Thursday 20 October 2016

Websites that will help to find local guides

local guide

While you are on holiday on your own you might feel that you are alienated because the local environment is completely unknown to you. Don't worry there are some websites that can connect travellers with small, independent companies on the ground or individual experts to help plan the perfect trip


With a worldwide network, this site has countless tours to choose from, which are rated and reviewed by users, who gives a good idea of what to expect before booking. Some of the most popular activities include a night photography tour of Paris, during which instruction is given on how to take low-light photographs while exploring the city's landmarks, or a three-hour walk grazing the food on offer in New York City's Chinatown.



Launched in 2012, TravelLocal is an easy-to-use website that connects potential travellers with local travel companies to book holidays. So, rather than booking through a big tour operator, you communicate directly with “local experts” – small, independent travel companies offering great trips but who don't have big marketing budgets to promote them. Booking and payment is done through TravelLocal, a UK company with all payments protected by Abta, alleviating concerns about paying into a foreign account.



Vidados is a similar concept to TravelLocal, but with a focus on activity holidays, ranging from surf trips to wine tours, language lessons to yoga breaks. It describes itself as a “marketplace” that connects travellers to independent hosts and is particularly popular with solo female travellers looking for smaller, boutique group holidays. It has a particularly large number of wellness holidays to browse (over 800), including everything from affordable long weekends doing yoga in Spain, to two weeks hiking across Canada, staying in swish accommodation along the way.



Launched in 2008 by a pair of Canadian travellers, ToursByLocals has over 1,700 guides in 148 countries around the world. The website is a bit busy, but there's a lot to choose from – and all the local guides have had reference and background checks through Thomson Reuters World-Check. There's also a feature for those on cruises, for booking a private shore excursions to coincide with a trip.



Those looking for an adventure should check out Embark, which assists with booking outdoor activities led by local guides. This could be a day bouldering in the Fontainebleau forest in France, with a climber who knows the region, trekking in Chiang Mai, Thailand, or a surf/hike adventure in California. It's not just for high-octane activities, either; how about mushroom hunting in Denver? Though the site does have worldwide coverage, the biggest range of activites are found across the US.



Recently bought by peer-to-peer travel giant Airbnb, Trip4Real, a Barcelona-based startup that connects travellers with locals selling tours, activities and experiences in their home cities, looks set to become a big name in the sharing economy. Its focus is unique experiences on city breaks, experiences that put tourists in touch with the daily life of locals. This could be exploring Lisbon's flea markets with an antique collector, an alternative night out (tweaked according to tastes) with a Parisian party-goer, or a private boat tour through the Amsterdam canals.


With Locals

More intimate travel experiences can be found through the With Locals site. While Trip4Real is still predominantely focused on Western Europe, With Locals has a big spread in Asia, with activities and tours (mainly food/dining related) to book everywhere from Indonesia to Sri Lanka, Thailand to the Philippines. These include an organic home-cooked meal in a bamboo house in Bali, tea-tasting in Old Bangkok and a riverside picnic in Saigon.


Global Greeters

Far more old school that the new wave of local tour start-up projects, Global Greeters is a network of volunteers who are just super-keen to show newcomers around ... for free. Similar in concept to Couchsurfing, in the sense that it's really founded on the principle of helping put people in contact for the pleasure of it, it's necessary to make contact by finding a local group and requesting a greeter. Giving a fair bit of notice is usually advisable, so this isn't one for last-minute planners. The groups vary from place to place, but New York City's Big Apple Greeter programme has a great reputation and has been running since 1992, with around 300 volunteers involved.



With 43,597 locals signed up, and counting, Showaround is a buzzy startup that connects travellers with friendly locals willing to show them around. It's not a site for those looking for professional guide services, but it is a great place to start for those interested in being shown around in a more casual way – and many locals are offering to hang out for free. It has a super-clean, easy-to-use site (and an app) and makes it easy to plan and discuss what to go and see with the guides. The only catch is a subscription payment is required before contact other members is allowed.



With a focus on city tours, CityUnscripted pitches itself as an alternative to the guidebook. The site, which launched in London in April and has just expanded to 12 more cities with its “book a local” service, allows travellers build a custom city break itinerary with the help of more than 500 local guides. Each guide has a personal profile and the site encourages visitors to book someone who matches their personal interests.




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