Uncovering Luxuries of Custom Tours in Portugal

I had just taken 3 flights, waited through 2 delays, and spent 10 hours on the road — all in one long travel day that I thought would never end. So when I saw Rogerio at the Porto airport with a sign for me and a smile on his face, it was a sort of relief. He took my luggage led me to the Mercedes that would become my official transport in Portugal. This was how my time in Porto began. 

“My phone is on 24/7 for customers.” Rogerio noted as the Mercedes pulled up to the hotel. A driver, a tour guide, a translator, and a personal assistant all in one. I would quickly appreciate Rogerio’s dependable presence as my private guide in Portugal.

This trip was my first time on a privately guided tour. When Kensington Tours invited me to join them on a privately-guided tour of Portugal, I didn’t really know what to expect. As a photographer, I usually prefer to travel solo so I could slow down whenever I want to – stay longer if I needed to. I like to leave the hotel early in the mornings to photograph the key sights without tourists, and stay late to capture the scene in sunset. Those are not exactly easy habits to accommodate. 

Over the next 4 days, Rogerio drove me around Porto and the northern districts of Portugal in a meticulously planned tour that the Portugal expert at Kensington Tours had arranged. At each stop along the 4-day trip, I explored the area to my heart’s content. In addition to popular attractions, I was chauffeured to lesser-known viewpoints and given private access to privileged areas. I appreciated that I didn’t have to sacrifice a freedom of schedule on a privately guided tour, nor did I get herded from one place to another on a tight schedule. Even if I wanted to sleep in, I would just call Rogerio to pick me up later. From him I learned about the first king of Portugal, the trade with England, and the history of the rooster – a Portuguese national symbol. We talked about politics, religion, the economy, and as the days grew by, I probably learned as much about him as I did Portugal.

When a photographer travels on assignment, there is usually a fixer waiting for them at the destination. The fixer translates, navigates, and supports the photographer with various local needs throughout the trip. In Portugal, Rogerio – probably without him knowing – had become my fixer. 

If it’s typical to travel with a fixer when on client assignment, then it’s not unrealistic to travel with someone who acts like a fixer when traveling for personal work either. Just like a fixer does, a private guide can break down language and cultural barriers for photographers, and provide local insights on a destination. As it turns out, privately guided tours can quite easily become the secret weapon for photographers.

My time in Portugal was made possible by Kensington Tours, but they did not suggest that I write a favourable post of my experience or consume more Port wine than humanly possible on my trip.

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