Other ways exist to find private tour guides, but I prefer to use TripAdvisor to get reviews from real people and to get an idea of the tour in advance. There are many reasons for booking a private tour, but there are also reasons that it may not be right for you. This blog examines the pros and cons of booking a tour guide service so you can make an informed decision for your next trip.
Pros of booking a private tour guide
1. You don’t have to worry about getting from place to place.
I have found that a private guide service will send two people to accompany you on your tour – a guide and a driver. The tour guide usually arrives at your hotel early in the morning to meet you in lobby while the driver waits in the car for you.
It is nice to have a morning pick-up because it is usually the first thing that happens in the morning. You only need to be on time to get to the lobby. There is no need to go to the train, metro, or bus in order to meet the tour guide.
You can leave the car, which is usually air-conditioned, and go straight to your destination without having to find a parking spot. Your guide will notify the driver when you have finished visiting a site.
This makes traveling more comfortable and efficient.
2. You can maximize your sightseeing time.
Due to my full-time work, I only have one or two days to spend exploring a city on my own. Although it’s a short time, I prefer to make the most out of my travels than just sit in my hotel room. Booking a private guide is the best way to achieve this. I can see more places with a guide, as I am able to research and navigate to each stop. With a private local tour guide, I can cover at least twice as many highlights than I could if I was traveling alone.
3. You don’t have to worry about entry fees or getting from place to place.
The convenience of booking a private guide is something I love. In most cases, the entry fees for the tour stops will be included in the cost of your private guide experience. There’s no need for you to carry around cash at every location. There’s also no need to contact the ticket office to obtain the tickets you desire. There is no need for you to wait in line. Your tour guide will buy the ticket on your behalf using the money that you have already paid.
4. You get a local’s insight of the destination you’re exploring.
Your guide will be able to tell you the history and meaning behind each place that you visit. Your guide can explain the significance and history of each location you visit. You can ask your guide about the history and significance of a site, not just its facts. Your guide can answer any questions you have about the culture or location. Hearing their stories adds a unique flavor to the place you’re in. You can learn about local opinions and experiences.
Tess, my tour guide in Bangkok, took me to the Buddhist temple Wat Phra Khew. Tess is a Buddhist and we went to the flower market first (which, incidentally, is a must-see in Bangkok). She bought three lotus blossoms and three golden leaf squares on her own dime to give me as an offering.
She explained to me, before we entered Wat Khra Kaew in Bangkok, the significance of the lotus flowers within the Buddhist faith. The lotus represents the Buddhist teachings on purity. A white lotus flower is a symbol of purity in the mind and spirit. In Buddhism, it is a symbol of good fortune. The lotus grows in murky water – just like Buddhism’s stages, the lotus can rise above these waters and blossom to achieve enlightenment.
Tess showed me how to open the petals of the lotus flower before presenting it in the temple with my prayer. She explained that the act of forming the petals into a more open flower is meditation, which is an important part of Buddhism.
After I finished opening the lotus flower, I placed three gold leaf squares outside the temple in honor of Buddha’s teachings. When someone is in pain physically, they can place the squares on the Buddha’s body to request relief. Tess said to concentrate on my wishes.
We removed our shoes and went into Wat Phra Kew with my lotus flower. Tess prayed as I focused on the wishes I had for my life. I placed the lotus flowers in a dish and placed it in front of Emerald Buddha. This was a special moment, even though I’m not a Buddhist. It gave Buddhism and the temple that we were at a whole new meaning. It’s difficult to find peace in the temples, which are crowded and busy. This experience allowed me to better understand the religion of the Thai people and reflect on it. Tess was kind enough to pray for me, and she also allowed me to participate in the Buddhist ritual.
It would not have been possible to experience this entire experience if I hadn’t booked a private guide experience. Moments like this are what make the day worthwhile.
