Traveling for a living isn’t a luxury that many of us have. As a result, our time is limited and seeing as many sights as possible in a short amount of time is a priority. Local guides are one of the best options for getting a feel and true representation of life in the country your visiting.
There are many reputable companies on line where you can find and book local guides and tours. One that we’ve used in the past is www.toursbylocals.com. LocalGuiding.com is one of the newer sites out there that helps travellers connect with local, independent tour guides in a personal way. The site connects you with tours guides around the world and gives you a chance to read a personal profile of the guides behind each tour.
More often than not we search out local guides after we arrive. Mind you, there is a risk in doing this and we’ve gotten ripped off a few times. The advice we give people is to go with your gut. Bottom line, human’s are intuitive by nature, you know when something isn’t right, you can see it in the way someone darts their eyes around, or in the inflection of their voice. Pay attention to those subtle signs and if you feel uncomfortable in any way, politely but firmly decline and walk away.
We find that the best thing to do is to ask the hotel staff. Even a hostel has a manager or owner on site so start a pleasant conversation with them. Be respectful and show interest in their culture and customs and ask their opinion. Very often they know a local, someone in their family, or a friend who wants to make some extra money and will be able to give you an amazing tour, bringing you to places that you wouldn’t normally see on crowded commercial tours.
Again, we can’t stress enough to use common sense. Don’t carry a lot of cash with you. Don’t carry your passport, but a picture of your passport. Register with you’re countries local Embassy alerting them of your visit and let family and friends know of your plans. Take the time to note down the local police department’s phone number and address and learn how to dial out from your phone or buy a local disposable phone specifically for your trip.
Like many of our fellow travel journalists, we post pictures of places and people often on our social sites. Take pictures of your guide and post them with an explanation of where you are and what you’re doing. Guides love this and are happy to pose for pictures. If you come across one who doesn’t, don’t feel bad about paying him/her and walking away.
For the most part locals want to make money and enjoy meeting new people just as you do. We’ve made some incredible friends that we keep in touch with via Facebook and Twitter and we recommend to other travellers.
Most important, FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS! If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t let good manners override your good sense!