You’ve decided where to go. Now, for the research: What to do? How to narrow it down? With so much information at our fingertips it’s hard to know where to begin. A good starting point is to make a shortlist of attractions and things to do from sources like Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor. These offer great suggestions based on firsthand travel experiences and reviews. But there’s one problem. You end up at the same places as all the other tourists!
So once you have your list, enrich it with travel tips from the locals and fellow travellers and download some useful apps too. Here are some ideas I use to narrow down my travel research and get a head start on my local travel experience.
Say I’m planning to travel around Thailand for a month. It’s a very popular destination, so it’s easy to check off all the travel hot spots without getting a true feeling of the country. To avoid that, I need to get tips from the locals themselves. Local tips may help me find that secret restaurant or discover a beach that’s less crowded, but equally beautiful.
How to research local:
Check out local blogs
Blogs written by locals (native or expat), provide personal accounts of their country. Check out a food blog for new dishes to try. Read a lifestyle blog for fashion and travel tips. Wherever your interests lie, you can probably find a local blog on them!
How to find local blogs
Google is the most effective way to search for local blogs. Search keyword + blog + country. Various blogs will pop up, but look for links that include lists of top bloggers. For example, I came across this list where I discovered lots of great Thai bloggers.
Alltop allows you to search by country or city to find the latest news stories and blogs. It doesn’t have every country available but it does have a large database that you can easily search by keyword.
Browse local Instagram feeds
With its increase in popularity, Instagram’s become a helpful travel tool. Check out where the locals and your fellow travellers are going. You could discover a cute coffee shop, hidden temple or must-have gem to bring home!
Use hashtags to narrow down your search
Whether you’re trying to get the feel for a place or looking for a local food dish, hashtags can be useful when navigating through thousands of pictures. Think about what hashtags you would use on Instagram and search for similar ones. Also try searching variations of these hashtags:
Geotag your way to a country
Check out the geotags beneath the users’ names when browsing pictures. Found a must visit coffee shop? The geotag will direct you to a link on a map. You can also search specific locations, such as hotels or restaurants to see if that spot is worth checking out.
If you’re intrigued by a picture but you still have questions, ask away! Most users will be happy to answer them. And the worst that could happen is that you don’t get a response back.
Check out specific destination feeds
Each country has its own tourism account and some users have specific location-based accounts. These are great for gaining inspiration and finding new places to check out.
For example, if you’re going to Thailand, check out these Instagram feeds to foster your wanderlust before your trip:
- Get in the island spirit by browsing @yourkrabi for beautiful pictures of the island, Krabi.
- Follow @woody_chai for a local perspective of Bangkok with these beautiful pictures of the concrete jungle.
- @thailandinsider is the official tourist account of Thailand. It features original photos as well as inspiring reposts from other travellers.
Read the local newspaper online
A peruse through a Thai newspaper gives me an insider’s feel of the country and allows me to learn about interesting events. Google language + country + newspapers and pick whichever one you like best, or check out onlinenewspapers.com, which allows you to search newspapers by language, region and country.
I found The Bangkok Post and learned it’s considerably colder than normal right now. I also discovered some interesting events and festivals. Look at newspapers closer to your departure date to stay current on new stories and ensure you get tickets to the must-see shows before you leave.
Save all your travel tips and inspiration onto a Pinterest board or use Pocket (a place to save all your links found on social media). Prefer the old-fashioned way? You can also save your links in an email draft so you can access them all in one place at any time.
Apps for travelling like a local:
Don’t forget to download these travel planning apps to get travel tips from locals and connect with them before and during your travels.
Like a Local
Insider tips and tours by locals for many cities around the world. New cities added all the time. Use the “ask this local” tool under the contributor’s bio to get specific travel tips.
City guides by locals. Currently there are 66 cities, but more cities are being added. Buy the PDF city guide to use anywhere, anytime.
Visit a host cook’s house for a delicious home cooked meal. Check out #vizeat on Instagram to see people’s experiences.
Check departure times for any nearby transit line. You can even request an Uber or car2go!
Ask a question and get advice and recommendations from locals through real-time chat. Only available in six cities – Chicago, New York, Mexico City, Barcelona, Paris and Berlin; but more are on the way!
Want more sources? Check these out!
Stay at a local’s home instead of a hotel. With a range of prices and accommodation in over 190 countries, there’s a place for everyone. Plus, get tips from the locals that you’re staying with! You can list your home or find one to rent.
Travelling with kids? Check out Knok for all things family friendly. From family houses to stay in, recommended babysitters, and kid favourite activities, Knok’s a great travel planning tool. P.S. It’s mostly focused in the US and Europe.
Check out various events to fulfill anyone’s interests while travelling. With groups ranging from photography to food and adventure, you’ll meet new people while also trying new things. Many Meetup groups also use Facebook, so use them hand in hand for the best experience.
Want to know what trends are on the rise in 2016? Check out our blog post, ABCs of 2016 Travel Trends!
A little research for your trip can go a long way. Pair the tips above with your favourite travelguide and a few travel apps and you’re well on your way to the trip of a lifetime!
When researching, don’t forget to learn about which travel insurance to buy. The right coverage (and knowledge) could save you from these common accidents in Thailand, or wherever you happen to be travelling to.
For more travel tidbits and everything travel insurance, follow us on twitter at @tugoinsurance