Guides and Guided Tours, Should we? Should we not?
1. Should we hire the services of a guide or take guided tours?
There is no straight forward answer to this question. It really depends on the kind of traveller you are and if you are travelling alone/as a group of two or a family. A combination of factors, your personal preferences will decide if you want to or do want the services of guides or guided tours.
We recommend hiring guides when -
- If you are travelling as a bigger group, especially with a family with a varied age group
- If you belong to a slightly older age group and are not experienced travellers. Especially, not experienced travel in India or Asia before.
- As a personal preference if you like engaging with the services of a guide and the conversations through the day.
We think it is alright to not hire guides when -
The guide should be sensitive enough to realize when someone’s feel hurt. A tour guide can be as social, expressive and funny as Robin Williams or as knowledgeable as a professor but neither talent will make for a great experience. Before their own agenda a good guide is one who always tries to think about the needs of the people he/she is hosting.
- If you are young and travelling on a strict budget
- If you are experienced travellers and usually tend to like exploring places independently
2. Are audio tours popular at monuments in India? Are they good?
, Yes, audio guides are gaining popularity in India. In fact, are a great alternative to guided tours. They are fairly priced between INR 100 – INR 300 a tour, sometimes the instrument can be shared between two people.
From personal experience, we have really enjoyed the audio guides at The Taj Mahal, The Khajuraho Temples, The Amber Fort in Jaipur, The Mehrangarh Fort In Jodhpur.
Soon it is going to be started in Varanasi and other heritage cities. In Varanasi it will be for Sarnath museum and while travelling to Various Ghats of Varanasi.
3. What are the salient advantages of having a guide?
In addition to be guided around the city and the monument, having a guide often shields you in cities that are little overwhelming to manage on your own.
For instance, Varanasi which can tend to be an aggressive city filled with touts. You would more or less be shielded from such annoyances if you have a guide.
You can get good restaurant and shopping recommendations. Essentially, you have a local by your side throughout the day. Like in cantonment area, one can choose for “Royal Family Restaurant"
This is where you need to honest about your style of travelling. If you like to be escorted and guided around places, a guide will enhance your experience of city and make it stress free. If you are a very independent traveller, you might find having a guide intruding.
4. Will a guide insist on taking me to shops/restaurants where they get commissions?
With a fair degree of confidence we can say no they will not take lead you to commission traps. We work with a well reviewed and recommended tour guide service based in Northern India.
5. Can we not hire the services of a guide directly outside monuments? Is that not a cheaper option?
You will find a number of guides outside each monument. Often they will accost you to sell their services. They are quite reasonably priced and usually have a rate card, but most of the time they don’t have valid license and are known as “Lapka Guide”. Mostly these Lapka Guide can do anything to earn quick money. They don’t do any criminal activity but misguide you to collect some extra money.
Yes, they are often cheaper than hiring a guide or a guided tour through Signature tours. However, their quality can often be a hit or a miss.
We certainly do not take a strong stand against them. Often you might find a wonderful guide. However, if you are sure you want a guide then we would recommend spending that extra bit and having a good registered guide booked well in advance.
6. How much does the guided tour cost? How do we book it? How do we pay for it?
The cost of a guide or a guided tour ranges from city to city. Expect them to cost between INR 1500 to INR 3000 for a day. Often this will include the expenses of certain activities, like the boat ride in Varanasi or local snacks while Heritage walking tours in Varanasi.
You can also contact us to book guided tours for cities in North India.
7. But can’t our driver act as a guide or an informal guide at least?
Chances are you might have a rented car and driver for part of your holiday in India. The drivers are a very useful resource for tips on places to see, planning your day and places to eat. Hence, they are great informal guides, again often protecting you..
However, a driver will very rarely have the same formal in dept knowledge of a place or monument. Often, a driver might try and set you up for a guided tour with one of his friends.
Mostly commercial drivers don’t leave the vehicle and accompany you inside the monuments. So they can help you till you are driving or outside the monuments.
How does the rented car and driver service work? How do you ensure quality of drivers and that they do not lead us to commission traps. These points should be in mind before thinking of using driver as your local guide
8. Are guided walking tours, cycling tours, off beat tours popular in India? Where can we find more information on them?
Yes and No. They are not as readily available as in the west or a lot of other countries. Cycling tours especially are not too common in India.
In Varanasi it is becoming quite popular specially walking tour near the old Vishwanath Temple/cycling tour near BHU.