I started traveling with my parents when I was three years old. My father was a career diplomat stationed in Helsinki, Finland, from 1972 to 1979. So I learned Finnish and English fluently there. I have a BA in economics from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest. I returned to Helsinki in 1995 for one year to study, then continued with my EMBA at ASEBUSS Business School and UW Seattle. I worked for many years in the airline industry: Tarom Romanian Air Transport, Dac Air, Eurojet. Traveling for me on duty or with my parents or just for fun has always been easy, and so far I have traveled to more than 50 countries.
Why did you start your own guiding company?
By 2008, when the (financial) crisis hit Romania, since I (spoke) Finnish fluently I was getting a lot of requests to do guiding services for Finnish tourists … so with my background it was easy to start my own company: Click2Travel. Since then I have worked with (clients from all nationalities).
What type of tours do you offer?
With tourists visiting Romania (I offer) a Bucharest city tour, a one-day tour into Transylvania, which includes Peles Royal Palace, Bran Dracula Castle and Brasov, and other guided tours into Romania — Transylvania, Maramures, Bucovina, Danube Delta. I can tell you that I have had only great customers to work with, no matter from what culture. When people are on holiday they are relaxed and I keep telling them many jokes and making them laugh. Of course, they like to hear all the facts and figures, stories about my Uncle Dracula, our culture and traditions.
I can work with one tourist or a couple or 50 people. It takes some skills to manage a big group. I remember a group of 55 Brazilians from last year: “desoreder and regreso,” not “ordem e progreso” like it’s mentioned on their flag.
What’s the best part of your job?
Best part — meeting wonderful people from many cultures. The youngest tourist: nine months old, from Israel. The oldest: a 90-year-old professor of neurology from New York. I am so happy when I can show tourists all the beautiful places in Bucharest and Romania. People come with little or no expectations and leave so pleased.
Have you had any bizarre experiences on a guided tour?
A funny story with a great, happy ending: I was touring the painted monasteries of Bucovina with a group from Canada. Three hours later, when checking into Hotel Central Plaza, a couple in their mid-seventies (told) me they had forgotten their bag with passports and money in the toilet at Voronet. I called the monastery; the head nun answers and tells me: “I will send someone to check.” I call back in 10 minutes and she tells me: “Yes, the bag was found and is here.” I arrange for a car and driver, they drive back to Voronet, recover the bag with two passports and all the money, and make it back to the hotel in time for dinner.
So far, so good.
What are the benefits of hiring a guide?
It’s easy to travel alone and make preparations, but you will miss so much of a city or a country that you do not know. If you are for the first and perhaps last time in a new city or country, invest in a local guide (who) will take you to places, give you the knowledge and information that is so interesting and valuable, and help you connect with the local culture and people.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
A good tour guide must be prepared to react quickly in times of crisis — the bus breaks down; a customer falls and breaks an ankle — be always in a good mood, make the people laugh, be prepared to handle grumpy clients.
Do you have any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t sure what to look for?
A guide like me adds value to your trip, knows how to make it a memorable one, so every time you will remember Romania you will remember all the great moments and places we visited.