In most cases, independent travelers are adept at making their own way through the world. Battle tested through the discomforts of self-guided travel, they are accustomed to organizing their own accommodations and transport, and they often take the initiative to read up on the history of where they are visiting to get the backstory of the place.
Despite all this, there are times where even the most determined solo traveler should seriously consider hiring the services of a professional tour guide. They often enrich one experiences in certain destinations, and in others, their presence is almost essential if you wish to understand a culture in any meaningful way.
Still not convinced? Then perhaps the following reasons will convince you that parting with your hard earned travel cash for the knowledge of a tour guide will prove to be an investment that will pay dividends in ways that will dramatically improve the quality of your travels in certain parts of the world.
1) When the part of the world you are visiting just doesn’t speak English (or your language)
Some localities have been receiving English speaking tourists for generations, and as such, most people that work within the travel industry or close to it speak English well enough to communicate effectively. However, when you travel to more off the beaten path destinations, the probability of locals understanding English (or other languages that you speak) tends to decrease significantly.
Having a tour guide that can translate what locals are saying when you come into contact with them will allow you to connect with them on a level that just isn’t possible when using “traveler’s charades” and it decreases the odds of miscommunications leading to serious upsets between travelers and residents. A prime example of this is in Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup and the Olympics are scheduled to be held in the next two years.
If you speak French, you may find yourself in trouble, as the native language is Portuguese and most locals may only know Spanish or English as a second language, but if you hire un guide francophone à Rio, you will have a much better time in Brazil’s liveliest city!
2) When the region you are in has serious safety concerns
This dovetails with not being able to speak the language of the region you are visiting, as not being able to communicate with locals may mean that you will be unaware of hazardous areas within the cities, towns and rural areas of your destination.
Local guides have an intimate knowledge of where they live, and they have a vested interest in keeping you and your party safe, so hiring them will pay you back in peace of mind on this basis alone.
3) When your adventures take you into the great outdoors
If you love nature, you will undoubtedly look for opportunities to get into the wilderness in your destination of choice. Most visitors wander into the wild drastically under-prepared and under-provisioned though, putting them in serious jeopardy should an accident befall them.
Tour guides know the terrain, weather, and wildlife of a region, and will know what you should pack before hitting the trail (and they will also carry equipment that is costly and burdensome for travelers to purchase beforehand). They will also possess in-depth knowledge of the flora, fauna, geology, and the human history of the region, providing you with an experience that will be far more profound than you could have from just being on your own.
Tour guides add value to your travel experience
While tour guides do cost money to hire, the assets that they bring to the table are invaluable. With the knowledge and street smarts that they have, not only will you be safer for having a local on your side, the experience that you will have will be greatly magnified by the insights that they will provide you and your travel companions.
Can you think of any other instances of when to hire a tour guide?