Spotted by Locals was founded in 2008 as a way to provide travelers with an alternative to the classic tourist guide; a way to get off the beaten track and explore a city in a more personal way. But why do we think is it so much better to see a destination through a local’s eyes?
With long lines for sightseeing hotspots almost disappearing, it seems that many people have now come to this same conclusion themselves. What we have strongly believed for many years, the current global crisis has managed to convince more people of than ever. Visitors to typically over-crowded destinations have bottomed out, and our hope is that the sudden aversion to crowds will send more people to cities that could use the tourism (see our thoughts on this topic here).
When this crisis is over and people start traveling again more freely, we are strongly optimistic that conscious traveling will transition from an anomaly during unusual times to the standard for tourism everywhere. Traveling like a local is a core part of experiencing a city in a more purposeful and respectful way. Here we present you with our reasons for believing this. Although these issues have been made more relevant than ever this year, for us they hold true always.
1. You get to avoid the crappy tourist crowds…
Let’s be honest, nothing is as disillusioning as looking around and seeing everyone holding the same tourist guide as you. Maybe they’re even walking the same route – which means you’ll be bumping into that annoying couple all day long.
On top of that, frankly, some tourist hotspots are a bit overrated. Maybe they weren’t at the beginning but now they’re so well-known that it gets a bit boring. Yes, the Sacré Coeur in Paris definitely has its charm. But the overly loud people in front, the miniature Eiffel Towers being sold everywhere, and the fact that you just can’t manage to find a seat takes away a lot of the initial charm. While the usual tourist guide will try to hide this ugly truth from you, locals definitely won’t.
2. … and see the best spots from a new angle
Instead of telling you to go to the Sacré Coeur, locals will tell you which street has the best view of the landmark. And from which spot you can best enjoy the city’s skyline. It takes a while before you know these things – sometimes it even takes a lifetime – so it’s something that most tourists won’t stumble across. Sometimes you have to wander through the most boring neighborhoods to find that one hidden gem of a viewpoint. Although you may enjoy exploring a city’s back streets for yourself, locals can give you the edge on where to start.
3. A local knows when to go where
Timing is key. Sometimes it is better to visit places during certain seasons. Should you visit the national park during summer or winter or somewhere in between? What’s the best season to eat the local fish delicacy? Time of day can also matter, as well as the time of the week. A local will be able to tell you the exact hour at which you need to buy vegetables at the farmers’ market. Or whether you should visit that museum on a specific Friday – perhaps there’s some kind of festival going on that means you’ll be almost alone? Only a local will know all of this up-to-date insider information.
4. You don’t feel like an outsider
You know that feeling when you’re visiting a city and don’t really fit in? Like it’s obvious to everyone that you’re a tourist? There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, unless it bothers you. What you need then is a local to show you how to blend in, or where to blend in. Ask advice from a friend in the city on how to dress so as not to stand out, or use the Spotted by Locals app to find places where the locals hang out.
Another great tip that applies anywhere in the world is to simply watch what the people around you are doing. Restaurants where a lot of locals are hanging out, for example, are likely to be very good. In general, by keeping an eye on the people around you, you will avoid tourist traps and be lead to the best spots. When you don’t stand out as much from the locals, it’s also easier to feel at home, which is one of the greatest achievements when you’re traveling around.
5. It’s better for the environment and the local economy
Not buying your groceries at the supermarket, but rather at the local market, has two positive outcomes: your environmental footprint is smaller as the ingredients are locally sourced; and you support local farmers instead of big multinational companies. The same goes for a cafe with local brews, a shop with handcrafted pottery from town, or a hotel that employs people who have difficulty finding a job elsewhere. If everyone traveled consciously in this way, the world would truly be a better and more sustainable place.
6. It’s cheaper
It’s quite logical that tourist attractions are able to make a lot of money – tourists have the means and the inclination to splurge, so why not charge them a little more? As long as the benefits are put to good use we can only encourage that. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Local businesses, on the other hand, are geared at locals who don’t want to spend a fortune on every meal or item. You’ll probably end up purchasing better food or products while contributing to local production chains and spending less money while you’re at it.
7. It’s just more fun!
Traveling like a local has a lot of tangible benefits. But the best part of the experience for you is likely to be emotional, by making fun and unique memories. Every destination has its own quirky and norms, and those often get a bit overlooked at the main tourist attractions. Besides, you don’t want to end up with exactly the same Instagram feed as everyone else, do you? So leave that guidebook at home, get off the beaten path, and see what adventure befalls you!
Want to know more about traveling like a local? Read about our philosophy here at Spotted by Locals!