Elena, Beatriz & Sophie with guide Simon in Uganda boat ride on Nile River near Jinja

12 reasons why good tour guides are so important

May 2, 2024
Reading time: 9 minutes

Ah, the tour guide. That special person who welcomes you to their country and looks after you, ensuring you have a fabulous trip! But how and why exactly are they a great addition to a trip? We enumerate ...

1. Tour guides navigate for you

Wondering if you've missed your bus connection is frustrating. So too is getting off at the wrong stop. And fuming at a loss of signal at the very moment you need your app to tell you which exit to take ... nobody needs that.

So yes, primary among the benefits of a tour guide is having someone to do all the navigating for you.

Navigating can include:

  • Getting your from the airport to your hotel without hiccough.
  • Leading you through the warren of streets in an old town.
  • Taking the lead on a trek so you don't go in a circle.
  • Even just ensuring you find your way out of that enormous botanic garden.
Two trekkers and their Nepali guide on the Everest Base Camp trek route

Some of our trekkers with their selfie-taking guide Angelu on the EBC trek

Navigating can include driving you

A tour guide also often drives you around. Or in some cases, they'll acquire a vehicle and driver for you.

This is a big help, saving your from the hassle of a car hire. You also won't have any heart-stopping moments when you pull out and realise you're facing oncoming traffic. And you won't ever come back to your vehicle to discover you didn't feed a hidden parking meter.

Adventure safari drive in Africa

On safari, your tour guide is also your driver

2. Tour guides do your admin for you

This is a biggie. Tour guides take care of all of your admin for you, like:

  • Preordering permits and pre-booking accommodation.
  • Paying admittance fees beforehand, saving you the need to queue.
  • Coordinating travel times for buses, trains, flights, etc.
  • Overseeing the transfer of luggage.
  • Ordering and collecting packed lunches, drinking water and the like.
Kilimanjaro crew readying food and supplies

Some of our trips, like Kilimanjaro climbs, involve a LOT of admin!

3. Tour guides keep you safe

If safety was the only benefit of a tour guide, we think it would be enough for us to be super pro tour guides! A tour guide looks after you from arrival to departure.

It's worth pointing out that at Follow Alice we believe tour guides should be locals. One of the reasons for this (although there are certainly others as well) is that only locals can truly know the do's and don'ts of their society and environments in order to keep you safe.

Man smiling in Cusco street scene, Peru

Mario is our Cusco and Inca Trail lead guide

Local tour guides are there with you to ensure:

  • You don't go into any dangerous areas.
  • You're not accosted by overly zealous vendors.
  • Your belongings are kept safe.
  • You don't get bamboozled by shysters.
  • You don't pick a poisonous plant, or pet a treacherous animal.

The list could go on.

Tour guides also ensure you don't get 'little things' wrong, like wearing sandals on a day when they know you need closed, sturdy shoes.

Adventure tour guides are especially important

The adventure tour guide offers a whole other level of safety and security. Whether it's guiding you safely through islands on a kayaking adventure, or leading you through thick forest on a trekking trip, they're there to ensure you:

  • Set out with the right clobber to protect you from the elements.
  • Stay on path and don't get lost.
  • Don't push yourself too hard (sometimes by monitoring your vitals).
  • Receive timely and appropriate treatment (medical or otherwise) should you need it.
Chris doing first aid

Chris, our Tanzania local leader, doing his refresher mountain first aid course

It's impossible to overstate the value of a tour guide in keeping you safe, especially on an adventure trip.

4. Tour guides are interpreters

A tour guide speaks the language of the locals, and as such is your ever-present translator. Without a tour guide, you wouldn't be able to communicate with some locals. You'd also miss out on many interesting insights and some beautiful moments of connection.

Brad and Rebecca homestay in Rwanda Azizi Life

Brad and Rebecca opted to do a homestay in Rwanda through Azizi Life

Remember to always ask before taking photos of locals; your tour guide can assist in this to ensure nothing is lost in translation.

5. Good tour guides explain things to you

It's easy to find out the name of the bridge you're walking over. But do you want to know why it's called that? And yes, you can take a pic of a gorgeous tree and use an app to tell you it's name. But do you want someone there to explain why, for instance, the bark is stripped away near the base?

Tour guides are there to answer your questions, and also supply answers to questions you hadn't even thought to ask!

Annapurna village with trek guide discussing map, Annapurna Circuit packing list

An Annapurna Circuit trek guide explaining tomorrow's route

Tour guides have intimate knowledge of the area and can drop all sorts of fabulous knowledge bombs.

Tour guides also give you insights into how locals feel about what's going on in their country and around the world. So from them you get to learn about some truly local perspectives. And we all know that logic isn't universal โ€“ what seems logical to one culture can be very different in another, and it helps to have a guide with you to illuminate such things.

