Great vacations are often built upon the advice of locals, but knowing which locals have the best goods is key. Instead of getting the same old tips from tourism bureau staff or trusting dubious recommendations from the guy next to you on the metro, seek out the following five locals who can help make your next trip an epic one.
1. Your rideshare driver
What he might share:Want me to stop at this lookout on the way to the restaurant? Best view of the city I’ve seen. Great selfie spot.
With ride-hailing companies like Uber running in 300 cities across six continents, it’s easier than ever to find a chauffeur to get you from point A to point B. But rideshare services like Uber, Lyft, China’s Didi Chuxing, and SafeHer, a new women-only operation launching in Boston this fall, are also underrated travel resources.
Of course a knowledgeable driver will know about the hottest new restaurant in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong square or a secret beach outside Boston, but their real value is having the inside scoop on how people really feel about each destination. Like a human Yelp, they can (literally) steer you to the best family-friendly restaurants, the most gay-friendly neighborhoods or that bar that looks like a total dive, but hosts the most fun karaoke his passengers have ever experienced.
2. A bartender
What he might share: Tell them Nick from the Blind Pig sent you.
Many bartenders can be relied on for much more than a stiff drink. They’re also the quintessential insiders of their local hospitality scene. Ask the mixologist for her favorite places to hit the town, be it for the best live music or rooftop views—and the best way to get in. If you strike up a conversation during a slow time, bartenders are friendly and willing to share their local secrets, street smarts and the manager’s name at that restaurant where you’ve been trying to nab a table.
Don’t be shy about asking for nightlife-related advice too, like the safest neighborhoods to walk at night, dress codes to consider or which restaurants turn into great clubs—thereby letting you skip the expensive entrance fee if you get there early.
3. A farmer’s market vendor
What she might share: These peaches come from the oldest peach grove in Asia.
What’s better than a sweet bite of local produce from an exotic destination? When that bite’s history is as rich as its flavor. No one knows the land and its bounty better than farmers. You’ll never forget trying fruit from the world’s oldest line of heirloom tomatoes or a bite of cured bacon from butcher whose family has been perfecting the art for centuries.
Because of their place in the local foods network, farm vendors are also wonderful resources when it comes to culinary adventures beyond the city. For instance, if it’s fall at the Mercato Centralein Florence, stop by the Savini Tartufi counter to learn about white truffle hunting in Tuscany. At Maui Nui Farmers’ Market on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala, don’t be surprised when a chat about luaus yields an invitation to a backyard Kālua pork barbecue.
4. A bike shopkeeper
What he might share: This gorgeous route has a brewpub every few miles. The Hefeweizen at mile 21 is unbelievable.
Bikes are a fun and efficient way to see a city from a different vantage point, but it’s easy to end up in the stream of two-wheeled tourists idly going in circles around a park or up and down a popular waterfront. Instead of sticking with the crowds, guarantee yourself an adventure by seeking tips from the experts at a bike shop.
Whether you’re renting a bike at the shop or taking one out through a self-serve bikeshare program like CitiBike in New York or EcoBici in Buenos Aires, you can expect bike shop employees to show you a map of bike lanes and trails and suggest the best under-the-radar rides or local bike club meet-ups that suit your fitness level and interests. (As a courtesy, consider purchasing an energy bar or a map at the shop if you’ve rented a bike elsewhere.) Many cyclists love to break up a long ride with a coffee and a treat or end a ride with a beer, so make sure to ask for some ideas for rewarding rest stops in town.
5. Art gallery curator
What she might share: This scarf is from a new pop-up boutique downtown. Go today, because tomorrow is their last day.
So you’ve seen the Ufizzi Gallery or the Tate Modern, now what? Instead of looking at the next cultural attraction on the top 10 list, duck inside an art gallery to get up-to-the-minute insights you won’t find in an outdated guidebook. A curator—or most any gallery staff—will be familiar with the coolest local exhibits. You might find a self-guided graffiti tour in Melbourne or underground art pop-ups like the Pancakes & Booze Art Show in San Francisco. One perk of exploring lesser known galleries and art events is finding affordable artwork—that comes with a great story, too.
This artsy local will also know about the other trendiest spots in town, from a vegan butcher shop in Minneapolis to London’s most fashionable small boutiques. No matter what city you visit in the world, the art world insiders are always on top of the hippest trends.