There are many options outside of staying in a traditional hotel that will give you a better experience by bringing you closer to the culture.
1) Stay with Family, Friends, or Even Friends of Friends
How? Use the biggest network in the world – Facebook ! I think you’ll be surprised at how your FB request will be answered by your friends and family. You want a local connection right? But, you don’t want a to meet a complete stranger. So, meet friends of friends, or locals “in the know” for any city around the world in which you wish to travel.
The next thing you know, you’ll be staying with your cousin’s best friend’s former classmate from University in London, Paris, Tokyo, Rio, Los Angeles, Sydney, etc… And, the experience provides more than free accommodation, as it may end up being one of your best times around the world !
3) Work on a Farm, Ranch, Lodge, Hostel, and even Sailboats
WWOOF (click) — Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms – WWOOF is an exchange – In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.
HelpX (click) — “In a typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts.”
Ask The Locals — > Rock up to a Hotel or Hostel – Stay for a Week or so and ask the locals how they found their apartment. (Tip – ask them to call to inquire about the prices so that you get the right, local price and not the inflated “Gringo (Foreigner) Price”)