Monday, March 23, 2009

Asking locals for help with your travel plans?

Tim pointed a website to me about "Travel like a local", where you can ask locals for some advise about your next travel destination.
So, are local people really the best choice for you? I would say: not in general. It depends on your needs.

The average traveler comes to a place the first time and don't want to miss the highlights. But, have you ever asked someone from Paris about the opening hours of the Eiffel Tower? Guess how many citizens of Saigon have been to one of the museums recently? When I lived in Phnom Penh, I never made it to the National Museum (but I visited it years before when I came as a tourist). So locals are not a help for the first visit and the basic sightseeing. Who else then? Your professional tour operator. They know what tourists like (and don't like), they have the best rates and information. It's their business.

Ok, you have been in Saigon once and now you come back and want to get a deeper look into the citys life. Are locals your best guides now? Maybe. Again, it depends what you expect. You want to have a food tasting in Chinatown? Locals can take you to a restaurant they know, but is it the one you really want? Maybe, if you like really authentic food (with all the risk, but fun too).

Locals live here, and daily life isn't for them (or us, as I am a kind of local too) as exciting as it might be for a tourist. Like driving on a moto bike: It's common for us, but maybe a joyride for a tourist. On the other hand, there is nothing more boring for me as a cyclo ride (and usually f** hot too).

If you are a backpacker and want to save money and get a real authentic experience, then should should ask locals for sure. They know the cheapest places (even cheaper then mentioned in the Lonely Planet), and the best as well.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Good points Thomas. I recently posted on Localyte to the effect that asking a local, ie a native, isn't necessarily a good idea, certainly not in Vietnam anyway.
Ask a Vietnamese person in Saigon where the best beach is and most of them will tell you Vung Tau, which is most definitely NOT good advice. Ask them where to go for a drink & they'll send you to some tacky coffee shop with blaring music.
Also, the time-honoured cliche that if you want a good meal, choose a place that's full of locals, is basically nonsense. Follow that advice in the UK & you'd end up in McDonalds, in Saigon you'd end up in a crappy com binh dan shop.
I'd say asking a well-informed expat resident is probably the best way to get the advice you want, which is where sites like Localyte & Tripadvisor come in handy.