Live Like a Local: Programs That Connect Locals and Travelers

Picnic
Photo by Freeimages.com/Ruth H

There’s no better way to connect with a destination than through its local people and food. We’ve listed some organizations that are providing travelers chances to “live like a local” through various tours and local experiences.

Lokafy recently launched in New York City and was founded by Canadian entrepreneur Kiran Samra in 2013. Using Lokafy.com, travelers can connect with locals in New York City, as well as Paris and Toronto, that have similar interests. Travelers and locals can socialize over various topics, including architecture, food and nightlife. Once connected, visitors are shown the city by the like-minded locals, the tours last a minimum of two hours and are offered for groups and solo guests.

Perfect For: Travelers looking to make friendly connections while touring.

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Meet the People program in Jamaica is similar to Lokafy in that the program connects locals and tourists with similar interests. This free program, which began in 1968, has matched many travelers with Meet the People Ambassadors. The Ambassadors include families, musicians, doctors, chefs, dancers and more. Activities may include a home-cooked meal, a pick-up sports game, a tour around town and more. Eileen Ogintz, of the Tribune Content Agency, recently participated in the program and enjoyed a festive lunch with Doris Morgan, a Montego Bay local, complete with sweet potato pudding. Read more about her experience here.

Perfect For: Families looking to teach their children about the Jamaican culture.

Servas is a great way to meet locals to discuss important topics like mutual respect between cultures, which is one of the goals of this service. Servas acts as a homestay network that connects travelers with more than 1,500 hosts from more than 100 countries worldwide. These approved hosts will welcome travelers for a two-night visit. How does it work? The non-profit is a United Nations, non-governmental organization that is accredited by the United Nations Department of Public Information. International travelers pay a one-year membership fee to join the network.

Perfect For: Open-mined explorers that travel internationally.

Meal Sharing was created so travelers and locals could connect through an important cultural element--food. In more than 450 cities worldwide hosts create a home-made meal for travelers. The booking process is simple: Visitors view menu options and select or request a date with a host on the website. Guests can dine on slow-cooked beef stew in Rio de Janeiro or have a raw milk cheese tasting in New York City.

Perfect For: Foodies looking to eat like and with locals. 

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