Travel guides are commonly available in cruises and travel companies, but individuals also hire them to get a more informed and guided experience during their travel. While they are commonly known to enhance the travel experience, there are more factors to consider as they do come with some drawbacks and limitations.
Talking to experienced travelers and professionals in the tourism world, we have compiled all the pros and cons you need to consider before hiring a tour guide.
Pro: Allow for a Deeper Experience
“Tour guides allow you to engage in your experience on a far deeper level than you’d be able to own your own. In the outdoor recreation industry, we seek to allow guests to experience the best of what the location has to offer while feeling confident in pushing themselves on hikes, rock scrambles, river crossings, and more.
“Guides bring experience, the right gear, first responder training, and often carry satellite linked communication devices that ensure guests are safe throughout the experience. And when you pair that with the skills of a professional photographer, guests can remain engaged in the moment while still walking away with the highest quality photos to remember the experience for a lifetime.”
Ryan McMahon, CEO and Founder Elite Custom Adventures
Pros: Learn Background Stories & Shortcuts, Con: Costs, Book in Advance, Limited to the Knowledge of the Guide
Pros: “They know the shortcuts (if there are any) – a good tour guide will share stories, not just about the official history, but also include anecdotal stories and tales. Local tour guides are stepping stones to other activities which may be of interest to you. For instance, our tour guides in Cusco have a family chicheria that serves local Peruvian cuisine and the best chicha beer in the city! Exploring Machu Picchu without a tour guide is like watching TV with the sound off. The visual experience is only enhanced by real live verbal information.”
Cons: “Tour guides add cost to your trip, although I believe they bring value to your experience. Not all tour guides are the same. The best tour guides should be reserved in advance. Pickup tour guides found at the entrance to a site may have limited emerging skills that could affect your impression of your visit.”
Jacquie Whitt, Adios Adventure Travel
Pro: Utilizes Your Time Effectively
“I’m a big fan of getting a tour guide in some specific situations where it can really help you get the most out of a trip. If you’ve only got a few days and need to spend your time wisely, a tour guide will mean that you aren’t wasting time trying to plan an itinerary and you’ll hit all the best bits at the right times to avoid lines and crowds. If you want to get under the skin of a destination and see beyond the top 10 lists and already famous restaurants, a tour guide can show you hidden gems, local favorites and give you a far more authentic experience.
“And if you’re heading somewhere where public transport is limited, confusing, or perhaps unsafe, a tour guide can get you from A to B to C without any drama.”
Alexx Hayward, a solo female traveler who writes about her travels at Finding Alexx.com
Pro: Get Personal History of the Areas, Travel Companion, Con: Information Without the Experience
Pros: “A tour guide can offer insight into the living geography of an area, in addition to being able to give you a more personal- not impersonal- history that dates back many years. You’ll never run out of things to talk about with this expert who will see your final destination as well as where you come from and where it all started.
“You’ll have someone around when traveling who can’t just disappear on a bus or plane. Special requests are also made so it becomes easier for the traveler to remain safe and secure while navigating through strange places without any trouble. Trust is automatically established over time; there’s no need for second guesses, hesitations, or lackadaisical decision-making!”
Con: “Tour guides can sometimes be a crutch. They give you the information, but not necessarily the experience, or they take away some of your freedom of choice. Tour guides have a lot less motivation to dress well than you do and so don’t put as much effort into how they present themselves as their customer; in other words, they could make people with low self-esteem feel bad about themselves because they don’t look like hobbits when dressed up for a journey.
“In short, tour guides have human limitations that may make them fail to serve customers’ needs at times. “
Sarah Walker, Founder of dogfooddesire.com
Pro: No Hassle of Preparing or Researching Yourself
“If you choose to get a tour guide, you won’t have to prepare a lot for the trip and do extensive research beforehand. Tour guides will take you to the most iconic places and give you good tips for managing around the place. Also, when you go to see some of the most iconic sites, tour guides will know background information which is usually very interesting. This way, you can learn more about the history and culture of a certain place.”
Torben Lønne, Diver, Co-Founder & Chief Editor DIVEIN.com
Con: Removes the Element of Exploration
“Personally speaking, I believe that when visiting a new place, you should never hire a tour guide. This is because there’s a good probability that most of the wonderful things you’ll see in this place will be left out of the tour. This also removes the element of exploration that comes with discovering new things that aren’t included in any guide. You can also learn whatever you need to know by using the Internet. As a result, you won’t require the services of a tour guide.”
Martin Seeley, Chief Executive Officer at MattressNextDay
Pro: Safety, Con: Pricey
Pro: “Perhaps the most important benefit of using a professional tour guide, is they can keep you safe. Being a local area expert, they will know what areas to avoid, and what areas are considered safe for touring. Secondly, they will have first-hand knowledge of specific attractions. The knowledge you quite likely wouldn’t take the time to research yourself. This in turn will give you an overall more pleasant experience.”
Con: “On the con side, professional tour operators are often pricey. As they are often booked in advance, it can be difficult to cancel if need be without penalty. There is also the obligation to stick with your guide, even if you find your tour boring, or there is a language barrier that makes your tour experience less appealing.”
Joel Speyers, Co-Founder of Prep4Travel