A local guide can often be your best bet to a private, behind-the-scenes look at how people really live in a new destination. Unfortunately, if you secure the services of a guide who is unqualified, or has ulterior motives, you may end up wasting precious vacation days walking through trinket shops and carpet souks. Not sure where to start? There are techniques and tactics to help you find an excellent guide and drastically improve how you can experience a new city overseas.
1. Pick the perfect guide
- Tourism boards will often have a list of approved guides.
- Social media: Many tour operators overseas have social media accounts and are happy to suggest quality guides in their location.
- Online travel forums: Don’t be afraid to reach out to established members who have visited your destination for suggestions.
- Hotel concierge: The hotel’s goal is to provide an exceptional customer experience. As such, they strive to work with guides who can provide a great experience, so go ahead and ask the concierge at your hotel.
2. Know what’s normal
- In countries with massive amounts of tourist attractions, like Jordan, you will often find guides offering their services in front of attractions.
- It is not uncommon for the guide to offer additional services at the end of the tour, such as transport to and tours of additional attractions further away. Trust your gut – if they seem honest and genuine during the tour, you may opt to continue on with them.
- If the country’s tourism ministry issues badges, look for a badge or official ID. Ask at your hotel or look online to see if this is the case. The guide will be aware of this and will often display the badge before the tour.
3. Look for signs that your guide has your best interests at heart
- It’s YOUR tour - they should ask YOU what you want to see, if YOU are more interested in shopping or history, and if there is anything in particular YOU want to see during the tour.
- Demeanor: Good guides are not only calm and patient, but they are happy to explain the tour ahead of time.
- Passion: Your guide should thrive on your genuine interest in their city.
4. Avoid a bad guide
- Hustlers: Often found on trains, these kind of locals will sit next to you as if they are just another traveler. They will casually mention that they had a great time in such-and-such city and that if you are headed that way, they know a great guide.
- If you notice your guide taking you from shop to shop instead of seeing the sights, he or she is likely getting a commission from the shop owners. It might be time to have a word with them or cut the "tour" short.
- It’s okay to say no if you get a bad feeling when guide arrives - it’s also okay to end a tour early if don’t like how it is going.
- The best guides I have ever had understand and demonstrate that they are there to create an memorable experience. They were patient, calm, and unhurried, setting expectations and asking what we wanted to do and what our goal was for the tour before ever setting a foot outside.
No matter how you plan, not all vacations will go the way you want; it is always best to prepare in advance by purchasing travel insurance.
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