have friends in town, where do you take them?”
“If your mother was visiting, what restaurant would you treat her to?”
“Where’s the best place to watch the sunset?”
“When you need to relax, where do you go?”
Having a bit more of a targeted question instead of saying, “What’s there to do in this place?” Is a great way to start a conversation that will actually get you those local gems you are looking for.
Don’t be afraid to get a little lost
I’m a big planner, but one of my favorite things to do is just walk around a city and I usually block out time in my itinerary to do this. I’ve stumbled into resturants I wouldn’t have known about, street festivals, beautiful scenery, and met new people. Going for a casual walk, just the way someone who lives there might, is a great way to explore a place on a local level.