Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.
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Whether you’re hoping to skip the line at the Eiffel Tower, unearth the secrets of Ancient Pompeiior sample exotic delicacies on a food tour of Bangkok, there’s no better way to discover a new place than through the eyes of a local and even the most independent travelers can benefit from hiring a private guide.
Thankfully, Viator has all bases covered, with the largest online network of qualified local guides covering destinations all around the globe, and what better way to honor our expert team, than awarding the best of the best? From the most popular guide to the best newcomer, here’s our Top 10 Private Guides of 2014.
Most Popular Guide: ‘Mandy’ Sudapon Kateklinhorm, Bangkok
Friendly, knowledgeable and unanimously popular with travelers to Bangkok, the award for the most booked tour guide of 2014 goes to ‘Mandy’ Sudapon Kateklinhorm. Fluent in both English and Thai, and an experienced traveler herself, Mandy knows that visitors don’t just want to see the sights – they want to learn about local culture and traditions, sample delicious Thai cuisine and get the insider scoop on the best shops and markets too. Of course, our guides don’t only speak English and to prove it, there’s another Bangkok guide occupying the runner-up position – Chaiyapatt Putsathit, whose German language tours have proved a big hit with our European customers.
Top Selling Guide: Francesca Maria Casertano, Rome
It was a close battle between two of Rome’s most passionate and personable guides to secure the title of 2014’s Top Selling Guide, and it was only this week that new champion Francesca Maria Casertano edged ahead of last year’s winner, Mario Bernardi. Both enthusiastic, fully licensed Tour Guides, you can’t go wrong by booking either of them and with the results so close, who knows who will be the champion come January 1st! Perhaps it was Francesca’s expert insider knowledge and family-friendly tours that won her the title – along side her job as a private tour guide, she’s also an archaeologist and a mother of two.
Most reviewed – Vivie Pan, Beijing
Our most reviewed tour guide for the 3rd year running, Beijing guide Vivie Pan is so good that everyone is writing about her! You don’t have to take our word for it either – just scan through the comments where she’s been described as ‘a fantastic guide’ with ‘excellent English’, who is ‘kind, honest and funny’ and ‘very knowledgeable about Beijing’, among many, many other compliments.
Best Newcomer of 2014 – Min Oh, Seoul
Korean guide Min Oh might be new to Viator, but she’s made such a good impression that we’ve named her our best newcomer of 2014! Whether you want to learn about Seoul’s unique history and heritage, view the poignant monuments of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, seek out the city’s best street food or shop for bargains at the many malls and markets, Min’s local insight and unbeatable enthusiasm will help you discover the magic of South Korea’s vibrant capital.
Best Guide for Families – Isabelle Southgate, Paris
Anyone who’s ever planned a family holiday will know how difficult it is to keep everyone happy, whether it’s entertaining hard-to-please teenagers, enjoying alone time with younger kids in tow or finding a tour that suits everyone’s tastes and interests. That’s where our family-friendly guides come in and the best of them all is Isabelle Southgate, whose imaginative, tailor-made tours of Paris have earned her a legion of happy customers – the reviews speak for themselves! Not only is Isabelle a fully licensed guide and fluent in both French and English, but she’s also a graphic designer specializing in books and games for children, so she knows exactly how to capture the attention of the younger members of the family, planning special games and activities to keep everyone interested.
Best Guide to Watch – Nesrin Ulupinar, Istanbul
Istanbul’s dazzling architecture, lively bazaars and unique East-meets-West culture has long captivated adventurous travelers and it seems like Turkey’s biggest city is finally getting the attention it deserves. Istanbul tour bookings have shot up an impressive 120% from last year and the city’s top guide Nesrin Ulupinar has proved equally popular, earning rave reviews for her tailor-made walking tours taking in landmarks like Hagia Sophia, Topkap? Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Spice Market.
Most Popular Sightseeing Tour of 2014 – The Ancient Pompeii, (by Fabrizio Belleni)
One of Italy’s most famous UNESCO sites and best preserved Roman cities, exploring ancient Pompeii makes a top choice for a day trip from Naples and it’s our most popular sightseeing tour of 2014. Fabrizio Belleni’s expert knowledge and personalized tour itineraries ensure that you experience the magnificence of Pompeii, taking in highlights like the Forum, the Thermal Bath and the Whore House, learning about the excavation and preservation of the archeological site and walking around the impressive 2000-year-old amphitheater.
Best Day Trip – Toledo, magical town, World Heritage (by Paloma T)
Its UNESCO-listed historic center, grand Gothic cathedral and striking architecture all add up to make Toledo our best day trip, reached by high-speed train from Madrid. Of course, it wouldn’t be so special without the knowledge and enthusiasm of a great guide, and nobody is more perfect for the job than Barcelona–born Paloma T, whose thirst for new experiences means she is constantly striving to make her tours the best they can be. Not only that but she’s fluent in French, Spanish and English, and offers a range of other tours from wine tasting in Madrid to visiting the historic town of Avila.
Best Shore Excursion – Kuala Lumpur Shore Excursion ex Port Klang (by Zach Hatta)
With so many different destinations on the itinerary and such little time to explore each one, it’s no surprise that Viator’s shore excursions are a hit with cruise travelers and 2014’s most popular shore excursion is Zach Hatta’s Kuala Lumpur Shore Excursion. Hop off your ship in Port Klang and you’ll be whisked off on a private 5-7 hour tour of all the city’s top attractions, including the Petronas Towers, the National Mosque, KL Botanical Garden, Chinatown and the Batu Cave Hindu Temple. Along with Zach’s expert guide services, you’ll also be guaranteed on-time return to your ship, so you can leave the organizing to us and enjoy the sights.
Best Reason Not to Have a Direct Flight – Schiphol Lay Over Tour (by Yvonne)
As Europe’s 4th busiest airport, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport receives a huge number of international flights and with connections to cities all over Europe, it’s a top choice for a layover. Best of all, private guide Yvonne is on hand to help you squeeze in a mini-vacation within a vacation, adding a day tour of one of Europe’s most iconic capital cities. Yvonne’s expert knowledge of Amsterdam will enable you to cram top attractions like the Anne Frank House, the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis), Dam Square and the famous canal ways into a 3- or 5-hour sightseeing tour, including round-trip airport transfers.
Best Guide for Making Your Friends Jealous – Menaka Arangala, Colombo Sri Lanka
With its endless white beaches, lush rainforests and spectacular UNESCO World Heritage sites, Sri Lanka makes a dream holiday destination, but to really make your friends back home jealous, a postcard just won’t cut it. No problem – book a private tour with guide Menaka Arangala and you’ll be chauffeured around in a comfortable, air conditioned vehicle with free Wi-Fi, so you’ll be able to tweet about how awesome your vacation and guide are, and instagram selfies walking beneath the dramatic Raamboda falls, riding an elephant or strolling through the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya.
Most Popular Guide: Wallop Joke, Bangkok
Top Selling Guide: Mario Bernardi, Rome
Top Rated Guide: Vivie Pan, Beijing
Top Newcomer: Hiroe Nakayama, Osaka
Top Shore Excursions Guide: Zach Hatta (Kuala Lumpur Shore Excursions), Kuala Lumpur
Top Viator Contributor: Maricar Donato, Washington DC
Most Attentive Guide: Natt Opasanon, Bangkok
Top Outdoor Adventures Guide: Cristian Umaquinga, Quito
Most Popular Multi-day Guide: Ali Akram, Jaipur, Agra, and New Delhi
Most Creative Private Tour: “Discovering Gangnam Style” designed by Rob and Kang, Seoul
– Viator Travel Team