Hiring a Guide in New York - Pros and Cons

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Gowithguide travel specialist O.

Last updated : Apr 25, 20239 min read

Ah, New York City, the quintessential American metropolis. A visit to the ‘Big Apple’ is a must if it’s your first time touring the United States, or even if you’re an American who hasn’t had the chance to visit the north east yet. 

While the decision to visit the city is easy enough to make, and there are obviously more than enough hotels and the like, this massive urban center can be quite an intimidating place to explore as a newcomer. The twisting subway system, sprawling bus and commuter train routes, and thousands of yellow cabs all vying for your attention can be overwhelming. 

In this article we’ll be taking a deeper look at the pros and cons of hiring a private guide for your NYC adventure to hopefully help you plan an informed and most importantly, -enjoyable- trip. 

What is a private guide anyway? 

Gaining massive popularity in recent years due to the more intimate and unique experiences that they provide, a private tour guide is a local who shows you around their home area. Private guides take on many guises - some are experts in their field (art or history for example), some used to work for large tour providers but decided to go private, and some are simply passionate locals who love showing people around their town. 

While some guide platforms allow pure amateurs, all GoWithGuide members are professionals who have undergone internal evaluation and interviews before they are allowed to publicly post tours on the platform. The kind of guide you hire will depend on the type of activities you are most interested in. Whether you are interested in visiting the city highlights, enjoying Broadway shows, or simply going on a relaxed stroll through Central Park - our private guides have you covered! 

A private guide can also provide other services such as transport, accommodation, itinerary planning, shopping assistance, visits to remote areas, and much more. Instead of being another faceless customer of the day on a packed and noisy tour bus, modern travelers these days want to customize their trip and interact with actual locals to get a much more authentic experience of the country or city they are visiting. 

Pros and Cons

Right, so like everything in life there are potential upsides and downsides when it comes to private guides as well, so let’s take a look at both so you can decide what’s best for your next trip. 

Pros

  • Customization - In addition to pre-made options, most private guides also allow you to create a tour experience that appeals to you. Sights like the Statue of Liberty are no-brainers, but perhaps you’d also like to check out some street art or some live jazz
  • Local knowledge - Private guides have lived in their local area for years. They can help you explore places that do not appear in the tourist brochures. How about a Beatles walking tour or go on a theatrical adventure through Lower Manhattan? 
  • Less stress - Confused by the subway system? Don’t know the difference between the Bronx and Queens? A private guide will be able to point you in the right direction and save you the hassle of losing precious hours getting lost in the city. 
  • Time efficiency - Scared you won’t have enough time to see everything you want on your tour? With the assistance of a private guide you can make the most of your time in the city. They can even craft a personalized itinerary for you to ensure you have no regrets. 
  • Security - Safety is always a concern when traveling, and NYC does have a bit of a reputation. With the help of a local guide you can avoid crime prone areas and they can give you tips on how to avoid unsavory interactions.

Cons

  • Sense of adventure - Are you one of those people who actually like getting lost in a foreign city? Someone who likes to blaze their own way across the Big Apple? In that case going solo might be the preferred choice. 
  • Cost - Obviously hiring someone to show you around will be more expensive than exploring by yourself. Costs will vary based on what you want to do exactly, and remember that you may need to pay for your guide’s transportation or admission fees depending on where you want to go. 
  • Busy schedules - Due to the intimate nature of their tours, private guides can only take a few people out at a time. During peak seasons this means that your preferred guide may be fully booked for weeks at a time, so make your reservations well ahead of time. 
  • Compatibility - Sometimes a clash of personalities is unavoidable, especially since you’ll be spending a good amount of time with your guide. Talk with them beforehand and get to know them a bit to avoid any potential awkwardness. 
  • Time - If you’re going on a tour that only lasts a few hours, remember that chances are your guide will have other customers after you, so keeping to the agreed upon time schedule is important. For tree freedom, hire your guide for a full-day or multi-day tour. 

Security 

Disclaimer: Our guides do not conduct tours of particularly dangerous areas. 

One of the most obvious benefits of being accompanied by a private guide is the added safety that comes with having a local accompany you. While New York is currently ranked as the 5th safest large city in the country, there are still concerns related to petty crime, especially in some of the more dangerous neighborhoods (such as Brownsville, Hunts Point, and sadly, Midtown). 

Muggers and pickpockets unfortunately  like to target tourists and newcomers, so if this is something you’re concerned about, traveling with a private guide is probably a good idea. Do not carry your valuables in obvious places, and consider leaving your passport or other important documents in your hotel room safe (or similar secure location) when out for brief excursions. There are many kinds of anti-pickpocket wallets and bags available as well, so it may be a good idea to invest in one of these as well. 

While a private guide is not a personal bodyguard, they can give you safety tips and also help prevent you from getting scammed by greedy shopkeepers or tourist traps. 

Time Efficiency

The most annoying part of an international tour is usually the time required to plan everything out. From making multiple separate bookings, or getting confused by the sheer amount of potential available activities, a private guide can help you avoid all of these and more. 

If a pre-made tour doesn’t tick all of your boxes, simply give your guide an idea of what you’d like to experience and they can take care of the rest. Most guides will meet you at your desired location, either at your hotel directly or at another pre-appointed place (like a train station). 

In NYC, public transportation, taxi cabs, or rideshare services are going to be the easiest way to get around, especially in a city like New York where traffic may be heavy. Subway, train, and bus services are plentiful, but may be a bit of a challenge to figure out for newcomers. Traveling alongside a private guide gives you the peace of mind of not having to worry about navigating around the city.

Cost

The exact cost of your tour will obviously depend on how long it is and what exactly you’re looking to do, but you have a lot more freedom when it comes to private guides compared to tour groups. 

The word “private” may make one think that this is an exclusive and thus expensive service, but this is not always the case. A private day tour of New York using one of our accredited GoWithGuide guides can be organized for as little as $60 per person, depending on the number of landmarks or attractions that you would like to visit. Keep in mind that most short duration private tours do not include things like accommodation, transport, or food costs, and depending on the destination special tickets may need to be purchased. 

If you’re looking to treat yourself to a truly luxurious experience, private guides definitely have you covered as well. Check out a higher end customizable tour that includes all the best New York City landmarks.

Conclusion 

Your choice between private guide, large tour group, and solo traveling will ultimately depend on your personality and the things you want to experience during your travels. If you prefer true freedom of movement, going solo is probably your best option. If you prefer a fully inclusive tightly scheduled tour experience, going with a large company is probably your go-to. And if you prefer a mixture of freedom, unique experiences, and leaving the finer details to a professional, a private guide is going to be best for you.

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