When we used to travel we always struggled between hiring an expensive tour guide through our hotel concierge, going on a long and inefficient shore excursion while cruising or trying to do our own self-guided tours. These choices were either expensive, uninformative and/or extremely frustrating. In Buenos Aires for example we opted out of getting a tour guide and went for the self-guided/tour bus version. Mistake! We were stuck waiting for the ‘tour bus’ to come to designated points for hours, couldn’t get seats and missed information on the barely functioning audio system.
Then we discovered Miri. While traveling to Seoul we decided to try a different route. We posted on local craigslist and some of the university bulletin boards that we were looking for a casual tour guide, who spoke English, knew the city and could research some history and walking tours for a span of two days. In return we paid about $10 per hour (great for student prices), free meals and transportation and they could practice English.
This was a win win situation, we got a great enthusiastic tour guide for an awesome price, the students we hired (also did this in Tokyo and Singapore) practiced their English, got paid to research and travel around the city and made a significant amount of money for a student budget! We highly recommend trying this on your next trip, here is what you can do:
1. Post Right
Post on university boards or the local craigslist. Make sure to specify language requirements, dates and times, price and areas you want to see.
2. Do An Interview
If you are worried about not getting a good tour, talk to them ahead of time like we did. We had an idea of about 7 sites we HAD to see and then were open to suggestions. We sent her the list, asked her to write up a little itinerary with our suggestions and some places she thought we should see.
3. Have Them Do Research
We checked the itinerary over and made small changes and then asked her to do some research on history of these areas before we arrived!
4. Real Places
We love this approach also because they are not tour guides from a company and will show you some of the real areas of your city. We also heard all about schooling, family and home life from our students.
5. Bring A Gift
Make sure to bring a little gift and give this to them in the middle of the tour to show your appreciation.
6. Leave Room
You always want to make sure that you have some wiggle room if it does not go well. We usually book one day and then say if we are not too tired we might do another day if they have time. This way, if it does not go well you can easily say that you saw enough without hurting anyone’s feelings.
7. Stay in touch
We are still in touch with our tour guides and they send us email updates of things going on in Seoul and Tokyo!
Finding students to help show you around is a cost effective and extremely interesting way to see a city. They love meeting new people and you get to experience the real flavor of a place!