14 Reasons You Should Hire a Local Guide for Your Next Vacation

Qualified local tour guides = better vacations

Rafting down the Snake River in Wyoming with our local guide.

When I think of a tour guide, I often think of someone, umbrella in hand, dispensing historical facts to a group of tourists at a monument. Over the years I’ve learned there is more to a guide than offering on-the-spot interpretation. Tour guides are one of the most underrated parts of a vacation and can make your experience even better without you even realizing it. They can also take away from the experience when they aren’t properly trained.

While having a tour guide is a good way to learn something about the place, a local guide is an even better option. A small group or private tour with a qualified, local guide is the best option. Not all guides are created equal — and the great ones are truly life changing — local guides provide a richer experience, one that is more reflective of the place you’re visiting. Hiring a qualified, local guide is just one of the many ways you can #TravelBetter.

Not sold yet? Here are 14 reasons (and counting) why you should hire a qualified, local guide for your next vacation:

1. Get the inside scoop. Local guides offer more than just what’s in the guide books, they offer little-known facts, cultural context and sometimes local lore, which add color to your experience.

2. Go to the best spots. Local guides know the best spots to view wildlife, get that perfect picture, see the most colorful sunsets and more. On a recent trip to Antelope Canyon (located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona), our Navajo guide not only pointed out of the best areas for taking pictures, but he showed us the best phone settings to use in the shadows of the slot canyon.

Pocahontas formation in Antelope Canyon

3. Soak in local food and culture. Local guides know how to bring their home countries to life with delicious local food, unique cultural attractions and even some of their friends to create a truly memorable experience.

4. Avoid crowds. These trained professionals know the area, visitor flows and more. They can help you get the best quality viewing experience and avoid the high traffic times, which is especially key for very popular destinations. Sometimes they might suggest a comparable and less crowded alternative to the popular spots.

5. Experience that destination more responsibly. Trained local guides are often important stewards of their homes and take more pride in protecting their country’s natural and cultural resources. They know the environmentally responsible ways to visit sensitive natural areas and ecosystems. They can also advise you on cultural norms and proper visitation of cultural areas and homes.

6. Save time and stress. Your guide has already done the research on the best way to experience your destination so that you don’t have to. This is especially important if you are short on time and want to make sure you explore everything you want to on your trip.

7. Be in the moment. Guides take care of travel logistics, allowing you to be in the moment. Instead of worrying if you are going to make the next train, spend that brain power listening to your guide interpret the site and be present.

8. Take in a more immersive experience. Local guides don’t just show you the culture, they are part of that culture and offer a first-hand perspective. They are embedded in the local culture and can expose you to their mannerisms, customs and beliefs, which add to your connection with that place.

9. Support local businesses. Local guides often know many other businesses in the area that cater to the locals, which gives you a flavor of local life and allows you to support the local economy.

10. Make your best trip happen. With smaller group tours, you can get better access to your guide and customize your trip to experience what you are most interested in. This way you don’t have to suffer through four hours of a tour you don’t care about just to get to the fun part. Make the whole trip “the fun part.”

Rum tasting in the Dominican Republic.

11. Receive on the ground recommendations. Local guides most likely live in or near your destination. They have better local insight on the best places to go and can steer you clear of the tourist traps. Our stellar local guide on a trip to the Dominican Republic stopped at a fruit stand to get us some fresh fruit and took us to a rustic restaurant to eat with the locals. They also introduced me to some local rum, which had this delicious caramel flavor. I never thought I liked rum, but I still drink it years later.

12. Learn from the experts. Your guide is a subject-matter expert and has been studying this topic for years — giving you access to some of the best information available.

13. Benefit from on-the-ground help. Sometimes plans or weather change making your original itinerary impossible. Local guides can also be expert fixers coming up with a new solution for your vacation without taking your trip too off course.

14. Keep safe. If you are on an adventure, traveling in risky areas or on vacation during an emergency a local guide can help keep you safe. They know how to navigate their home countries and spot warning signs for trouble. They can also advise you on which areas to avoid at certain times. When rafting in Wyoming our tour guide helped us navigate the shallow areas of the river and stay safe while we focused on having fun and taking in the beauty of the Snake River.

Have some reasons to add to my list? Share them with me with the hashtag #TravelBetter.