Here are some key lessons learned by visitors whom I have met and engaged with, especially during my private driving tours to the countryside. They are well travelled and have booked tours in various countries, not just here in England.
Don’t make the same mistakes:
1 – Not previously understanding the difference between a private tour and a private group tour. – You don’t want to join a tour with strangers if you thought it was going to be 100% private, especially during these germ-filled times. Check with the tour operator / guide.
2 – Booking a driver or chauffeur instead of a driver-guide or chauffeur-guide. – There can be a huge disparity! Check what your guide will be doing for you during your tour. For example, do they guide you at the various venues and locations too? If they are claiming they are a guide, they should in most cases. Waiting in car parks for you isn’t what tour guides do.
3 – Not ensuring their tour guide, (walking and driving tours), is local and, therefore, knowledgeable. – Gosh, the stories I have heard from guests about guides pretending they know where they are going whilst everyone’s lost. Oops! That’s usually because they are not local to the tour destination(s) and are, likely, winging it.
4 – Thinking a guide who hasn’t got a badge / accreditation isn’t licenced or knowledgeable. – Here’s a fact: No-one needs a tour guiding licence in England, (including London), so don’t be misled about fancy names of associations and titles. (The Brits are very good at that!) Ensure, whichever operator / guide you choose, the operator shares the name of your guide and their profile before you book. My guests – and, indeed, when my family and I are on our trips abroad – have found that local guides who have a great reputation don’t do ‘cookie-cutter’ presentations / textbook drivel.
5. Their guide was probably not insured! Your guide(s) should be fully insured to carry out walking and / or driving tours. If their website(s) don’t mention insurance, ask. They should at least have public liability insurance for any type of tour. An insured guide is a safer guide. It shows they got you covered! (It is a criminal offence in England to carry out driving tours without the right insurance.) If you are booking your tour through an Online Travel Agency (OTA), the main ones usually check that driver guides are insured. Some are more tenacious than others. Again, if in doubt, ask.
6 – Not taking the time to check the tour operator’s / tour guide’s reviews. – Are some blatantly, even subtly, fake? If so, avoid like the plague! (What with the pandemic, we should all be doing that anyway!) Be assured that the occasional lesser-than-5-star review is ok. No-one is perfect. Sorry to break this news: That includes you and me! 🙂 Guides and guests learn. Everyone learns.
7 – Didn’t get a warm feeling when the tour operator, or guide, communicated during the enquiry / booking process. – This is a good indicator that your tour will be, er,… a cold one! You want a passionate and knowledgeable tour guide who cares and not one who treats their role as just another job. Consider how they respond to your messages, including their salutation, when deciding if they are right for you.
Here’s another few:
Assuming we don’t wear baseball caps in England and leaving them at home. – We do! I’m sure even King Henry VIII would have worn one but certainly not for jousting. “ ‘Elf and safety, me dears!”
Bonus: Humor is humour over here! No debating now! 😉
Disclaimer: (This part is necessary!) The above is shared in good faith and deliberately written with England in mind. If you’re visiting other parts of the UK, regulations and laws may be different. No matter where you’re visiting it is your / your travel agent’s responsibility to check and we cannot be liable for any inaccuracies. It is also advisable to check local regulations with the relevant tourist board(s).