Site Lets Tourists "Rent a Local Friend"
Put the quackers down, and step away from the double decker tour bus -- the best way to discover a new city is with a knowledgeable friend by your side. For those of us who aren't lucky enough to have friends positioned around the world, one company is helping travelers out by letting them rent one.
Louvre, Paris; phillyreconstructed, flickr
Brazilian journalist Alice Moura started rentalocalfriend.com while living in London, after a reader of her blog asked her to show them around the real London. Moura, an experienced traveler, soon realized that the only way for a tourist to get an authentic experience of any city was to see it with someone who lived, ate, and worked there every day. She also realized that the demand for one-on-one insider tours was strong.
"I thought mostly of backpackers. But many clients are elderly people who like personalized service. We also have families that don't like inflexible tours, and young people who want to know trendy places," Moura told the AFP.
The website connects travelers with personal tour guides in 15 major cities spanning the globe, including New York, San Francisco, Paris, and Barcelona. Visitors first submit a short form with a description of their interests (culture, sports, photography, food, shopping) via email, after which the guides come up with a personalized itinerary.
Prices vary on location and length, but average around $85 for three people to go on a four-hour tour. For those who feel confident enough to take on their destination alone, the site also lets travelers choose a personalized guide compilation, which gives them a tailored, relevant guide that they can take with them as they explore the city solo.
While rentalocalfriend.com is lesser known than other recommendation sites such as TripAdvisor, Moura told the AFP that her business has led to authentic friendships between guides and travelers, adding "It's more for the fun than the money."