When planning a trip to a whole new country or even continent, there is quite a number of things and emotions you find yourself battling through. Choosing a tour agency to go with is probably up there at the top of the list, this is a person/people you would have to spend a good number of days together, someone you will have to trust with your life and the people you care about. There are a lot of guides out there but selecting a ‘good’ one requires a lot more than who best fits your current budget. Here are a few tips to help you make the better choice;
A little research never hurt anybody. After all you want to go in with all the information, right? Be sure to check out all the agencies in that area, leaving enough time to read every review and the ratings out there. Get a full picture of what the previous clients really thought of the agencies you are interested in. In Uganda agandi.ug is one place to access listings and reviews of tour agencies that are commonly used. You can even take it further and ask around your network of friends who have travelled before in the same area to get first-hand information and commendations. I would highly advise against selecting an agency with zero evidence of the work done before. I recommend a ‘deep-dive’ search of all social media platforms and the internet of what they have done, how active they are and what people say about them. All this will help you in making the right decision
Travelling miles away from home can be scary, you need to know that you are putting your life in the most capable hands. Experience is evidenced by his/her ability to handle unexpected hurdles without breaking a sweat. Knowing exactly which tracks that are safe, shortest routes to get you to your destination faster and even the way he/she communicates with everyone else in the different stages of your travel. You probably won’t notice this until you are on trip, that is why recommended option 1 first. Furthermore, the correspondence you have with each other prior to your travel should give you an appreciation of how informed this person is about the travel, regulations, the tourism industry, the state of affairs in the country and the best spots that will enrich and meet your expectations.
This is visibly elaborated within your back to back conversations and email communications, someone who is more interested in meeting your needs than in how much they’ll benefit from your visit. This is someone not quick to drop the ‘issue of payment’ but instead on how to make your stay memorable. Someone who is professional and willing to provide all the necessary information for you to make an informed decision. The guide that creates a sort of relationship even before you fully decide to make that trip, makes you actually look forward to visiting and spending time together.
The Tourist Agents (Licensing) Act 1968, The Government of Uganda Tourist Agents (Licensing) Act 1972 and the Hotel Act 1964 are some of the ‘bibles’ that set regulations to be adhered to by the tour operators in the country. The Tourism Licensing Committee after comprehensive analysis offers tour agencies an operating License to allow them to perform legally and recognized in the country. If you have advanced in this stage and hope to proceed with the process, be sure to request the agency/operator to send you a scanned copy of their Tour Operators License before you make any financial payments. This helps you avoid any chances of being scammed in case you missed anything in your research.
First Impressions and feedback
Your initial Communications will most possibly be digital as you hunt around to see what best fits your needs and budget. How the person responds from the beginning speaks a lot about them. Sharp, unfriendly, shallow, almost scripted like responses might put you off from the start. Response time is also very important, it shows their interest in serving and how they manage people. To make a decision you require real-time responses, be sure to look out for one that responds almost immediately or latest a day because this is a clear indication of business management and how interested they are in having you on board.
This is probably not common, but a locally raised guide might have more acumen on what is on is and has been on-going since many years ago. Uganda is a country with diverse ethnicity, you might need someone who has lived through all the changes the country and local people have experienced not to mention the better understanding of the different cultures and beliefs, easier communication which will definitely come in handy in many situations to build relationships and acquire assistance faster. A local has a deeper understanding of the significance of the places you go to, traditionally some places hold deeper meanings and are symbolic.
Tour packages and pricing
Like I mentioned earlier, you want to pick an individual who is more interested in you visiting than milking you dry. Try to compare with the rates of the other tour companies for similar packages. No shame in that! customize your trip to your own needs and activities that you like, work on this together with your operator to ensure that your trip is something you will talk about in years to come. Discuss in detail with your tour guide to ensure common ground keeping in mind to stay within reasonable price ranges.
In addition to customization, this has to be in respect to the demography and number of people on a trip together. Some areas like Bwindi National Park, the minimum age of any tracker is 15 years, and might not be favorable for those below. Some tour agencies specialize in larger groups of people and some are more tailored to intimate sizes. You want to pick out an agency that best suites the number of people you are travelling with and the packages that benefit all.