Your first time visiting Toronto (or any new city for that matter), can be intimidating.
Travelling is without question one of the most important, and most exciting parts of life. But most people who travel hope they won’t just end up stuck in the tourist trap – paying for all the cliche, overpriced activities designed to sucker them out of their hard earned cash.
And when you’re unfamiliar with a city, that’s exactly what ends up happening.
No matter how many Lonely Planet tour guides you read, you’ll inevitably end up in the most populated areas of the city, falling prey to at least a few experiences you paid far too much for (we’re looking at you, CN Tower entry fee).
This is something Kiran Samra realized when she decided to create Lokafy.
As an avid traveller, she had been around the world and back, but always felt like there was something missing.
That something being the benefit of knowing a local.
“I’ve known for many years that the best travel experiences are when you have a friend or family living in the destination, or when you meet someone spontaneously who welcomes you into their world. However, our personal networks only extend so far – and if we find ourselves in a place where we don’t have any friends or family, often we get a version of the place that is meant for tourists,” Samra told Notable.
It is the locals who will help you navigate all the traps and find the hidden shops and incredible restaurants that one comes to discover only after years of living in a city.
Lokafy solves this problem by hooking you up with a local, so you can hang out for a few hours and have them show you what they love best about the city.
Travellers coming to Toronto can look through the profile of Lokafyers on the website and request to book them for an afternoon or an evening, for about $25 to $35 an hour depending on the size of your group.
Samra notes that Lokafyers are not tour guides, who make a living taking tourists to the tourist traps. Lokafyers are locals who are offering up their time to hang out, and who are willing to share their perspective and insights into what they love most about their home.
“Lokafyers are chosen for their love of their city and their desire to share this with travellers,” she said. “They don’t require any particular expertise but have experience living in the city, are friendly, and have great conversation skills. All the Lokafyers have been interviewed one-on-one and the key criteria for me was – do I want to get to know this person better? Are they willing to share their personal side and their unique perspective of the city?”
There are many locals to choose from, and the website allows you to easily narrow down your preferred local based on gender, age and interests – and you can read up on them to find out which neighbourhoods in the city they know best, and what they enjoy most about Toronto.
Currently, the startup is running in both Toronto and Paris, and plans are to expand it out to New York, London, San Francisco, and Rome in future months.