Gone are the days of being satisfied with ticking off a checklist of tourist attractions – these days, it’s all about authentic travel experiences.
According to Source Research, 71% of people travel to do something new and 70% travel to have experiences that embrace the real culture of the region. The problem, however, is that most people don’t manage to find what they want: statistics from Trafalgar’s “The Good Life” survey shows that 49% of tourists felt that real experiences were simply not “real” enough.
In order to fill this gap between expectations and reality, more travel agencies and travel partners have been working with local communities globally to offer real experiences from none other than the locals themselves.
Read on to find out where you can book a kimchi-making class in Seoul, taste hot sauces with local artisans in Portland, or even tour the best pubs in London that only Londoners know about!
If you love an authentic local experience but still want the comfort and ease of a guided tour, here’s the good news: you don’t have to deal with the dilemma of choosing one over another!
Trafalgar Tours, a leading global travel agent, is making an effort to give all their customers an authentic local experience by including at least one of the agent’s famous Be My Guest experiences in every single itinerary that you can book in the year 2020.
For the uninitiated, Be My Guest is the first local immersion experience of its kind when it was introduced by Trafalgar a decade ago, where travellers get the opportunity to connect with a local in their homes to hear their stories over a meal. Through activities such as having dinner in the home of one of Ireland’s top celebrity chefs, guests can learn about the local culture and stories of the places they visit in ways typically not possible, and not found in guide books.
Quirky local experiences include: Forage for local delicacies in Ireland, Dine with a Count in a 15th-century Italian olive oil estate, Have a meal with an award-winning chef & pianist in the US
Book an experience with a local on Trafalgar here.
While most of us may use Klook more frequently to book cheaper attraction tickets and arrange for transport, you are definitely missing out if you haven’t tried booking an experience with a local on the platform.
They cover a huge geographical area, covering most areas worldwide except for the North & South Poles, so you can definitely find a way to engage with the locals and find out more about their way of life no matter where you are travelling to.
Quirky local experiences include: Nha Trang Local Street Food Night Tour on Motorbike, Social Business Food Tour in Yangon, Rice Paddy Cycling Tour in Bali
Book an experience with a local on Klook here.
We are no stranger to booking accommodation from locals on Airbnb, but what about getting a unique experience from them as well?
Airbnb experiences are one-of-a-kind activities designed and hosted by locals. Unlike a typical tour or workshop, experiences offer a deep-dive into the local host’s world through their passion. Hosts offer their guests special knowledge, unique skills, and inside access to local places and communities that guests couldn’t find on their own.
Quirky local experiences include: Tea with Naughty Sheep in the UK, Boxing with Fire in the US, Explore Local Oddities with Odd Local in Portland
Book an experience with a local on Airbnb here.
The next time you check out reviews of tourist attractions and dining places on TripAdvisor, here’s a tip: check the ‘Local Experiences’ box under the ‘Things to do’ tab!
Although it started out as a review platform, TripAdvisor bought over tours and activities booking leader Viator in 2014 to offer paid experiences to those who are looking for something refreshing (and of course, widely-reviewed by real users!) when they are overseas.
That being said, this function is still rather new to the platform, so the range of options available for each destination can seem rather limited as compared to others on this list.
Quirky local experiences include: Pineapple cake DIY in Taipei, Samurai Training Tokyobon, Small-Group Pasta Making with a Local Chef in Rome
Book an experience with a local on TripAdvisor here.
5. I Like Local
Tourism has long been known as an economic booster for many countries, including Singapore, as it provides employment opportunities and brings in money from other countries.
I Like Local is a social enterprise that was founded to enhance the incomes of local people who work in tourism, while providing in-depth experiences for travellers. There is zero charge imposed on both travellers and the local hosts, so 100% of the money that travellers pay goes straight to the locals.
In some cases, it is not possible to work directly with individual locals as not all of them speak English. In those instances, I Like Local works with local NGOs running community-based tourism projects that help poor communities getting additional income or we work with small local travel agencies who are supporting local communities by offering them jobs, providing them a certain percentage of their profit, training them and/or are focusing on environmentally-friendly solutions.
I Like Local currently helps over 1,300 locals in 19 Asian and African countries, so you can easily find an experience in these regions that you will love with the peace of mind that you are directly helping a local community – sweet!
Quirky local experiences include: Volunteer on an organic farm in Northern Thailand, Experience the Dharavi Slum in Mumbai, Help in Mama Gunia Bakery in Rwanda
Book an experience with a local on I Like Local here.
City centres are in danger of becoming amusement parks that locals avoid, and it’s a situation where nobody wins.
Hence, Withlocals was founded with a simple mission: to break down the barriers between travelers and locals worldwide and create real connections between people and cultures. The travel platform aims to enable locals to earn their fair share while creating experiences for travelers that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
They have curated experiences from all over the world, although their efforts are mostly focused on Europe, so you will find that the selection of countries and experiences you can book in Asia are more limited.
Quirky local experiences include: The Ultimate Wine & Tapas Tour in Barcelona, The Non-Touristy DMZ Day Trip: North Korea & Nature, Relaxing fishing experience with lunch in Hanoi
Book an experience with a local on Withlocals here.
Trazy was founded by two Korean ladies who decided that they needed to build a travel platform where travelers can truly discover the latest happenings in their travel destination.
They started by including the best deals and offers in Korea, then added activities for other Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam, so you will only be able to find local experiences in these three countries.
That being said, the team comprises many local Koreans, so you can be sure that the Korea activities curated here are as legit as you can get!
Quirky local experiences include: Produce & Record Your Own Song in Seoul, 1:1 Korean Lessons in Gangnam, Seoul, Hoi An Local Food Tour by Bike
Book an experience with a local on Trazy here.