So you’ve decided to choose a tour guide over a big brand operation, but now comes the next and somewhat tricky part – picking a guide that makes the most sense for your unique needs. As an app that connects international travelers to local guides in Southeast and East Asia we certainly have insight into the process, which is why we’re chiming in with advice that can help you make a more informed choice.
5 Tips to Finding and Picking Tour Guide for Your Next Trip to Taiwan and East Asia
1. Look for Someone Truly Local
This may seem like an obvious suggestion but it bears direct attention. In many popular travel destinations around the world, people from the surrounding country move from city to city in search of employment. This migration occurs in East Asia as much as it does anywhere, if not more. What does this have to do with the topic at hand? It means that the tour guide industry gets flooded with “staff” that while passionate about what they do, they may simply not have the intimate knowledge of the city, town, or village that they’re currently servicing visitors in. Yes, they will have received base level education about the most popular attractions, but not so much when it comes to the hidden gems that only a true local will know about, the same gems you seek to uncover on your travels. Do your homework to find out if your candidate guides have at least lived in the region for the last two to five years.
2. Blending Authenticity with Experience
This ties into item #1 above. Yes, there is some benefit to finding a guide that has education and tenure in tour operations and so that certificate on the office wall does hold some weight. However, this perceived experience does not necessarily align with what you are looking for, which is an authentic immersion into the culture of a locale. Again, this is something that a tour guide crash course and accompanying guidebook can’t quite deliver. You guide should be local, have longstanding ties into their community, and know their way around via car, bike, and footpath alike.
3. Interpersonal Communication Skills
We know, this sounds like something that headlines every resume you’ve ever written and read. But when you consider the definition it simply makes good sense:
“Interpersonal communication is the process of exchange of information, ideas, feelings and meaning between two or more people through verbal and/or non-verbal methods.”
There should be a natural flow of communication between yourself and your guide. Of course, you can’t really know this during the initial qualification process, but there needs to be an allowance to make the initial communication. Any service you use should permit a you and/or the guide to directly communicate with one another before booking a given tour. A failure to encourage open communication between the two parties is a red flag.
This one is easier to identify. You will want some background on your guide.
Background information is typically provided about a service, however little information is provided about the guides employed to take you and your party on the tour. If you’ve ever taken a guided tour, then you know how important the guides themselves are to the experience. An attraction can be made appealing or off-putting by them. That is why you need complete transparency. Some of this will be provided in the communication (as per item #3 above) but you will also want the opportunity to review who they are (so to speak) so that you can make a more informed choice. Name, city/town/village of residence, profile photo/s, contact details, and even an accounting of their own preferred activities and attractions will go a long way towards boosting your comfort level.
5. Find a Resource That Does the Legwork for You
The items above likely make sense, however, uncovering information about a tour guide on your own can be a lot of work. You’re busy planning your trip and all that comes along with it (flight, transfers, hotels, etc.) so the last thing you need is to spend a few hours investigating tour guide options. Thankfully an option now exists that does the work for you. At Loci Amica, we perform background checks regarding prospective tour guides, not only for expected skills, safety, and security, but to ensure a match for your unique needs and desires to have a guide that will provide you with the most engaging local experience possible. We streamline the process, and provide the transparent information required to make your selection by destination, beginning with Taiwan.