The internet has completely changed the way we travel. From booking a flight in a few seconds to keeping in touch with friends and family wherever we are in the world, it’s now easier than ever to navigate our way around a new country.
But for some, it has also taken away some of the adventure. How many of us look up a restaurant on TripAdvisor before going out, instead of walking around and discovering weird and wonderful places of our own accord?
One of the ways the travel industry has been greatly impacted is by the emergence of websites and apps that give travelers access to the sharing economy. It’s made travel more attainable, in some cases more affordable, and crucially, much easier to connect with a local community with a lot to offer.
If you like the idea of getting off the tourist trail, immersing yourself in French culture, and experiencing a local pace of life, there are a wide variety of services available to help you connect with people and experience so much more than hotels and tour guides have to offer.
What is “Sharing Economy”
In the travel industry, the sharing economy refers to peer-to-peer services in areas such as accommodation, transport, meals, and experiences. There are hundreds of websites and apps popping up aimed at helping travelers connect with local people who have something to offer, such as sharing local knowledge or renting out unused sports equipment.
France is a popular tourist destination with incredible sites and experiences, but if hotels and large guided tours aren’t your thing, here are a few services you can use to discover the country from a local point of view.
AirBnB is arguably one of the most popular sites for booking accommodation. From a room in someone’s house to a whole apartment, they offer great variety at - usually - cheaper prices than hotels and short-term rentals.
Renting a room through AirBnB is a great way to meet new people when you arrive in a town or city, that is, as long as the host is interested in socializing with their visitors. Some are not, and focus only on letting the room, so it can be a bit hit and miss as to how much social interaction you get.
Although train travel is a great way to get around France, it can be expensive. Carpool apps such as BlaBlaCar are making it easy to connect with drivers who are traveling to the same destination as you are. Catching a lift with them tends to be much cheaper than traveling from city to city by train, but if you don’t happen to speak the same language as the driver, you may be in for a silent journey.
French restaurants are some of the best in the world, but local foodies also have incredible, unique experiences to offer. Social dining has become a great way to access the underground food scene and connect with other people. EatWith and VizEat are great in larger cities such as Paris, Marseille, and Lyon, but you might find that smaller cities offer slim pickings.
Wouldn’t it be great if you arrived in a big city and immediately found a group of people eager to hang out and show you the best place to grab a café au lait. Couchsurfing is a great way to meet a variety of people such as local professionals and other tourists, and you can even find hosts who offer a couch, floor or bed for free.
From walking down the Champs-Élysées chatting to a retired professor to discovering the best ice cream in Nice from a grad student’s point of view, local insiders can often take you on niche, offbeat, interesting tours that bigger operators simply don’t offer.
The sharing economy has made it easier than ever for people and travelers around the world to connect with each other and share experiences. As sharing apps and services are still growing, they tend to work better in major cities, but they’re still a great way to reach out to people, get out of your comfort zone, and grow as a traveler.
Do you have any tips on how to live like a local in France? If so, comment below. We love to hear your thoughts and tips to prospective travelers.
About The Author: Cal Bailey runs Mountain Leon - a travel blog he started after two years backpacking around the world. If you want to learn more about life on the road or tips for travelling, you can find him on MountainLeon.com