Today’s guest post is from Tia of National Geographic’s ExploretheCanyon.com
Most of us love to travel by ourselves, unfettered by the constraints of time and schedules. When traveling by ourselves or with a set of close friends, we are free to wander around, discover new places and restaurants purely by serendipity. Chance encounters lead to new friendships, and hitting the road has never felt better. But sometimes you just don’t have the time or the luxury to go it alone. On really short vacations, cruise towns, adventure trips, dangerous territories, historically rich destinations or on drive intensive journeys, it is prudent to employ a tour guide. There are several places which just don’t speak a shred of English and in these instances, choosing a tour guide is a great means to overcome the language barrier.
Choose a travel tour guide who is qualified and licensed. Be on the lookout for these telltale signs which will indicate that you may have made the wrong tour guide choice. It is never too late to adopt plan B. If any of these signs pop up, it’s time to take drastic measures.
1. Asks you for money at every juncture – Although you might have made an upfront payment and seem to have discussed a ‘package deal’, many tour guides have the tendency to coerce money out of you – citing inflation or increased ticket prices. Be prepared for these eventualities and don’t give in to illogical demands, however persuasive they may seem. Sometimes tour guides also demand to be paid for food and lodging; unless this was expressly specified at the onset, you are not obligated to make these accommodations.
2. Language barrier – Though you depend on your guide for all forms of local communication, make it a point to pick up a few local phrases. There are several deals that might be made without your knowledge and you will not get down to the bottom of things, all because you were too comfortable to learn the language.
3. When Tips and commissions seem way too much – In places like Egypt, a substantial amount of money is spent in the form of tips. It is customary to do so, but in most cases, your tour guide tells you what an appropriate amount is. Sometimes vendors and servicemen strike deals with tour guides and manage to extract fat tips from you. Do you research beforehand and understand what an appropriate amount to give is. Don’t be pressurized to make any purchases, tour guides often operate on a commission basis and you will end up paying double or triple the cost of an indigenous ‘special’ souvenir.
4. Special free local ceremonies that cost you a bomb – There’s no nicer feeling than attending a local special event. Visiting a village fair, dining with a local family or attending a local marriage ceremony can open up fresh new perspectives. But be wary of these with your tour guide. You might have to shell out a bomb later. Some special ‘wine tasting’ ot ‘tea tasting’ ceremonies may seem harmless, but can run into hundreds of dollars. This is a travel rip off.
5. If ‘Off the beaten path’, looks a little too off – Sometimes, tour guides ‘invent’ sites of interest. In your eagerness to see something ‘different’, you may be taken for a ride. In the name of uniqueness, tour guides concoct places of interest – an obscure table in a dilapidated café where Oscar Wilde penned a limerick, or a bomb shelter that supposedly survived WWII which you drove over 3 hours to see. If something feels amiss, keep a smart phone handy and cross check the validity of your guide’s statements.
Tia Jones is a Marketing & PR Consultant who loves all things Travel & Technology. She’s a blogger who contributes articles on Travel Tips, Technology and Grand Canyon Attractions for National Geographic’s ExploretheCanyon.com. Feel free to follow Tia on Twitter @GrandCanyonNGVC and like Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center on Facebook.