Hiring a tour guide in Costa Rica can be the best decision ever! Or, the worse, depending on your personality, priorities, and the purpose of your vacation.
Hiring a tour guide in Costa Rica is always a good idea, however, it is important to know the pros and cons of having a guide with you and if you like to hire someone to be with you at all times throughout the whole trip, or, simply hire local guides for your activities.
Let’s first state a few things about tour guides in Costa Rica.
Tour Guiding in Costa Rica
In general terms, tour guiding in Costa Rica started very recently. The first tour guides were certified in the early eighties, and the profession didn’t grow up until the 1990’s when the travel industry burst in Costa Rican.
Nowadays there are over 5000 guides in Costa Rica specialized in all sorts of topics.
In Costa Rica, you will find two very specific types of tour guides:
The general and the local tour guides. And they have two different licenses.
The general tour guide generally knows and escorts throughout the whole country, having a general knowledge of all the main locations.
They can lead 50 passenger’s groups up to one passenger in a rented car.
And they are a mix of tour managers and local experts
The local tour guide is usually born and raised in the region where he or she works. And they know all the little secrets of the places where they guide.
For example, in Mapache Tours we believe in granting the best experience by providing both on a customized vacation.
Becoming a tour guide in Costa Rica
Becoming a tour guide in Costa Rica requires hundreds of classroom and field instruction and a deep love for nature. It is a very hard amazing job and you will notice, that in general terms tour guides in Costa Rica are happy people, passionate about their jobs and the rainforest.
It is also a very hard job, tour guides wake up really early in the morning to wake the passengers up, go for morning walks or simply get everything ready for the day to come. And it is quite common to see them, after dinner sitting with their clients, answering questions and giving information. As you will read below, tour guides have a lot of tasks that passengers seldom know.
Now, even if we recommend you to always hire a guide and know that your experience in Costa Rica will be enhanced greatly if you have a local expert with you at all times, we also must acknowledge that guided tours are not for everyone and we should state the pros and cons of hiring a tour guide in Costa Rica.
Responsibilities of a tour guide in Costa Rica in a one day tour:
- Greeting the passengers
- Asking for the documentation of the tour (Vouchers)
- Getting the group passengers acquainted
- Provide a summary of the tour about to start
- Provide safety instructions on the bus and trip (If an adventure tour that is usually done on the spot)
- Describe the areas en route
- Ascertain if any customers with physical restrictions that have to be taken into consideration
- Providing accurate information in an engaging way.
- Answer any questions that the guests have
- Point out the location of lavatories and water fountains along the way
- Demonstrate extensive knowledge of the visited places
- Have an eye for animals movements and an ear for nature sounds
- Stay cool, enthusiastic and friendly all the time
- Alleviate any tension with demanding guests
- Escort passengers through the tour, in control of the pace and the breaks when needed
- Keep the tour on schedule while still being mindful about the customers
- Know all security and safety protocols, should they be needed
- Sometimes they also have to be in permanent contact with the office, reserve meals in the visited restaurants, buy tickets and pay entrance fees.
In the case of the general tour guide he or she also has to take the responsibilities of a tour manager:
- Escort the passengers from the airport arrival to the departure from Costa Rica.
- Provide a comprehensive briefing on all aspects of the trip to come
- State details of travel organization and stops
- Check any relevant documents and special requirements
- Help with passport and immigration issues (If a passport is lost for instance)
- Support passengers with check-in.
- Keep a time control by giving arrival and departure times in all stops
- Make sure all passengers are back in the coach before going to the next destination
- Make sure all travel arrangements run as per the itinerary and that meals, lodging, and service are satisfactory
- Organize previously the entrance to transport as well as for attractions.
- Guarantee that the tour is going placidly for all passengers of the group
- Answer questions and offer assistance with any issues that occur, extending from mild matters, such as conducting a traveler to the nearest pharmacy and translating, to more pressing problems, such as tracking lost luggage
- Deal with emergencies, such as helping a passenger who may have had an accident to contact insurance and their family
- Contact in advance with destinations to stay
- Check reservations and rooming lists with hotels, transportation, restaurants, and other clients
- Guide about conveniences like restaurants and shops in free time.
- Write reports and keep records
- Provide guidelines to tourists in terms of gratuities and interaction with locals
- Address controversial topics as objectively and accurately as possible
With the descriptions above you may already know if you want to come to a guided vacation or rather make it on your own.
Let us tell you, though, the cons and pros of hiring a tour guide in Costa Rica.
CONS of hiring a tour guide in Costa Rica
(and this applies to a four hours tour and a two weeks organized itinerary.)
- You may have to spend time and share your trip with people that you may not like.
- Time is framed by the tour operation and guide.
- You can feel rushed at times.
- If the tour group is large, this will reduce your time in attractions as getting everyone on the bus can take a lot of time.
- The tour guide might not be what you expected, in service, enthusiasm knowledge or a certain area of expertise you are looking for.
- You’re fastened to your itinerary. Usually, it is very hard to break an itinerary set hour by hour.
- You will be stuck to whatever meals are included at the places where they include them. Sometimes en route, sometimes at the different locations and accommodations.
- You may be disappointed with the activities that you don’t particularly like.
- Sometimes there will be more time at souvenirs shops than to the attractions.
- Sometimes the itinerary feels tiring as travel agencies tend to include everything possible to give you back what you paid for.
- If hiring a private tour guide for all your trip, it can be expensive as you are not only paying for his or her salary but for all their expenses.
PROS of hiring a tour guide in Costa Rica
- You will meet new people and get to make new friends. Either if you are traveling solo, with your spouse or with the family with the right group the trip may be a lot of fun.
- Everything is already planned. If you have a private guide with you as if you are part of a large group you only have to show up.
- All questions are answered. Usually, guides know the funny and interesting stories of all sites visited, and most likely they will have greater expertise in certain fields as birds, monkeys or the relations in the ecosystem (To name a few).
- Depending on your tastes, you will be accompanied as much as you like and depending on the arrangements you may be able as well to have time by yourself.
- Someone will translate for you in the case you don’t speak Spanish
- You will see more. And that is a fact. Not only tour guides know their way around but they usually carry optical gear to see birds, sloths, monkeys, and other arboreal creatures.
- Tour guides know their way in the forest, they know where the nests are, and the area where a tapir may show up in the trail and the tree wherever a sloth lives.
- You will be safe. Much safer than traveling on your own. In every way, from food poisoning to theft.
- You don’t have to make decisions. If you have a stressful job, you might particularly enjoy not having to decide on anything.
- You may get to see the most amazing undiscovered sites, sometimes tour guides know the right person to get to that summit in order to see the sunset or their families welcome their groups and invite them to celebrations or parties
- Try genuine typical snacks or Costa Rican goodies. The local tour guides know the places to find the best.
- If you can afford to have a private guide you will guarantee to have the time and pace that you want for your vacation and yet have all the advantages of a guided group tour.
Hiring a tour guide in Costa Rica might completely change your vacation, making it more comfortable, more exciting, entertaining and fun.
The best case scenario is having someone with you at all times that will create a fantastic stay for you and your party. But then again, it is not for everyone.
Talk to our travel consultants about it, let them ask you the questions and find out if in Costa Rica, and for you, it’s better to have a guide for the local attractions or you would like to have a full-time service to see all the hidden spots and discover what only authentic Costa Rican guides do.
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