Tours By Locals – Crédit Frédéric D.-04

Review ToursByLocals: private tours in Vietnam and Cambodia

To the point ToursByLocals is a tourism service that connects tourists with local guides around the world, enabling you to create personalized, private experiences at destination. Here's my experience with this service during my trip to Southeast Asia.

Discover the world with ToursByLocals: a personalized travel experience

As a travel enthusiast and seasoned points hunter, finding flights and hotels around the world is child’s play. However, overland adventure can be a challenge, especially when local habits and customs are foreign to us and local driving is, shall we say, “confusing.”

If you’re looking for a more personalized, tailor-made experience than the standard TripAdvisor or Viator offerings, ToursByLocals could well be the missing link in your travel planning, as I discovered during my recent adventure in Asia.

So I organized my tailor-made trip by booking my own flights and hotels with my points, and booked the private services of a guide and driver with ToursByLocals.

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How ToursByLocals works

Find the perfect local guide with ToursByLocals

ToursByLocals connects visitors with local guides around the world. They have an impressive network of almost 5,000 guides in 185 countries.

The first step is simply to select your destination and then choose your guide.

Unlike other activity providers who suggest you choose a predefined tour, here you only have to select a guide based on their skills, languages spoken, and experience, ensuring a truly personalized experience.

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Create your own personalized itinerary

Once you’ve identified your guide, the next step is to talk to them about your needs and the places you’d like to visit. As this is not a pre-formatted tour, the guide, with his local knowledge, can suggest alternatives or additions depending on the season and the length of your stay.

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For example, in Cambodia, we needed a guide for three days to pick us up at Phnom Penh airport, guide us through the hinterland to Siem Reap, show us the Angkor temples, and finally drop us off at Siem Reap airport for our next flight.

In Vietnam, despite our concerns about the rainy season and visiting the mountainous region of Sapa, our guide, Sammy, persuaded us to include it in our itinerary. And indeed, the ripe rice paddies put on a breathtaking show, and we weren’t disappointed!

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Tips and tricks for a tailor-made trip

On another trip to Sri Lanka during the COVID year, we had planned to climb Lion’s Rock. Our guide wisely advised us against this activity due to the slippery steps at this time of year, suggesting a nearby mountain to photograph the Lion Rock at sunrise instead.

Don’t hesitate to ask your guide for advice to make your trip an exceptional experience tailored to your needs. Once you’ve agreed on the itinerary and price, the guide will tailor-make a private itinerary for you.

Note: Once you have your itinerary, you can book your hotels using your loyalty points and share your choices with your guide. He may also suggest options, for example if you’re looking for a hotel room with a washing machine.

Our personal experience with ToursByLocals

In all, we booked four tours with ToursByLocals (Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Burma), but unfortunately, our two 2020 tours (Sri Lanka and Burma) were cancelled due to the pandemic.

In 2023, we used the services of ToursByLocals in Cambodia and Vietnam. Sammy was our guide for six days in Vietnam, showing us around Hanoi and northern Vietnam, including a culinary experience in Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, the Sapa region, and the Ninh Binh region.

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In Cambodia, we explored for 3 days with Sophy, discovering the hinterland and the temples of Angkor.

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A personalized experience

The experience begins at the airport, where a driver awaits you with a sign bearing your name. The guide is there to answer all your questions about culture, architecture, religion, food, and even practical aspects such as the legal age for drinking alcohol or driving a scooter.

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Bottled water and refreshing towels await us in the air-conditioned car each time we return from a tour, a real luxury when it’s 35 degrees with 80% humidity.

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Visits can be adjusted to suit the weather or our mood of the day; the guide and driver are there for us, offering their recommendations. It was a unique experience that allowed us to appreciate exceptional sites far from the tourist crowds.

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A few years ago, to obtain a similar service in South Africa, we had to go through a travel agency. However, this did not allow us to book our own flights and hotels with our points.

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Bottom Line

Whether in pre-trip exchanges or during the adventure itself, ToursByLocals proved to be the missing link in personalizing the overland part of our trips. It’s an experience I’d definitely repeat.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
Frédéric likes to play with numbers and is a specialist in rewards programs. As a family man, he uses his points to travel better and save money!

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