I was working on planning my upcoming trip to Southeast Asia when some friends who run the website VentureFar approached me about writing a guest post. They currently focus on Mt. Kilmanjaro trips, and wanted some tips to offer people for sharing economy travel options in the area that might be fun to do as a part of a trip to Tanzania. I’ve always wanted to climb Kilmanjaro, and I even put some thought into what else I could do in the region as a part of that trip since I haven’t seen much of Africa. But somehow in the process of immersing myself in my Asia trip planning, and watching a movie about climbing Mt. Everest, I got it in my head that I needed to write about sharing economy travel services around Nepal. Yep, I’m a dummy. This post is the result of that writing, which might be useful for folks going to Asia….but definitely isn’t any use if you want to climb Mt. Kilmanjaro in Tanzania.
If you want to explore Asia beyond the package tours, sharing economy businesses, also known as peer to peer services, offer some interesting options for travelers looking to enjoy unique local experiences, meet people, and save some money. Here I’ve gathered together a review of the options in a variety of travel categories for travelers going to Asia.
The most well known example of peer to peer travel services is AirBnb, the website through which you can rent vacation lodging in other people’s homes. Many of the larger global companies like AirBnb have plenty of listings in Asia, and Travelmob is one company focusing on peer to peer rental lodging only in Asia. These places are often cheaper and nicer than hotel rooms, and may include the bonus of a local willing to provide you with tips on food and activities.
There is also the option of hospitality lodging if you are a bit more adventurous: people really will just invite you to stay in their home for free, and you will almost always end up meeting locals eager to learn about you and share their culture with you. BeWelcome and CouchSurfing are two organizations facilitating this type of lodging.
And finally there’s the option to work for lodging as a way to gain unique local experiences while earning the cost of your stay. There are no labor-for-lodging websites focused on Asia but some of the global sites like HelpStay have active listings in the region.
For transportation I like the ridesharing platforms that let you find efficient, cheap rides with locals (fun conversation included free of charge). There are a few companies focusing in Asia: Tripda is active in Malaysia, and Olivetrips and Letsride offer ridesharing in India. I expect others to expand into Asia in the coming year.
If you want a car to rent, there are now a lot of companies offering peer to peer rentals that are cheaper and often more convenient than rental car businesses. A few companies are focused in Asia including Atzuche and PPCar (China) and ICarsClub (Singapore).
Tours and Meals
You can find a lot of interesting travel experiences through sharing economy businesses. One of my favorite concepts is enjoying food in the home of locals who will teach you how to cook their favorite dishes and then sit down with you for a delicious meal. TravelingSpoon offers curated food experiences in Asia and PlateCulture focuses on meals in Asia and Australia.
Through peer to peer websites locals also offer general travel experiences (acting as tour guide, chef and more), taking people to the standard tourist spots as well as some unusual and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Consider trying out one of these companies for unique travel experiences: Withlocals (Asia), I Like Local (SE Asia), Localalike (Thai villages), and Vayable (Global).
If you want to focus on water-based fun, Boatbay facilitates boat rentals and trips with or without a captain in Asia.
Lastly, if you want to offset the cost of your trip by earning some money, there are a growing number of companies facilitating peer to peer delivery (crowdsourced shipping). Take advantage of empty space in your luggage to bring stuff to locals. My experience with this has been very fun and rewarding. I’ve made a bit of money, but more than that I’ve met some great local folks who have been super helpful with advice, information and travel support. There are two companies focused on deliveries in Asia: Bistip (SE Asia) and Parcelio (China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan). Other peer to peer shipping companies operating globally include PiggyBee, Friendshippr and Sheaply.
Details on all of these companies and many more in Asia and around the world can be found on this spreadsheet: peer to peer travel resources