We started Spotted by Locals in 2008 because we had experienced traveling like a local would be a more fun and more rewarding way of traveling.
Since then, we’ve traveled to 25 cities where we met almost 300 potential locals who love writing about the city they love, for an interview in their favorite spot. On consecutive trips to “our” 23 cities, we’ve followed hundreds of our Spotters written tips from the cityblogs. I can safely say we have become Local Travel experts.
It will not surprise you we love traveling like a local. Many people ask us the great question “Why?”. We thought it would be nice to share our personal top 8 reasons.
1) Locals know which tourist traps to skip
When I walk around in my hometown, Amsterdam, I’m always sorry to see so many people getting attracted to the neon lights in the red light district, and other tourist districts. Sometimes I would like to scream “Go somewhere else if you want to experience the real Amsterdam!”. Of course I never do…
This week, we met a Couchsurfer who explained us she felt “trapped” in the tourist districts in Amsterdam, but really didn’t know how to “escape” it. After she came back from Amsterdam, she did not feel like she had really experienced our lovely hometown.
If I look back now, it’s how I often felt during or after our citytrips… If we did think we found a “cute local spot”, it often turned out to be infested with tourists carrying the exact same city guide…
When we started following going to areas in cities locals sent us to, it was so much easier to steer clear of the touristy areas.
2) Locals know what’s open, and what’s “in”
We have about 6 feet of paper travel guidebooks on our bookshelves. They’ve been very helpful on our travels throughout the world. Outside of Europe, we always have a guidebook with us for the general information. But in cities, we use them less and less. Most paper guidebook writers are journalists, who do extensive research in a country, and then go back to their country. As soon as the guidebook is published, much has changed already.
User generated travel content websites have the benefit of being updateable, but they’re usually written by travelers who can’t keep this information up-to-date after they return from their travels. Or by locals who don’t bother to update this information.
We’ve used both paper travel guides and user generated travel content a lot, and unfortunately ended up traveling to quite a few clubs and restaurants who had changed owners, or worse: that were closed down already. Almost every traveler I have talked to, shares this experience.
We have experienced only locals can provide reliable and up-to-date information, since they visit their favorite spots frequently.
3) Locals know tourist highlights from real highlights
Almost every tourist who visits Amsterdam, has the famous Anne Frank house on its itinerary. When I moved to Amsterdam, it took me 5 years to finally visit it. Many of my Amsterdam friends have never…
Before Spotted by Locals, when we visited a city for the first time, we felt we really “had” to visit the tourist highlights. The Notre Dame in Paris, the Trevi fountain in Rome, Oxford Street in London… We scored all tourist tourist “musts”, but before we knew it we were back on the airplane or train home without having had time to relax and enjoy…
However, when we thought about it later, our greatest memories never turned out to be the tourist highlights from the travel guides. It was always something we could never have predicted: a live concert on the streets, an encounter with a local, a ride by public transport or blending in with the locals with a bottle of local wine from the supermarket (like at the Admiral-Bruecke in Berlin below).
The more we traveled, the more highlights from our travel guides we skipped. It has made our citytrips and holidays more relaxed, more fun, and much more rewarding.
4) Locals know the seasons
There are very few guidebooks or travel websites that take into account the seasons and vacation periods. I do not want to read about a city beach if I’m visiting Stockhom in winter… On our cityblogs, all tips are up-to-date and up-to-season – you only read about spots that are nice to visit now.
Our Berlin Spotter Jill for example, just wrote about the Asparagus season that just started, our Amsterdam Spotters Gisela and Patty have spotted the hottest Amsterdam ice cream this season, and our Budapest Spotter just reported the “secret” Budapest Duna city beach has just opened again!
5) Locals go for quality and good prices
As a local, you know when a bar increased their beer price with Euro 0.25, or starts pouring a cheaper wine. Through word of mouth, this news spreads fast among locals. Listen to the locals if you want to know where you can get the best quality for your Euro, Pound, HUF or Zloty!
6) Spending locally helps the local economy
If you buy in shops and visit venues run and owned by locals, you help the local economy. Apart from the experience, I prefer spending my money in a coffeeshop where they sell local coffee over buying my coffee at Starbucks. And although I’m Dutch, I never drink Heineken when I’m abroad. Try it, it feels better!
7) Local Travel makes the world a better place!
By traveling the local way, you learn about the culture and habits of the inhabitants. We really think a better understanding of different cultures solves a lot of potential problems. We are sure it can make the world a better place. We hope to make a modest contribution with Spotted by Locals, and by becoming a partner of the Local Travel Movement.
8) Traveling like a local makes you feel special
The most important reason to travel like a local for us: it’s just more fun! It really makes you feel special to visit spots where you find only locals.
What do you think? Did we miss anything? What is your experience with traveling like a local?