Find the Right Travel Guide
OK, so you're all set to leave for an adventure that will take you to places far from "civilized" city life. You have your gear packed, money saved, and a plane ticket in hand, but after your plane lands where do you go from there?
Arriving in a foreign city with plans to leave it behind without a contact could delay or force you to cancel your adventure. What you need is someone who can take you where you want to go, and who can show the ropes along the way. You need someone who knows the right equipment to take, and can speak the local language and yours. You need a guide.
On the other hand, you can't completely depend on a guide to show you the ropes. You need to make sure you are thoroughly prepared yourself and have researched enough travel tips to get you on the right track. It's always good to be well informed and safe then sorry!
Finding the right guide on your own can be time consuming and frusterating. To avoid unnecessary hassles take a "shortcut" by consulting with those who already have a listing of guides at their fingertips. The two main categories for finding guides are Tour Agencies and Associations.
Tour agencies are found in guidebooks, the phonebook, the internet, and in travel/adventure magazines like Escape and National Geographic's Adventure. Elicitng the service of a tour agency usually involves high fees and attending the tour with a group. An itinerary is planned, which includes meals and lodging. Most are rigid with their schedules, last for only a few days, and rarely deveat from frequently traveled tourist destinations.
However, there are alternative tour agencies and groups that step from the norm. These range from bus tours across countries, camel riding in the desert, to deep sea diving. If you're looking for a mild adventure, don't want to plan things yourself, and have money to spend, tour agencies may be the way to go.
If you plan on heading to little known areas or those completely unexplored, you will need to find a guide willing to risk the journey. You also have to be quite careful when travelling to places that are disaster prone. Natural disasters are the worst case scenorio as they are unexpected and unpredictable. Antor has excellent tips and advice to help you prepare in these situations.These guides usually aren't found through tour agencies, but through adventure and exploration organizations like:
Royal Geographical Society: http://www.rgs.org
Explorer's Club: http://www.explorers.org
National Geographic: http://www.nationalgeographic.com
Other associations can be found on the internet and in the Encyclopedia of Associations at your library. You will probably need to join these organizations for a small fee before they offer information to you, but once you do you'll find it worth your while. These associations, and others like them, hold a wealth of information collected over several years or decades. Once a member, the information of these associations becomes yours. You can call the staff, tell them about the kind of guide you are looking for, and they'll give you a list of those available. This "shortcut" can save you a lot of time from looking for a guide on your own.
During your travels you will probably encounter several people claiming to be guides that work independently. The down side is that many of these people are liars or exaggerate their abilities; the up side is that they may be willing to take you to places few dare to go.
When dealing with these guides ask for references of several satisfied clients. Also refuse to pay the entire fee upfront. Offer to pay half before the trip, and half after, to reduce the chance of your guide skipping town with your money. Better yet, offer to pay on a daily basis to keep the guide loyal to you. Be very careful with these types of characters. They are often "shady" by nature and may be waiting for the right moment to take you for everything possible. Always keep on your toes, and it is best to travel with a trusted partner for a higher level of personal security.