What is a Local Guide?

In the days of internet travel review sites, we often hear of local guides who professionally review travel locations. However, this is not what we mean by the term local guide!

We mean the type of local person that earns a living by guiding tourists throughout their nation or local area. Or maybe they organise local sporting activities e.g. rafting, snorkelling climbing etc. Also, in our case, these are people from a developing nation. Such local guides are usually known as tour operators. Their tours may be a walk around the local city or countryside, or a wildlife safari. They usually explain local history and culture. They might raft you through rapid waters. And, of course, they might take you on a grand tour, visiting highlights of their country.

Local Guides point out something on the river
a local guide will usually see wildlife before you do.

When travelling with a local guide, as opposed to an employee of a larger organisation, you will experience much more. Here you can find out why…

So how do you find a Local Guide?

Unless you have already been to the local guide’s country, it is often difficult to find a local guide. Or, perhaps, you know someone there – but do you know all of the guides there? Most often you will find a national or global company. This is because they have the financial means to advertise and raise their website in search engine result lists.

Only if you scan down to the bottom of the search results might you find a real local guide. Down where website owners do not have the cashflow or capital to advertise.

This website is here not just to help small local guide companies but to help you find a local guide. In addition, you can find other travel related businesses in some very interesting developing nations. You can search for them here.

Benefits of a Local Guide

Providing you spend enough time chatting online with a local guide you should reap your rewards. You should have a good feeling about their sincerity and experience.

You can usually chat with a local guide without cost via WhatsApp, Skype or Email etc. This will also give them a better idea of your requirements.

However, in my experience, most local guides are keen to satisfy and to provide a real personal service. A local guide has to be good to survive, but, this website’s owner has no control over them. So you must make your own judgement. Once you have done that you stand a very good chance of experiencing the holiday of a lifetime.

Experiences with a Local Guide

The author of this website has travelled in many parts of the world. Using local guides and local transport, often in underdeveloped countries he gained a great deal of worldly experience. He spent six months on the road, travelling through North and Eastern Africa. And, additionally, a further six months backpacking in Asia. Through Pakistan, India, Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore, staying in local hotels and guest houses run by local people.

Thus, his experience in using a local guide, local businesses, restaurants, hotels etc is immense. After his younger trahttps://www.hdnsb.com/local-guide/?preview=truevelling days, he went back to Africa and travelled, once again, with local guides. In Niger, he walked for 6 days in the Sahara with local Tuareg guides. Whereas, in the Gambia, he took a trip up the Gambia river, on a boat run by a local man. Apart from his tour in Asia, he mostly visited his favourite continent, Africa, travelling to ten different countries. He also worked for a local businessman in Kenya. In Tanzania he helped a local set up a safari lodge.

Thus, some of his experiences, with a local guide, are worth a mention…

My Local Guide in Niger

At the age of 50 I went back to Africa. Back to the desert I swore to return to – the Sahara, I chose Niger. A desert trek near Agadez, which is about an eighteen hour drive on sandy roads from the airport in Niamey.

Unfortunately, due to bad weather, I missed the connecting flight in Paris and arrived in Niamey twenty-seven hours late. Four other travellers who had booked the same tour arrived on time. They were, of course, met at the airport by the local guide, a Touareg.

My Local Guide does his best.

The local guide was unable to contact me. It was before the age of mobile telephones and even internet was not so widespread then. So he decided he must take his other four guests on their long drive to Agadez. He had a duty to them and not to someone who failed to turn up. It was a ten day holiday (two days to the desert, two days back, and six days trekking the desert).

I phoned my wife from Abidjan where I landed to connect to Niamey. She phoned the tour operator in Agadez. He gave her the route, timetables and hotels at which they would stay in Niamey and Agadez. I would try and catch them up before they took their camels into the desert.

I missed them at the hotel in Niamey. They had left an hour before I got there but I had had no sleep, and had to rest. The local guide had left me a message. It gave me the name of their hotel in Agadez and the time they would checkout for the desert. The trek start location was over one hundred kilometres from Agadez at a desert oasis.

How to get to Agadez quickly

I had no papers and therefore unable to rent a car in Niamey. But after a long search, I found a contact who took me to the airport’s private hangers. There I found and agreed a price for a flight in a private seven seater. It was flying to the Uranium mines in Arlit but had to refuel in Agadez. The following morning, at the crack of dawn, I boarded the plane. We landed at an airstrip close to Agadez at 09:00. On disembarking the pilot pointed the way to Agadez. All I could see was a couple of corrugated iron huts (the airport) and one single diesel pump. And, of course, the desert. Agadez was that way? It must be in a basin, I just had to believe the pilot.

I took the piste, which the pilot had called the main road and started walking. Indeed the road did descend, several kilometres into Agadez.

The unofficial Local Guide

In the meantime I had a crowd of children around me,. They were all vying for th job of carrying my rucksack and a bag, for a small fee of course. And one man named Mohammed. He came out of nowhere and introduced himself in French as my local guide?

Mohammed and the author in Agadez
in Mohammed’s shop after the 6 day trek

Mohammed took me into Agadez but not straight to the hotel. First, we had to go to the camel market where his brother had a tailor’s shop. He sold cloth and made the local clothes – a jelabia and a kind of turban, six metres long.

Tailoring locan costumes is Arts & Crafts on HDNSB

Mohammed promised he would take me to the hotel after I purchased something in his brother’s shop. I bought the traditional dark blue, touareg turban (a Tagelmust). And, I asked the tailor to measure me for a takatkat ( a light blue robe) and an arkabey (light blue baggy trousers). I would pick them up when I return from my desert trek. But I walked into the main part of town with Mohammed and was proudly wearing my Tagelmust.

It was well after ten o’clock as we reached the hotel. There I was told that the group had left for the desert at six ö’clock. However, I was escorted to a small mud brick house in which the local guide worked. There were two guides – one had left with the others and one was not in the office. Those great people who were now helping me said that they would find him. They would bring him to the office where I should wait.

Finally, my Local Guide is found

And arrive he did – my own personal local guide! He spoke even less French than I do, which is minimal. However, I understood that he would drive me into the desert to catch up with my party. By 13:00 hours we were on our way in a 4 x 4 vehicle, sliding along the sandy piste. I was following the trail of my trekking companions.

It was about three hours later where my personal local guide suddenly stepped on the brakes. He knew the route but only approximately where they might be at that time of day. But there they were! Another 4 x 4 was parked about one hundred meters to the side of the piste. My new trekking colleagues were all sitting down enjoying an afternoon snack.

“You are my new local guide, I presume?”

I felt like Henry Stanley meeting Doctor Livingstone. My new friends, including the original local guide, were all so surprised to see me. It had been, for me, a great adventure, and the desert trek was still to come.

I was finally back in Africa, after so many years. But, only thanks to a local guide, and a few other locals, did my trek turn into the holiday of a lifetime.

Over the years, local guides (even the unofficial ones) have provided me with a great deal fun, knowledge and interest.

To conclude.

Finally, if you know of any small business in a developing country (see this list) and you feel they need some help, then inform them of our website. They might decide to advertise on HDNSB or apply for a franchise. You can contact us here. You might also want to read about the United Nations Development Program here.