How to Ask for Travel Advice
Asking friends for travel advice is a landmine. While some friends may know a real insider’s tips, others are going to point you to the tourist traps that they went to. Without a discerning eye, all these tips may get lumped together, and you may forgo a genuinely authentic experience because Chad or Becky ate the “best pad thai” of their lives at the hawker stall next to the temple they met a shaman who gave them a bracelet. Here are 3 tips that have helped me to get better travel advice.
Ask Better Questions
Which neighborhood did you encounter the most interesting locals?
Contrary to what Trip Advisor promotes, cities aren’t just made of individual destinations. Cities are comprised of neighborhoods, and each one has its own flavor and vibe. While most people recommend singular attractions, restaurants, or shops, I prefer asking about the blocks that excited people the most while traveling. If they can’t name one, they were probably “destination hopping.”
Did you find any areas off-putting?
Finding out the areas to avoid is extremely valuable when visiting a new city. Most cities have “a bad part of town” or “the tourist area.” It is best to ask about these areas right off the bat so that you don’t accidentally book a hotel/home-stay in that area.
If you had a 4-hour layover in XYZ city, where would you go?
My goal here is to find out if there is anything that is worth missing my flight for. Four hours isn’t quite long enough to do much of anything, but if the person you’re asking is confident with their response, you should be too about making time to visit their recommendations.
Use Instagram Recommendations
Whenever you follow an account on Instagram, it’ll usually recommend other accounts to follow. I love using this tool when traveling because if I follow a business I like, it recommends comparable accounts in the area that I may not already know about.
In Jakarta, I discovered a whole neighborhood of art and handmade crafts by using this method. Because it was a bit out of the city center, the art district wasn’t in any of the research I had done. Without the recommendation, I would’ve missed the opportunity to meet local artists and bring back unique gifts.
A word of caution, this strategy can be a bit hit or miss. In Bangkok, I followed a coffee shop with some hipster vibes and was then sent to another coffee shop in a tourist district that I later discovered to be a hotbed for ladyboys and prostitution. No my cup of tea (or coffee).
Travel Apps that You’ll Keep
I usually don’t download any travel apps because I use them maybe 3 or 4 times a year and don’t want to clutter my phone with extra apps. But there have a been a couple that I’ve kept because I’ve been able to travel authentically through them. Here are the travel apps I’ve downloaded and have kept throughout the years.
I got my first Lost In guidebook about a year ago and had been going back to their content ever since. When I discovered they had a mobile app, I was quick to download it because I needed tips for Paris and it didn’t disappoint. Since using Lost In, I’ve recommended it to a few friends who shared similar experiences of feeling "plugged in" to cities they didn’t do much research on.
If you like quirky and weird experiences, go ahead and download Kompas. I use this app to uncover the “enthusiast” hangouts in any city. I choose these type of places because enthusiasts typically show a level of passion and knowledge about a topic that I would never encounter on my own. In these places, I have more interesting conversations and maybe get an invite to something special going on that night.
Hikers are just another group of enthusiasts I like to connect with when traveling. I always make an effort to explore the natural wonders around a city. All Trails helps me do that everywhere. One thing I love about the app is knowing exactly how strenuous a hike is going to be - without it, I’d probably ruin my trip with legs that can no longer move.