On my trip to Pasadena, I was on Twitter sharing a few live shots from the Huntington Gardens when a friendly face from the Triptrotting team said “hey, let’s meetup.” And so we did – and I loved what they’re doing, connecting local guides with travelers. I invited them here to share some stories about great experiences you can have with a local’s expertise. They are some great tips – so enjoy.
Alexandria, Egypt – not the library of Alexandria, but rather a boat ride in the harbor with a view of the library
If we weren’t with a local, we wouldn’t have had this amazing experience. Our friend took us by the harbor near the castle of Alexandria, and simply struck up a conversation with an Egyptian man standing near one of the docks, bargained a deal, and soon enough we were going for a ride on a local’s personal boat. There is no way for a regular tourist to do this; this was no organized business, no official tourist attraction. Allowed by the friendly and hospitable culture of the Egyptian people, we walked up, made a deal, and off we went. It was an amazing experience – he took us to a sea wall that we could climb on and get a full view of the panoramic view of Alexandria during sunset. It was definitely a top 10 experience – one of the many experiences in Egypt that does not involve a pyramid – that I wouldn’t have had without a local’s help.
Verdens Ende, Norway – The end of the world.
“Hey, look up, it’s the end of the world!” Sailing south of Tonsberg, Norway, where I was visiting my friend, we were approaching Verdens Ende, which translated from Norwegian means “the end of the world.” It is an incredibly beautiful landscape of nothing but open ocean beyond the mainland inlet, and rock islands popping up out of the water. After an hour and a half of sailing we reached a pod of giant rock islands secluded out in the middle of the sea – which happened to be our stop. We docked the boat, explored the islands, and even set up the wind surf. This was an experience no average tourist would ever have. The only people who knew about these beautiful islands much less how to sail to them were the local Norwegians who spread the message through word of mouth. It was an incredible experience in a beautiful, secluded place.
Lima, Peru – Club Help!
Without the help of my Triptrotting host from Lima – and now good friend – my experience in Peru would not have been quite as much fun. He suggested that for nightlife, we had to try club Help! in Lima’s Barranco district. He didn’t provide much detail, but said there was going to be live music and lots of beer. First of all, the drive to this club was rather uneasy, passing through graffitied side streets and dark abandoned buildings. When we finally pulled up, the building looked like a run down warehouse; it was chaotic with people swarming the street out front, trying to organize a line, and yelling in Spanish. It caused us to have second thoughts about going, but after some moments we decided we might as well. We entered the club and it was… awesome! It was a giant warehouse with a stage on one side, bars in the back, and even an area off to the side with live artists painting and lounge area with couches and Nintendo. By the time the band came on stage there were hundreds of people, a very local crowd. This was definitely one of those places that took some insider local knowledge.
Bangkok, Thailand – Health Land
Of course one of the musts in Bangkok is to get a massage (or ten). My Triptrotting host took me to an amazing spa for an amazing price. This place was tidier and more luxurious than the hole in the wall tiny massage parlors along the street. Thus, it was a bit more expensive, but not by much. At HealthLand you can get a 2 hour Thai massage for $15USD. That makes for $7.50/hour, and did I mention that you get a private room with shower and clean towels? Any massage is nice, but Health Land was a local favorite spot which didn’t contain the sketchy, possibly unwashed sheets while breathing in a questionable odor. Nope, instead Health Land is the Four Seasons of massage at the price of your local budget motel.
Melbourne, Australia – Foreshore Festival in St. Kilda
This one isn’t a place, but rather an event, so it only happens once a year. But I was lucky enough to be around for Foreshore in December, the beginning of Melbourne summer (which isn’t saying much for Melbourne weather terms). My mate, a local from the area, brought me along to the festival which was held on the beach in St. Kilda. An awesome event flooded with a crowds Aussies, live music, DJs, sponsored tents with free stuff, and drinks. The event carried from the afternoon into the evening, with people enjoying the kick off of the summer season along with the music. If not the only, I was one of few foreigners at this event, and would never have known about it without the contact of a local.
Perth, Australia – Rottnest Island
This one is probably a fair bit more advertised, but relative to tourist attractions within the whole of Australia, fewer folks heading down under have made plans to see Rottnest Island. While everyone goes to the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef, Western Australia remains isolated with far more room to spread out on the equally as good beaches. I decided to sign up for a spring break surfing trip up and down the coast of Western Australia planned out by two local Aussies from Melbourne. They told me we were headed straight to Rottnest Island after landing in Perth. You can only arrive by boat, and there are no cars on the island. You can rent bikes to get around, there is one store and one bar, and the beaches and landscape are pure paradise. Without the help and suggestions of the Aussies, I would have never known about Rottnest Island. After spending 5 months in Australia, it was easily the most unique and beautiful place I visited.
Kauai, Hawaii – Secrets Beach
Though Kauai is a small island, its nature is endless – here we’ve talked about the perfect day in Kauai and our resident Hawaii expert mentions it as one of her Hawaii favorites. With hundreds of beaches to choose from, the average tourist stops and settles for the nearest one they see. But when you have a local to guide you down the dirt roads and jungle paths to a secluded, flawless beach – called Secrets for its lack of publicity – you have struck gold. On our trip to Kauai we mingled with a few locals working at a nearby resort, who promised to take us to an amazing deserted beach only the islanders knew about. Sure enough, after a bumpy ride down the dirt road and a steep climb down the jungle cliff, we arrived at Secrets ready to enjoy some golden sand.
Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl
New York is full of festivities happening 24/7. There is literally so much to do that you don’t have time to waste deciding. Our friend from the Big Apple told us he would take us around Brooklyn for a day, and brought us to Brooklyn Bowl – from the outside, you would never know there was anything happening inside. The bowling alley was huge! With its retro atmosphere it had over a dozen lanes, a large concert stage, and a full bar. Upon visiting New York City, there are obviously the staple tourist items like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building; but what goes on below these sky high attractions, in classic New York buildings like the Brooklyn Bowl, are the truly local experiences that you make for the most meaningful memories.
Budapest, Hungary – Piaf Club
Piaf Club is the club in Budapest to go to when everything else is closed. If you go before 2am, you will be in an empty club drinking by yourself. But, when you head to it later on, the place if full of music, dancing, and happy Hungarians. On our first night in Budapest, our Triptrotting host brought us around to different clubs and bars. At the end of the night, for those who were able to endure the endless shots of Palinka amidst trekking around the city, our host took us to Piaf Club for after hours. The place was quaint yet lively, with a small dance floor and an extremely local crowd. There was a lot of energy in there at 4am, and certainly was one of my best nights of Budapest sightseeing.
San Francisco, CA – La Mediterranee Restaurant
We’ve heard about what to do in San Francisco, and unsurprisingly, food tops the list. This is one of the best restaurants ever. The food is absolutely amazing, and I might be a little bit biased because I’m from San Francisco and love Mediterranean food. There are three La Mediterranean restaurants in the Bay Area: 2 in the city of San Francisco, and 1 in Berkeley. The restaurants are each very small with limited seating, and there is always a wait due to high demand. Those who go to the restaurant are local foodies, looking for a delicious Mediterranean meal that won’t disappoint. From filo dough specials to chicken pomegranate with Armenian potato salad, everything is gourmet and delicious. This restaurant is not advertised to tourists; rather, they would be lucky to find it without help. Any time I am hosting a friend I make every effort to bring them there. So far, everyone wants a repeat.
As you can see from the examples above, knowing a local can go a long way in changing your travel experience. When I travel I always use www.triptrotting.com to meet the most like-minded locals and have the experience of a life-time!