Often when I say that “I have decided to organize our trip with a local travel agency,” or that “I have contacted a guide” for some of our trips (in Sri Lanka, Vietnam , and our next holiday in Nepal), I receive looks of this type
Usually people make me a lot of questions about it, a bit for curiosity, a bit because perhaps not everyone is in mind to organize itself in this way.
Some prefer the travel “do it yourself”, others prefer to rely on some travel agency (Italian), which provides to organize everything.
According to me, however, for some types of travel, these are not the most convenient, nor from the logistical point of view, nor from the economic point of view. For this, in certain cases, I prefer to arrange the trip with an agency or with a local guide, even if this requires time and energy.
Overcome the distance (and distrust)
For some, the idea of arranging a trip to “at a distance” with a person who is in different time-zones away can be a deterrent strong enough from the engage in this enterprise.
But I have breathed this air in the family for years (I come from a long tradition of travel agencies on site) and probably this made it all much less “scary”.
It takes a bit of courage for the first time, it is true, but after the first impact, then it becomes all the more simple.
When and why travel with a local travel agency
There are many pros and cons to both traveling alone, both in the organised, ranging from total freedom to zero flapping organizational. Personally, after having experienced both over the years, I came to the conclusion that the local guides are a good middle ground between the two things.
This type of travel according to me is very suitable for those who do not love to move in large groups and prefers to travel in pairs, family or a little more.
Also, if you love you also i travel long-haul but you have a few days of leave available (maybe in August), to optimize the logistics and costs is essential, this solution could really make your case.
Among the many positive aspects of the trip “organized to measure”, we list the ones we like the most:
- We can travel in pairs, just the two of us, with the guide all to ourselves. No groups with the flag
- We choose the itinerary and all the things to visit
- We optimize the move: we do not
have to wait for buses, trains, etc.
Also, of course, to us, sooner or later, would like so much do a slow trip… but for the moment we don’t have the chance unfortunately
- The local guides help us to know many aspects of the culture of the place, thing that traveling alone a little you lose
- Without an Italian tour operator as an intermediary , you save on the cost of the trip
Let us now turn to D&R, starting from the question I get asked most often.
How do you find the local agencies?
Use a lot of forums of TripAdvisor: it is a well of information and people who spend their time to write are precious stones!
Then I read the reviews and all the topics most discussed on the forum about a certain destination.
If in this way I can not find the names interesting, I try between the posts of those who have already traveled with local guides and maybe ask you direct contacts to some traveler that seems to me a bit more “navigated”.
It takes patience, of course, is not all on the first shot (otherwise I would do before to go in travel agency close to home!). Often this is what I do in the cold mornings of winter week-end, when we are already thinking about the summer holidays. 😉
How do you organize the trip?
When I have a few contacts in hand I start to send requests for quote via email.
In the first email that I send, in addition to the information on the days which are indicative of travel, generally the story a little bit what kind of travelers we are and what we expect from this new experience.
Maybe I explain that we like the nature, the food and the local traditions, we like to get in touch with the people, that we like very markets, etc. etc.
Another important thing to indicate is the price range of the hotels and accommodations that we want (economic, boutique or luxury), so that we make estimates appropriate to our budget.
How to decide the route?
This perhaps is the most long and complex.
Usually, the first proposal that it receives and that of a route fairly standard, that serves to both the agency and us, to “take some measures”.
So me and Luke spend evenings staring out at study guides and our destination to find out what we want to see, and to search for in the blog the information that, often, the travel guides do not give.
Example: visit the archaeological site of Polonnaruwa on a bicycle is a good idea?
The travel guides of Sri Lanka will say almost all of them yes… but the answer is: it depends. We did that, it was a beautiful day, but rather tiring given the climate… hot.
So let’s try to get an idea and agree on a customized itinerary. We recommend the guide to choose the visits and optimize travel.
If we want to do some particular activity (sports, shopping, visiting a monastery, etc.) or have the free time to shoot alone, we write it, so that it is included in the program and in the budget.
How to tell if you can trust?
According to me a good starting point is to have at least three contacts and ask for as many proposals to travel to be able to make comparisons.
In addition to the price, there are many factors that can give us an idea of who is writing: the tone of the email, type of route, the advice that we are given in response to our requests… (perhaps too peremptory, or inconsistent, or, rather, the accurate, detailed, etc.).
It is not very different from what you do at work, all in all.
Even if only by e-mail, are established, however, the relations in which empathy and instinct can guide us a lot in the choice of the guide or the agency to which to entrust us.
You have doubts about what is included in the price?
Ask, without fear.
Must be crystal clear from the beginning what is included and what is not in the price: hotels, meals, entrances to natural parks or historical sites, excursions, internal flights, car, tolls, and gasoline.
If your partner is honest and reliable will provide you with all of this information in a clear way, without even having to ask.
And for the payments?
Once you have agreed the itinerary and all of the above usually you pay a deposit to confirm (from 20 to 30% of the total price).
Payments by bank transfer abroad of the boards, as you well know. Verified, however, that the agency or the guide does not require the payment to them of additional fees (to us once it happened).
The balance you pay upon arrival, generally with cash or credit card. In the second case, ask about the currency accepted, though up to now we have always paid in euros without difficulty.
I also suggest to ask if need to bring with you some dollars for other needs, such as payment of the visa at the airport.
About visa, I recommend you to view our misadventure before leaving for Vietnam, I will never stop repeating: attention to the expiration date of the passport. In many countries, it is necessary that it is still valid for at least 6 months from the date of return.
Here it is, nothing mysterious, therefore.
I hope that this question-time can be useful to anyone who has not tried to organize a trip as well.
You have never had an experience of this kind of travel? Could you tell me how it went if you go