Baristas Best Travel Guides

Why Baristas Make the Best Travel Guides

NOTE FROM CATIE: Michael is a long time friend! It is crazy to think we met one another over 10 years ago now! He is also the one who encouraged me to give up my heavily flavored cream (with a bit of coffee) and to ‘just drink it black.’ It took me a few years longer than he probably would have liked, but now I am a very proud black coffee drinker! Now on to the article

The best-informed travel guide just might be the person making your coffee. The role of barista has long gone beyond the role of “bartender” like the original Italian might suggest. Baristas are cultural critics, political wonks, and amateur music historians. They know where the best Banh Mi is (which by the way, Catie cutting in here, is a Vietnamese sandwich). They’re probably eating it on their lunch break. 

Your barista very likely has a liberal arts degree if not an MFA. Their band has appeared on public radio and opened for some nationally known acts.  But more importantly for you, they’ve learned how to craft a perfect cappuccino, and that attention to detail has attracted the city’s top chefs, museum curators, and journalists to their café.

In short, they know people. 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

(Of course, this is contingent on being in a good, independent coffee shop. I cofounded to help people find the best cafés around the world.) 

Barista knows where the hidden gems are.

They know which sights are overrated, which restaurants are past their prime, and where the queue is too long to make it worthwhile. They’ve already been to the up-and-coming place no one has written about yet. 

Lucky for you, your barista will more than likely share a few tips with you— provided you’re a friendly customer and they’re not slammed making drinks.* (Do not— I  repeat—  do not ask for a travel recommendation in the middle of the morning rush!)

Baristas Best Travel Guides

The technique here is very simple. 

1. Order a coffee. If appropriate in local culture, leave a tip.

2. Drink said coffee. 

3. After you finish your coffee, thank the barista. 

4. Mention you are visiting from out of town, and ask if there are any restaurants/bars/museums/ etc you should see while you’re in town. 

Mosts of baristas love their cities, and can’t resist showing it off to out-of-towners. More than once, a barista recommendation has had a waiter or bartended asking me, “How did you find us? We don’t get many tourists here.” 

In short, your barista can curate an unforgettable travel experience

Just make sure you leave a tip.  

*Do not try this in Manhattan. Those baristas are battle-weary and interact with far too many tourists to care whether you find the best natural wine bar (it’s the Ten Bells, btw). 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

Michael Butterworth is the cofounder of (Instagram)

He lives in Istanbul with his family. 

REVIEW: Touring Bangkok’s Floating Markets with LocalGuddy

If you are anything like me, you prefer a local’s Airbnb over a pricey hotel, the hole in the wall restaurant with delicious street food over a fancy waitlist restaurant, and biking through local parks instead of a huge guided group tour. If you aren’t from the area and your time is limited, it could be hard to experience the city like a local. Local Guddy was created to help with that.

The new Istanbul-based start-up, Local Guddy, “connects travelers and locals through unique local tour and experiences.” Now, most major cities have a few local guides ready to give you a customized experience for half the cost!

The booking process is easy and the website user-friendly. Sign up, search your city for a tour, and message the guide to check for availability. Much like other ‘shared economy ‘ websites, the guide and the traveler are both able to write a review about their experience and the person. You can choose your tour and guide, just as much as the guide can choose you!  We did have a couple of issues with 1 or 2 guddies not writing us back, but I am thankful for that since our guide was so amazing.



Our travels through SouthEast Asia this summer took us to some pretty cool places. While planning our first stop in Bangkok, we knew that we wanted to experience one of the local floating markets. The markets can be crowded and the language and food are definitely foreign. Choosing to tour the market with a Local Guddy guide was the best of both worlds.

Our tour started in downtown Bangkok at a local metro stop where our group of four met our Local Guddy guide named Imp. We promptly hailed a taxi and chatted throughout the half hour drive out to the “Khlong Lat Mayom” floating market. Imp is a university student in Event Management using Local Guddy to do some work and gain experience on the side. The hours allow her to work at her available time and practice one of the many languages she knows with foreigners from all over the world.

After arriving at the market, Imp led up through the narrow single walkways of booths and vendors telling us about all the different types of food. Some of the vendors offered us samples, and other times we just make notes about what we wanted to try more of later. After buying a few Thai teas and finding a table, Imp took inventory of what we wanted to try for ‘lunch’ and went off to gather the smorgus-board of food for us*.  She took care of all the money, communication, buying, and questions for us!

Here are all the foods we tried at the Floating Market: (I’m not sure if I can even remember what all of them are now!)

  • Papaya salad
  • Pad Thai
  • Satae grilled chicken
  • Deep-fried pork belly
  • Jackfruit
  • Thai Sweetmeat
  • Durian
  • Rice Cracker
  • Thai tea
  • Fried chicken wings
  • Mung Bean Thai custard
  • Orange dessert in the leaf- Khanom tan (toddy palm cake)
  • Curry crab
  • Somboon Seafood
  • Pad Thai
  • Krua apsorn Bangkok


After thoroughly enjoying our meal, we took a 2-hour boat tour around the neighboring villages via the intricate canals and waterways for only 100 Baht (appx $3). If I did have my google maps, I would have never remembered where we went! The boat tour took us to a stop where we saw an old traditional Thai home preserved against the tide of modernization.  From there, we walked through the villages by foot (definitely no access for cars and very limited access for bikes and motorcycles) to meet the boat at another destination.

Imp was with us all the way and enthusiastically answered all our questions about the Thai culture, the villages, food, and whatever else came to mind.  I know for sure that a self-guided experience would never have yielded such an enjoyable time at the Floating Markets!





If you are interested in being a guddy or guide, for Local Guddy, for your local area, the process seems quite simple to sign up. The team even provides training for those unsure about being a guide, the special Guddy Academy to teach you how to be a better guide.


For more information:

Our Tour link



Email: [email protected]

(*Note: We paid our fee of our tour in cash when we met. Other tours offer an online payment option. Check the tour description for this.)


Read more about others’ experiences with Local Guddy:

Interview with the founders of Local Guddy

Local Newspaper article

LocalGuddy Review in Rome 


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[DISCLAIMER: *This post was in collaboration with a brand.* I was not paid for this post. However, I did receive complimentary tours a travel writer and expat blogger. One of the purposes of our website is to highlight tours and services for travelers like ourselves. At the same time, we will not recommend businesses/activities we do not think our readers will enjoy regardless of the friendship we create along the way.]