The Art of the Online Guide Search

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These days, it is as common to book a tour guide on the internet as it is to find your flight and your hotel online. There are a variety of local and international websites that list tour guides, and I decided to give each one a test drive. There are three qualities that I looked for in each site: (1) a large list (2) personal guide descriptions, and (3) a good guide-ranking system.

Where is the longest list?

The larger the selection of guides, the better chances I have of finding the right one.,, and have largest international inventories on the internet. is a collection of classified advertisements for 570 cities in 50 countries worldwide. The guides vary from month to month, and from place to place, but if you are lucky, you will find a few competing guides in each major city. I just took a look at Craigslist Barcelona, and under the travel/vacation heading, I found two guides who posted in the last two days. Even though might not have the largest population of guides in its inventory, every guide that it lists is still actively working, because out-of-date postings are deleted. Other guide-search sites can be graveyards for guide profiles filed years ago. Even though and might have outdated information, their guide lists run the longest. I just looked at guides in Barcelona: offered six, and offered 24.

Where can you get a feeling for what a guide is really like?

I found the most thorough guide profiles on and On these sites, I read about the guides' ages, personal histories, tours, prices, personalities, wilingness to travel, and fluency in languages. I also got a good feeling for whether or not I would like them to show me around a new town. They have the most telling section in a guide's profile: where a guide writes freely about themselves. Like social networking sites, or online dating hubs, it is often an anecdote that gives you an insight into their personality. These details also give me a clear indication of the guide's language skills: an important quality for someone who I pay to talk to me. I was also impressed that and were full of pictures, not only of the tour locations, but also the guides themselves, which makes them easy to recognize at the meeting place.

Where can you get the inside scoop?

While many sites have bunches of thoroughly-described guides to choose from, and have a section that describes the guide's reputation through an evaluation by other travellers. Although it is rare to see a negative posting about a guide on either site, both websites claim they are dedicated to posting all responses, regardless of whether they are praise or criticism. Because each guide's profile is a kind of advertisement, praise is much more believeable if it comes from the mouth of the tourist. The integrity of the guides on these sites is regulated by a community of reviewers. In other words, there are fewer scams because guides have an internet reputation to uphold. Word of mouth is an effective system for filtering out the good from the bad, and also a way to distinguiseh prostitutes who are masquerading as guides.

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