They don’t speak english, they’re not safe, they’ll rip you off and leave you hanging in a remote place with no way to exit. They are different and are only for people who are cheap and want a bargain price with none of the comfort.
Those thoughts went through my head. I am one of those people on a shoestring budget who believes it should not limit my accessibility to adventure. Ergo, I booked a local guide. To climb a big mountain. Twice.
If you have an off-the-beaten-track-in-a-far-off-destination adventure conjured in your imagination, then read on to find out why I think you too can book local and why it could bring benefits you’d never considered.
The established networks of a local company have many advantages. Firstly, when booking climbing holidays, safety and rescue procedures are paramount for keeping you alive in an emergency. A local companies’ ability to activate quick rescue operations is, in my experience, outstanding. They know the nuances of navigating the connecting systems: helicopters, flight paths, airtime restrictions, international hospitals. They speak the language and can commence your rescue at the touch of a sat phone. For me this is a big selling point. These network benefits extend to smaller things on the ground during your trek; like getting hold of odd-shaped round batteries two hours before your bus leaves from Kathmandu, or going to a weird and wonderfully delicious hole-in-the-wall restaurant and getting local prices.
Often having lofty adventures comes with a lofty price tag. It needn’t be so. Going beyond the .co.uk adventure websites and venturing further a field can cut your trip price significantly. My goal is to climb Mount Everest, and one of my biggest challenges in achieving this is financial. Finding my Nepal operator has now made this dream feasible, as it’s one third of the cost compared to an international operator. Let me repeat that for gravitas. One Third Of The Cost.
Golden Customer Referrals
Do you know that feeling when a friend recommends a hairdresser, a doctor, an accountant, or any professional that requires client provider trust? That feeling when you receive the service, and it was good or even better than your mate said? This is the gold I am talking about.
You are most likely to find local tour operators through recommendations. The company I used on my most recent trek to Nepal was found through a friend at work, whose husband is Nepali. They had worked with my operator before. I was nervous at first, because sometimes people have different levels of risk/service acceptability, but after my trip I want to sing it from the internet ceilings how good this company is! Customer referrals are gold, and if you get onto your company via this avenue, you can expect a much better chance of having a great time.
You are (quickly!) immersed into the culture of the place you’re visiting. You meet your liaison officer at the airport, your operator and then guide who are all locals, from that city or surrounding area. They know about the history of the place, the politics, how things have changed over time. They can explain reasonings of cultural customs, whilst teaching you some greetings in the language. You might be lucky enough to meet their family, share some meals or have a card game together. This rich cultural experience can be locked away if you book with an international operator.
When you’re walking around with a local guide don’t be surprised if you’re stopped at every teahouse or road juncture to be greeted by another local with a smile, a handshake, a joke and a little juicy goss. Standing next to your guide, these smiles, warm sparkly eyes and handshakes are often extended to you. These acts make you feel so very welcomed in a strange country, like you are a friend of a friend, which actually you are. It creates a feeling of openness within the country you are visiting, knowing that you too, can stop someone for directions or a yarn even if it comes in the form of just a bunch of smiling hand signals.
Support the local economy direct
Local people with entrepreneurial ethos who build companies with international clientele are amazing. These people are savvy business women and men, who have often grown beyond the constraints of their village, town or city to create a self supporting business which understands local and international demands and navigates between those worlds. Respect! These business people support their own economy, often having very high respect and valuing the people they employ in the knowledge that they too once worked their way up the ladder. The owner of the Nepali company I employed has donated vasts sums to their local village, raising funds to build a school supporting education and the next generation of wild-idea-filled gregarious entrepreneurs.
Uplevel life skills
Travelling is not always about the the place you are visiting. Personal development from travel is one of the most valuable things you can take away from any trip. If you want to have your Yorkshire Gold with skim each morning without a hitch, perhaps you wouldn’t book a trip to a far flung place. For me, the best part about travel is that it stretches me out of my comfort zones, makes me practice patience, acceptance and tolerance. It enables you to be okay with things being not exactly the way you want. Booking local makes you get into the swing of how things are done in that country, even if it’s organised in a very different fashion to what you are used to. Trust me, when you get back to that cuppa, it will be all the sweeter for it.
Develop trust in the world
Similar to upleveling your life skills, there are a lot of countries out there with people doing the same things you’re doing, just differently. By going with a local guide on your adventure, you get to see exactly what those differences are, and that they’re not necessarily good or bad, just different. I recently went to the Himalayas to climb a 6500 metre mountain. A few days before summit the guides ran us through a rappel and jumar lesson. I have done a little of this before and got to see new methods and systems that Nepali guides use. Let me tell you, there is nothing like building trust in a new and different system when your life depends on you and your rope, and exactly how you are attached to it. In a broader sense, that trust has extended to a more positive outlook on the world for me.
Are you sold? Good. Here’s some tips from me on how you can find someone reliable as a local guide for your next trip: https://www.womenclimb.co.uk/top-3-tips-finding-a-local-guide/