Susanna

Benefits of Hiring a Private Guide

What is a tour guide?

Here at Travels with Audrey we call our local expert guides “local insiders”. Our local expert tour guides are a very important part of our small group tours and private guided tours. They have studied volumes of material and have worked hard to earn licenses that afford them special privileges and valuable access. They are permitted access to museums, palaces, and special venues because they have THAT special license. Tour guides are needed for those “official” spots where having a license provides the only access, but a tour guide who is also a local insider is the best you can hope for. 

Even travelers who prefer checking out things on their own may find that hiring a private tour guide, especially when you have a short amount of time and don’t know your way around, is the best way to really enjoy your time in a particular place. Private local guides offer a unique perspective as they are our client’s connection to the local culture. Each tourist destination has its cultural heritage as well as diversity. On your own, you might miss an opportunity to enjoy a newfound cultural heritage wholly. However, through the eyes of a local, you stand to benefit from fresh and unique insights about a location.

What to expect from a private guide

  • The guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel
  • They know their city and monuments inside out and when is the best to visit
  • They can respond to a request for an unscheduled stop
  • Not only do they point out landmarks but they make valuable suggestions for places to visit in your own time at leisure
  • Because it is a private tour, you can dictate the focus and the pace
  • You can ask all the questions you want and even stop for an impromptu drink or tapas if you like
  • If it’s too hot or wet (hardly ever happens!) for an extensive walking tour, or the group fancies seeing something on the spur of the moment, our local guides can easily obtain tickets on the spot for almost all attractions without having to wait in line
Benefits of Hiring a Private Guide

Susanna our local expert guide in Florence with clients on their private tour/Photo Audrey De Monte

How do we schedule our clients’ private tours?

We try to schedule a private city tour on the first morning after arrival. This way, you get a great introduction to the city and country. The private guide will generally be with you for 3-4 hours, taking you around the main sights in the old town with a visit ‘inside’ one key sight. When requested, we can extend the walking tour to take in two major monuments, but we find our clients make best use of the guides in a more informal unstructured way – exploring the best squares, parks and markets and getting a sense of the layout of the city. We recommend this approach for all the major cities in Spain, France and Italy. Here’s some examples:

  • Visiting just the Alcazar or cathedral is part of the half-day city walk tour in Seville
  • Visiting the Mosque (Mezquita) while on a walking city tour of Cordoba
  • Visiting the Royal Palace as the main sight in Madrid
  • Going into the Sagrada Familia with your city guide in Barcelona

Our guides will not only show you the main sites, but they will also show you the lesser known gems and the city’s hidden charms and quirks…..

How do we select which private guides to work with? What skills do they bring?

  • Each of our hand-picked guides has to bring an area of specialization – whether that’s art, history, gastronomy or architecture
  • All of our private city guides are licensed by local authorities which gives them permission to enter and guide inside the city’s monuments. (The only time we would use a person who was not an official city guide would be for a particular special interest tour which may require an expert in Spanish architecture, Jewish heritage or gastronomy. When this is necessary, the expert can talk to clients outside the listed monuments. We find that this is rarely a problem as the experts tend to favour visiting the lesser-known buildings and quieter, less touristy, streets.)
  • Our guides are professionals – they take great pride in what they do and take their job very seriously. Unless you expressly request that shopping be included in your walking tour, our guides will never include shopping time in any tour.
  • Guided tours are good for you to get maximum understanding of the place, from its history to its culture, quirks and traditions.

    Benefits of Hiring a Private Guide

    Clients with our local expert guide in Munich/Photo Audrey De Monte

Which scheduled tours in Spain, France and Italy do we recommend?

We only work with local expert guides offering our clients private guided tours. We know from personal experience, how infuriating a badly operated group tour can be, and will only book our clients with reliable local providers. When you are comparing the rates for a private guide and a group city tour, please bear in mind that group tours often last just 90 mins and are very general as the guide is aiming to please everybody in the group. Private guided tours are usually at least 3 hours long and you have the benefit of being able to ask the guide to tailor the tour to your interests and needs. Remember, private tour guides charge per session so if you are travelling with a small group or family, it is very cost effective as the price of the private guide gets cheaper with each extra person.

Let’s look at an example where a private guide is a lifesaver. One of the worst places to join a scheduled group tour, in our experience, is at the Alhambra. Groups can be up to 30 people, who all speak different languages. Your guide will be using a headset and you will be plugged into an earphone. On many of these tours, we’ve found that the reception for the headsets isn’t always sharp, the tour feels somewhat rushed and questions are not encouraged. If your budget doesn’t allow for a private tour, we often recommend hiring a personal audio guide and going it alone. That way, you’ll get some of the historical context but can explore the quieter sections of the monument, which are so special!

Let’s wrap up this blog post with a helpful summeray sheet of what a private tour guide can offer.

Group Tour Private Tour Guide
The cheapest option        Yes    No
Information tailored to your interests         x    Yes
A relaxed pace and more tour time         x    Yes
Your guide always speaks English         x    Yes
Extensive knowledge of the local area         x    Yes
Expertise in niche subjects         x    Yes
Option to expand tours beyond just a site         x    Yes

 

 Planning a trip to Italy, France, or Spain? Audrey helps you make your vacation truly memorable by offering private guided tours that promise a personalized experience you will not find anywhere else.

About Audrey De Monte

Born in New York City, to European native parents, and raised in Western Africa, I have studied, lived and worked on three continents (Africa, Europe and North America), and have traveled extensively throughout the world. Travel has shaped my life, who I am, and how I look at the world and travel continues to be my biggest teacher. Together with my native Italian husband, we speak 5 languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish and English of course). I have spent a lifetime in several countries in Western Europe, since early childhood, visiting family, friends, studying, living and working. I grew up with the local customs and traditions of these countries.