A Tour Guide Spills The Beans

Friday, September 24, 2010

As if I needed any more reasons to avoid organized tours, Budget Travel recently published this tour guide’s exposé, revealing some of the tricks and truths about the trade.

Ever notice how tour guides conveniently happen upon quaint gift shops or authentic restaurants toward the end of the tour? Not surprisingly, many are on the dole, receiving kickbacks from the owner. Ever wonder to yourself how the tour guide seems a little too knowledgeable about every aspect of whatever it is they’re showing you? Truth is, they’re probably picking facts out of the air. Even if someone does check their facts afterward, who cares, the tour’s over? Think that TripAdvisor is an accurate guide to the best tours in town? Well, it’s an unwritten rule that many companies (as well as everyone else it seems) attempts to game their rankings, forcing guides and friends to artificially inflate the scores.

Which is not to say there are no good tour guides, or that tours are never helpful, I just feel that the best experience is the honest one. I know it’s a tough gig, and that hat being passed around for tips isn’t exactly paying for anyone’s retirement, but at least tell me that so-and-so pays you to bring visitors to their restaurant, and you’d appreciate my business. Or if you don’t have an answer to a question, that’s fine, just be upfront about. Chances are, the tip’s going to be much bigger if I don’t feel like I was just robbed.

[photo by backprop/Flickr]

  • I totally agree! I hate when a guide starts bringing you to shops for a "tour", bla bla bla…. So annoying! Happened to us in China. We were on a private tour and this guide brought us to a store of something… we told him to get back in the bus and bring us somewhere else. He was somewhat irritated with us, but in the end he did what we asked. But it still made us mad… Since then, I've been even more hesitant to book tours. However, we did a layover tour in Cairo last month and I could have never done that by myself – especially with the next flight right around the corner. I was very relieved that the guide didn't try to bring us to a "friend's shop" as part of the tour :)

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