1. One of the best aspects of taking a private tour is you get to customize the experience! Take advantage of being able to communicate with your guide to set expectations before your tour. This is your time and your guide wants you to be interested in what you’re seeing. So share your interests, likes and dislikes – it will help your guide customize the perfect tour for you.
2. Be prepared for poor weather and don’t let it get you down! Unfortunately, not every day is going to be a sunny day. But bad weather is actually a great time to have a private guide. Big bus tours have a hard time changing their itineraries, but your guide can alter your schedule at a moment’s notice, and will have all sorts of ideas for making the most of your time in their city, even with rain. You might end up seeing something fascinating you otherwise would have missed.
3. Wear comfortable shoes for walking, and dress appropriately: for weather, activity level and to respect local customs. Your guide can advise you on suitable clothing in advance of your tour.
4. Be open-minded and respect the local culture. We hear this a lot, but what exactly does it mean? In a nutshell, it means understanding that things are likely going to be different than at home – and that’s OK. Travelers who spend their whole time in judgment of different customs and behaviors end up complaining more about their trip than enjoying it.
5. ...and in a similar vein, try something new! Whether it’s a new food, drink or activity, challenge yourself to do one small thing on your tour that you’ve never done before.
6. Take the time to research where you’re going and let your guide know if there’s a particular place you want to see that might not be on everyone’s radar. One really interesting way of complementing this sort of research is by reading a novel or short story by a local author, set in the location you’re traveling to. It will help you tap into the local cultural scene and get you inspired to see the places in the book!
7. Once you’ve met your guide, ask questions and get the conversation flowing! Your guide has lots of knowledge to share, and it’s often more enjoyable and natural to learn through a conversation rather than as a passive listener.
8. Ask your guide to take photos of your group so no one’s missing from the picture. But don’t forget to take a photo with your guide too, to help you remember the person you spent this special day with. (We love it when travellers share these photos with us! Feel free to post your snapshots on our Facebook page anytime.)
9. Instead of exclusively using a car and driver to get around a city, if you are healthy and mobile consider exploring with your guide on foot, by bike or by public transit. A car can be convenient, but driving from place to place you are largely cut off from the things going on around you. Walking or cycling is slower and allows you to feel more a part of your surroundings. European cities tend to be compact and easy to explore without a vehicle. And many of the world’s major cities are also becoming more bike-friendly, offering dedicated cycling lanes and bike share programs. Rio, Paris, Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo and New York City are all leading the cycling charge.
10. Benefit from your guide’s knowledge of their city and region for the rest of your time there. Before your tour is done, get recommendations for great neighbourhood restaurants, shops and entertainment – places to enjoy in the evening or the next day.
One final (post-tour) tip: make sure you take a couple minutes to leave a star rating and review for your guide once you get home. This will help other travellers choose which ToursByLocals guide to hire for their own unique tour experience.