Travel Apps: Tour with a Local

Physician’s Money Digest

Travel Apps: Tour with a Local

Traveling like a resident instead of a tourist has long been a goal for many vacationers. Now there are apps for that, creating ways for you to meet locals as tour guides so you accumulate experiences rather than just check things off your bucket list.

…at least that’s the hope. The apps play to a common travel wish: bonding across cultures by hanging out with a local who curates a special tour of a city based on his unique perspective. You might take in trendy music venues, hike a mountain, or bike the back roads.

Technology is great, but don’t forget common sense. You are, after all, meeting a stranger. Undoubtedly, the overwhelming majority of hosts are nice people who enjoy guests, but use caution when considering any meeting. (Describing these apps is not an endorsement; rather, I am being informative). Remember, too that it takes more than being nice to deliver a good tour. A guide should be knowledgeable, incorporate storytelling and anecdotes and like people. Those are things that not all amateurs can do.

Here are apps designed to enable you to use a local guide when traveling.

•  Zipskee: Launched July 20, Zipskee aims to pair travelers with locals who serve as tour guides. You set up a profile with a photo, your interests and languages spoken, deciding whether you want to be a traveler or a guide. Zipskee provides a list of matches as well as a messaging system for chatting.

•  Withlocals: Go on a tour with a local as you guide or book an experience. This can be a home-cooked meal at someone’s apartment or house, a contemporary art painting workshop, a volcano trek at sunrise or crafting your own Italian shoes. The hosts charge fees. Withlocals, for now, primarily operates in Europe and Asia.

•  Ventoura: You can connect with other travelers going to the same place or join locals who host experiences, including photography shoots, culture tours and fashion outings. Many of the guides seem to be in their twenties and early thirties.

• Started in 2008, Toursbylocals, lists 1645 guides who work in 138 countries. The private tours can be tweaked to focus on your particular interests. In Jamaica, experience river boarding and lunch at a local jerk chicken eatery; in Paris, browse the local flea markets; and in Milan, go on a fashion tour. The site also has a section of excursions geared to cruisers.

• The site breaks down its local guides and experiences into six categories: culture & lifestyle; nature; hunting & fishing; sport & extreme; gastronomy; and interpreter & transport. The guides describe their tour and list their languages spoken and fees. Past clients rate the tours. In Hawaii, you can go snorkeling with a professional underwater photographer; take a driving tour from Bucharest to Transylvania; and discover the Taj Mahal with your private guide.

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