For the past few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with ads about a new website/service called Showaround.com. I was actually lured in by what it offered: the chance to book locals to show you around when you visit a new city. This is extremely useful – especially when traveling to a country or city where you don’t speak the 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 and educated insights, but also company. But how does Showaround actually work and is it worth trying? Read on my Showaround review to find out!
I decided to try Showaround.com during my latest visit to Budapest. I’ve already been there in the past and actually lived a month there, so I knew the city pretty well, but I was just testing the waters and doing some research. I actually thought that getting a local to show me around 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. Since this is a website that has been launched just recently, there were more people without any reviews and opinions than otherwise, so I decided to follow my gut and be the first to get a specific person as a guide. I chose five girls and sent each a message, planning to obviously choose the one that I considered the best suited for being my guide for a day.
Showaround is smartly made, allowing you to search for 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.
The bad thing about Showaround.com
And that immediately took me to the worst thing about Showaround: you have to buy a membership in order to be able to send messages and actually use their service. At the moment of writing, this idiotic feature is €17.99 per month, with discount options if you purchase a three month package or one for the whole year:
This is by far discouraging and makes no sense. If I wasn’t planning to actually review this service, I wouldn’t have paid a penny. It makes no sense! I am sure that the company keeps a commission from any booking you’re making, and that should be all they take. Increase the commission if it’s too low, but don’t have members pay for a monthly or yearly membership just to be able to use your service, then pay some more and make you more money. This is obviously a poor business model. It’s as if AirBnb decided to charge a monthly fee to let you use their service – it would make no sense!
Also, most people don’t travel that much or that often, meaning that the three month or 12 month membership make no sense. If I only visit one or two or three places per year and they’re a few months in between, the monthly subscription would be too much. Really, this feature is extremely annoying and I can only hope they’ll kill it ASAP. Keep the commissions from the tours and let us be!
The good things about Showaround
Fortunately, following this less than desirable experience which would’ve been a deal breaker normally, I only have words of praise for the service.
All five ladies that I have contacted actually answered my message and choosing one was extremely difficult as they all seemed like great guides and great people. However, I picked one, we exchanged a few messages where I basically told her what I wanted to see, when and for how long I needed her as my guide and then I proceeded to book her: you easily make the payment to the website and everything’s settled!
We met at the agreed hour, early in the morning, and started exploring Budapest. I haven’t told her I had been there before and wanted her to show me the best things in town. We had the whole day for ourselves and she indeed took me to see impressive attractions, even though not stuff you wouldn’t hear about yourself: we went to see the Parliament building, the Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Village and had a nice walk in the central area where the Ruin Pubs are. She took me to eat at a nice little restaurant that I didn’t know about and the food was great and cheap. We also went for ice cream to a cafe right near the Fisherman’s Village – one that I wouldn’t have looked at otherwise because I thought it was obscenely expensive. It proved it was not and the ice cream was delicious.
Do you pay for your guide’s food on Showaround.com?
I did not think about this until we were sitting at the table and a nice waitress was taking our order. Was I supposed to pay for her food or not? Probably that’s something many people using this service will end up asking, so here it’s how things are.
It’s best to discuss this beforehand and make it clear with your guide if all costs are included in their hourly rate or you have to pay for food, snacks or other bills (for example, if you go out to a club at night – I didn’t). Since I had not done it because I did not think about this before it was too late, I asked her after she ordered the food.
She was kind enough to tell me that I was not supposed to pay for the dinner or anything else. However, I insisted in the end to pay for everything – the ice cream was very cheap, as I said, and when we ate lunch, she didn’t go crazy ordering something expensive either. She didn’t seem too bothered that I ended up paying, but I am sure it wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t.
However, I believe that the best approach is to discuss this beforehand when making the booking. I will surely do it from now on because it can get pretty awkward afterwards.
Is Showaround any good?
Even though I wasn’t taken to any hidden gems in the city (except for, maybe, the restaurants), I was very satisfied with my overall experience on Showaround and my guide. Probably things would’ve been different if I had told her I actually visited Budapest before and maybe she would’ve taken me to some other special places, but even so I was pleased: for sure, if that would’ve been indeed my first time in Budapest, I would’ve hated it to miss the places she took me to.
The whole day cost me about 90 Euros, but she was my companion from 9AM to 5PM. She proved to be extremely outgoing and a nice company and definitely made my day 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.
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. The website itself has just recently been launched, so there aren’t many reviews and probably many of the people there will stop offering their services, but as things are right now, prices are really cheap (you can find people willing to show you around in Budapest for as low as 6 Euros per hour) and there’s a ton of potential guides to choose from.
The only thing that I really didn’t like about Showaround was the fact that I had to purchase that monthly membership and, even though my experience with them was very pleasant, I will not use them until they drop that monthly fee. As I said, they should take a commission (which they probably do already) from their guides and that should be it! Otherwise it makes no sense to pay 18 Euros just to be able to book a 2-hour tour for 10 Euros!
However, I think that I should end this review on a positive note. Showaround is, even though just starting, 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.
What about you? Have you tried or are you considering Showaround.com? Let us know by commenting below!