Whether or not one should get a guide is a very contentious topic since it impacts a lot of players in the tourism business. The tour rates for Sagada are quite standard since the guide organizations in operation go by the same prices. The chances of being ripped off is almost nil especially if you’re directly dealing with the tourism offices. However, solo travelers would tend to be turned off by the prices at the desk because they prices were crafted with big groups in mind. This makes smaller groups to reconsider getting a guide.
We at Visit Sagada strongly recommend that you get a guide from either the Sagada Environmental Guide Association (SEGA) or the Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SAGGAS) for your tours. Here’s why.
1. The first reason would be safety. Yes, the trails to Echo Valley may look clear but anything can still happen especially if you do try to get closer to the hanging coffins. It can be quite a shock for people who don’t really hike at all. There have been reports of people getting lost in the trail and since most of these areas are dead spots for mobile signal, it might be very hard for authorities to come to your assistance should you need any help. For sites like the caves, it’s beyond foolish to even attempt it without a guide.
2. The guides still know more about these sites than you. Aside from safety issues, the guides can offer a unique local perspective on the cultural and geographical nuances of particular sites. After all, we go to places not just to see things but to also learn new information about the origins and history of a particular area. Guides can be quite engaging when it comes to this aspect.
3. Support local tourism. As we’ve said, the cost of the tours are very reasonable. Sagada is a town that’s very dependent on local tourism and chances are, you won’t be going back to Sagada a lot due to the distance and effort required to go there.
So there, guys. Please, get a guide!