Get to Know Portugal Guide João Dickmann

João Dickmann was born in Lisbon but grew up “all over the place” in England, Germany and Spain — although Portugal was always in his heart. Now back in Lisbon, he has been an off-road driver for more than 20 years, exploring Portugal inside-out and crossing Morocco north to south and east to west. Organizing trips for friends and family led to the creation of Takinguthere New Travel Experiences, where he works as a tour guide who takes visitors to parts unseen in Portugal and Morocco, away from the tourist hustle.
How did you get into your field of expertise?

I took tourism management as a university degree, but then I went to work in a bank. I loved it, but lots of things changed with banks in 2007/2008; lots of lives changed. Mine also changed. Then I started my own company, Takinguthere. That started out of a hobby. Since I was 18, I had a four-wheel drive, and I was travelling all over the place to get to know places you cannot get to by car. Then one thing led to another — I started to organize trips and then started adventuring to Africa and South Africa. As the banking business was getting rougher each year, my friends told me, why not turn that hobby into a career?

What does a typical day look like for you?

In Portugal, it’s wine tours, cultural tours, gastronomical tours, photography tours, nature tours — you name it, we make it.  … But it’s not just to go to Lisbon and say I’ve been here and there and have a checklist and tick it off. It’s to know the country, the people, the places, the culture and the history.

Do you have a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

We don’t have a timetable; we have a route. … If you have a wish list we’ll work with it and complement it with other things you might not think about. I had a couple who booked for two weeks around Portugal and had a programme of wine tasting. On the third day, I wanted to take them to a cellar and they told me … they don’t like wine, but they liked the route itself, so we changed everything immediately and we’re still friends. You have to listen to the client and understand it’s a joint venture.

What’s the best part of your job?

It’s meeting different people from around the world — different countries, different cultures. You might have preconceived ideas of a country or culture; being with these different people opens up your mind. It’s very rewarding. We want our fellow travellers to go home and say they had an experience, not that they just went to the tourist spots.

Ever had any odd requests from clients?

In Morocco when people want beer — it’s a Muslim country.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you aren’t keen on?

The tough part is when the weather doesn’t (cooperate) … not just raining, also heat. Sometimes it’s even worse than too much rain. If the tour is 70 per cent outdoors, you can do it up until a certain (point), but if it’s more cultural or historical, you can make (the tour) more indoors so if it’s 40 degrees it’s not a problem.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain the benefits of hiring a guide?

The benefits of hiring a guide are taking people to places they wouldn’t normally find themselves, little corners or streets that have surprises, or information not just about the monuments. When we are with a group, even if we make a one-day tour, we make them comfortable. If anything happens to them, they can call us 24×7 and we try always to help. That’s what a guidebook doesn’t give you.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Reading between the lines and having the confidence to give them want they want. We also leave a few things out (of the itinerary), so there are a few surprises. So it’s not a checklist and you can adapt to the customer — no two tours are alike, even if you take the same route because the people different.

Do you have any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?

If you want something specific, look around to see what everyone is offering. Don’t just go to TripAdvisor and look at the first ones. Don’t look just at the money, look at the quality of the tours. When we are with one group, we are with that group the (entire) day — there is no hurry, no timetable. Look at what is included in detail; they sometimes don’t put what’s excluded.

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