We’ve all heard it before: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. But if you do the proper planning before your next vacation there may be such a thing as a free personalized tour.
The Global Greeter Network is a worldwide organization of individuals passionate about their home city. In their own words, Greeters are “volunteers that love their city so much they volunteer to show their city to visitors. Not as a guide, but more like a newly met friend!” These volunteers love meeting new people, especially visitors from faraway places, to share the love they have for their hometown. You can even get matched up with a person who shares similar tastes and interests to your own. Besides getting insight that’s richer than what you’ll find in a typical tourist guide, you may even come away from the experience with a new friend or two! Expect to spend at least a couple of hours with the greeter and be treated to the opportunity to see places that may go overlooked by other visitors.
I was able to contact the Greeters program a week before my trip (note: they prefer longer notice – if I was doing this again I’d try to give them two or three weeks notice!), and even with the short notice they matched me with someone who spoke English, was willing to converse with me en français even though my French wasn’t perfect and loved art as much as I did… talk about a good match!
My Greeter, Monique, showed me some of the permanent art exhibits in the city, as well as walking around with me in the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne and introducing me to the Japanese Garden and the biscuit factory. She even helped me reconnect the VPN on my phone when I was having trouble getting service in the city! Monique really went above and beyond – I had a great time during the 4-5 hours I spent with my Greeter, and I highly recommend the program. Any local who volunteers time out of their day to show someone new around their city deserves an A+ in my opinion!
With a program so great, why wouldn’t you opt for a free, personalized tour? Greeters programs are alive and well across Europe, especially in France, which seems to have 19 different participating cities! Click here to see the full list of cities on the Global Greeter Network website. According to the organization, all of the groups are free (though some may ask for a donation to keep their program alive) and encourage their enthusiastic guides to give you a tour of the city.
You can even volunteer to start your own organization – check out their requirements for more info. Starting a Greeter program would be a great way to make all kinds of new, international friends!