Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crash on a couch

Looking for a way to meet folks abroad? One option for adventurous types: couch surfing. It is, as the Christian Science Monitor put it recently, "the universe of social networking itself, simply pushed into the real world."

In a nutshell, travellers hit the CouchSurfing website and make connections with people willing to offer people a free place to stay for a night or two, along with a glimpse into local culture. It's not a technique for the faint of heart, as there's no way to guarantee that your host--or your guest--isn't someone you'd rather not share a roof with (the CSM article includes several horror stories). But the CouchSurfing Project claims that complaints are few, perhaps because many (though certainly not all) members are 20-somethings with an easygoing outlook on life.

For safety tips for travellers using services like CouchSurfing, see my article on hospitality clubs on my travelling-like-a-local website,

Getting to know them

OK, this isn't so much about travelling like a local as it is about deepening your experience as a local in your own town. But I thought it was cool, anyway. The Neighbors Project aims to help people in densely packed urban cores and sprawling suburbs alike get to know the people next door, with pointers on everything from saying hi to strangers to throwing a block party. See more in a post on Condé Nast Traveler's Daily Traveler blog.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rentalo revamps, the vacation home rental giant, has just relaunched its website. The home page is still incredibly busy--woe betide folks (like me, ahem) who find it hard to read tiny fonts--but there are a lot of useful changes. In particular for travellers who like to live "la vida local," it's now easier to distinguish vacation home listings from hotel and B&B listings.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bike sharing in Paris

Paris's bike-sharing program, Velib, recently celebrated its first anniversary. By most accounts (such as an article in The Telegraph), the program has been phenomenally successful, with 26 million trips taken in the first year (even though bike theft is also a problem).

It's a great alternative for visitors, as it's cheaper that the Metro and gives you a way to work off some of that yummy French food. This jazzy little video gives a sense of the appeal of the program.

As a visitor, you can sign up for a short-term Velib ticket online. A one-day ticket is 1 euro, and a seven-day ticket is 5 euros. Half-hour trips are free, with the first two additional half hours costing 1 euro each. After that, the price goes up steeply, since the aim is to get people to use them for short trips.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Travel sustainably in Southeast Asia

Heading to Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos? You might be interested in checking out Stay Another Day. This organization gives travellers the chance to meet, work with or stay with local people while supporting environmental and development projects. Opportunities include the chance to tour a handicraft workshop near Angkor Wat in Cambodia and to enjoy a homestay in Laos while participating in a locally run eco-tour.