You’re traveling in a brand new country. How would you prefer to see the sights? While juggling smartphone apps, guidebooks, and printed pages from the Internet or with a local who has the kind of resident knowledge that will get you the best cup of coffee from the shortest line and with a colorful story to boot?

Although some people might choose the former, we suspect most travelers would opt for the latter, and for good reason. The best recommendations, tips, and stories come from locals who know a destination inside and out. These are the folks who have stockpiled on-the-ground information over years, becoming de facto experts along the way. They are the people who make good guides—though it’s great guides who have a little something extra, too.

Passion. Here at Viaventure, one of our main requirements for guides is that they love what they do and the places they go. We know that enthusiasm is contagious and imperative to creating an experience–not just a visit–for clients. Of course we also require that our guides take part in multi-day training events, are licensed, and speak English (unless they’re community guides or specialists, like archaeologists), but it’s passion that we look for first and foremost. It’s what ensures our guides go one step further.

“I was pleasantly surprised by Viaventure’s guides,” wrote Anne Doorn from Netherlands-based Angeli Travel after a recent Viaventure-hosted FAM trip to Guatemala and Belize. “They were professional, knowledgeable, and their English was great. They’d take action when needed and think with you, as opposed to just guiding. When it was better to adjust the program a bit, they would. And there were small things, too. A few times when we didn’t have change to use the bathroom or buy water, the guides paid without thinking twice. My camera broke in Belize, so we found a camera shop. Someone was looking for a good book store in Antigua, so they took us to one. Whenever someone wanted to see something in particular, they would do their utmost to make it happen. It was really pleasant to have people like that traveling with us.”

In addition to offering local knowledge and insight, as well as providing the flexibility to easily adjust an itinerary, a guide can make your trip a great one for other reasons, too:

• You’re with a walking GPS:
A guide ensures you waste no time getting lost on foot or while driving.

• You save time: A guide knows what to see and what to skip, the best times to visit an attraction, and the order in which to see various destinations for an ideal experience.

• You learn more: You’re traveling with an expert and are free to ask as many questions as you like. You can develop a rapport with your guide that leads to more in-depth conversation.

• You see spots you might not otherwise:
Guides can get the permits you need to enter places that might normally be off-limits. They can also help you get to destinations that are difficult to reach without local knowledge.

For these reasons and more, we recommend using a guide. Do so, and you’ll feel so much smarter than that smartphone app.

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