After traveling long term, one might think they’ve gone from “novice tourist” to “expert local” – even in countries they’ve never been to! I’ve been independently backpacking through Southeast Asia for five months, and I’ll admit I’ve become a little jaded and overconfident. Like any good traveler, I try to do my research before visiting touristy spots to learn about “can’t misses” as well as “total scams.” In 99.9% of cases, I avoid the tour guides. Sometimes in temples children will approach you, offering an innocent free tour but then asking a ridiculous price in the end. I save myself from any awkward tours or haggling by always saying “no.” I’m a do-it-myself kind of girl, a strong independent woman who avoids tour guides like the plague.
Well, this week I had to eat my words.
My friend and I took a bus down Cebu’s coast, hopping off in Samboan so we could walk to Aguinid Falls. We’d heard it was the most fun waterfall in the Philippines, an all-natural Disneyland – who can resist that?! My friend told me about frolicking in the waterfall’s different levels and taking outdoor showers, with absolutely no mention of a tour guide. Trip Advisor said nothing about a tour guide. Another backpacker warned us that there were government-related tour guides that were a scam- we should save our pesos by declining any tour guide offers.
When we paid our foreigner’s entry fee for Aguinid Falls they insisted we have two tour guides, one per person. Now this just seemed ludicrous. I opened my big, sassy mouth, “We do not want 2 guides, not 1 guide, we want 0 guides please.” The friendly Filipinas agreed, knowing we’d learn our lesson the hard way.
Aguinid Falls has five levels you must climb up. Level one was a breeze- then things got technical. The tour guides leading the other groups did seem pretty cool… after a solid fifteen minutes of independence (wandering around confused) we hiked back to the ticketing office.
“Ahhhh you want tour guides? Your technical guides are right here, they’ve been following you the whole time.” We apologized, trying to laugh it off, and hiked back to the waterfalls. Our guides really enjoyed slipping, “…And this is why you need a tour guide” into just about every sentence. Or “Here’s where people without guides usually fall…” But they were right, and handled the situation with grace.
Our guides held our hands and directed our steps to prevent wipe-outs. They also doubled as professional paparazzi, and we have 100 photos each of our experience – worth having a guide just for those memories! Without these guides, we would have only made it to Level 2, not Level 5, and we would have no pictures of us in action.
Anyone in the Philippines should journey to Aguinid Falls, and say yes to their amazing guides. Save yourself the embarrassment of every single guide walking past you joking, “Good thing you have a guide!” And the best part? The guides are included with your foreigner’s entrance fee.