Before the emergence of the sharing economy, many of us knew it made sense to travel with a local, whenever we could.
In the past, it may have been a friend or family member who introduced us to a new destination. Now peer-to-peer companies can offer travelers an insider’s view of places around the globe.
Traveling can be a wonderful experience – exploring unfamiliar cultures, coming face to face with iconic sites and immersing yourself in vibrant surroundings. However, as destinations become more and more popular, it can be hard to dodge the tourist crowds.
Linking up with a local offers a perfect blend of authenticity and exclusivity: the chance to get away from the masses and fully immerse yourself in a country’s culture.
Because locals are based on the ground, they are ideally placed to offer a unique perspective and can help you plan the trip of a lifetime. Getting up close to wildlife, learning the secrets of world cities and experiencing rural life like a villager, are just a handful of reasons why going local is best.
1. Village life
Remote areas, untouched by tourism, can be hard to come by when travelling independently. With difficult transport links and language barriers, rural villages and their communities can be tough to reach and even harder to get to know.
Touring with a local guide opens up a world of off-the-beaten-track opportunities for culture lovers. Whether it’s cooking lessons with local families in Nicaragua, creating batik cloths with Ghanaian villagers or traversing the Indian countryside by bike, there is a wealth of pursuits to fit every kind of traveller. Through creating conversations, exchanging cultures and getting to know a brand new way of life, local guides are the key to unforgettable experiences that you won’t have to share with a hoard of tourists.
2. Iconic sites
The Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu… Despite their heavy footfall, there are some iconic sites that are simply not-to-be-missed. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to follow the same well-trodden path as tourist crowds.
When you travel with a local, guides know about hidden viewpoints and best routes, and with their well-honed knowledge can redefine the meaning of ‘tour highlights.’ Rather than hitting the same sites in the same order as everyone else, they can add a personable spin at every turn to make your bucket-list moments even more memorable. Whether you’re approaching Petra’s rose-tinted walls on horseback, or touring Angkor Wat with one of its conservation representatives, a local’s input can bring the world’s most iconic landmarks to life.
3. City secrets
From street food gems to secluded sunset spots, cities have so much to offer if you know where to look. While many can feel overwhelming at first glance, a bit of local know-how can take your cosmopolitan experience up a level. Whether exploring Amman’s hidden food scene, touring the colorful streets of Bogota with a local artist or riding the Soviet-era metro through downtown Tashkent, there’s no shortage of secrets to unearth.
Local guides know their destination better than any visitor or sales rep, and can ensure that you see the city highlights while also discovering its lesser-known treasures. Take part in coffee workshops, immerse yourself in vibrant markets and take lessons from street performers—all through local eyes.
4. Wildlife wonders
Whether you’re in search of tigers in India or tracking the Great Migration in the Serengeti, wildlife experiences can be life-changing. Local rangers know how to dodge the safari crowds (and if there may be someone else may be better placed to show you around). Go gorilla-trekking in Bwindi National Park accompanied by a resident veterinarian, or visit Panama’s turtle nesting spots with dedicated conservationists.
Travel with a local allows you to actively participate in conservation and see magnificent animals at close quarters. By introducing you to volunteer programs or simply bringing you the customary wildlife encounter you’ve always dreamed of, a local guide can open up a whole world of opportunities, taking you beyond the role of casual observer.
5. Unplug and unwind
Exploring the rainforest, hopping between secluded islands and getting immersed in the mountains can all be wonderful pursuits—if you know where to go. With so many former idylls becoming overcrowded, independently stumbling upon a hidden paradise can prove difficult.
Travel with a local also takes the stress out of planning in your downtime and can simultaneously lead you far away from the tourist path. You could be snorkeling in the azure waters of the Mergui Archipelago, breaking bread with villagers in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains or swimming in the Corn Island’s jungle-clad lagoons. With a local’s secret tips, countless opportunities are within your reach!
Disclosure: This sponsored post was created in collaboration with TravelLocal, a company that connects travelers with local experts in destinations around the world.