Hiring A Guide

Old Jan 13th, 2010, 06:19 AM
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Hiring A Guide

The various discussions are loaded with dissing of tour and guides. I see repeated posts saying that all you need is a guidebook and, by clear implication, that guides are for sissies and ffor people that are somehow weak and not quite up to the mark.

Nonsense!

By the same logic, I suppose that you don't need schools because you can read a book on any subject. Who needs teachers? Forget universities, forget high schools. Right? All you need is to read a book. What arrogance!

I'll bet that people who believe that guidebooks are all you need has never written a book. As someone who has written books (no, not travel books) I know that there is no way you can write down all the important stuff. Reading books will not substitute for a genuinely knowledgeable person.

But I suppose that there will always be those "independent travelers" who sneer at anyone weak enough to admit that maybe he doesn't know everything and that just maybe a local person might be a better conduit for understanding a culture and place than book. The level of snobbery by such people is astonishing.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 06:47 AM
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Yes and No. For a first visit to a city, I like the idea of a bus tour to get my bearings. And, I've also used walking tours to get a more local view of a particular area. But any part of my visit to a place also includes going solo. I need to wander, go down a sidestreet, go to that concert or play, try that restaurant,etc..

A guide, by definition, will be taking you where he thinks you should go, and that inevitably means the most popular, well known places, and at his/her pace. That is fine, but there also has to be some "discovery", which won't happen on a tour.

And...while I may not require a guide in London, in Moscow I may decide differently.

A trip, IMHO, should combine all sources of information. Guidebooks, Fodor's, websites, all are part of a trip. But, being, what I think, independent, I don't think I look down on tours, but rather I can constructively criticize them.

Plus...not so sure that all tours are run by locals.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 06:56 AM
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What you may be seeing is the responses to people who think " it's too hard to do it on our own, a tour is better", which is not necessarily so.

I think, if you ask, you will find many stories of tours gone bad.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 07:01 AM
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And I have guidebooks that are very detailed (neighbourhoods broken down into streets/buildings/restaurants) written by locals.

Too broad a statement
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 07:41 AM
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Guides learned to be guides by gathering lots of information and constantly replenishing their knowledge of a place. I can do that too. In fact, I've been a guide.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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Agreed StCirq, for the good ones. It's the generalization that guidebooks cannot be "local" or enough or that guides are inevitably better. and I don;t think people who do tours are 'weak' or 'sissies'.

I look at a Cityrama tour of Paris and wonder...I could do that. Memorize a few facts, and off I go. When my time comes, and I move to France (part of the year) I wonder whether I would give a tour or two.

I look at museums as an example. You, more often than not, visit without a guide. You may have a book, you may have a "best of" list, but you still visit and enjoy on your own, only reading the plaques perhaps.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 09:14 AM
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It all depends on the guide. If yuo can connect with (and it's usually expensive) a truly erudite and entertaining guide - then more power to you.

In my experience though guided tour guides (on a tour or by the day)generally play to the least common denominator and are boring/useless for someone who has some basic knowledge or done a little reading. I've been lucky enough to hear some great guides - but I would say it's about 10% of those I;ve been exposed to.
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Old Jan 13th, 2010, 10:24 AM
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I think the guidebooks vs. guides argument can also be described as "do it yourself'ers" vs. "do it for me". I have friends who always use guides because once they pick their destination, they don't want to spend any time doing the research to learn where to go. They would never bother to come here to Fodors to ask about parks or museums for example. They'd ask their guide or concierge for such advice. Like probably most posters here at Fodors, I like doing trip research and planning my own trips. It's part of the fun of travel for me.
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