I think we can agree that it is hard knowing how to find a guide in a foreign country, or even if you actually need one.
Or is it?
In reality, great and easy-to-find information is readily available on the web and it won't take you more than a few minutes to find the right guide for you or answer your question. You just have to know where to look!
In this article, I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about tour guides in Japan: If you actually need one, where to easily find, how much does it cost and even other recommendations. So sit tight and read on!
Do I need a tour guide?
When you are traveling abroad to a country with a completely different language, difficult communication with locals and a very rich history filled with legends at every corner, traveling by yourself may not be the best option to enjoy the most of the place. For that reason, thousands of tourists every year decide to hire a local tour guide to make a rich trip plan filled with famous spots, off-the-beaten-path spots, activities, local experiences and really get feel of Japan when they come to the country.
Easily find a guide online
Hiring a guide in Japan may be difficult because most agencies are small and all tours are booked-up for your date. Or you can only find bus tours with many people around.
That's not all...
There are many places online where you can hire tour guides, but you may not know who is your guide or if he or she is a good one. It could be great, or it could be bad, its a lottery.
But here's the deal:
There are places you can trust because they screen every guide and make sure of the quality of their work. Using Triplelights to hire your guide is great because virtually every guide in Triplelights is a certified professional by the Japan Tourism Agency. They have passed tough examinations and are highly knowledgeable about the history and places that feature in their tours.
How to choose a good local tour guide to hire
The first thing you'll ask yourself when trusting your trip plan recommendations to a guide is "who is really the best tour guide to plan my trip?".
Here are a few things you should keep an eye on when selecting the right guide for you:
Price - A private guide can be cheaper than a group tour
It is important to keep in mind that normally, a private tour guide salary will range from $35 ~ $45 USD. The private guide's cost may seem high at first, but this is the cost for your entire group, not per person.
But there's a catch.
If you are a group of more than 3 people, it is likely that hiring a private guide will cost the same or less than going on a group tour. And the private tour guide service is worth the price as well since you'll not have the restraints of other tourists in your group, a set itinerary with little time that you cannot adapt to your needs. Having a local tour guide only for you and your group also ensures that they will be able to focus their attention on answering your questions and personally helping you learn how to get around the city.
So first look for guides with a price that fits your budget.
Are they fun guides with good English skills?
These questions above are always in our mind when we are hiring a guide in Japan. Can I really trust the written description to know if I will be able to understand spoken English? Is my guide more serious and traditional, or more laid back and fun?
Some websites provide a profile video where you can see your guide's introduction and get the feel of their English and personality, which is great!
Always look for a guide's profile video, one of the best ways of knowing if a guide is the right one for you is by watching him or her in action to know what are their strengths to see if it matches with your needs.
The best part?
Triplelights films its guides introductions and makes a movie that you can watch on each guide's page before deciding with whom you should book!
Can help structure your time and route
A great private guide will help you structure your time and go with you to the best route possible between all of the spots you decided to visit and activities you decided to do. This will ensure you will make the most out of your trip at your own pace, while not wasting time with confusing routes or uninteresting places. A great your guide will help you cover a lot of ground using the right amount of time for your group and also change the plans on the go if needed.
Group tour or private tour?
A group tour may be good in some cases, but also very restrictive in others. Having a private guide will ensure you are not stuck in a strict time-frame to visit each place, you will be traveling only with people you know, and you will have your full guide's attention to accommodate your preferences and answer all your questions.
Useful links to hire a local tour guide
Are you ready to hire your guide and have an amazing trip to Japan? First, you will need to decide your destination. Here is a list of great tour guides in Tokyo, and another one for Kyoto tour guides. And if you are looking for guides in other areas of Japan, you may want to click here.
If you are not searching for guides, but for their options of tours (with set itineraries that you can customize), here are my recommendations for Tokyo recommendations for Tokyo and also the tour recommendations for Kyoto and other areas of Japan.
Tips to best plan your trip with a local guide
Sure, local guides are amazing at creating great and personal itineraries for your trip. But if you really want to get the best travel-plan customized to your family, here are some things you need to keep in mind:
Basic trip details - Helping guides help you
On your first contact with your guide, make sure you provide detailed information of about your trip, such as:
- Trip date or your intended trip plan: If you don't have an exact date for your tour, you can also write the intended month or week. This is important for the local guide to consider seasonal events and availability of sights.
- How many people in the group and their ages. This is important for the guide to be able to suggest places accordingly and make special preparations.
- Where you are from: Our guides are very experienced and have guided customers from all over the world. By telling them where you are from, maybe they can make some special preparations.
Your preferences - Get a customized tour
Make sure to let your guide know what are your preferences, hobbies, favorite things you'd like to see in Japan.
Do you like Anime? Adventure? Gardens? Make sure to tell your guide, he or she probably has a special place to recommend for your likes!
Don't forget to tell the guide your food preferences and restrictions as well.
Private Cars, Van, Transfers, and Bus Tours
If you decide that other options are the best for your trip besides a private tour guide, here are some other options you can consider checking out this article here: Where to get car, van, bus tours & transfers in Tokyo and Japan?
In the link above, you'll be able to find everything you may need regarding transportation tours and transfers in Japan.
That's not all…
I hope this article has helped you find out how to hire a local Tour guide in Japan and gave you some insight on what are the advantages of a private guide and showing other options for you as well. I hope you have a great time in Japan!