Don't you just hate it when on your first trip to a foreign land (which you may never visit again), your tour guide tries to hurry you through a museum you're deeply interested in? What is it that you look for in a tour guide? A few frequent travellers tell us
You want to learn as much as you can about the place while you're there. A good guide should be able to not just take you to all the most interesting places, but also share with you their history, interesting facts and anecdotes about these places. Pooja Bhula recalls, “I was gladly surprised during my trip to Hampi that guides there undertake a course on the subject and most of the ones that I spoke to had done their Masters. So there were quite thorough in their know of the place. In fact, they complain that post Masters, the university has no courses for them to take to update themselves about new discoveries and happening. So some of them go scouting about and read up on their own. My guide's knowledge made such a huge difference to my overall experience, because as person I am very curious and as a journalist I always want something exclusive. He managed to satisfy both needs. He was also able to tell me the current scenario and challenges faced by people in Hampi, common misconceptions about some monuments and the actual facts.” A guide who can share the local customs and stories with you, who can tell you about lesser known things and take you to non-touristy places too, besides what's available in books and guides, will always add a little more to your trip!
Good Communication Skills
Does it bug you when your guide seems to be just doing his job and appears to be narrating information from a text book? It's one thing to know everything and quite another to be able to communicate it in an interesting way. “In Paris, our guide Roberta was an art and history student. She clearly loved the city and besides telling us the history of every place we visited, she also told us fun facts about it and enacted scenes,” says Karyn Martin. If they know a few additional languages, it's an additional bonus.
A good joke or two never hurt anybody! Tour guides with a sense of humour always make a trip more interesting, makes the experience memorable, the atmosphere lighter and friendly, which helps groups of strangers bond. When it looks like they're enjoying themselves, people tend to enjoy the tour more.
A tour guide must be able to adapt to situations, people of different age groups and interests and of different nationalities. “It's important for a guide to be able to understand his crowd, let them take their time when they need it and move along when they're not interested in something,” shares Kritika Dmonty. Lloyd Dsouza adds, “My guide at the Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens in Bangalore was smart enough to understand his audience. We were around 8-10 people of different age groups and while some travelled with families, others were travelling solo. He told us about a place in the garden, where the pigeons used to deliver letters several years ago. To explain about communication when there were no phones and internet, he told the family about how relatives used to communicate with the help of the pigeons and to the guys he gave a different example about how guys used to send letters to their girlfriends.”
Fair Pricing and Honesty
Different places have different rules regarding price of tour guides, while in India guides in a particular region will charge within a certain price range, in several foreign countries the amount is fixed. And a good guide, whom you're not hiring for a niche tour, should not cost you a bomb. “I was truly happy that without shelling thousands, I got a good, knowledgeable guide in Hampi, who knew three languages. The other thing I liked about him was his honesty. It often happens that when a guide is uninterested in something or is too tired he will tell you that the point you want to check out is not worth it. My guide not only agreed to do the tour on foot, because I was keen to but when he was too tired to climb a few hundred steps to a lovely view point, he briefed me about the place and merely requested that I go on my own,” shares Pooja.