Independent Travel has come a long way and is so much easier than ever before. Social Media, travel blogs and online travel marketplaces have become an in-depth source for adventurous and unique travel ideas and experiences for all budgets. More and more C2C online businesses such as Airbnb pop up offering the possibility to connect travellers with the local community to make your trip an even more authentic travel experience. There’s a new kid on the block, who seem to have grasped just that: WITHLOCALS.COM. I went to try it out. Here is my Withlocals experience:
Withlocals is an online marketplace for home dining, guided tours and activities with locals. Their mission is to “connect people and cultures through food and unique experiences”. The Dutch company started off in Asia and they are now introducing their network to Spain starting in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville.
Why I love it
- It’s a fantastic idea to connect travellers with the “real” local crowd of the place they visit. Especially in a city like Barcelona, you learn to appreciate sustainable tourism and the need to support local communities rather than international restaurant chains.
The website helps the traveller to find the locals who get listed for free, and takes a commission when it actually comes to a transaction. It allows local tour guides and professionals to pick up extra work and also makes sure they get paid on time – which is not a given in Barcelona.
- Let’s be honest, when travelling we mostly hang out with other travellers or expats and it’s not that often that we get invited by locals unless we stay much longer and pick up work ourselves. Tools like withlocals.com make it so easy to get a glimpse of local lifestyle and to learn about the culture and mentality.
- I appreciate that you can read up on reviews of previous users before choosing your host and you can also leave a comment afterwards. It’s such a valuable tool!
- Also, the hosts have to go through an audit at their own cost. This should filter out people who are not so serious or with ulterior motives.
- They currently promote their website with plenty of discounts and launch offers such as “Every 2nd person joins for free”.
- For those who are unsure what to expect, check out our dinner experience:
We went to Mon’s “Paella Party: Let’s Cook Together!” and had good fun! Mon was very friendly and hospitable and made it an overall great experience. She is a great cook – we loved the food and wine & dine style. She is from Barcelona and a traveller herself so we had plenty to talk about. We were welcomed with an aperitif and starters: Ham and bread with tomato (“pan con tomate” – a well known Catalan side dish) and I got to cook a delicious Paella following Mon’s family recipe instructions and learned her tips and tricks. For those who are into cooking, here’s a brief summary of the recipe (for 3 people) :
Mon had already prepared the Paella pan and all the ingredients 😉 – chicken, beef, peppers, garlic, grated tomato, fresh squid & crabs, peas, plenty of olive oil and of course paella rice (arborio or carnaroli rice will do).
Briefly fry the crabs to flavour the olive oil. Then put the crabs aside.
Fry the meat, then add the veg. Squid and peas follow later (just before adding the rice). All this at fairly high heat.
Add boiling water and evenly sprinkle the rice. This reminded me a lot of cooking risotto, although you never mix or turn it over – just slightly move it with a wooden spoon every 5 minutes or shake the pan, so it wouldn’t stick to it.
Once the rice is cooked, place the previously fried crabs on top…
What you should have in mind before booking
- I have tried quite a few of the networks via C2C businesses and although you book and initiate contact via an online marketplace or portal, you finally interact with an individual person and not a business. This usually requires a bit more time and personal interaction via email or phone in advance, for example to arrange the time and meeting point. Sometimes they may want to get to know you as a person or at least get a first impression beforehand – for example when staying at their house which I can fully understand (that is just another reason to keep your profile up to date). I’d recommend contacting the host in advance to find a suitable time together before you make the booking.
- There is always a chance of last minute changes or cancellation – remember it’s not a business interaction and not the same rules apply.
- The Spanish network is still young and mostly offers dining experiences at the moment. However I imagine with Barcelona’s wide range of cultural offer there will soon be more activities and guided tours to choose from.
- The website seems to work better on mobile devices, although there was a glitch when trying to access from my computer (a quick password reset fixed the problem though).
Please share your experience with C2C online market places.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Today Was a Good Day.”
Special thanks to Withlocals.com for making this happen!