General Travel

Showaround Review: Exploring with Locals

Showaround is one of those very few travel-related services that I stared using after seeing an ad (or tons of them at that time). It’s actually a really interesting concept, a sort of an AirBnb for touring cities you visit.

And today, in my Showaround review, I will help you know if the concept becomes solid practice. Because, yes, it lures you in with its offer: the chance to book locals to show you around when you visit a new city – most of them not being professional guides.

The idea itself sounds really good, especially when you’re traveling to a new country or city where you don’t speak the local language or about which you don’t know much.

Also, for solo travelers, having a local around is even better as they provide not only knowledge, some maybe less touristy attractions and educated insights, but also company.

But have in mind: Showaround is not a dating app of sorts, camouflaged behind an apparent service provider. No, you are really going to meet people who will be your guides for the period of time you have booked.

So how does Showaround actually work in real life and is it worth trying? Read on my Showaround review to find out!

Starting with Showaround

I decided to try this website back in 2016, during a visit to Budapest (a city I love so much). I actually wrote this article back then, but updated it in 2019 with fresh information and more details to make this the ultimate Showaround guide for you.

Back to Budapest, I had already been there in the past and spent a month there, so I knew the city pretty well already. What I wanted was to just test the waters and do some research to see how this will go.

As I said already, I found the concept behind Showaround unique and innovative. I actually thought that getting a local to be my guide for a day in a place I actually know a lot about is a bonus because I can really see if there’s any value to the service.

So I easily joined Showaround by connecting my Facebook account and started searching for people in Budapest who were willing to be my personal guides.

There are a lot of search options that you have to customize your search and make sure that you find guides based on your interests or what you’d like to see and do, saving you some time on guides that are too expensive or who wouldn’t be able to meet your demands.

After setting up my preferences, I hit the “Browse Locals” button and was surprised to see a ton of people available, with rates ranging from 0 to $25 per hour (which was the maximum I was willing to spend at that time).

Since back then, the service was pretty new, there were actually few guides with reviews, so I just decided to follow my gut and be the first one to try somebody without a review.

So I chose five girls initially and sent them all a message, seeing how they respond and how well we connect, and then I chose the one that seemed to be the best suited to be my guide for a day.

IMPORTANT: Since I first used the service, the number of reviews of the local guides has increased and nowadays I would rarely (if ever) choose a guide without a review. So focus on those with many positive reviews, just to make sure that you have no unpleasant surprises.

The good things about Showaround

I was really surprised with how easy to use this service is and how genuine and friendly the locals who signed up there are.

Search results in Budapest before applying any filters

In my case, all the five ladies that I have contacted answered my message in a timely manner and they all seemed great guides and nice persons based on what they said, coming with proposals based on the requirements I had sent.

This is usually the norm – I was going to find out later, after using the service on other occasions – and not just the fact that they knew they were already competing against other local guides.

Of course, not all of them will actually reply to your message and some will be maybe a bit rude or just not your style… there are so many options out there that you should just ignore them. You are going to spend some time in their company, so if you don’t “feel” them during your initial chats, there’s no need to risk it.

In my case, I was really happy with everything: the lady that I had picked to be my guide for the day continued on a positive note and detailed her plans for the day.

Once this was settled, I proceeded to book her: you easily make the payment to the website and everything’s settled! You never actually get to pay the guide in person for the booked service, nor send them any money (there might be some scammers, so have this in mind!)

Next day, we met at the agreed hour, early in the morning – as I am a morning person – and started exploring Budapest on foot and using public transportation (I already had my tickets).

I haven’t told her I had been there before because I wanted her to show me the best things in town based on her own experience. I told her that I just want to see the best of Budapest and I am not particularly interested in bars or pub crawls, but more into visiting amazing stuff in the city. Of course, you can have completely different preferences and still find a guide for that.

We had the whole day for ourselves and she indeed took me to see impressive attractions in the City, even though not stuff that I would consider off the beaten path.

She took me to the Parliament building first, as it was closest to our meeting point, then the Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Village and had a nice walk in the central area where the Ruin Pubs are. She was great company: a happy person with lots of stories to share about the city itself and even some fun facts that I didn’t know and found extremely interesting.

