There’s not much that beats the luxury of exploring a new corner of this world at your own leisure, right?
Wandering around, stumbling across and hopping into cafes, gorgeous oceans and markets…
However time is of the essence, and when travelling somewhere new we all want to make the most of every second we have and use the time we’ve taken off work productively.
This usually means booking onto group tours / day excursions when exploring which, a lot of the time, is both more cost & time effective than exploring by yourself.
Another great way (which I definitely prefer but is sometimes harder to arrange) is to explore with a local, be it a friend, a family member, a friend of a friend, an Airbnb host or someone you got chatting to on the plane ride over.
There is obviously an element of this claim to be discussed, and that is the safety element.
I’m most certainly not suggesting to just be picked up by a random local who offers you a private tour – particularly not on your own!
Should you be put in contact with a friend of a friend or go and visit a friend living in another country, here are
‘My 8 reasons why exploring with a local is the best way to discover somewhere new’…
1. Avoid unnecessary queues
Locals will have the upperhand of knowledge when it comes to what the best things to do and see are in the area. They will too know when something is a tourist trap. As a tourist you can be easily led to believe that you ‘HAVE’ to see something and end up wasting half of your day queing for it.
Locals will give you a shortcut to the essential places (they have no incentive to lie) and the best alternatives if somewhere gets very busy.
2. Discover random new places
Chances are, if you are a tourist, particularly heading to places like South East Asia, you will have curated a list of the ‘must see’ things to do, eat and photograph.
This usually means, once you’ve left time for a bit of relaxation too, you won’t have much time left for random exploring.
Exploring with a local means opening the opportunity to discover their favourite places and their hidden hotspots. These are memories and photos you hadn’t previously accounted for and make your trip that much more unique and exciting.
Photo: On a secluded beach during a road trip around Koh Lanta Island with one of the locals.
3. It can save you a LOT of money!
When you’re with a local, they won’t take you to the ‘rip off’ restaurants and tourist traps alike simply because they know where they are. They will know what products are worth what value and they will know where to get the best value goods.
After all, they are joining you, and they won’t want to pay high unnecessary prices either!
Photo: An amazing local restaurant in Ubud, Bali, where we had the best Nasi Goreng of the whole trip for the equivalent of 70p! (GBP)
4. Value for money
If you get chatting to a local and they like you enough to offer to show you around then HAPPY DAYS.
Their expertise and time is basically like having a private tour guide… but often they will insist on no payment and just do it for the love of their country, or your company!
You will get taken to the best and cheapest places and be able to rinse them of their knowledge along the way. You can’t get much better value than that!
5. View the traditions up close and get special treatment
If you are avoiding the tourist traps by sightseeing with a local, you will be in a much smaller group and be less likely to encounter tourist restrictions.
We went to see some wood carving when we were in Bali and because we were in a small group and with a local that spoke the language, he could communicate with the workers and negotiate us coming up a bit closer and getting more involved with the culture.
6. Knowledge of the best times to go visit places
If there’s a certain time to avoid visiting a temple or a tourist attraction, the locals are bound to know.
If there’s a way to avoid the crowds and get the best experience, the locals are more likely to know.
Exploring with a local allows you to cut lot of corners and utilise your time to its maximum!
6. Locals are all friends with each other and exchange services
Locals in villages all work together as a team, whether it’s with you or against you.
If you have a local on side then you are likely to get better experiences via the contacts your friend has.
When we were in Bali we met a local and he knew someone, that knew someone, that owned a boat in Lovina (north of the island). We had previously been told by a tourist booking company that the sunrise dolphin trip was sold out which we were gutted about.
But after our friend called his friend up on a favour, we were suddenly out on his boat joining the ‘sold out’ sun rise dolphin trip – AND at half of the price.
7. You are less likely to get into trouble
Exploring with a local helps in so many ways, particularly in South East Asia where there is a rather large language barrier.
Your ‘local’ often has the ability to translate, sweeten up, bargain or get you out of any mistakes you make, or people you offend.
If local people/businesses have had a bad experience with tourists prior to your visit it can affect your reception and their patience.
Having someone local on your side can be worth it’s weight in gold.
8. You are less likely to fall into a tourist trap
There are tourist traps in every single country we visit, which is why doing your research can become a very valuable preparation tool for your trip. That way you know what kind of prices to expect and particularly on blogs, you can get advice on what to avoid and learn from others experiences.
I remember when we went on a roadtrip in Bali and went to fill up our moped for the first time. It cost around £20 (GBP), which is pretty cheap in comparison to London. However, later in the week when exploring with a local, we went to the SAME petrol station and our friend took control and filled it up for £3!
Now, i mean, it’s not like the £20 broke the bank BUT the REAL cost of filling up was 1/7 of what we paid. They clearly saw us coming!
I heard many a story from people in SE Asia where rental companies had wrongly charged or accused. But when the rental company has taken your passport as a deposit & you have a flight home the next day – you simply see not other choice than to pay the charge and they win.
The local we met in Koh Samui was actually the owner of the moped rental company we hired from and was an absolute diamond.
So they aren’t all bad – just be aware & do your research!
BOOM! That’s it!