One thing to consider while planning your trip is that-a really professional and certified better guide can make difference to how you get perspective of certain place.
Its not like something completely new that we have never heard of, but I would like to emphasis on the word better. Poor guides will not only make a place seem dull or impenetrable, he or she can actually negatively influence the way you remember a destination.
I’ve had both kinds of guides over the years. I recall the official guide who took my group through Muktinath temple during Muktinath trek, stopping at every water sprouts (there are 108 of them) and sermonising interminably about the historical and religious symbolism of each, which was interesting for the first few but soon became an agony of aching backs and set jaws by the long-awaited conclusion.
No doubt this guide gave the same lecture to every group, and was unable or unwilling to read our body language and modify her spiel accordingly.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I’m reluctantly back in same trek again, this time with a different kind of guide altogether, also certified, but one who listens to what we want and suggests an alternate plan that has us happily leaving the other tourists behind and wandering the streets, learning about daily life in Jomsom, where and what to eat, about its outstanding characters and gossip, and discovering places that don’t make the guidebooks.
I’m more likely to strike indifferent guides when they’re accompanying big groups, mostly because there’s little room for them to tailor the tour to individual tastes. It’s not always the guide’s fault – it’s not easy engaging a group of people who would rather be elsewhere (shopping perhaps.)
Even if you’re travelling with a large group, I’d suggest finding a tour of your own away from the group in free time. I’ve wandered around new places on my own, and I’ve wandered around them with a great guide, and I prefer the second option. It’s worth the extra cost, especially if you have an interest not offered for the group.
“Show me what you like to do,” is the first thing I ask the guides. They’re usually flattered, and challenged, and are much more relaxed when they know you don’t expect them to reel off the official blurb, which must be terribly boring for them, day in, day out.
The trick for me is to find a guide who is willing to throw away the itinerary and improvise. Sometimes they don’t have the imagination but when they do, it can be the most memorable two hours of the entire trip.