Who here has done a tour while traveling, raise your hand. Who here has been utterly disappointed while doing a tour, raise your hand. I’m probably not the only one huh? As a traveler, you probably crave that authentic experience & want to find that hidden gem of a tour or tour guide (+ it never hurts to feel you’re getting more than your money’s worth!) Finding a tour can be overwhelming. A multitude of factors will determine your pick but in order to find the perfect one suiting your every needs, you must figure out the starting point so here I am! These are my 5 easy ways to research for local tours. Let’s jump right into it, shall we?
Point. Blank. Period. I can’t be more straight forward than this. Locals know best & they won’t be afraid to tell you if they don’t like a specific kind of tour: “It’s a tourist trap – we don’t eat that; we don’t go there; that’s not part of our daily activities…” etc. They might suggest something better, they might tell you not to do the tour as it may be frowned upon or a sign of disrespect amongst the people & these things are so SO SO important to be made aware of. You might find out about a tour that’s a little more costly than another but if that same tour gets you more for your buck and is recommended by locals then hey! You’re golden. I’ve also noticed through my travels that the smaller the tour company is (at least, the ones I’ve encountered) the more they tend to give back to the community or an NGO in some way shape or form. I’m aware that this entails you being physically at your destination and asking around but there are ways to plan ahead, leading me to no.2.
WORD OF MOUTH
We’re keeping it old school for no.2: word of mouth is usually foolproof. Knowing people that have traveled to where you’re heading are great and reliable sources to gain some information and suggestions from. Considering the fact that they know you, they’ll be able to orient you in a direction or suggest ideas that are suitable for you. Bonus if they know people that have more knowledge than them and are able to put you in contact via the wonderful world of social media! This is a great way to gain some insights all the while meeting new people! (Sidenote: I’ve met many locals this way; a friend of a friend living abroad, having a day off and being able to show me around. It’s such a wonder to be able to see a city through a local’s eyes. Now, that’s my favorite kind of tour.)
Now I’m not teaching you anything new if I’m to say to type into Google search bar: destination + tour. You’ll find all Google and Trip Advisor suggestions and reviews. Those suggestions are not necessarily bad; you might find exactly what you’re looking for. If so, great! However, let’s not shy away from the fact that the bigger the company is, the more $$$ they can invest in their visibility and the higher they rank in your research. If you truly are looking for an authentic, and perhaps smaller, company then it might not be ideal. That’s why I’m suggesting an alternative. Yes, we’re still using Google but it’s a method that’s been working for me. I’ve found multiple amazing companies like that. So here’s what I do. In the search bar, I type what I’m looking for + destination + blog. (e.g. food tour + porto + blog). In the search preferences, I click on TOOLS and select posts that have been published in the last year or so…& then I get reading. Not only will you discover some pretty nice tours but I’ve added a bunch of amazing travel blogs to my bookmarks for future references.
Find platforms that promote ethical tourism such as visit.org and that offer a variety of tours. Most of these tours are very affordable and bring you right into the heart of a culture for an authentic experience. Depending on the tour, you might be faced with some harsh realities and truths about the place you’re visiting but knowledge is always key and these are lessons you will take away that will last a lifetime. Plus, these platforms promote tours that are associated to causes and ensure their profit comes from the consumer and not from the organizations that are usually too small to invest large amounts of money in marketing/visibility.
I’ve mentionned above that word of mouth was usually a foolproof idea and I stand corrected but again, thanks to the wonderful world of social media, there are ways to get in touch with perfect strangers and ask for advice. Did you know there are a multitude of Facebook groups with focuses on an even bigger number of topics? For example, I’m part of a few travel communities on Facebook with a focus on sustainability and ethics. These communities gather up a few hundred people from all over the world. I’ve gotten so many great suggestions and insights from sharing with these members that it now becomes a go-to when I’m planning a trip.
Hopefully this post gave you some ideas to help you find the perfect tour abroad! But enough about me. Let’s talk about you! I’d love to hear from you! How do you find tours abroad? What are some of the best tour experiences you’ve had? What platforms do you use? Let me know!