The Pros and Cons of Hiring A Tour Guide in Siem Reap

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Chillin with Mr. Chang

Whether you’re traveling solo or not, international trips can be very stressful. There’s a lot of planning to do beforehand and just as much to figure out/pay attention to after you arrive. For some people, these challenges are part of the beauty and excitement. For others, the whole point of going on vacation is to spend time with their brain turned off. Either way, hiring a guide is worth considering. There are advantages to be enjoyed by both independent and brain-dead travelers alike, as well as a few downsides. It may not be necessary or even possible in every place you want to go. But specifically when it comes to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat, there’s a never-ending list of reputable guides you can hire and it’s a choice I highly recommend.

Pros:

  1. You’re with someone who knows the local language and is familiar with the city.
  2. You have instant access to authentic, personal information about the culture.
  3. You have your own personal photographer at your disposal.
  4. Before the trip, you can receive help/suggestions with planning your daily itinerary.
  5. Once you’re there, your guide can help you stay ahead of/avoid the crowds by timing your temple visits perfectly. They don’t rush you, or force you to “stay on schedule.” But they know the routes of the big tour buses and how to hit places at the right moment.
  6. You’re supporting the local economy and tourism industry in a positive way.

Cons:

  1. Depending on your budget, it can add quite an expense. I paid $50/day, which included a guide and motorbike for 5-7 hours each day. To rent a car instead of the bike would’ve been double the price and half the fun.
  2. You might not get along. This is unlikely, but a possibility nonetheless. I booked my guide in advance, and hired him for several days. He was very nice, professional and knowledgeable. But his speaking style was a bit aggressive and rushed. If I had waited and booked him the day-of, I could’ve nicely lied when we finished and said I wanted to see the rest of the sights on my own…and then just hired someone else. But he was counting on me to stick with him for 3 full days, and I didn’t want to back out and try to rip him off. So I kept my word.
  3. A guide can unintentionally overwhelm you with facts. All the historical  info was great at first. But closer to the end of my tour, I became less interested in who built what and which story a carving represented. I just wanted to enjoy the area and take cool pictures.

At the end of my trip, I was really glad to have had a guide with me…for 3 out of 4 days. By the last day, my temple pass had expired and he was taking me to places that didn’t involve him doing much “guiding.” As a result he became more of an overpriced driver. But like I said, it was still definitely worth it overall.



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