Seven Things Guide Books Don't Tell You - pt. Four
The best tours don’t always come from a tour agency
Tour agencies have their benefits, if you have more money than time they are the way to go. You sit at the desk in an air-conditioned office, explain to the agent the sights you would like to see and when you would like to see them and they take your money and send a car to pick you up at the appointed time.
However, if you have more time than money, there are many other options available.
Get connected with Couchsurfing! Apart from helping the backpacker find lodging, they also sponsor many events and parties. These can be excellent opportunities to connect with locals and see things from their perspective. Some of their events are purely social; meetings at coffee shops, private parties etc. Some events are adventurous; hiking trips; scuba diving etc. In keeping with the Couchsurfing philosophy most get-togethers are free, unless of course there is an expectation to buy something (a drink or meal for example), or if the gathering is inside a park or structure with an entry fee. If you are going with a group, it is expected that everyone will pay individually, if however, you invite someone specifically to go with you, always do it with the intention of paying for the guest as well.
If you are participating in a homestay at the time, ask your host about tourist attractions. They may not be experts but they may know of some spectacular places that are missed by the tour buses. And, in areas that rely heavily on tourist dollars, they will most likely have a friend or relative who is studying to become a tour guide, so it can be a win/win situation, you get a trained guide and the student will get experience and a few extra dollars.
Don’t be afraid of technology in getting tourist information. YouTube can be a valuable tool in learning about history and culture. A quick search of your area online can produce a plethora of information.
Take a free walking tour. You might think you wouldn’t get a great tour if you’re getting it for free, when in fact the opposite is true. The free walking tour guides work on a tip-only basis, so if you don’t enjoy the tour they don’t get paid. They have incentive to give you the most informative tours while at the same time showing you a really great time.