I have numerous experiences of guided tours – mostly good, some fantastic but others pretty awful. When I first embarked on some serious travelling I joined a group trip across South America. And I am so glad that I did as I know that I would have had a completely different experience if I had tried to ‘go it alone’. It was not even something as simple as a language barrier (I started in Brazil where my Portuguese is non-existent!) but more the logistics of organising truck journeys to remote corners of the Pantanal wetlands (adventure holidays to Brazil), lunching at a rural farm where we were serenaded by the owner’s son on his violin, meeting personal friends of our guide for genuine insights into local life, recommending various optional activities such as water-water rafting on the Urubamba from Cusco (adventure holidays to Peru)or the incredible mountain bike experience from the high altiplano down into the depths of the steamy Yungas Valley near La Paz(adventure holidays to Bolivia).
One normally only has a limited amount of time when travelling through a place and this often means you miss out on excursions that need time to organise or only leave on certain day of the week. An organised tour takes all of this into consideration and a knowledgeable guide is able to give you advance warning on pre-booking any side trips. My trip across the continent was very carefully planned (Bolivia and Argentina Overland). There is absolutely no way I would have accomplished a quarter of this without the steady hand and expert knowledge of my well travelled guide – who also proved invaluable when my travellers cheques were stolen - ‘Panic not’ was a phrase much applied!
Other examples of a guide making a trip for me was when I travelled with Imaginative Traveller to Morocco – we managed to pack in Casablanca, Marrakech, the High Atlas and Essaouira out on the coast into a mere 6 days and in that time our guide organised a traditional evening of Berber entertainment in a simple family gite in a remote mountain community, a mule supported trek into the Atlas mountains, a veritable smorgasbord of different delicacies from the famous night market in Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech (including sheep brains of course…) and an unscheduled side excursion to an authentic local market for some assisted bartering as well as extracting some rather naïve clients from a potentially awkward situation involving alcohol on the Casablanca train. So guides can also help people avoid prison!
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