Picture it: you’re alone, you’ve just landed in a new city, and you have only a few days — or maybe a few hours — to take in the highlights. What’s a traveler to do? Thankfully, there are a growing number of websites dedicated to connecting you with affordable, locally-based experts who conduct one-on-one or small-group tours based on your interests and needs. From night photography tours in Paris to street food crawls in Bali, here are eight sites where you can book unforgettable experiences for your trip.
Vayable lets you choose from a myriad of affordable tours led by local experts around the world. Passionate, knowledgeable guides can help everyone from first-time visitors to Paris or Rome to experienced travelers looking for design, photography and street art experiences, food tours, private dinners hosted by locals, backroads wine tastings, underground history, sightseeing, immersive cultural exchange, and more.
ToursByLocals has been connecting travelers with local guides since 2008. Offering a variety of standard and customizable tours in over 150 countries, the company meticulously screens its guides, each of whom undergoes a thorough background check by Thomson Reuters World-Check. Tours cover everything from food and wine to hiking and walking, shopping, museums, religious heritage, local experiences, and more.
TravelLocal is an agency that puts you in contact you with their on-the-ground partners in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America to create tailor-made trips and unforgettable experiences. All you have to do is figure out where you want to go and fill out their short online form to allow them to create a unique itinerary for you, which you can refine and customize to all you like before you book and pay.
Global Greeters is perfect for budget-conscious travelers: every single greeter is a volunteer who loves his/her city so much that they want to show it to you for free. More like friends than guides, they can give you a one-of-a-kind personal introduction to the town as well as show you things like parks, good shopping spots, architectural wonders, or anything else that suits your fancy.
Withlocals provides over 1,200 unique tours and activities, mostly with a food focus, with locals in Europe and Asia. From famous restaurants to hidden gems, from street food stands to home dinners, their hosts are committed to sharing the best their cities have to offer. Highlights include a tour of a rural floating market near Bangkok and a pasta-making workshop in Rome.
Embark works with certified guides and small tour operators to offer customized outdoor adventure tours in 24 countries and counting. Think hiking, rock climbing, skiing, kayaking, surfing, and diving instead of cruises and dinner shows. While there are plenty of tours for adrenaline junkies, they also offer more low-key options like mushroom hunting in Denver or cemetery tours in Buenos Aires.
Urban Adventures boasts a team of 1000-plus local guides in 152 cities in 93 countries who specialize in small-group and private tours that focus on food and/or outdoor adventures. Tours range from two hours to an entire day, and their goal is to take you off the beaten path to meet locals and taste the best each place has to offer. A sunset bike tour of Rio de Janeiro, a night hike in Macedonia, a pub crawl in Riga, Latvia, and a pesto tour of Genoa, Italy are just some of the singular tours they offer.
Showaround is a subscription-based service that links travelers with locals who offer free or low-cost tours tailored to their interests. The sleek website and app are geared toward millennials who might not want to commit to the formality (or cost) of engaging a professional guide but want to get an insider’s perspective on their destination.