Spotsi App Helps Travelers Find Local Spots

Maybe you’re in Brooklyn and you want to find a great local bar. Or perhaps you’ve landed in Portland and are in desperate need of a cup of coffee but want to mingle with the locals (and try a locally-made roast while you’re at it). Let Spotsi, a new user-generated mobile app, help

There are lots of apps that help you explore like a local, but Spotsi is a little different. Locals use Spotsi to map their favorite locations in a city – the places they hang out in themselves and would recommend to friends who are visiting. With tours like “Vegetarian & Vegan in Dallas,” and “New York, I Only Love Your Beer, Women, and Art,” the app is a dream for travelers who want to skip tourist traps and explore spots favored by locals. Some tours are even authored by local celebrities, such as Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini, a Portland-based orchestra with 13 members. Of course, anyone can create a tour on Spotsi so long as they are willing to take the time to plot the locations on a map, upload pictures and write short descriptions. More catered to a traveler’s individual interests than a guidebook and far less embarrassing than schlepping along on a city tour, Spotsi might just have what it takes to revolutionize the way we travel.

The only downside to Spotsi is that its makers are currently focusing on Austin and Portland, leaving many other cities virtually off the map. However, the app just debuted in January so it has a lot of room for growth. Anyone from any city is allowed to submit tours – and if the app takes off it could end up being an invaluable resource for travelers to find underground hot spots in cities across the country and globe.

Image: Nong’s Khao Man Gai, one of the stops on Pink Martini’s tour of Portland
[Flickr photo via star5112]

Hilton launches “Authentically Local” programs in the Caribbean and Latin America

Can a mega-corporate hospitality chain with 3,750 hotels provide authentic local experiences to travelers? Select Hilton Worldwide hotels are giving it a shot with the just announced “Authentically Local” packages. Available through the end of the year in the Caribbean and Latin America, the packages are aimed at introducing travelers to local cultures and languages through experiences such as dinners featuring local flavors, dance lessons in the local style, destination and tour suggestions hand-picked by locals, and more. There is even the opportunity for hotel guests to choose wearing a “language immersion pin” that identifies them as someone hotel employees will only speak to in the local language.

Options under the new package include tasting conch at the British Colonial Hilton Nassau in the Bahamas, learning rumba at the Hilton Cartagena in Colombia, snorkelling in the clear waters at the Hilton Curaçao off the coast of Venezuela, or touring the Mercado Municipal when staying at the Hilton São Paulo Morumbi in Brazil. The hotel chain also says culture consultants will be avialable at each participating property (full list after the jump) to help guests learn about the most celebrated experiences in the destinations.

So, is Hilton’s new initiative to help travelers partake in authentic experiences when staying at their hotels a way the chain is reaching out to the community, or is it just a marketing ploy? It could go either way, but no matter what it’s nice to see more travelers will be learning about local cultures.PS. For those interested, the “Authentically Local” package is being offered at the following locations: Hilton Buenos Aires, Argentina; Hilton São Paulo Morumbi, Brazil; Hilton Belem, Brazil; Hilton Bogota, Colombia; Hilton Cartagena, Colombia; Hilton Garden Inn Santiago Airport, Chile; Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort; Hilton Mexico City Reforma; Hilton Villahermosa & Conference Center, Mexico; Hilton Garden Inn Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico; Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa; DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Central Pacific – Costa Rica; DoubleTree Cariari by Hilton San Jose, Costa Rica; British Colonial Hilton Nassau, The Bahamas; Hilton Barbados Resort; Hilton Curaçao; Hilton Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre.

[Photo: Man selling conch shells in Nassau, Bahamas by Libby Zay]

Guide on traveling like a local in Cambodia

No, I haven’t traveled like a local in Cambodia, but from how Tim Patterson describes it at Jaunted, my local travel in The Gambia sounds close. His line about both butt checks falling asleep at the same time brought back memories.

As one of his entries for the Embedded Travel Guide to Cambodia, a series where he blogs about his experiences staying in a guest house in Sihanoukville, Patterson describes the various ways one can get from point A to point B in that country. The emotions he highlights are shock, misery and exhilaration–perfect word choices for capturing the flavor of many of the experiences I’ve had while shouldering my way into a bush taxi, or bobbing along in ramshackle boat without a life jacket and the shore almost too far away to see.

For anyone heading to a place where transportation is an assortment of tuk-tuks, fishing boats, buses, bamboo rafts, regular boats, motorcycles, cyclos, regular taxis, pick-up trucks, or heaven knows what else–ox carts, for example, Patterson’s guide is a great way to familiarize yourself with what’s out there and how to play it safe as best you can.

Patterson’s idea is you jump on, have fun, but know the risk. I second his emotions. Besides, you’ll end up with some great tales to tell and you won’t even have to embellish the details to make the stories more fantastic.

[Photo from Jaunted. Clicking on it brings you to Patterson’s guide.]