Local, authentic experiences are vital for getting to know a city, but it can be hard to know where to turn to for genuine activities that are more revealing than the pages of a guidebook.
So, for this comparison I went to Airbnb and Get Your Guide for two experiences in Crete within the same week.
A walking tour around the city of Rethymno, explaining the history and including a bite to eat. I wanted to find good places to eat and see parts of the city that I wouldn’t find myself.
Price: £54 per person for a 4-hour experience including lunch
A guide around the archaeological site of the Palace of Knossos. I wanted to learn as much about the history of the palace and of Crete in general and how it fitted in with the Greek myths.
I genuinely can’t learn anything from boards in a museum. Having someone talk to me in person and point relevant things out was much more valuable (and interesting!).
Price: £126 for two people for a 1.5-hour experience including entry to the site
Whenever I book anything, I always have a panic that I’ve done it wrong; that I’ve booked my flights for the wrong day or my hotel in the wrong city.
So, I found it really reassuring that both platforms sent both an automatic email confirmation and a more personal one confirming who my husband and I would meet and where.
The email from Airbnb gave me a little bit more information about the guide and her experience and felt a bit more inviting.
Quality of Guides
In Greece, guides have to be licensed and have a certain level of qualification to be able to give tours around archaeological sites. This means that you should always get someone knowledgeable for a place like the Palace of Knossos.
The Palace is a huge site, spanning 22,000m2, and would have contained over 1000 rooms. Without our guide, Vangelis, it would have been difficult to navigate. He taught us SO much and answered all the questions we had.
He had a book to show us pictures of parts of the palace which are no longer open to visitors and artefacts which are in the museum. It was so well-thumbed that it really fit the part as well.
Kiki, from the Airbnb tour, has a master’s degree in History and Archaeology. She has studied for four years but still needs another two to be able to give tours around archaeological sites(!).
Kiki was also super personable and engaging, exactly what I wanted for a trip around a city like this. She knew loads of people as she was walking around which meant that we could go into buildings to see what the architecture was like inside, and she knew the family who ran the café where we had lunch.
Plus, I wouldn’t have found out how delicious kalitsounias are without her.
What did the tour guides think?
Vangelis’ company only use Get Your Guide for this tour, but they have much more on their own website, which they get most of their business from. They only get around 1-2 tours per week from Get Your Guide, but they use it to advertise to multiple language speakers (Vangelis conducts tours in 4 languages!).
Kiki thought their team got around 7 out of 10 of their tours from Airbnb, with rest coming from other sites such as Intrepid Urban Adventures.
Types of experiences available
Airbnb has a huge range of different experiences hosted by locals. It feels like you can have a cookery class, walking tour or wine tasting in any city in the world.
Get Your Guide is focussed on specialist historical guides with a mix of traditional excursions in there like day trips by boat and entry to museums. Some European cities have more varied activities available, but not as much as Airbnb.
For my next trip…
When I next need a guide for an archaeological or special site, I’m definitely going to go to Get Your Guide. They seem geared up for those activities and all the guides appear to be experts.
But for me, the value and range of experiences available on Airbnb mean that I’m much more likely to look to them first the next time I want to explore.