Q – Really fascinating site – but I fear we are not your type! My girlfriend and I have wonderful jobs in the private equity field and we are devoted to taking two weeks out of every year to travel. We prefer one destination in depth and then we like to set up a program ourselves involving tours geared toward our interests in art, hiking, and cuisine. We are in our thirties and, I suppose, more adventurous than many of your site followers. We would never go on a cruise ship or a fully escorted tour. We tried that kind of travel with our parents and we will wait another thirty years or so to try it again. As two women traveling together, we have to be aware of our surroundings and we tend to use upper four or five-star hotels.

Here is our question: We have successfully used a company called Tours By Locals. We have thoroughly enjoyed all seven of our experiences with this organization yet we don’t see it mentioned anywhere on Traveltruth. Could it be that they do not pay travel agents a commission and that is the reason no one ever mentions it?  One of the reasons we do not use a travel agent. You seem honest – were we just lucky seven times? We did our research on each guide and their ratings so that may have helped. Really interested in your take on this company.

A – Thank you for an intriguing question. When we were in our thirties we would never even consider having a travel agent plan our initial journeys to Europe. Let us respond by saying that Tours By Locals is a tour guide company – not a tour operator. They are based in Vancouver and guests can work with them directly on their website to book privately guided tours all over the world. The company has grown substantially and cruise passengers are now able to book their guides in worldwide ports at pricing that tends to be less than similar private touring arranged by a travel advisor or directly by the cruise line. We are pleased you raised the question as we think that ToursByLocals is a viable itinerary for many travelers who just prefer to do make their own travel arrangements.  Here are some observations we trust you might find helpful:

  • Several couples can book the same guide at substantial savings. Reviews of the guides appear on the web sites and some of the reviews might actually not be purchased.
  • There is an important matter of liability. You are in a foreign country – who is responsible for your health and welfare during your touring? Suppose you fall? Suppose you get back to the pier after your ship has sailed?
  • Can you properly insure services by a local guide with whom you have a private contract? 
  • ToursByLocals is not a member of the major travel agent consortiums so that kind of financial protection is not available. But you can book their tours through your travel agent. In fact, they do pay commission to travel agents. Their lowest commission is 5% and they pay 10% what an agencies business exceeds $7,500 annually. Most agencies will request that you work with the company directly.
  • We think that one of the great values of Tours By Locals is that you can, with the guide’s willingness, adjust the sightseeing plan to meet your needs. You will have access to your guide’s reviews and background online. 
  • We do think that ToursByLocals is a credible touring option for those independent travelers who prefer to make their own private tour arrangements while saving money in the process. Seven positive experiences speaks for itself.