Eric Simonson, co-founder of International Mountain Guides, has led trips and hired help in Africa, South America, and throughout the Himalayas. Simonson says:
(1) LOOK AROUND. Google, post queries on forums (thorntree.lonelyplanet.com, boards.bootsnall.com), and call reputable hotels.
(2) You want a guide with GREAT COMMUNICATION; talk to candidates about how often they've done your itinerary, what to expect on the trail, and what they pay staff.
(3) Negotiate all costs UP FRONT, especially in Africa—park fees, in-country flights, tips, etc., can be hidden in the fine print.
(4) TRUST YOUR GUT—if a guide doesn't have his act together or won't answer questions, move on.
(5) HELP PROTECT PORTERS by following the guidelines at portersprogress.org.