Being a free, independent traveller (FIT), I had my fair share of doubts about the need to hire tour guides while travelling. I used to consider myself relatively FIT and all the information I need, I can use Google to find. Therefore I always thought that I would not hire tour guides.
Why hire tour guides?
When travelbuddee.com came about, I revisited my travelling memories and was surprised to find out that I had hired tour guides a few of times. I will share my experiences on why hire tour guides (Buddee) as I came to realise the benefits tour guides bring about to my travel experiences.
Malaysia – Kota Kinabalu 2009
Having ignited my love for hiking, I went with a group of friends to conquer one of the higher mountains in South East Asia. Being young and adventurous, we chose the longer of the two routes up the mountain. At the start of the climb, our tour guide asked us how many times did we scaled KK before this. GULPS. That was our first time, and our tour guide was in disbelief.
After excruciating pain, continued breathlessness and two long days of torture, we finally made it to the top. It is true what people say, that you can accomplish anything, after the toughness you have experienced. Or at least, you feel like you can, for a short period.
My experiences to hire tour guides (Buddee) showed that tour guides act as your second pair of eyes, protecting your safety and well-being.
China – Beijing, Tibet, Sichuan 2010
I never thought that I will hire tour guides in China. This is because I am Chinese and Mandarin is my mother tongue. In the early days when I first start backpacking, China was my favourite country to visit. This is because of the sheer vastness of the country, which is very different from Singapore and there is no language barrier. China also provided a chance for me to understand my culture and roots. To top it all, as I was still schooling, China was a very affordable country to visit.
I visited the Forbidden City, and there were guides stationed outside the city. They were asking us to hire tour guides at a cheap rate. At that time, I thought that I am FIT and do not require any tour guides to bring me along, and so I went in.
I was looking at a dragon head structure at the side of the building, and a guided tour group stopped beside me. The tour guide was describing the dragon head in detail and explained that it is used to facilitate the flow of water during rain. The dragon head structure is why Chinese call water taps “shui long tou”, which meant “water dragon head” in Mandarin.
I was amazed and impressed with what I heard. There I was looking at the dragon head, thinking it is a regular decorative item in the palace, but I was wrong. The dragon head actually has a function and meaning, which is passed on to present day. It was that day that changed my opinion to hire tour guides. As I continued with my trip to China, I continued to hire tour guides in Tibet and Sichuan.
My experiences to hire tour guides (Buddee) showed that tour guides are informative. They know more about the place, the culture and history than you or Wikipedia. They tell stories and add meaning to places, making them alive.
New Zealand – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Rotorua 2012
I’m in between jobs again, and this time, I chose to join a Contiki tour to New Zealand. It was a SIC (sit in coach) tour and needless to say, I have a tour guide. It was probably my first and last time I will join a SIC tour. I did not enjoy the experience as I had to interact with a big group of people. The fellow travellers did not share the same interest and I had to follow rigid schedules. Despite the fact that I did not enjoy the experience as much as my other trips, I also realised some benefits of joining a tour group.
My experiences to hire tour guides (Buddee) showed that tour guides can advise you on various local shops and attractions. They also double up to provide transport.
Nepal – Kathmandu, Bharatpur, Patan, Lukla 2014
Shankar was our guide at Nepal in our bid to part visit the highest peak in the world. Throughout the climb, Shankar informed the various checkpoints and viewing points of the mountain. He also took care of our well-being as one of us had mountain sickness midway. In addition, he shared stories about himself. As the days past, we also learned about his experiences with the world’s highest mountain, his ambitions and family members. We also shared our stories with him too. The climb was about ten days long and after which we have gained a friend in Nepal.
My experiences to hire tour guides (Buddee) showed that tour guides will share their stories. Travellers can gain insights from their experiences and learn to appreciate life. Excellent tour guides will become your friend.
There are other trips which I used guides and will continue next time.