Picture this: You’re about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. You’ve been saving hard, adding destinations to your Pinterest board and eyeing up pristine landscapes for months. Now it’s finally time for your dream holiday.
But as you arrive in destination X, your heart drops as you find it crowded with hundreds of like-minded tourists. You battle for a carpark, jostle for space on the viewing platform, and that tourist with the wide-brimmed hat keeps ruining all your photographs. Heartbreak.
You thought you’d found a secret spot but it seems everyone knows about it – and this happens to the best of us. While guidebooks and online travel information is fabulous in helping us plan our holidays, its not always up to date. So how can you get information in real-time to help you score the best spots? Chat with locals or bloggers who’ve travelled there before you!
Here’s a few tips to get connected:
Read Travel Blogs and Connect with the Bloggers
Travel bloggers can be relied on to be ahead of the curve when it comes to the hottest destinations. They travel frequently, have done the heavy research themselves, and are all-too-good at getting off the beaten track. They’ll know what destinations are overrun with tourists, are poorly managed or are not worth visiting. Don’t rely on guidebooks – speak to the people that know best.
Search Google for a blogger who lives at (or blogs predominantly about) your holiday destination and engage with them on social media. They’re a helpful bunch that love connecting with people. Hey, some of us will even be keen to meet you for a drink, or if not we’ll certainly tell you where to go to drink beers with other locals. Neil Fahey – http://bushwalkingblog.com.au
Use Travel Apps like HerePin
Find a travel App that’ll let you have conversations with real people and share information. Where have they been, where are they going, where do they recommend, and can you go with them? There are so many smart apps that can provide insiders’ knowledge about the places you’re visiting and help you discover those underground hideouts that you’d have never found alone.
Here in New Zealand I use HerePin which is great for connecting with both locals AND tourists – I’d know, because I’m a local and I use it to live vicariously through fellow travellers. If I can’t have fun while chained to my desk, I can at least let them know where to go and ogle the photos 🙂 Helps to temporarily ease the travel-bug too.
By setting my radius I can connect with people nearby. They ask their difficult questions, I practice my bad Spanish/French/German and sometimes together we share spontaneous adventures.
Stop at the nearest bar and get friendly with the bartender
There’s nothing like a bit of Dutch courage! Hitting the local bars is a fool-proof plan for meeting new people and picking their brains…
Without even properly trying, it’s always at a bar or pub where I make friends while travelling – most notably with the bartender. The opportunity to talk to them is always open and they’re a great source for scoring tips on what to check out locally (and occasionally it can even result in a free drink). Kirsten Powley – http://kirstovertheworld.com
Use information centers – they’re not obsolete I promise.
While many would deem them outdated, tourist information centers are a hub of fresh information that you know hasn’t been ignored on the depths of the Internet. Stop in and chat to the folks running these centers (http://www.newzealand.com/int/visitor-information-centre/), ask them where THEY go on the weekends, where the free camping spots are, and where their secret waterfalls are (like this one I found last weekend).
If you play your cards right you’ll walk away with a hand-drawn map to their favorite hide-outs! Worst case scenario they’ll atleast share where you can get free WiFi.
Walking tours are another great place to start
I probably wouldn’t have seen any of Europe without the multitude of free walking tours on offer. Learn the history, witness local life in the laneways and meet other backpackers to drink beer with afterwards. Here’s one I did in spooky London.
I’ve found that my favourite way to meet new people while travelling is to join in on group activities, like walking tours or organised day trips. Since you’re already all on the same tour, you have something in common (no awkward icebreakers needed), plus the guide will more than likely have plenty of extra tips on how to get the most out of the destination. Kasha Dubaniewicz- http://linesofescape.com
Use AirBnb or go Couch Surfing to meet locals
Using peer-to-peer accommodation options like AirBnb and Couchsurfing is another lifesaver when you’re stubbornly trying to avoid being a ‘tourist’ and do as the locals do. Stay in the homes of local people and witness their everyday lives. Share in their daily rituals and experiences, pat their dogs, play games with their children and practice your newfound language skills. They’ll show you places well off the tourist trail.
My husband and I try to stay in AirBnbs whenever we can so we can use our hosts as a fountain of knowledge. While we opt for private AirBnbs as opposed to staying with the host, we always contact them ahead of time and meet them on arrival to get their tips for the city we are visiting. They usually tell us their favourite restaurants in the area and then throw in a few hidden gems that we would never find otherwise (those are the best ones!). We’ve had some of our best experiences thanks to our AirBnb hosts! Kelly Mongan – https://www.apairofpassports.com
One of the best ways I have found to meet local people especially in more slightly obscure countries has been couch surfing. I hosted a lot at home before I ever travelled but once I started travelling again I started to reach out to people and it was one of the most amazing things I have done whilst travelling. I have seen and experienced things in countries like Iran, Venezuela and even the USA that I never would have seen or experienced otherwise. It is so easy to reach out also because everyone is there to be helpful and communicative. Even if someone can’t host you there is a very good chance they will be able to enrich your local experience by passing on tips. Dane- http://holidayfromwhere.com/
So there you have it, a few ideas to get you started. But remember – if all else fails just make your own ‘secret spots’! Dig out those topography maps, awaken your inner curiosity, seek out those blissfully remote campsites and be a new-age explorer.