Why You Should Hire Local Guides When Traveling? (P1)

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As an independent traveler, I like to experience each place on my own, in the most personalized and unique way. By traveling independently, I avoid hordes of tourists, whistle-stop sightseeing, and generic itineraries.
 
This is easy when traveling to countries with a well-traveled tourist trail, but I love to get off the beaten track and have a more local experience – which is sometimes challenging when traveling independently.

How do I find an isolated hiking trail in Kazakhstan, or find a nomadic family to stay with in rural Mongolia, or meet local tribes in Papua New Guinea without any local contact?

I can’t, and neither could you, without help.

 
The crossroads of independent travel and enjoying authentic, local experiences while avoiding group tours IS possible, with the use of a local guide.
 
Many local guides have decades (or a lifetime) of experience and know much more than any tour group passing through or even the thickest guide book.
Why You Should Hire Local Guides When Traveling via Venuelust

The Joys of Traveling with a Good Local Guide

As an animal aficionado, I was super excited about a trip to Costa Rica. My first few days, though, I didn’t see anything more than a few common birds. I was pretty disappointed.
 
Thankfully I stumbled upon a local guide, Hector, who offered nocturnal wildlife tours.  Hector went above and beyond to ensure I saw as many animals as possible and his expert eyes could find the animals that I would otherwise have missed. He would point to a faintly rustling branch that I didn’t even notice, and a few seconds later a monkey face would appear.
 
I realized that there were actually animals everywhere – I just needed my guides’ eyes to see them! Upon leaving Costa Rica, I had a laundry list of animals spotted including armadillos, koatis, possums, toucans, tarantulas, and many more. The trip was a dream come true, but thanks only to the help of my great guide.

Finding wildlife

Why You Should Hire Local Guides When Traveling via CNN.com

In Bhutan, I also had some of the best travel experiences of my life thanks to my local guide Sangay (first photo above). Before arriving to Bhutan, I had expressed my interest in exploring the nature of Bhutan, but also getting to know local culture on a deeper level. During my trip, I was surprised to hear that Sangay had arranged for me to visit a lady in a village who would show me how she cooked and answer any questions I had.

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The visit was meant to be an impromptu stop and wasn’t part of the tour, but I ended up spending the whole afternoon there as it was just so much fun speaking to Oma (my host) and getting to understand her culture and traditions. It was truly a privilege to enter the locals’ home, see how they live and talk to them (with his translation). This was a rare opportunity that I would otherwise have missed if I was traveling on my own.
 
On another occasion, I was lucky enough to find an extremely hospitable local guide in Iran who invited our group of travelers to his house for dinner. It turned out to be a sumptuous feast that his wife and children had prepared for us: massive dishes of pilaf rice, slow cooked chicken in pomegranate sauce, spicy beef and spinach were served and we were just spoiled with one thing after another. His extended family even came to see us and welcome us to their country.

The whole experience made me realise how welcoming Iranians are — and I wouldn’t have had it without a top notch guide.

To be continued…

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