There’s no doubt the world is getting smaller and there’s never been an easier time to travel. Budget airlines, cheap package deals and whistle-stop tours have all made traveling more accessible to the masses. But at what cost? Can you really get to the heart of a city by riding the hop-on-hop-off bus? Can you be certain your guide will take his large tour group to the little back-alley restaurant with the best local cuisine and not the café that gives him 10% commission? Is the money you bring in as a tourist benefiting the local economy? But do not fear, considerate traveler! Thanks to the power of the internet and peer-to-peer sites, it’s now easier than ever to connect with a new destination. Below are some sites that will help feel instantly at home in a new city.

airbnb1. Airbnb: Originally viewed with skepticism by the travel industry, Airbnb has gone on to prove the naysayers wrong and seen its popularity skyrocket since its launch in 2008. Its calling card is simple and effective: connect travelers with local accommodation. However Airbnb offers more than just accommodation. Hosts are often happy to help guests get to know the area.

Photo: Mealsharing
Photo: Mealsharing

2-4. Eat With Locals: When  visiting a new destination it can sometimes be over-whelming to seek out off-the-beaten-track restaurants that serve authentic local dishes, even more so if you aren’t able to translate the menu! Eat With Locals sites provide the perfect solution for those wanting to sample local cuisine but need some guidance. There are various sites which co-ordinate community dinners between travelers and locals including aptly named Eat with Locals, VizEat and Meal Sharing. A country’s cuisine is irrevocably tied to its culture and history. So that mouth-watering meal with a local will also be eye-opening.

5. HomeExchange: The HomeExchange community is all about living like a local when you travel. Because you literally live in a local’s home. If you travel a lot (or wish you could), but find paying for accommodation puts a damper on your dreams, HomeExchange is about the most budget-friendly accommodation option around. This subscription based service lets you an unlimited number of exchanges for just $150 per year! That’s like one night in a hotel. Their handy “GuestPoint” system lets you stay in another member’s home even if they don’t want to stay at yours in return. After being featured in Nancy Meyers’ 2006 RomCom“The Holiday,” starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black, the site’s popularity skyrocketed. Their community now offers 400,000 homes in over 180 countries!

6. Trip4real: No one knows their city better than the people that call it home and Trip4real allows travelers to tap into this valuable resource. Join a tour with a local guide who really loves showing off their city, or a unique local-led experience. These can range from a cooking lesson to attending a community football match.

Photo: Daytrip
Photo: Daytrip

7. Daytrip: If you want to experience as much of a country as possible on your holiday, travel to multiple cities, and maybe visit some cool sights, the logistics can be a nightmare. That’s where Daytrip comes in. This ingenious service takes you door-to-door between cities, and offers a curated selection of sightseeing stops along the way. All their drivers friendly and speak English, and are eager to share their home country with travelers. And with service in over 70 countries around the world, they’re the perfect global transportation solution.

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