Should you hire a personal tour guide in a foreign country?

Hiring a personal tour guide may seem like an extravagance when you’re traveling on a budget, but a guide can help you appreciate a place in a way you’ll remember for years to come. Most guides love to share interesting stories and are happy to recommend local restaurants off the beaten tourist path. Investing a relatively small amount of money in a guide can enhance your travel experience and breathe life into a place you’ve traveled all this way to visit.

How to find a good guide

Tour guides are often students or retirees who enjoy showing people around their cities and towns. For many destinations, you can find personal guides through an online search. Most local tourist offices also keep lists of affordable guides. Some guides charge a flat rate or hourly fee, while others work for gratuities. Some lead walking tours with small groups, but if you’re lucky, you might have a guide to yourself.

When to consider hiring a tour guide

You’re visiting a very popular attraction.

Visiting hotspots can be stressful. You may find yourself focusing more on fighting crowds and avoiding scam artists than enjoying the site. A good tour guide knows when to visit, what to skip, how to avoid long lines, and more.

You’re crunched for time.

An informed guide can lead you on a whirlwind tour of your destination, pointing out key highlights and interesting facts.

You’re on a long stay.

Conversely, when you’re staying in one place for a week or more, hiring a tour guide early on can help you get your bearings and begin to build a deeper, more intimate connection to a place.

You don’t want to drive.

Driving in another country can be challenging. The road signs might be in a different language, and it’s not easy to drive on the opposite side of the road. You may have to pay a bit more for a tour guide with a car, but it’s usually worth the price.

You’re planning to go for a hike.

An experienced guide can turn a pleasant but run-of-the-mill nature excursion into an eye-opening educational adventure. In addition to identifying wildlife and bird calls, a guide can help you avoid that poisonous patch of whatnot.

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