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  • Writer's pictureCatarina

Tour guide or driver? What should I choose?

Updated: 20 hours ago

Surely some of the first questions you ask yourself when planning a holiday to an unknown country will be: driver or tour guide? Which is best for me?

Turning a boring transfer day into a day trip with someone who knows the best places to see is a great way to maximise your time and see some sites along the way. These places don't necessarily require a whole day and you can choose your stops or have a good chat with the guide to help you choose the best possible stops, the best places to eat, according to your interests and those of your family.

tour guide | MoonShadow Tours

Comparing prices becomes difficult because there are so many factors involved: distance, tolls, time on the road, time in each place, inclusions, type of vehicle used, etc... Let's take a closer look at each of these factors that all guides have to consider when presenting the final price of a tour to the client.

The pricing structure

Planning your dream vacation often starts with finding the perfect tour package, but understanding the factors that influence the price of a tour can help you make a more informed decision. Whether you're exploring the bustling streets of a major city, lounging on a tropical beach, or trekking through rugged mountains, various elements like destination, tour duration, and timing can significantly impact the cost. Lets have a look at the key factors that affect tour prices, offering insights to help you budget wisely and ensure you get the best value for your travel experience.

We'll use as an example a guided tour of the Douro Valley, one of the most popular and requested tours in the city of Porto.

Private Tour or Group Tour?

The first differentiating factor, and the easiest to understand, is whether the tour is a group tour or a private tour. On a group tour (even small groups), travellers have to follow a pre-established itinerary that can only be changed with the agreement of all participants, while on a private tour, the itinerary is built according to the indications provided by the client and, in most cases, can be adjusted along the way. In addition, a group tour usually follows the most obvious itineraries, while a private tour is more flexible and progresses at the client's pace.

Local wine tastings

The second factor depends on the wineries travellers visit and the type of wine tasting included in each one. Here, prices can vary from €7.50 to €150 or more per person 😱.

Guides can also help you with cultural differences and language barriers. Travelling with a local guide allows you to experience Portugal in the most authentic way possible. Appreciate and understand the local culture in a deeper way and don't forget that they will also add a personal touch to your stay.

The vehicle used for the service

Other factors are related to the car used, the comfort and amenities offered, the level of knowledge and other personal skills and abilities of the guide and the level of attention given to clients. All these factors have a major impact on the mandatory costs of all excursions, such as: licensing, insurance, car maintenance and professional training, among others.

Other factors to consider

Last but not least, in personalised private tours, prices must also take into account the time needed for all the administrative tasks, such as planning and scheduling, as well as the question-and-answer process between the guide and the travellers. Properly understanding travellers' needs and desires and drawing up a plan that meets their expectations is hard work, especially since you have no guarantee that they will end up booking with you. That's why, regardless of whether they book with a guide or not, group users should be grateful to guides who are available to answer questions and clarify doubts, even when the time zone makes it particularly difficult.

It's also fair to remember that tour guides, a bit like ants, have to work harder and save money during the high season in order to survive all year round.

So when a traveller publishes or sends a message asking if a certain price is fair value for a tour, without considering all the above factors, it becomes frustrating for the guide himself to realise that all the comments that follow revolve strictly around money, ignoring all the guide's efforts to stand out.

Comparing trips strictly on the basis of price can lead to misunderstandings about what you're getting for your money, to an overall loss of quality as trips tend to become more economically competitive and, paradoxically, to an increase in prices for the most basic and affordable trips, as all guides will tend to compete as if the travellers' market were the same.

We're well aware that there's also the monetary difference between countries and as much as we want to satisfy everyone, it's impossible for some of us to work for too low prices.

All this makes no sense when there are more than enough tour guides and clients to accommodate all price ranges.

So how are travellers supposed to deal with all the offers and the wide price ranges?

There's no easy answer, but feedback from other travellers is a good starting point.

Direct interaction with the guide is also a good indicator of what you're getting for your money (learning, transparency, answering your questions and responsiveness to your needs and interests are good indicators of what you're getting for your money). In addition, the best guides will advise you based on your budget (an itinerary with many sights doesn't always mean visiting many quality ones) and/or your interests - a history buff and a wine enthusiast will want different features on a tour.

And if travellers suspect they're being overcharged, I suggest they "advertise" the tour, along with the date they want and all the features it includes. That way, they could receive several offers and then decide which one would best suit their needs and budget.

The Service Provided

The type of service you receive also differs between drivers and guides:

  • The driver simply takes you round the places you choose. It's a cheaper service, but if you're well prepared in advance it's worth it, as you can visit as much as you like and at the pace you've set in advance.

  • The guide will make suggestions about the places that potentially interest you, the season, the time of day, etc. and will also be by your side throughout the day. The guide's work is substantially greater because of all the preparation work beforehand and also during the day. That's why there's a premium over the driver.

A few final tips:

  1. For safety reasons, make sure you comply with local regulations. For example: a tour operator or tour guide must have an RNAAT licence. Only companies and/or individuals with an RNAVT licence are allowed to make direct transfers and other bookings such as accommodation, flights, etc. Always ask your guides about these licences, as one is more comprehensive than the other.

  2. Don't compare on price alone and know that there is a difference between a driver and a tour guide; and the cost of the licences - and therefore the coverage that the different guides offer.

  3. Always get personal recommendations from other people about the guides. Reviews can help and if you still have doubts you can always contact the company directly and assess whether you are being well received and informed about what you want.

  4. Book well in advance (at least 2-3 months) to get the best guides.

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