02 Apr 2017

Ten Step Guide to Finding a Guide in Mali

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The majority of independent traveller’s that pass through the Sleeping Camel have had a positive experience in Mali. Sadly sometimes, this is not the case. We had a couple of guys pass through here this week and they were taken advantage of by an unscrupulous ‘faux’ guide and this has prompted me to write a few words on the matter. If you are an independent traveller and want to sort things on your own then the following hints may help you find a great tour guide in Mali. One thing to be aware of is even though it is not policed very well, it is actually against the law for guides to offer their services to you unless they are working through a registered Malian travel company. If a guide does something incorrect or cheats you then it is very difficult to track him down and bring him to justice. The tourism board states you must travel with a registered company as they will have an office and they can be contacted easily to resolve any issues that may occur.

1. Sounds stupid but make sure your guide is actually Malian.

2. Ensure he has an identity card from OMATHO (Office Malien du Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie) that states he is a registered guide for the regions you are looking to travel in. Get a photocopy of both his guiding license and his National Identity card.

3. Make a written contract signed by both of you and make sure you keep hold of a copy. This is extremely important and all guides, both good and bad, understand the process of making a contract prior to travelling. The contract should be as detailed as possible and then there can be no disagreements further down the line. For example – if you agree that you will be staying in AC rooms with private bathrooms for the duration of the journey then this should be in your contract. If you are supposed to have private transport and they stick you on a public bus then they have breached their commitment to you. If your guide gets annoyed that you are being to pedantic in regards to the contract then get another guide. Good guides want to protect themselves as much as provide you with a quality service so there is no such thing as too much information on a contract.

4. Be wary of the guides hanging around the airport. If you are looking for a good tour guide in Mali, they don’t tend to solicit business here.

5. Do not pay everything up front. Pay the tour in instalments and have this written into the contract.

6. If you make a contract with someone, make sure he is actually going to be your guide on the tour. Unless the person owns a tour company then he should not be selling you a tour and then getting someone else to guide you. Tour companies have offices and an office is a building, not a bag slung over someone’s shoulder.

7. Take the time to go to the closest OMATHO office and get your guides credentials checked out and the contract stamped. If your guide doesn’t want to do this then don’t use him. OMATHO tends to know the guys with a reputation for being dishonest so they won’t want to step anywhere near the OMATHO offices.

8. Tour companies have offices, staff, liability insurance and advertising budgets so a lot is tied up in making your tour a good experience and if it is bad then they are fairly easy to find. If you find a guide on the street then he can disappear into the dark with your money and you will never find him. You need to cover yourself and hopefully following these steps will help you have a better experience.

9. If you have taken all these steps and things still go wrong then go straight to OMATHO and they will help you resolve the situation.

10. All of this may seem a bit OTT but have faith in the fact that a good and honest guide might be amused by your caution but he will also be more than happy to furnish you with the information you require. There are a lot of good guides out there who want you to enjoy seeing their home country so the bad ones need to be dealt with or ignored so that Mali’s reputation as a tourist destination can continue to be enhanced.

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