I love exploring new places. That feeling of excitement mixed with a slight pang of ‘fear of the unknown’ that comes with finding your way around some far-flung destination on a quest to discover your own version of it. It brings out the explorer in all of us. But like most things in life there is a time and a place for everything. For all those other times, there are tour guides.
Before you turn your nose up at the thought of walking around with headphones on listening to a rinse-and-repeat commentary (in your chosen language, of course), turn your mind to a walking tour of the Kalahari with local Khomani San community, or 4×4-ing around the beautiful and barren Richtersveld National Park on a tailor-made tour.
In honour of International Tourist Guide Day, which took place on 20 February, here are five reasons why it’s a good to use a tour guide.
1. Save time
Most people only have a certain amount of time off work each year and trying to pack in a ton of sights is always time-consuming. Guides will always be able to cut to the chase to ensure you see what you want to see without getting caught up in unneccessary activities along the way.
2. Local knowledge
Tour guides are amazing sources of information on everything you need to know about the local culture and heritage. Learn to dig for water, you say? Make a bow and arrow out of three leaves and a twig? No problem! There’s no better way to enjoy a new place than chatting to someone who knows the area like the back of their hand and hearing first-hand what life is like.
Not all travellers are street-wise and for this reason it is often safest to visit certain areas with a guide. Not only can they serve as a deterrent for would-be petty thieves but they can also help you avoid being scammed or help haggle a good price on that one-of-a-kind wooden giraffe sculpture you absolutely must have.
4. Support local businesses
One of the most important things you can do when you travel is support local entrepreneurs. This is something you can do simply by using a local guide. It brings income into their communities and helps to build the economy and tourism potential of an area. Travellers who visit an area with a local guide will be guaranteed a more authentic and rewarding experience, full of interesting tales. Immersing yourself in the culture is ultimately what travel is all about.
5. Take photos
While travelling is about making new friends and long-lasting memories, what better way to relive those memories than having an album full of photographs? Photos of sights are boring if there’s no one in them. Scrap the selfies and get your guide to take a photo of you. And, after a long day of sightseeing, cultural education and obligatory photo-taking, enjoy a cold beverage with your guide. It might just be the start of a beautiful friendship.