I travel a lot, it’s true. But I have some friends–some of whom have shared their stories from the road with us here–who travel even more. And so I’m lucky, as I begin making plans for Argentina, to have access to some of the best advice there is: real stories from real people who were really there. That’s how I got a recommendation on an underground supper club in Buenos Aires and learned that what xe.com says the exchange rate is may be wildly inaccurate once I hit the ground and find a casa de cambio.
If you don’t have friends who’ve visited the place you’re going, what can you do? Of course, there’s always TripAdvisor, ThornTree, and so on. Those are real travelers’ experiences, and they’ll be more up-to-date than whatever you read in a guidebook and less biased than you’ll find on tourism websites (or at least, they’ll be biased both for an against, and hopefully you can sort it out). But those people don’t know you personally.
The next best thing to being able to directly ask a friend for their advice is just putting the question out there on Facebook or Twitter: where should I stay / what should I eat / is it worth the hike to go here? If your friends don’t know, their friends might know, and if they’re good friends they’ll spread the word and ask around. Case in point, on this trip, a freelancer of mine reached out to a former coworker of hers who lives in Buenos Aires to get some pointers for me. I don’t know anyone who lives there, but I know someone who knows someone, and that’s nearly as good.