Travel guides provide services to individuals or groups of travelers who want the assistance of someone with local knowledge who can coordinate activities, make arrangements, and provide information about a community. They are often native residents of the local community, although they may be transplants who have acquired substantial local knowledge. Some are members of professional organizations, and travelers may want to seek out guides with professional certifications to get the best service. It is often possible to make arrangements for a travel guide ahead of time as part of an all-inclusive trip package, so people have travel expenses, hotels, food, and guide services covered as part of the price for a trip.
The travel guide will meet with clients to determine what kinds of things they want to do on the trip and make plans accordingly. Some offer basic packages with popular services and can customize these packages by request. Travel guides may also have specific areas of expertise, like local art and architecture, travel for people with disabilities, or knowledge of natural sites of interest. People seeking travel guides can get information about available services and the types of options they offer.
Usually, travel guides are multilingual. They need to be able to communicate with the local community, as well as travelers from all over the world. Having connections is also critical; an experienced guide who is well known and liked can open doors not normally open to tourists, and will find it easier to organize everything from blocks of hotel rooms to boating trips. Many guides may also have relationships with people in neighboring communities or countries, so they can pass their clients off to equally experienced and qualified people when they are ready to travel to a new destination, if they are planning to visit multiple places.
The level of responsibility for a travel guide can vary. In some cases, they make all in-country plans, securing hotels, transportation, dining services, and anything else people may want, like tickets to events, bus tours, and so forth. Other travel guides may work with a travel agent to make basic travel plans, and focus on meeting with their clients each day to take them around on organized activities, or coordinating short trips to neighboring sites of interest.
This work requires good people skills and an interest in interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds. A good travel guide can adjust plans as needed if it becomes clear that people are not enjoying themselves or need accommodations not discussed during initial meetings. Travel guides must also be able to tactfully inform people about local cultural values and norms.