If you’ve been used to traveling alone, being escorted by a guide would sound very unappealing to you. When you see packs of tourists follow a canned itinerary, it’s easy to understand why. However, you’re also missing out on the “insider’s point of view” when you go to a strange place and try to explore it on your own. There’s a solution to this. Just hire a private guide.

Finding them

Most travel brochures also provide a list of private guides who can be trusted. You can contact them through email and get to know them better. Private guides are a mixed bag—you can sign up for a tour led by a university graduate, if you’re interested in the more academic take on your destination; or a former cab driver who knows his way around town and who has had tons of casual conversations with his passengers.

The non-academic tour sure sounds like a risk, but it might give you a more localized (and more real) feel of the place. Ask people about the guide’s reputation first, though. You’d want one who won’t try to charge too much for the tour.

On the plus side

Private guided trips have a lot of advantages over unguided independent trips and group trips.

  • You can plan the tour yourself. With a group tour, you will have to experience the place as it goes by the agency’s canned itinerary. You’ll have to visit art galleries which aren’t really art galleries but souvenir shops, go shopping for things you never intended to buy, anyway, and see sights you’re disinterested in.
  • With a private tour, you can cross out the places you don’t want to visit and add spots which weren’t in the original plan. It’s almost like traveling alone only you’re guided by a local who’ll keep you from getting lost.
  • When you travel on your own, you’re basically dealing with a new environment as a stranger. You’re very vulnerable and you don’t know what you’re looking at unless there’s a wooden placard marking the territory.
  • Private guides, without being too rigid about it, points you to the best restaurant in town, answers all of your questions patiently, and would love their country/hometown so much that they have its history memorized at the back of their heads.
  • When you’re with a private guide you can trust, you can dodge the tourist traps. For some, this means reading up about the tourist traps of a particular place. That’s good too, and you can actually test private guides through email if they’re going to give you a trip that’s worth taking. Look for someone who would openly tell you the real cost of entrance fees. Ask, too, if you’ll be paying for the guide’s fees.
  • More convenient means of transportation is also one of the reasons why it’s good to have a private guided tour. Most of these tour guides hook you up with rented cars. Just tell your guide that you would want your daytrip to begin and end in the hotel. Compare this to travel costs when you’re taking a public bus and you’ll be surprised because the difference is miniscule.
  • A private guide also saves you from worrying about your itinerary, at least for the day. Sometimes, vacations end up being stressful because you have to plan out what to do next. When you’re talking to someone who knows the best spots to visit, you can take the passenger’s seat and let the place introduce its self to you.
  • If you’re lucky enough to find a private tour guide whose personality clicks with yours perfectly, you’re also traveling with good company at least for a day. This is the reason why it’s very important to know what kind of guide you’re really looking for. Sometimes, the company that your guide gives you on that day is more lasting that the fancy photos you take during the trip.

Taking your Pick

There are basic things you need to remember when you’re shopping for the right private guide. The first thing you have to consider is the guide’s reputation. If a guide managed to impress most of your friends who went to the same place you’re about to embark on, then there’s a good possibility that you’ll be safe in this guide’s hands.

When you’re looking for a guide, you must also choose one who has a good car. A guide on foot might seem cheaper, but if you’re renting a car from a separate company, you might actually end up spending more. A guide with a rickety old car is a disaster waiting to happen. Contact travel agencies who can be trusted who have excellent private guides and cars that won’t hamper your tour.

You may also look for a guide and a driver. The only downside here is that this trip is bound to be more expensive. On the upside, though, you don’t really want your driver distracted because he’s giving you information about a tribe while you’re traversing a precarious hillside curb.

Chemistry is probably the most critical factor you need to look at. You don’t want to spend your good money on a guide who will just end up annoying you. Again, look for a guide with whom you think you can be fast friends with. You’ll enjoy your daytrip more when you’re not constantly at war with your tour guide.

The Process

Most private guide arrangements can be carried out online. You can either email your prospective guide or choose from a line-up of competent guides from a trusted company. They usually have write ups and testimonials so you won’t be second guessing your choice.

Next, you should agree on a working itinerary. The beauty of a private guided tour is that you don’t have to stick to a strict itinerary, but this doesn’t mean that you should be at your destination without plans either. Tell him/her what kind of trip you’re envisioning, the kind of places you’re planning to see, and how much your budget it.

Most of the time, guides compute the total cost of your trip. You should bring a little extra, though, because s/he might have forgotten to include entrance fees, scuba diving fees, environmental feels, and food costs. Make sure that you think of these things ahead of time and ask your tour guide to find out how much these fees are, exactly.

Some private guides include the gasoline cost in their service fees, but it’s still important that you ask. If you’re exploring a remote area, the gasoline stations might not accept credit cards, and there might not be any ATM machines nearby.



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