Should you Hire a Tour Guide?
The short answer is: it depends.
With the amount of information available online today, it may seem redundant to hire a tour guide, especially if you could just ask Google to recommend the “Top 10 Must-Haves in Penang”, “Best Museums in New York” or “Scotland’s Best-Kept Secrets.” Yet tour guides hold a wealth of information that a search engine won’t yield, from the best time to visit an attraction, to delicious local foods suitable for your palate and even the best travelling route. If you’re going on an adventure trip such as an African safari or an Australian outback experience, then hiring a tour guide would be the smart thing to do.
Tour guides aren’t cheap though, so consider these factors when deciding if you should hire a tour guide:
How much time do you have?
Ed Hewitt of The Independent Traveler points out that hiring a tour guide is a great idea when you have very little time. Tour guides can give you a “customised and thrilling blitz” through your destination. They’ll be able to create a plan that focuses on what you want to explore, taste and experience, creating a unique experience you can boast about to folks at home.
We recommend: Looking for day tours in your destination. You can customise your tours to be as long or short as you want. Got a 14 hour layover in Beijing? Get a day tour to explore the city AND make it back in time for your flight. Sites like TripAdvisor-owned Viator rely partly on user reviews and on their own selection of ihand-picked insider tours and experiences!
Pro-tip: If you have such a layover and did not check in your backpack during the initial flight, then put it in a locker during your layover and switch to the much lighter Pacsafe Coversafe V75 to hold your travel documents, money and other essentials so you can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying your day tour.
Where will you be going?
If you’re heading to the Bahamas for a few days, you may want to consider hiring a tour guide for at least the first few days while you get your bearings. A good tour guide will advise you on the best times to visit shops, talk to people, and perhaps even recommend great spas!
We recommend: Again, day tours are great. Alternatively, you may want to grab audio guides if you plan on exploring by yourself and want more information about your destination but without the socialisation. Apps like Just Ahead and Pocket Guide Audio Travel Guide use GPS to pinpoint your location and give you information about your destination and even show you hidden secrets. Just remember to download them first before you go on your trip!
How hands-on do you plan to be?
Some travellers relish the challenge of planning every step of their trip, from the accommodations to the transportation arrangements and even pre-booking attraction tickets. Others, however, are more laidback and would prefer to “wing it.” There are also some who would prefer someone else make all the arrangements while they sit back to enjoy the ride.
We would recommend a mix. Consult sites like Trippy and TripAdvisor to create your itinerary. Then speak to some day tour groups to optimise your itinerary. They’ll not only arrange the best times for you to visit your chosen destinations, but may offer additional insights. The more hands-on and prepared you are, the less likely you are going to need a tour guide.
Tell us about your experience with tour guides below!