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Blog- 7 Reasons Why You Need a Tour Guide in the Philippines

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“Would I need a guide/tour operator’s help to visit the Philippines? Or, can I do it by myself?”. Many people  immediately shy away upon hearing the word “guide”, picturing being in a queue with strangers all wearing brightly colored caps or sticker name tags while following a screaming person holding an umbrella explaining many things you might not be interested in. Consequently, this set-up takes time from exploring what they like, enjoying their personal interests because they are tyrannized by tough schedule.

We are aware of these fears and to be honest, many tours are organized exactly how we described it above and just reinforced this imaginary picture. Fortunately for the more discerning traveller, there are also more distinct and tasteful guides with customized tours, and we firmly support and commend this.

Now, let’s see which are the main reasons why we think you might need a guide during your trip to the Philippines (which we recommend to include in all our tours). These 7 points would serve useful for new explorers or first-time travelers in the country.

  1. YOU WILL REALLY KNOW THE PLACE YOU VISIT AND ITS CULTURE

Did you know that Filipinos laugh for reasons and in situations that are very different from yours? And did you know that the  jeepney, which is a main mean of public transportation, doesn’t have a definite time schedule nor stops? A guide might be very useful, because you need a lot of time to truly understand local culture. Otherwise, you may risk to oftenly be disappointed and end up leaving the country without having a clue of local habits (or even worse, convinced that you got it all without understanding). A guide could also be the ideal person to suggest socially and environmentally ideal behaviors which will make your vacation more pleasant and wholistic.

2. YOU USUALLY DON’T HAVE MANY MONTHS FOR YOUR TRIPS

For sure, if you have 3 months, you can explore the Philippines and you can accept a wrong hotel choice, wrong routes or to be stuck in some place for too many days. If you just have 1 or 2 weeks, well, it is not really a risk you would take for your holidays, considering also your need to relax and manage your expenditures. Remember that the Philippines are 7,107 islands, many of which are even inhabited: transfers could be more difficult than you imagine.

3. YOU CAN TRAVEL WITH MORE SAFETY

If you are familiar with “developing countries”, you already know that safety of a place might extremely vary and even just with a 100 meters walk. The help of someone that already knows the places or at least the country, could be a relaxing factor to avoid unpleasant surprises.

4. TRAVEL WITH SOMEONE THAT SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE AND…LOOKS LIKE A LOCAL (AND IS ACTUALLY A LOCAL)! 

The Philippines are known to be a country where the use of English language is quite well spread, especially if you compare them with other Asian countries. By the way, this knowledge dramatically declines moving out from urban centers to rural areas, where your English conversations will become very basic and simple. Even more basic if your English is in a “so-so” level. And, realize that your appearance is unequivocally different from locals, who could become very shy with you. In the worst scenario, your obvious identification as “the tourist” could expose you to tricks.

5. FLEXIBILITY

Having a guide does not necessarily mean you have to follow very strict rules and a rigid time schedule. Obviously, you have reservations that are fundamental for your trip with time schedules that cannot be changed. But, if you have someone always with you, you can decide to adapt the itinerary on what you like more, stop that half-hour more at the bazaar that attracts you (and skip those that don’t), coordinating with your guide deciding if it is a good idea or not. You may even adapt your island hopping day tour including only the attractions you like and much more, and just dock the boat on the islands of your choice. A good guide could definitely add adventure without being invasive!

6.       WHAT TO ORDER?

In limiting yourself to touristic places, it would be very likely that you will find yourself eating grilled salmon (in a tropical country!) or a microwaved version of a local specialty. Or, you may end up in that “small local restaurant where only locals go” that your paper guide suggested along with hundreds of other tourists who also bought a copy of that paper guide, already sitting at the other tables, or worse, even lining up with you to get a seat. In the worst scenario, you will find yourself eating an overcooked Italian risotto, paying 10 times the price of the typical local delicacies place that you will never discover. If can you trust someone that can really help you in choosing among the specialties of the Filipino cuisine (very tasty and wide variety), well, that could be a good advantage!

7.       FIND SPECIAL PLACES!

You can reserve everything you want way ahead, you could even be 24/7 connected with your smartphone reading blogs. But, with all the adventure you want, you will find standardized tours or you risk to visit just 1% of what you could in a certain destination. For their adventure itinerary, some might resort to ask the hotel staff or random locals walking in the streets, you have good chances to be sent to some giant mall, looking like the one in your hometown. A good guide, could offer more genuine experiences.

Visiting a new place could be maximized as well as more genuine and unique if you have with you a local travel buddy , isn’t it? What do you think?  Did we change your mind about “traveling with a guide”?

(written on November 2013)