Guided Hiking – Book in Advance or In Person?

Last updated 16. January 2020

When you’re going for a trek in unfamiliar territory, it can be helpful to have a guide with you. They know the trails, can offer cultural education, and give you peace of mind. Many people wonder if it is better to book your guided tour in advance or wait until you are in the city to book it in person. Here we are going to try to clear up some of the confusion.

When You Should Book in Advance

Advance ticket hiking trip

There are a number of reasons why you may want to book your hike in advance.

First, if you are an inexperienced hiker, it will be beneficial for you to have a guide. Especially on longer hikes, you will be far away from emergency services and supplies. Having a guide there to take care of the basic needs will help you out a lot.

If the hike you are doing requires you to have permits or passes ahead of time, you should book in advance. Many popular hikes such as Macchu Picchu and Everest Base Camp only allow a certain number of travelers on the trail per year. If you don’t get your permits, you will not be allowed to go see the sights you’ve traveled so far to see.

If you like to have the peace of mind to know exactly what you are getting, and when you are going. Booking ahead of time reserves your spot, and generally, you will have lots of information from the agency provided for you. You can ask questions beforehand about things you will need, and what you can expect on the hike. This may help you prepare a little bit better and be more at ease in an unfamiliar country.

It is recommended that larger groups book ahead of time. Groups larger than 3-4 people are a little bit harder to fit in last minute if there are limited spaces. Booking ahead of time makes sure there is enough space in the group to take you along for the adventure.

When You Can Book in Person

Two women talking

Being able to book in person is a bit of a luxury that can save you some money and give you more flexibility. Here are some of the situations when it is reasonable to be able to book in person.

If your hike does not require permits a long time in advance, in-person booking is great. Especially for less popular hikes, there are generally a lot of permits available. This way you don’t have to worry about them being sold out and you can enjoy the sites at a discount.

If you have longer vacation time, and you don’t necessarily want to set anything in stone, you can book in person. Sometimes you get to the country you are going to, talk to other hikers, and realize that there are other hikes you would rather do besides the one you’ve had your mind set on. Having more flexibility allows you to make more last-minute bookings and possibly do something you’ll enjoy more.

If you’re on more of a budget, booking in person is beneficial. When you book in person, you are not paying inflated prices due to the agency’s marketing cost. You are able to walk around to the various vendors and find out what the going rate is. You can also ask people at your hotel or hostel which is the best and cheapest guide company to go with. This gives you a bit of insider information and you can avoid the price inflation.

If you’re okay with not having a set hiking plan, booking in person is great. Some people need to know exactly what they are doing and when. That is totally fine. But if you are more open to going with the flow, booking in person is definitely doable.

When you book in person, you generally get a chance to speak to the guide face to face. You get a really good idea of who you are dealing with, how many people are involved in the hike, and what you will need to bring. This can give you a little more information and the ability to decide who exactly you want to go with. Booking online can sometimes be confusing and it isn’t always clear what is included and what is not. In person, you can smooth all of it over.

Further Considerations

What If There Are No Vendors?

In the majority of places that have popular hikes, there will certainly be vendors you can book in person with. If there are a lot of online companies advertising trips, there will likely be double or triple the number of vendors that aren’t even advertising online. Unless you’re going to a really remote place where there are no towns or cities around, you should have no problem.

In the case that you are going way off the beaten path, check in with reviews of the specific hike you’re going on and people who have done it will certainly tell you the must do’s and don’ts.

Are The In-Person Vendors “Sketchy”?

This is a common concern, but, simply put, a lot of the vendors you see advertising online are the exact same ones you can book with in person. It’ll just be cheaper face to face because you can walk next door and ask what their competitors’ price is.


Overall, it comes down to what makes you the most comfortable. If you would be more comfortable knowing ahead of time what you’re getting yourself into, then booking in advance is a good way to go. With guided hikes, there are usually a few surprises no matter what you do.

If you pay attention to the permits you’ll need, what other reviewers are saying about the hike, and how much you want to budget for the trip, you’ll be able to figure out the best way for you. But if you’re sitting on the fence, for the majority of major hikes around the world, it is totally okay to book in person. There is no need to worry unless a lot of people who have done the hike tell you otherwise.

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