Bridge Bhutan - Bhutan cost

A Follow Alice group with their Bhutanese tour guide

Finally, tour guides are there to ensure you don't blunder unnecessarily in terms of local customs and sensitivities. They can also advise you ahead of time if you need to dress smartly or cover up in order to enter certain places.

6. Good tour guides get you good deals

When you travel with a tour guide, they (and the tour company they work for) are able to get you the best deals. They know which days have cheaper admittance fees, for instance. They can also sometimes get tour guide discounts that aren't available to tourists.

Finally, when you join a tour guide who's leading a large group, they're often able to get some sweet group discounts.

7. Good tour guides are photographers

Sometimes it's great to hand the camera to someone else to take a photo with you in it. ๐Ÿ“ธ

Male and female hiker with hiking staffs standing in front of Sipi Falls in Uganda, August 2022

They can take a snap for you ...

Hikers on Sipi Falls hike in Uganda

... or a selfie with all of you in it!

8. Good tour guides encourage you

On tough adventures like high-altitude trekking, most of us end up in need of some encouragement when the legs tire and the mind starts to tell you sneaky lies like you can't keep going. Your guide is invaluable is encouraging you in such moments. They can also provide little tips for the mind and body to help you to keep going.

Ours. EBC trek trekkers

One of our groups tackling the tough Kala Patthar near Everest Base Camp

A good tour guide believes in you and knows how to help you to believe in yourself.

We can't tell you how many folks have told us that they would literally not have made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro if it hadn't been for the support of their guides.

Two trekkers in the snow near the summit of Kilimanjaro with glacier behind them

Our client George K. took this fab pic of two of his Kilimanjaro crew members



9. Good tour guides ensure you miss nothing

A tour guide knows the area intimately and knows of people, quiet spots and experiences that aren't discussed on any website. They're there to ensure you get the most out of your time, and have the most authentic experience possible.

Two happy men standing on a rock near Lake Natron in Tanzania

Dean with his safari guide Heri on a walk near Lake Natron

This includes seeing animals!

Safari guides are trained to spot hard-to-see animals that city-dwelling mortals would surely miss. It's amazing the number of camouflaged animals and birds that safari guides are able to point out to clients.

Danielle Elliot. Ngorongoro Crater group pic by safari vehicle, Tanzania

Dannielle took this pic with her group's safari guide in Tanzania

They give you recommendations

A tour guide can also be invaluable in terms of recommendations for markets and shops to pop into, museums, galleries and palaces to visit, gardens and parks to explore, and so on.

And the reverse is true too. They know what places to avoid because they're actually letdowns, overcrowded or overpriced.

Woman on a chimp trek in the forest in Uganda

Amber on a chimp trek in Uganda

Tour guides also know where the locals like to eat โ€“ and those are often the places with the tastiest and best-prices meals. And when you have a local with you, there's no possibility of feeling awkward, like not knowing if you should seat yourself or wait to be seated. (Your tour guide is also a good person to ask about tipping customs.)

10. Good tour guides pivot when necessary

If you arrive somewhere and it's closed for renovations, or unexpectedly overcrowded, then your tour guide is able to pivot and suggest the next best option, or an alternative, to ensure you still maximise your time in the destination.

They really do take the headache out of travelling!

Inca Trail trek group at Machu Picchu in Peru

An experienced guide can pivot when necessary in a way that still gives you a memorable trip



11. Great tour guides celebrate your wins with you

A really great tour guide is invested in your trip. They want you to get the most out of the experience. And if it's an adventure trip with a set goal in mind, they want you to succeed in that!

Then, when you reach your mark, or push yourself beyond what you thought possible, a great tour guide is there to celebrate with you! They add to the victory moment by high-fiving you and generally making a fuss. ๐Ÿ˜„

Also, if you're a solo traveller, then it's especially wonderful to have another person there to make a noise about your win with you.

Kilimanjaro summit Uhuru FA flag group photo George K.

Tour guides are there to celebrate your achievements with you!

12. Great tour guides can even become friends

Sometimes, your tour guide adds so much to your trip, and you spend so much time together, that you end up becoming friends!

We cannot begin to tell you how many times this has happened on our trips. In their post-trip feedback, our clients often express not just gratitude for the encouragement and support of their guides, but also a genuine affection for these special people with whom they bonded and shared an incredible adventure.

One picture that perhaps best sums this up is this one below of Jack with one of his Kilimanjaro crew members at the end of the climb ...

Kilimanjaro trekker with his guide and completion certificate putting on funny expressions

Jack and David celebrating with Jack's summit certificate