During our visit to the Fisherman’s Village, we ate ice cream at a place that looked insanely expensive – and which I wouldn’t have even bothered to check out. But it proved to be fairly priced, despite in a touristy area and the ice cream was delicious.

The delicious ice cream we had close to the Fisherman’s Village

We also had a sort of a late lunch in a tiny restaurant somewhere in the center of Budapest – one that I didn’t know about, but which had good food (I asked for traditional Hungarian food) and which was also decently priced.

I don’t think that she had any sort of a deal with the cafe or the restaurant to bring me there (as some guides do). But even if she did, I considered the prices to be regular for Budapest and I was really happy with both.

The bad thing about Showaround

I am not really sure if this can be considered a bad thing or just paying for a good service offered, but it’s worth mentioning.

You can use the platform for free to browse profiles and you can also create a trip to receive offers from locals. So this is free, but gives you little control over the entire process.

However, if you want to be able to send messages to the guides (so basically pick the ones you like), you will have to pay a subscription fee, which is not really cheap:

The prices have changed a lot since 2016, when I first used the platform. Back then, the monthly cost was €18 for a month, €12 for 3 months and €8.33 for 12. Now, as you can see, things are a lot more expensive.

This is by far discouraging to say the least, because it increases the real price you have to pay for your tours. I believe that this is done because local guides don’t have to pay anything (as Showaround doesn’t take their cut) – but I am not 100% of that right now.

Either way, this is definitely not a thing to be happy about. If AirBnb decided to charge a monthly fee to let you use their service, they would probably lose a bunch of customers. So it’s probably a lot better to take a share of the bookings’ value instead of charging a monthly fee… but this is how it works right now.

Also, most people don’t travel that much or that often, meaning that the three month or 12 month membership make no sense for most people.

If I only visit one or two or three places per year and they’re a few months in between, the monthly subscription is already too much. It would be so much better if the kept the commissions from the tours instead!

Is Showaround safe?

I personally had no problems using their service, with everything smooth and open from the beginning to the end.

Of course, there should always be safety measures that you should take to be sure that no unexpected surprises pop up to ruin your experience.

These are what I would call common sense measures: first and most importantly, only book guides with positive reviews. This alone, in my opinion, reduces the risks to almost 0.

But to take things even further, make sure that you meet your guide in a public place and never go in areas where you could potentially be attacked by them or people they work together with.

Also, tell a friend or family about your plans to meet your locals and have them call you throughout the day. Also make it clear somehow that people know about your booking in order to reduce chances of things going unsafe.

But as I said, these are just precautions you have to take, but not worry too much about these. From what I’ve seen (and heard), the people there are genuine and friendly and generally just looking to make some extra money by playing the guide game.

Showaround Etiquette

Let’s talk some etiquette now and answer some important questions that tourists might have about the service and how to interact with their guides.

First of all, have in mind that these people are not (always) professional guides, so don’t expect them to act like one. They will have personal stories to tell, they will know interesting things about the city and places you visit and provide useful information and insights, but they might not know everything.

You should be polite and listen to them, asking pertinent questions related to the tour itself. Try to read the person and see if they have a friendly or more professional approach: if it’s the latter, don’t try to ask more personal questions or get to know them better. You’re not there to make friends (necessarily), but to see the local attractions or things you’ve already talked about with your guide.

But apart from this, there are two etiquette-related questions that I want to answer:

1. Do you pay for your guide’s food on Showaround.com?

I actually didn’t think about this the first time I used the service until I was sitting at a cafe’s table with my guide and the waitress was taking our order.

Was I supposed to pay for her drink and ice cream or not? Was I supposed to pay for lunch later on – and other things that we might’ve had? I almost had a panic attack as my thoughts were flying in all directions, creating all sorts of scenarios.

Probably that’s something many people using this service will end up asking the same thing, so here it’s how I would say that things are:

If you are wiser than I was, openly discuss this before booking your guide. Try to make it clear from the beginning if all the costs are included in their hourly rate or you have to pay for their food, snacks, drinks or other bills (such as entrance fees to attractions if you go there, taxi / Uber costs and so on).

