How to hire a tour guide
Hiring a private tour guide is an important decision that can be crucial for the success or fail of your trip. While an awesome tour guide can give you a memorable tour, a bad or even a mediocre guide will make you regret you didn’t make a different choice.
Today we’ll show you how to hire a tour guide that matches your style: figuring out what kind of service do you really need, what to look for and what questions to ask. The best hiring tips to choose the right private tour guide for you.
Here are our insiders tips for hiring private tours:
Licensed tour guide or not? The rules about who can be a licensed tour guide and who can’t vary from country to country, so you’ll have to refer to the local tourist board to find out. In Spain, it even varies from region to region, and for Barcelona and Catalonia, to be a licensed tour guide you need to have a university degree and pass an exam on more than 100 subjects (local history, heritage, traditions, cooking… even group psychology!). In return, only licensed tour guides are legally allowed to explain inside museums and sites. Skipping lines is another bonus of hiring a private tour guide that is licensed. Instead, tour guides that aren’t licensed won’t be taking you inside the sites, but that might also work for you depending on what are your plans for your private tour.
Local or Ex-pat? A private guide that is born and raised in the same country (even better, in the same city) understands the reality of the country in a much deeper way than any new-comer, and is likely to know the place more in-depth, only because he or she has spent all their lives here and has had more time to study it. In the other hand, someone from your own country that has been living here for a while can understand your background and points of views better. If you don’t feel comfortable with a native, our tips for hiring private tours with someone from your own country are to make sure to ask how long has he/she lived here, and if they speak the local language/s fluently or not (language is crucial to really integrate in a new country and understand it in a more intimate way)
Language command. Communicating is a big part of the job of a private tour guide, and that’s why when hiring a private tour guide it’s important that he or she has a good command of your own language. Scan the reviews to find any comments about the English level of your guide. Search their website or Youtube in case they have a video where you can see them speaking. Pay attention to how their website is written. And most importantly, are you happy with their written English when they answer your emails?
Reviews. It goes without saying, but when hiring a private tour guide you must read their reviews. But it’s not enough to just check their ratings: dig a bit deeper to understand who’s reviewing them and why. Are the reviewers young backpackers, or senior couples, or families with kids…? Do they value the knowledge, or the jokes, or the ability to create an itinerary and take you off the beaten path…? If you resonate with the reviewers and their words excite you, you are on the right track.
Experience. Hiring a private tour guide that has recently licensed you will get someone knowledgeable, full of energy and passionate. But a tour guide that has been giving tours for many years will be also more resourceful (either to solve or prevent problems, or to adapt the itinerary to your needs), have more empathy and psychology, and also have more contacts that he/she can use to enhance your tour. However, an experienced tour guide that offers high value, is also likely to be more expensive.
AND BONUS! What’s going to give you the most important tip about how that tour company works?
Your first email. Spending a few minutes writing a letter that contains all the possible information your guide will need to suggest the best tour for you. Of course, they’ll need the date of your tour (if your dates are flexible, make sure to let them know) and how many people are traveling with you. If you already have some sites in mind, make sure to share them (it might also be a good idea to browse their website to see if they already have a tour itinerary that covers them. Don’t forget to mention where are you staying, as often you’ll be picked up at your location, and that can help your guide figuring out a time-efficient itinerary, too. When you get their answer, consider how fast they’ve been to reply (that shows efficiency) and how much they’ve taken into account your personal needs and interests (that shows attention to detail)
So what about you? Go to the comments and tell us: do you have other tips for hiring private tours?