5. Your tour guide can speak the local language.
Your tour guide being bilingual will also be a great convenience. When I travel, I am sometimes hesitant to order a new dish or negotiate a price for a gift because I do not know the language. You may have dietary restrictions and are not sure if certain menu items contain ingredients you should avoid. In these situations, having your guide along can be a great help.
Your tour guide will be able to order for you based on what you want and ensure that the kitchen receives your order correctly. Your tour guide will also help you negotiate a price for a souvenir. I like this because I dislike negotiating and I feel better with a local. They know how to negotiate a fair price.
Tess was my private tour guide in Sydney. We were at the market and I bought some beautiful orchids, my favorite flower. Tess, my private tour guide in Sydney, negotiated for me and ensured that I was charged a fair price. If I was traveling alone that day, I’m sure the flower seller would have charged me more for being an obvious tourist. My tour guide was present so I knew I would get the best price!
6. A photographer is available instantly.
It’s nice to know that the guide is there all day long, taking as many photos as you want so you can remember the experience. Personal, I dislike asking others to take pictures of me. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone (not that this is a big deal), but I also do not like the risk of giving my phone or camera to a stranger.
It’s possible, although I haven’t had a bad experience with someone stealing my camera or phone. You don’t need to worry about the safety of your belongings when you have a guide. You don’t need to ask a stranger to take your photo.
Cons of Booking a Private Tour Guide Experience
1. It’s more expensive than going solo.
A private tour guide is more expensive than visiting individual sites on your own. There are many benefits to paying more – you get transportation, entry fees and snacks/water/meals included in the overall cost, a bilingual guide with local knowledge, and a customizable itinerary. If money is an issue, you might decide to skip the private tour guide.
2. You may have less flexibility in your schedule.
Do you want to read the inscriptions on each art piece in every room of the museum, or are you a person who is unable to do so? A private guide might not be right for you. If you are looking for a tour guide to just take you around the museum, then a private tour guide may not be right for you. You may be frustrated if you enjoy taking your time and listening to or reading the entire audio guide.
When I was with my guide, I have wanted to stay longer at a particular destination. The tour guide will usually accommodate your request, but at the cost of another stop. It’s crucial to stay on schedule when taking a full-day tour to ensure that you get to see all the sights on the agenda. Sometimes you find a place that you want to stay there all day. When I visit a beautiful park or botanical gardens, I usually feel this way. I want to explore, meditate, or even take a picnic.
If you like to see the sights at your own pace, then a private guide’s schedule is not for you.
3. Being around a new person for a day can be tiring for introverted travelers.
I am an introverted person, and being with a stranger for a whole day is exhausting. I am not good at smalltalk and I tend to be very introspective, so I prefer to observe the sights in a calm manner. Even if a tour guide was the most pleasant, sweetest person in the world, my introversion would still drain me. This is not meant to discourage you – the trip will be worth it, despite potential energy drain.
I’ve had several private tours with different tour guides. Not all are created equal. Some tour guides are very talkative and will ask you questions to find out more about you, just as you would ask them. Some guides allow you some quiet time while you are on transit or viewing the sights.
I have found that not all private tour guides are created equal. Do your research before you go – read reviews and look at options to get an idea of what the day will be like. I have had a very positive experience with travel guides, and this is due in part to the fact that before booking, I did a lot of research and weighed the pros and cons.
Pro tip – Booking a private guide is different from hiring a driver. Be sure to know exactly what you’re booking before you book. Both have been booked depending on the experience I want. Drivers are only there to get you where you need to go. They will not likely be able tell you much about your destination or speak fluent English. Private tour guides should be bilingual, and have a great deal of knowledge about the places you will visit. A driver’s experience is less expensive than a private guide, but more costly than public transport.
Private tour guides are a great help to me as a Western traveler when I am in eastern Asia. They are especially useful because of the greater language barrier, both to communicate and to travel from one place to another. Booking a private guide is a great experience. The pros outweigh any cons.