Hot Tips For Picking The Best Local Experience For Your Vacation
It’s a very good time to be a traveler. Not too long ago, when you were traveling abroad, coordinating everything from a safe and comfortable lodging to transportation from destination to destination involved lots of headaches, potential pitfalls, and lengthy phone calls and coordination with travel agents. Aside from the language barrier, finding reliable and worthwhile local tour agencies and companies could be a sketchy experience - it’s not easy to figure out if a local tour experience was the right one for you without the ability to know them better.
However, just as Airbnb and Uber going global have made it easier than ever for travelers to find lodgings and transportation from London to Bali, new modern platforms have also made it easier to find tours by locals that can let you avoid the tourist traps and beaten paths and get the most for your time and money. Even with these platforms, there are some other proven ways to ensure that you can find the best local experience for your next trip. Here are some hot tips to help you find the best local tour guide for your upcoming vacation:
Do you prefer the road less traveled, or the greatest hits?
This is probably the most important question to answer before sorting through potential local experiences for your itinerary. Most travelers fall clearly into one camp or another - those who enjoy the security and reliability of proven tourist locations, and those who prefer to “get off the grid” and experience something exciting, new, and far away from fellow countrymen.
There are certainly benefits to either option. If you prefer to visit the common tourist locations and known experiences in the country you are visiting, you can expect:
Reliability - given how many others have visited these main locations before you, and that most travel guides will highlight the must-sees of any country, you know what you are getting into and can avoid unwelcome surprises
Safety - any country relying on tourist visits (and the money that come with them) know that big attractions and experiences need to be kept safe and welcoming to keep the tourists coming. By opting for the “greatest hits” of a country, you won’t be risking anything other than long lines (and in some cases, expensive entry fees)
On the other hand, choosing to go off the beaten path offers a whole different set of benefits:
Uniqueness - Quite simply, the old cliche Robert Frost poem is true - the road less travelled often makes all the difference. Local tour guides that provide experiences away from the tourist traps can provide you a window into the true life, culture, and natural beauty of a country - allowing you a travel experience that none of your friends or family have done before you.
Privacy - From the Taj Mahal to the Louvre, the Hagia Sophia to the Forbidden City, every country’s best known attraction is named that for a reason - you can expect throngs and mobs of fellow tourists to be visiting no matter when you book your trip. Choosing the local route lets you get away from the giant tour groups and loud familiar accents that are often the reason for getting away from home in the first place.
Customization - Local tour experiences also often rely on what you want, as opposed to pre-selected options. Local tour guides can take you to the places you want to visit, help you find the food you want to eat, and give you the perfect combination of activities for your travel dreams.
How do you find the best tours by locals for your travel wish list?
Once you have figured out whether you prefer the same old show or something new, the next step is to find the right local tour guide to partner with for the experiences you want. Fortunately, there are now service networking platforms that offer this service for whatever your chosen destination may be, and that you should absolutely use to help review potential guides for your next trip. Here are a few specifics to look for when choosing the right local experience for you:
Cost and availability - Since most of us are going abroad on a budget, the first thing to consider is what your budget is for local experiences and local guides. Remember also that during peak travel seasons at your chosen destination, being sure your guide is available and not already booked needs to come before the next few considerations.
Services offered - While some local tour guides can provide a comprehensive experience for your entire vacation, others are only available for specific activities or locations along your journey. Make sure to evaluate what your guides can offer when selecting the right one for you - while a “whole trip” guide can make life a lot easier, if you prefer to mostly explore on your own, you can usually find guides specifically for a day or afternoon and leave yourself free for the rest of the trip.
Language - If you aren’t a native speaker in your destination’s language, finding someone who can serve as a trustworthy translator not only makes things easier, it can also help you avoid misunderstandings or even worse, tourist cons.
How do you make the most of it, once you find your local experience?
These last few tips are less about getting bang for your buck, and more about enjoying the locale experience once you have found it:
Be open to everything - If you are an experienced traveler, you already know that this is basically Rule #1 for enjoying your vacation and any local experiences. But if you are a newbie, it’s quite simple - embrace everything, no matter how new or strange it might be. The best part of choosing a local tour guide is experiencing a culture from a local’s perspective, far from the safe pages of a guidebook.
Don’t be shy - While don’t interpret this to be loud and annoying, hiding from trying out new things or meeting new people means you might miss out on experiences that you won’t ever forget. So if someone introduces themselves to you or asks where you from, be open to it - you never know where it might lead you.
You’ll probably never get to go back there again - Sure, some of us are fortunate and have the money and free time to travel the world again and again. But for many travelers, your visit overseas might be the only chance you ever get to experience that place and culture. So c’est la vie - if you are wondering whether you should take a chance or experience something, remember that it might be your only shot, and go for it.