Should you hire a local tour guide when traveling in Mexico?
Should you hire a tour guide or tour agency in Mexico?
As an independent traveler, you can experience each place on your own, in the most personalized and unique way. By traveling independently, you avoid hordes of tourists and decide where and how much time to spend.
This is easy if you speak Spanish and when traveling on well-known tourist places, but if you want to get off the beaten track and have a more local experience, which is sometimes challenging when traveling in a group.
Most people only have a certain amount of time 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 unnecessary activities along the way.
The best solution is to hire a local tour guide in place you visit, this way you feel free to move from place to place, plan your stay time, but at the same time, you can find a private tour or guide if you plan to explore deeper.
Here are the reasons why it’s good to use a local tour guide:
- You will go to secret local spots that the vast majority of other travelers will never experience.
- You will learn about the culture and history of the place on a deeper level and from a local’s perspective.
- You will learn about local etiquette and behavior.
- You’ll get to explore places you can’t otherwise access or do things you can’t do on your own.
- You will get easy transportation to the remote place out of the city.
- It will make your tour safe and help you avoid unsafe zones and neighborhoods.
Local guides are local experts, they know all the best haunts in their city. A great guide can completely transform a tour, making it come alive with historical anecdotes, specialized visits and insider access.
Even if you are backpacking and travel on your own, you better try a local tour guide in some places, such as Mexico City, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Puebla, all of which are brimming with history and architecture. Local guides help put it all into context.
Even if you have time, spend at least half of the day on a walking tour with a local guide. Later you can make your own excursions or even walk the same route on your own, no need to walk all day with a guide.
Tour guides are amazing sources of information on everything you need to know about the local culture and heritage. Many local guides have decades of experience and know much more than any tour group passing through or even the thickest guide book.
Not all travelers 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.
A private tour is time-efficient
When you are visiting a new destination, especially large cities, you only have limited time to explore. Most of us don’t plan enough time to truly experience a destination, so travelers need to be super-efficient with their time. This is where a private tour guide comes in handy. They know the fastest way between monuments, and the best route to cover the most ground in a short time. On your own, you may wander a bit trying to get your bearings, and lose valuable vacation time.
Get more out of a destination
On a guided tour, you are usually limited to the script of the guide. The private guides know their stuff, so if you want an academic background, you can get it. It’s not just facts, they know the who, what, when, where, why and how.
Get stories and facts
Sure, you can look up all the facts online, doing a self-guided tour aided by an online guide. However, you won’t be as efficient with your time. More importantly, a private tour is about more than facts. A private tour allows for the stories behind the facts. It’s the stories that really make these destinations come alive, and if you are traveling with kids, good stories will keep them engaged for much longer than a running list of facts.
Ask as many questions as you want
If you ask too many questions on a guided tour, others in the group will quickly get annoyed with you. With a private tour guide, you can ask all the questions you want. Often, you will find your private tour guide has certifications related to the area, whether it’s geology or archeology, and they can put a spin on the tour based on their certification.
Tour tailored to your preferences
With a private tour guide, you can have the tour tailored to your particular interests. If you are more into history or architecture, they can give you more of a historical context on the tour than a guided tour might provide. Whether you are traveling with kids, visiting from a foreign country or already knowledgable about the basics of the destination, the tour will be tailored to you, not generalized for a large group. In fact, the tour guides prefer to give the tour that will be most engaging for you, so don’t be afraid to ask upfront about how your interests can be worked on the tour.
Become familiar with the area
Sometimes, a new destination can be overwhelming and even scary. You don’t know where to start or maybe you don’t speak the local language. A private tour can really help you gain a comfort level that you can carry throughout the rest of your trip. You might request a tutorial on how to use the local public transportation system; a private guide can definitely help you with that! A tour guide can tell you where to eat, but they can also go with you and show you how to order, even how to eat something if you’re not familiar with it. Don’t think a tour guide can only talk about monuments or museums.
A tour guide is more than a tour guide
While you have a private guide, take advantage of their knowledge! Just because you are touring monuments doesn’t mean you can’t also ask them for their favorite restaurant, shopping district, or spot to take photographs. This is where you can really get off script and ask them anything. Maybe you’re considering relocation, and you can ask them about growing up in the area, or how it is to raise kids, the commuting, etc.
You also can take a tourist bus with a guide or an audio guide.
All tourist cities have a special tourist bus, sometimes with a local guide and sometimes just with the audio guide.
Plan to visit a remote place or archaeological zone out of the town?
Check a local tour operator transfer service, you could just take a transport to and from the site and explore it on your own. In some cases, it will save you time and avoid tiredness after a long day excursion.