Saturday, 28 March 2009

Local Guides When Travelling

I've just read a thought-provoking post about whether or not to hire a local guide to give you a tour, when travelling.

I have never hired a guide. Here's why:
  • Getting lost is part of the experience. Since I joined Facebook, my 'activities' entry has read: "Getting lost in as many different countries as possible, learning languages so I can ask for directions when that happens, trying out as many new things as possible along the way." I really mean this.

  • My goal on holiday is to experience a place, not to tick off a hot-list of 'sights' (with the exception of the Great Wall of China!), so if I spend the whole time meandering through the streets and visiting coffee shops, I'll still come home feeling that I've achieved what I wanted.

  • By wandering around being friendly, it's usually possible to find some helpful locals - e.g. we were shown some Cuban mountain villages by someone whose family lived there, but if we'd hired a guide we would never have known to ask for a tour there because (with no road access) it is not obvious that the villages exist. Heck, I've even found a friendly local for NYC before I set off!
On the other hand, Andy makes some good points about compensating for language barriers and lack of research. Language-wise, I will always make sure to learn a few words before I go (even in Mongolian). And I like to make a plan before I set off, at least in terms of working out how much ground I'm expecting to cover, but I always build a lot of flexibility into my itinerary and expect to get sidetracked along the way. Lara Dunston has an interesting post about 'casual' travel which you may enjoy reading; I am probably casual by her definition, and I guess people in that category may be less likely to hire someone.

How about you?


Indra said...

My name is Indra
Nice to meet u
By :

Dave King said...

It does depend where you are proposing to get lost, though.

Andy Hayes said...

Thanks for this insightful response, Rachel. To me it seems it's all about balance and choosing what's right for the situation. I'm with you - getting lost and spending all day in cafes is bliss. But in other cases it might be prudent to call for help.

Anonymous said...

There's a fellow on TV here who goes to different countries and tries to get local people to invite him to their houses and to stay overnight. It's called "J'irai chez vous". I think that he made a documentary about him doing this in LA. Anyway, your style of travelling reminds me of him. He is also pretty successful, so you should be too.
What a great way to see new places.

erin - heart in ireland said...

I guess I'm the same way, I love just wandering around cities, popping into little shops and cafes and just going where I want. I generally get slightly lost and love it.
I don't really plan what I do each day, maybe besides I'm going to this museum and this park, but in between? who knows!

Vodka Mom said...

I would LOVE to have the time AND the money to travel. dammit.

Kazzy said...

I am soooo with you on this. Another thing we have learned in our travels is to not try and get everywhere, but to stqay put an really get acquainted with a place. I love that part.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I think I'd only hire a guide if there were things that I absolutely didn't want to miss and thought they'd be best experienced with someone knowledgable to tell me interesting little known stories, background, etc. Also if I felt that I was somewhere that might be a little unsafe without a translator. But I've never had a guide before. It's never really seemed necessary.

Chef E said...

Why do you think I ask you what 'You' wanted to do...I am so the off the beaten path kind of can do 'drive-bys' of those tourist places...I have some unusual things in mind so that you can take your photos...wish we had time to come into New Jersey, lots of unique opportunities!

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