Discovering New Cities With Friendly Locals

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Chicago girl relaxing in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois (Photo: iStockphoto/Jim Jurica)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on January 27, 2009. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Adelaide, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Christine Sarkis, destination, free travel, Houston, New York City, Paris, Toronto, tour operator.

Finding a local to show you around is a great way to get to know a new city or rediscover an old favorite. But most travelers don't have friends in every city they visit, which is what makes the greeter programs that have cropped up in recent years so genius. Locals volunteer to show visitors around their neighborhood or city, offering travelers the chance at a resident's-eye-view, often for free! Here are some of the larger greeter programs:

    U.S.

  • New York City: Big Apple Greeter has more than 300 volunteers and offers tours in 22 languages. To reserve a tour, fill out a visit request form at least three weeks in advance.
  • Chicago: Chicago Greeter is run by the Chicago Office of Tourism. Tours of more than 25 neighborhoods and 40 themes are available in any of 15 languages. To reserve a tour, register at least seven business days in advance.
  • Houston: Houston Greeters don't just offer tours, but also the chance to hang out with a Houstonian and get the inside scoop while jogging, watching a sports game, exploring a museum, or another activity. Register online.
  • San Francisco: Guests staying at any Joie de Vivre hotel in San Francisco can sign up for a free neighborhood tour with a local. The Golden Gate Greeter program is available to hotel guests who sign up in advance.
  • International

  • Adelaide, Australia: Adelaide Greeters pairs visitors and local volunteers with similar interests for city orientations. To book, fill out a visitor request form at least three days in advance.
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina: Cicerones de Buenos Aires offers tours of both popular and off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods. These two- to three-hour tours are free, but visitors are expected to cover any transportation, meal, or admission costs for the guide. Sign up online to book a visit.
  • Paris: Paris Greeter is slightly different from other greeter programs because it costs 10 euros to cover the cost of pairing visitors with volunteers. Two- and three-hour walks are led by locals keen to share their favorite parts of Paris. To request a walk, book online at least two weeks in advance.
  • Toronto: TAP, or the Toronto Ambassador Program, offers visitors two- to three-hour tours of some of the city's popular neighborhoods. To book a tour, sign up online.

Know of another greeter program or free city tour opportunity? Post it in the comments below!

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