Whether you hire a guide through an agency or find an independent guide, it’s important to ask the guide – and yourself – the right questions. You will be spending days or weeks with this person and potentially paying them a lot of money. Make sure you’ve got the right guide for your journey!
#1 – Are they licensed and insured?
In most countries, independent guides and agency guides alike are required to be registered with some local authority. Have your guide provide valid, up-to-date proof they comply with local regulations. This is a small hurdle that shows your guide is a professional and not simply someone making extra cash on the side.
In addition to credibility, this information is valuable in the unlikely event you run into any problems on the trek. Knowing your guide is on the radar of local authorities and has insurance will give you peace of mind.
Tip: Ask what guide licenses and insurance they hold and to see copies of the documents
#2 – How experienced is this guide?
Many guides start out as porters, learn the trail, improve their language & client-facing skills, and then begin leading their own treks. Knowing how many times they’ve guided a trek helps in two regards – confidence and connections.
You want a guide confident with the trail, direction, distances, and most importantly safety. An inexperienced guide may be unable to spot AMS in their clients, spot weather changes, or estimate distances. There are few things worse than a guide that hesitates or is unsure of the correct response to a given situation. An experienced guide brings this confidence to the trek and can be the leader you need.
Connections are valuable because they’ll make for a smoother trek. Guides who know which restaurant / teahouse /guesthouse / camp they’ll use make evenings easier and likely will lead to higher quality. If the trek runs into trouble or logistical challenges, the depth of their connections will be the speed and ease in which they are resolved.
Tip: Ask potential guides how many treks they lead per season and how many are this particular trek. A guide leading more than twelve trips a season with more than four in your particular route should be appropriately experienced.
#3 – Can we communicate?
It seems obvious, but too often people trek with guides and lack the language skills to communicate with each other. Sometimes the agency or guide oversell their ability to speak a language or maybe you’ve been tempted by a low price. Be warned, this puts a serious cap on your ability to maximize value from your experience. Guides share knowledge of the land, people, and culture you’ll experience during your trek – don’t miss out on this!
Many professional guides go to great lengths to learn languages. Hari, my EBC guide in Nepal, not only spoke very high level English but also intermediate German, Spanish, and even a bit of Japanese! Unfortunately, the language skills typically fall on the guide but they certainly don’t have to. Learn some words and phrases in their language and force yourself to use them on the trek. You’ll improve your communication & win the respect of your guide.
Tip: Ask potential guides what their favorite part of the itinerary is and why. You’ll get a sense for how descriptive and articulate they are in your language.
#4 – What do they do in the off-season?
This question opens the conversation about their life outside of being a guide. This is helpful because it gives you a better sense of who
Also, this provides insight into whether or not your guide can hold a conversation, particularly about something they know a lot about – themselves. If you’re able to have a productive back-and-forth about their life, it’s likely you’ll have no problem chatting on the trail.
Tip: If the conversation goes on for more than a few minutes and you learn something about them, this is a good sign.
#5 – How many people on the trek?
Treks are fun with other people – really fun, it’s why we created TrekkingPartners! – though it’s important to know how many other people will be joining your adventure. If you’ve made a trek booking through TrekkingPartners, you can see how many people have committed to the trek and how many spots are being offered.
The impact is three-fold. First, the more people on the trek, the less expensive it should be. The cost of a guide is shared between the trekkers so adding additional trekkers should make the per/trekker price lower.
Secondly, the number of trekkers affects the attention you get from the guide. A more intimate and personalized trip can be well worth paying extra for.
Finally, the more trekkers added to the group, the more diverse the skill-set, speed and temperament for the entire group to handle. Trekking is tough work and a smaller group is more easily cohesive!
Tip: We find the ideal number of trekkers is 3-6 per group. f you get an answer of more than 6 people, it’s probably not a trek you want to join.
Did we miss anything? Feel free to add your comments below. Good luck with your trek!