It’s tempting to say that you don’t need a guide when visiting a new country. Between the internet and the thousands of guidebooks on the market, it’s pretty hard to get lost these days. After spending many of my traveling adventures alone, my first experience with a local guide convinced me that it was a great way to go (although this was in Costa Rica, on a river paddleboarding excursion, and my guide prevented me from paddling right into a couple of dozing crocodiles), and my last experience in Italy (with Sergio!) confirmed it. What I truly took away, was that my trips wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable had I not been with a friendly local with tremendous knowledge of his country. Here are five reasons why traveling with a local guide makes all the difference.
#1 Save Time AND Money
Visiting another country can be overwhelming. There’s so much to see, and this might be the only chance you’ll ever have to see it. You could easily spend a week in Prague and still miss out on some great sights. A local guide will not only take care of all the planning for your daily activities, but he or she will also make sure you get to see the things that other tourists often overlook. And a good local guide will get you from place to place in the most efficient, least expensive way possible. So, you won’t have to worry about paying exorbitant cab fees that inexperienced tourists often rack up.
#2 Eat Like The Locals
You didn’t spend 12 hours on a plane to dine at the local McDonald’s. Local guides are experts on their country’s cuisine. After all, they’ve spent years eating it and will steer you towards the restaurants that best represent their country’s cooking. They'll make sure you eat the dishes you’ve been wanting to try and introducing you to some that you might never have heard of.
#3 A Walking Encyclopedia
Local guides are an unparalleled source of information about the places you’ll visit. True story: on a recent Classic Journeys trip to the Amalfi Coast, I was surprised when our guide Marco stopped in the middle of the trail we were on, yanked what looked like a handful of weeds out of the ground, and ate them. He saw the looks on our faces and laughed. “This is wild arugula,” he explained. “It’s great in salads!” I wish I’d had some balsamic vinegar with me. From giving you a detailed history of Pompeii, to… well, showing you what plants you can just pull out of the ground and eat, local guides know their country’s history and even biology like the backs of their hands and are delighted to share it with you.
#4 Support the Local Economy
One way to be a good global citizen is by supporting local economies. Having a local guide is a great way to do that. Not only do you help those guides earn a living, but you’re also supporting the various businesses, restaurants, and shops to which your guide visits.
#5 Make a New Friend
It might seem like a cliché, but local guides love what they do because they truly enjoy the company of new people. Perhaps the best part of hanging out with your guide is just that... hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. Whether it’s sampling wine in a French chateau or hiking the Inca trail in Peru, you’ll find that the company of a local guide is just as memorable as the sights and tastes you’ll experience.