This is nothing to be ashamed of and I don’t think any guide would feel offended by such a question. It’s better than assuming that you don’t have to pay and end up finding out that you should.

Share the food or share the costs 🙂

What I did was gather up the courage and ask her before the bill arrived. She was kind enough to tell me that I was not supposed to pay for anything else during the tour and she actually insisted in paying for her ice cream and drinks.

I didn’t want to push it as I wasn’t really sure if she would feel offended or not (and the whole thing was really cheap, actually) but I ended up paying for her lunch when we ate later on and she didn’t seem too bothered with that – she politely thanked me when I said I want to do this and we moved on.

However, I believe that the best approach is to discuss this beforehand when making the booking as otherwise it can get pretty awkward during the tour.

But I would say that in most cases, you should pay for the food and other bigger expenses – this was our case on two other occasions. If the guide wants to take the bus and you want a taxi, you’ll definitely have to pay for that as well.

2. Should you tip your guide from Showaround?

This is a very difficult question to answer, because the answer itself will depend on so many things and might change from person to person.

Normally, since you are already paying for a service and it’s clear how much you are expected to pay, you shouldn’t consider it a must to tip. However, this doesn’t mean that tips are not welcome, in my opinion.

With my first Showaround guide in Budapest, I didn’t really know what to do and I didn’t tip her (I thought that I had already paid for the food and that could’ve been considered a tip). She didn’t seem to expect a tip, there was no change in her attitude when we parted ways and she saw I wasn’t going to tip, so all was good.

However, later on I was upset that I didn’t tip her. Back then, her rate was just $15 per hour (and I guess that Showaround takes their cut as well). We spent almost the entire day exploring Budapest, so she did earn a nice amount of money… but I still felt that maybe I should’ve tipped her simply because she was such a great guide.

Later on, we used Showaround in our country twice when visiting new cities, but we only booked 2-3 hours each time. Since this was already a smaller amount of time, we tipped a flat amount which was less than 10% and both guides were really happy with that.

So, in conclusion, I would say that tipping when using Showaround is not mandatory, but if you enjoy the service and feel like rewarding your guide for that, you can tip at the local rates.

Conclusion: Is Showaround any good?

My first experience with Showaround was really pleasant and I completely enjoyed it. It is true, I wasn’t taken to any hidden gems or things that I didn’t know about – but maybe things would’ve been different had I told my guide that I actually visited those in the past.

Because, yes, for a first time visit to the city, the things she took me to were some of the most important Budapest has to offer and I would’ve been 100% satisfied. You do have the option to talk to your guides and tell them what you expect, so take advantage of that.

The service itself is not very cheap and even though I didn’t overdo it by selecting the most expensive guides, the hours do pile up and you end paying a large chunk of money at the end. There are indeed guides that say they will be with you for free… but I completely ignore those because I find it fishy.

But all the guides that I met proved to be nice people, outgoing and fun to be around, making the day even better. Having a cheerful person accompany you when you travel is definitely better than exploring a foreign city alone.

Locals are also great because they can make sure that you don’t get scammed, you have people who know what they’re talking about to answer any questions you might have about the city and I am sure that, if that is what you want, they can show you attractions and goodies off the beaten path as well.

I would consider this a better option for single travelers – especially if they don’t necessarily love being alone at all times, but even as a family, you will still find the value of this service.

From what I saw, most of the people willing to be your local guides on Showaround.com are students and young people who want to make some extra money and I believe that’s a great thing to do.

What is not great is the pricing model of the service. Most likely, you will have to pay the monthly fee and not opt for the longer term ones (if you’re not traveling a lot), which makes everything even more expensive.

There would actually be cheaper options with tours otherwise, but you’ll be part of a group and not have a guide just for yourself. So in the end, it all depends on your style, the amount of money you have to pay and your expectations.

Showaround is clearly a major player in the world of travel and definitely an innovation. Meeting locals to show you around, to help you get by and to better understand the country or city you’re visiting is extremely valuable.

It makes things even better for solo travelers because they get company, but even for couples, groups or families, it’s an opportunity – one that you should take in my opinion, at least once!

What about you? Have you tried or are you considering Showaround.com? Let me know by commenting below!

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