Last year I wrote about Your Local Cousin, a website devoted to helping travelers get custom advice from locals. Since that report the website was relaunched, new features added, and new locals engaged. So I decided it was time to try it out again when I booked a trip to Santiago for a week. I’d be traveling alone, and wouldn’t have the time or appropriate weather to get down to the national parks in the south, which was really the only area I had researched in Chile. Rather than do a bunch of research on Santiago myself I figured I’d try just asking a local for advice.

Your Local Cousin

Back in June when I went to the new website it was a bit buggy for me to create a new account (which I had to do after the relaunch for some reason, still not sure if that was my fault or a requirement of the new website). It took me two tries to get the new account created, but now logging in is easy so I suspect that problem has been fixed. Once I was in, I browsed through the locals in Santiago (oddly they seem to have a picture of Macchu Picchu in Peru on the Santiago page). Selecting and paying for the local was super easy. And I really  like that they list their areas of interest so it’s easy to pick someone who can advise you in what you want (i picked the only person who said he was in to hiking hoping I’d get some good hiking advice from him.)

Browsing the locals in Santiago on Your Local Cousin

Browsing the locals in Santiago on Your Local Cousin

I selected the “text a local” package which gives you up to 20 questions for $15. I’m not sure how they count questions but it does make sense to set a limit so that the locals can put in a reasonable amount of effort for the pay and then cut it off if a customer is excessively demanding.

Once I paid I was prompted to answer some general questions about my trip and then my local quickly reached out and we exchanged a few emails within the YLC platform. I asked general questions about places to visit near Santiago and hiking and food options. He made some suggestions that sounded good, but without researching further it was hard for me to know which ones I would want to do, and for this trip I wasn’t anticipating spending much time doing advanced research.

I decided my best use of this local would be for questions after I arrived in Santiago. I knew I would mostly want to stay around Santiago and usually seeing a city makes it much easier to understand what questions I have.  So I sent him my phone number so we could be connected on WhatsApp and he got back to me quickly with his whatsapp contact info which I saved for the trip.

Fast forward a few months later when I was two days into my trip and remembered that I had set up this local who could give me advice. I had actually been meaning to research how to take a day trip to Valparaiso so I decided to text my local to ask for details about where to get a bus. He responded within a few minutes with exactly the information I needed.

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile

Because I ended up with such a helpful home exchange host on this trip, I didn’t have many questions after arrival.I did make use of my Local’s suggestions for places to eat, which he had sent in his first email. A few other things I asked him (where to go to buy bottles of wine to bring home) resulted in the same advice I got from my host, but it was nice to know everyone agrees.

I can see how having someone who I can text for quick questions in a foreign city could be especially useful if I’m wandering around alone and don’t know anyone else. Overall I think this is a great concept. And with a growing network of locals who have diverse profiles (I noticed they now have someone offering insights into gay culture in Santiago), there’s a good chance I’ll use YourLocalCousin again for future travels.