Peer to Peer Tour Guides


Tours and guided activities can be a fun way to explore while traveling. These services are traditionally offered by commercial tour companies, but in recent years there have been a number of attempts to create a peer to peer travel experience marketplace. Most of the startups in this space have either changed business models and moved into something more commercial, or have failed entirely. But the few companies in this business offer some great opportunities for travelers looking to get a bit off the beaten path.

Of the companies in this business today, Vayable is the largest and most sophisticated. They offer a platform for people to buy and sell travel experiences, activities, and extended trips. Guidehop is very similar to Vayable, but still in Beta and does not have a lot of listings yet. In a variation on this theme, Sidetour offers events led by “experts.” Other than these three, I see a lot of companies offering curated tours and activities, but no other marketplaces for peer to peer activities and events. Let me know if you know of others.

Of these three companies, I’m going to focus on Vayable as the most useful option for travelers right now. Sidetour  only operates in selected U.S. cities, though they plan to expand. In 2013 Groupon purchased Sidetour so we might see some changes to their business model. Guidehop is also only in the U.S. right now.

Vayable allows individuals to earn money as tour guides in their home town, while travelers can search for experiences in their destination city. The offerings are as diverse as the activities you can find in any destination. Anyone can sign up to guide and in addition individuals can offer “Insider” services, acting as your travel agent by helping you find and book activities in their town. Vayable vets people offering services, requiring a video and some written information in the application. I’m not sure what more they do beyond reviewing this information. But the site also has user reviews of activities to help you select a good one.

I really like the concept that I might spend a day out exploring with a local, or going on someone’s favorite hike, or eating at a few restaurants I never would have found without a local guide. Most of the offerings on Vayable appear to be from individuals, although the platform certainly could be used to advertise for more commercial tourist offerings like city tour busses. This suggests the vetting process is working to limit listings to the peer to peer arena.

Events cover a wide range of prices and experiences. My search of options in Barcelona turned up a $10 two hour roller skating tour, a $240 tour of the city in a convertible, and a $1,995 food and wine week, in addition to culinary classes, night life, photography, art, yoga, and a nudist beach visit, with most prices under $100.

If you are like me and find the hop on hop off bus tours in most cities to be dull and overly commercial, Vayable offers a multitude of alternative ways to experience your travel destinations.

Read more:

Check out my spreadsheet of peer to peer travel experiences (select the category “Travel Experiences”).

Read my interview with another peer to peer travel experience company, Trip4Real

Other posts on peer to peer activities and gear rental


  • there is a similar app/website, local tour with korean tourmates in South Korea
    TourmateKorea (Make Your Tour Mate)

    it said this is Korean local Tourmate matching platform privately for travelers to South Korea

  • I am a licensed tour guide in Washington, DC, and NYC. 90% of the work here is either with large tour groups or with companies that have set piece tours of the cities. Any good tour guide can organize private tours geared to special interests. However, if you want that, you have to pay for it. That is why most people choose the set piece tours.

    What I refer to as “set piece tours” fall into 2 categories.

    In the first category you take a regimented tour where the guide gets off the bus with you and explains things. This means the tour goes very rapidly and you do not have a lot of time at each site.

    In the second category are the hop on/hop off bus tours. The bus goes along a prescribed route. There are stops at specific locations and you get off the bus when you want to spend more time at a location. The guide remains on the bus, so you are on your own when you get off the bus. The main complaint here is always the wait for the next bus when you want to leave the site.

    Private tours can be an economic option if you have a small group. The break even point can be as few as 4 people. If you call me, I give you the price for me and the car and driver. The tour goes much more rapidly because we do not have to wait for a bunch of people to get off a bus. You see a lot more and, of course, you can stay as long as you like wherever you want. I do whatever the people want. Sometimes they just tell me to take them to the usual places (e.g., in Washington, DC, as many of the monuments as we can fit in during the time booked). Other times they ask for specific things. Whatever they want, on a private tour, I do it.

    One thing: If your guide gives you a good tour, remember to tip him. Many foreigners are not in the habit of giving tips. It is, however, the American custom. The suggested amount is $5 per person for a 4 hour tour or more if the guide is with you longer. Of course, if the guide stinks, do not tip him. 🙂 If I am on a tour abroad, I always tip the guide and make a big production doing it so others in the group will see that I am doing it and perhaps do the same.