City tours and activities can be a great way to get to know somewhere new, but some of the big commercial tours can feel quite generic and dull.
If you'd like to spice things up a bit, getting in touch with a local guide lets you choose more interesting, intimate experiences – or even customize a tour completely to suit your needs.
These four apps and websites let you do exactly that.
Starting out with food-based experiences in South East Asia, WithLocals continues to expand both where it operates and what it offers. The app pairs hosts with something to offer in a given destination, with travelers looking for a smaller, more personal type of travel experience.
Broken down into three main themes – Eat, Tours and Activities – the range of experiences on offer is huge, and growing every day. From a leather workshop in Chiang Mai to a boat tour on the Amsterdam canals, making paella in Madrid to exploring the Kathmandu Valley by motorcycle, there's something for pretty much everyone.
Customer reviews help you gauge whether any given experience delivers on its promises, and the company promises to refund 100% of your money if you're not satisfied.
If you're heading to South or South East Asia, or a few countries in Europe, WithLocals will help you arrange new experiences with... well... locals.
Free on iOS and Android
For a different approach, try ShowAround. Based largely in Europe, the site lets locals offer their services as a tour guide at an hourly rate. Along with seeing where people are based, their photo and tag line, you can click to view languages spoken, activities offered and a brief bio.
There's a review and rating system from previous customers, and the site also shows how many hours each person has worked to give an even better idea of how popular they are.
You can search based on city or country, and filter by language – there's no point hiring a guide you can't understand. When requesting a tour, you can specify exactly what you're looking for, and payments aren't released until a week afterwards to ensure everyone was happy with how things went.
The iOS app is available now, with the Android version coming soon. The mobile site works on both types of device, of course.
Probably the biggest name in traditional day tours around the world, Viator also offers a 'Private Tour Guide' option.
You simply search for your intended destination, scroll through the list of guides on offer, and pick the ones that sound most appealing. The company only works with certified tour guides, so if you're looking for something a little more 'official', this is one way to get it.
Reviews and ratings are prominently displayed, along with the total number of bookings made through the site. As with ShowAround, you'll get a photo and list of known languages on the summary page, but you can't see the price (for individuals or groups, hourly or fixed rate) until you click through.
Although some guides offer suggested itineraries and tours you can book, the aim of the private tours is to generally to provide custom options – so it's up to you to outline the kind of things you're after when requesting a booking.
While Viator has iOS and Android apps, the Private Tour option is only available via the website.
Vayable has the tagline "Discover and book unique experiences offered by local insiders," so it's clear what's on offer. A quick search of the site or iOS app lets you find tours in your destination, with a wide range of activities on offer. How does a tour of Madrid by Vespa sound? Or a few hours of gastronomic excess in New York City?
You can filter by the type of activity you're after (examples including Adventure, Romance and many others), and many of the tours have the option to book instantly during the site. Star ratings are standard, and some tour guides have over a hundred reviews to browse through.
With the ability for locals to offer any experience they're capable of, Vayable is a popular and vibrant marketplace. The company screens potential activities to ensure they meet minimum standards, and doesn't pay out any funds until after the tour is complete.
There's currently only an iOS app – others can use the mobile site.