A do-it-yourself traveler has plenty of freedom to arrange his itinerary, skipping attractions that he thinks is unnecessary, overrated or uninteresting and takes his time and pace without being pressured into say board the bus or squeeze into a bevy of fellow tourists in a picturesque spot.
But there are instances independent travelers find difficult or even impossible to take without the help of local guides. This may include activities visitors cannot or don’t want to do by themselves — navigation through a remote place, requires special equipment or needs local language to speak to the natives.
Tour agencies sometimes provide guides from your own country at your convenience — they know your preferred dish, they speak your language and you don’t have to adjust much culturally or personally.
But it is sometimes cheaper and easier to work with a local tour operator or guide and make your arrangements when you arrive. In addition, it generate income for the local people that helps sustain the maintenance and upkeep of attractions, equipment and facilities.
While concerns about security and reliability amid unfamiliarity with a local tour is understandable, many legitimate and authorized by the country or city tourism agency are there waiting to share local expertise to visitors.
To summarize, here are the benefits of taking a local guide or tour operator instead of bringing one with your tour group.
1. They have better local knowledge
Local tour guides take pride in their attractions and share more relevant and updated information. Your guide book may be handy, but its ‘insider information’ probably won’t match what your local tour guide would provide. Local tour operators precisely know not only the history or random information of the city or town, but they can also articulate information that can be vaguely available elsewhere.
Which part of this attraction is best visited by what time of the year? When to expect the least crowd or the best weather to visit? Recent news about the location — new facilities available, terrain and road conditions, updated safety guidelines can help visitors get calculated decisions and make the most of their time.
No wonder big tour operators hire local guides to be part of their time precisely for this reason.
2. They provide flexibility and save you time
Independent travelers may spend hours studying their itinerary. What are the bus routes, when is the last train or is it better to withdraw cash or exchange your currency in a nearby money changer. Local guides can provide you with accurate information regarding these issues. While you are looking for the bus route, your guide may give you a cheaper, safer option.
If only a small part of your week-long visit requires local guide who can help you with a specific activity or destination, it makes sense to hire one, while you retain the freedom and independence to do how you planned the rest of your trip.
3. They are generally cheaper
It is often cheaper to book a tour or guide from a local company than to get a package tour from a company based in your country. Although this should not be a big factor in fulfilling a memorable trip, this makes sense especially to those who try to save as much as possible, without degrading the quality of service.
4. You help support local economy
Hiring locals as tour guides, drivers and navigators, porters and accommodation managers help the local economy and is a hallmark of a responsible traveler. We enjoy the attractions and create memories, let’s reward those who make them possible in this symbiotic relationship.
Generating more jobs for the people could reduce crime rate and create shared responsibility among locals.
After all, we want to help preserve the beauty of a tourist attraction so doing our part while we are there is the least we can do.