For many travellers, hiring a private tour guide is a luxury. But with an informed approach, it’s an expense that’s often worth the cost.
“With a good guide, you will learn and see things that you would never find in a book or online,” says Emma Guest-Consales, the vice-president of the Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) and a tour guide.
But how do you find the best one for you? Here are some tips:
Turn to a local guide association
Most major cities across the world have a local guide association, such as GANYC, that have a network of licensed guides to pick from. GANYC’s guides, for example, are licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. The organisations, Guest-Consales says, are good sources, and their websites often allow you to search for one based on your interests such as food or history and, should you need one, a guide who speaks multiple languages.
“Anyone can call him or herself a guide,” Guest-Consales says, “but you want to make sure that the person you are contracting is licensed.” Also, popular guides often have reviews on TripAdvisor, which is another source for verification.
Use the guides available at tourist attractions
Many major landmarks and museums offer private tours, Guest-Consales says. These are led by guides who have extensive knowledge about that attraction. Most of the attractions require that the guides go through several months of training before they’re allowed to give tours. If you’re looking for a customised, in-depth perspective of a particular site, hiring one is the way to go.
Rely on your network or ask your hotel concierge
Asking your social media network for suggestions is another way to go. You can also ask your hotel concierge for names of guides. If you’re not staying at a hotel, you can reach out to the concierge staff at a property in town and request names.
However, do your homework with any guide, even one recommended by a hotel concierge. Many guides have agreements with concierges or hotels who are paid to steer travellers to pricey tourist traps. By policy, reputable hotels reject such agreements, but there’s no accounting for individual relationships. A recommendation from a hotel or resort is no substitute for asking the right questions.
Know what you need in a guide
Some guides who focus on art, for example, have degrees in art history while culinary specialists might be former chefs. That means your tour with them has the potential to be much richer.
When reaching out to a potential guide, be specific about what you want from the tour. Be sure to communicate the dates, amount of time you want to spend and number of people you’d like to bring. If the guide can’t accommodate you, they might know someone who can. – New York Times