High Value Travel: Private Tour Guides


Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

                                Warren Buffet 1930- , American Investment Entrepreneur

I met Carol through the internet in 1996. She was a travel agent in California and soon began to provide service for my boss who flew somewhere just about every month. He was surprised I was using a resource located so far from Nashville and had me switch to the agency used by Vanderbilt.  However, when they overnighted a changed ticket instead of messengering it the two blocks,he learned the definition of value. Carol cared about him and providing her service for his monthly travel, and so she was responsive and easy to get along with. He agreed to switch back to Carol and she provided all his travel arrangements for the five years he and I worked together. I got to know her quite well over that time and visited her in California on two separate trips.

Four years ago she retired and moved to Croatia. Her parents had emigrated to the U.S. before she was born. She had been there to visit family several times and it felt right to her. Her hope was to provide individual tour guide service to people visiting Dubrovnik (see photos on the photos page) but found many of the cruisers opted to purchase a land tour arranged by the ship. It takes some work to find an alternative to a package someone hands you. And at first comparison, the price may not seem advantageous.

So I want to talk just for a bit about the way hiring a private tour guide can make a tremendous difference in the quality of a visit in a new place or as a way to explore areas of a place that are “off the beaten path.”

Almost five years ago, on a circle tour of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, my family visited Mesa Verde National Park. We stayed in a bed and breakfast that hosted Elder Hostel programs. Elder Hostel, now called Road Scholar, is an educational tour program geared mostly to people over the age of 50. I was intrigued by this b&b’s affiliation because it offered private educational programs as well.

                              

We hired a delightful archaeologist who took us on a 3 hour hike on BLM land. With her expertise we walked among ruins and learned more about the Anasazi people who lived in the area than anything the National Park Ranger told us later when we went into the park. I paid $150 for the five of us and it was worth every penny in the new appreciation each of us took from the experience.

                              

About a year ago one of my sisters presented my daughter and me with a surprise 4 night trip to Paris. She had found a steal of a deal (more on finding those types of travel opportunities later) and was happy to take us. I decided that we needed to really get a feel for back street Paris and searched the web looking for tour offerings. When I found Richard, I knew I had what we wanted.

                                  

                              Shopping with Richard at one of several markets

Richard Nahem grew up in New York City but moved to Paris when he fell in love with it on a visit. His sense of adventure, eye for detail and love for the unexpected is what prompted me to hire him. Read through his bloghttp://www.eyepreferparis.com/   to see what I mean.

We paid him 195 euros for 3 hours of back street tours 2 of the 3 full days we were there. In addition, Richard can arrange for cooking classes and also day tours outside of the city, especially to the nearby champagne wine growing area. Please go to his blog to his website about his tour service athttp://www.eyepreferparistours.com/

  

       Our cooking lesson                                                                         Walking with Richard in the Marais

Finally, Carol Sosa is available for walking tours of Dubrovnik. This town, called the Pearl of the Adriatic, is on the itinerary for many cruise ships. Visitors have between 4 and 10 hours there and yet, it was interesting to watch the kind of activity many chose the nine days I was there. I saw lots of people walking the main street eating gelato and going into the tourist shops and I saw long lines of tourists following a leader holding an electronic microphone. The sound quality was so poor that only the first ten people could probably hear and understand. However, there were easily 25-40 people trailing behind the guide. These tours usually cost between $25 and $40 per person and lasts maybe an hour.

          Tourists hanging out without any idea of what to see or do.

Carol leading us on a tour of the city walls and explaining the areas we are passing and can see.

Carol has spent the past four years getting to know the secrets she can show to a small party. She has found out the shops that have authentic items made in Croatia, not tourist trap purchases found in some of the main street shops. She charges 70 euros per person for 3-4 hours and your tour is tailored to your specific interests. Read her blog at  http://dubrovniktravelady.blogspot.com/

In a nutshell, a personal tour guide can customize the trip for YOU. While you can find tour programs that will give you great overviews (we enjoyed the boat trip on the Thames this July in London), and a group walking tour can give you tremendous value usually in one hour (like the Ghost Tour we joined in Oxford in June), only a private tour for you and your immediate group can be geared to your interests and specifically address issues you have.

For example, when my camera died on our walk in Paris, Richard was able to take us to an electronics shop that had great prices, and we not only felt assured we were safe making a purchase there, the experience became part of the “getting to see how real Parisians live” experience.

So, consider hiring a personal tour guide, maybe not every day or every place you visit on a trip, but at least once to expand your awareness of what makes that location, the place that interested you enough to plan the trip, so very special.

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2 Responses to High Value Travel: Private Tour Guides

  1. Laura Runnion says:

    I totally enjoyed reading this post! Thank you for telling us all about the experiences of hiring a tour guide. I have to consider this for my next trip and will let you help me get one!

  2. At first it seems that the cost of hiring a guide can easily be reduced by choosing a larger bus or walking tour or even more by all the do-it-yourself materials available. But there is NOTHING more valuable than having a local expert share information. We all learn different ways. And we all want different levels of information. If you really want to understand a place….its ancient history and its modern life….a private guide who can respond to your interests is the most valuable way to achieve that goal.

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