Travel like a local: Eat, sleep and explore on a budget

From sharing homemade local cuisine to free tours by a friendly local, there’s an app for that. Here’s a look at a new way to eat, sleep and explore on a budget.

These days, you can leave your guidebook at home and let the locals welcome you into their cities, or even into their homes, for an authentic look at a different culture.

A couple of months back, AirBnB–a social website that connects travelers to local hosts in over 33,000 cities who offer unique accommodation–confirmed that it is allowing hosts to also offer local tours and activities, either separately or combined as a package deal with the room/apartment/home rental. However, it’s also possible that you rent your lodging from a really friendly host who just happens to have some free time and wants to show you around his or her home town for no cost at all.

You can also look into websites like Peek, HipHost, Indiescapes (currently only in Asia) and the more established Tours by Locals that provide you with a diverse menu of tours and activities that are guided by a local with deep knowledge of the area.

If food is the only thing on your mind when you travel, then you’ll be excited to know that you can invite yourself to the home of a local who will cook you a traditional, homemade meal, for a fee that is. You can satiate your international hunger with websites such as Feastly and EatWithALocal, but to look for a specific city or country, you can whet your appetite with this long list of options.

But for budget travelers seeking a low cost or free experience, other options do exist.

Guided By a Local is a newcomer to the travel market but is growing quickly, with a community of locals in almost 500 cities around the world. Travelers post questions and locals answer, as well as post additional helpful insider tips in categories such as Typical Food and Drink, Sightseeing, Transport, Nightlife, etc. You can also contact a local to request a “Meet and Greet” when you’re in town.

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One of the older kids on the block is CouchSurfing, an organization that connects a global community of travelers and locals. Once you sign up for a free profile, you can browse any city forum for upcoming activities, events, or post a message on the forum that you’re looking to hang out with locals and get a real feel for their city. Of course, the original reason for the creation of this site was to hook up travelers with a free place to crash for a night or three, which you do by sending couch requests to locals before your trip. Although many still feel a bit wary about staying over at a stranger, but the 9-year-old community now has 6 million members in 100,000 cities and only continues to grow.

Travel advice site JourneyWoman has a feature called HerMail which is described as “a free international directory of women willing to mentor other women as they travel to their part of the world.” Women travelers can send in their questions about their next destination and receive answers from women living in that city. Sometimes locals will also offer to meet up with the traveler when she arrives.

While Spotted By Locals isn’t designed to get you in contact with locals, following the insider tips on local cafes and bar or art and music events put you in a very good position to run into plenty of like-minded city residents—maybe the very ones who recommended the spot in the first place.

Websites that help forge the traveler-to-local connection are definitely on the rise, and the established set as well as the start ups continue to expand in their efforts to cater to a wide range of interests in as many cities as possible. But don’t forget–simply being a friendly traveler and expressing sincere interest in the local culture will help you out more than a website ever can.

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This article was written by staff writer Suchi Rudra. Her mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Copyright © 2013 Suchi Rudra
Photo: Vanessa Chettleburgh


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