Before getting into how to find a tour guide, first you should ask the question Should I get a Tour Guide? The answer really depends on you, your personality, your travel goals, and travel style. So, to help you decide here’s a classic pros and cons chart!
Pros to having a guide
-You aren’t going to get lost (this is a pro if you don’t like getting lost).
-They speak the local language.
-You’ll get around efficiently; that’s a big plus when it comes to bad weather or using public transit.
-They know what you should see and can help you see what you want to see.
-They set up unique ways of see the city that you can’t do yourself (bike tours, rowing tours etc.)
-They know the countless little secrets, the history behind a random ruin, the story of a crest carved high up a wall, and just where to find the best food. They’ll be able to explain the meaning behind a mosaic and point out countless important details you’d normally miss and definitely not understand.
-They’ll save you time and money. They know the best hours to visit a place, they know what days they’re closed, and they’ll help save you from pushy sellers. Whether they save you more than they cost depends on how much shopping you intend to do.
-For those wanting to travel to multiple cities you don’t have to worry about transport or driving.
Cons to having a guide
-You aren’t going to get lost (this is a con if you like wandering till you get lost).
-You have loads of time and want to really savour a place without having to keep to someone else’s schedule.
-Art of Wayfaring may be free but a tour guide costs money.
So, if you look at the above list of Pros and Cons and still think a tour guide is the right choice for you then your next step is actually finding a guide and planning your tour. The problem here is that, from the outside, it can be hard to know who to trust. The world of tourism is full of scams so how do you avoid them?
First off, there’s a bit of good news. Guides need to be licenced to operate. While there may still be scams, most guides keep an eye out for illegal guides and will be quick to report them. It’s also in the best interest of the guides to make sure that foreigners feel like they can trust guides and so give a positive report in their home countries. Guides that behave badly only damage their own industry.
When it comes to finding a guide my simple recommendation would be the website toursbylocals.com. It’s a popular platform with a large number of guides and tours to choose from. The guides have profiles describing their services (history tours, short tours, shopping tours, bike tours etc.) and you can see how others have rated them.
A second, and seemingly less popular option is, meetmegreetme.com. It works much like toursbylocals.com. This site has been recommended by other bloggers but, as I don’t have any experience with them, I can’t say much regarding how legitimate they are.
If neither of these options seem compelling to you, many hotels (if they’re nice and in more touristic areas) will be connected to tour agencies and guides. These tour agencies may charge a higher fee as the hotel will also likely take a small commission.
If you’re already in the country and looking for a tour to go on you can also drop into a nearby tour agency office. This is especially good if you’re in a city like Antalya, Bodrum, Cappadocia, or Istanbul where there are tons of such offices offering a wide range of tour types and packages. In the above mentioned cities they’ll often speak a few other languages well enough to set up the type of tour you’re looking for. The downside to doing it this way is that if you’re not in one of these touristic centres you’re not likely to find one of these tour agencies very easily.
The final option is to simply go to one of the major sights (such as Hagia Sophia or The Blue Mosque) and simply bump into tour guides looking for work. I wouldn’t really recommend it but it is an option. These guides will wear lanyards with their name and license on display and their prices can (and usually should) be bartered down.