When you’re planning a travel adventure, you will need to make a lot of decisions. If you don’t want to leave most of the choices up to someone else, it’s best to outsource to a tour group. If you want total freedom to make all the decisions, then it’s best to go by yourself. So what kinds of choices do you have when it comes to guided tours?
1. Personal Guide
Hiring a person to escort you and your group (or just you) around on a one-on-one basis makes the tour totally customizable by you. You will probably get to dictate where you spend time, and can ask to spend more time where you want. You can also ask more questions than you could on a group tour. You’ll get specialized attention with a personal guide.
2. Audio Tours
Audio tours are often offered at historical sites, art galleries, and museums. These tours give you the ability to wander around at your own pace while hearing a ton of interesting information. If you want to be able to explore on your own but still want to learn and have a great travel experience, you might want to consider an audio tour. You won’t be able to find audio tours for every location you want to visit, though, so do your research for other parts of your trip so you will understand the local culture and daily life.
3. Group Guided Experience
If you’re in a small group or travelling solo, a group guided experience is a great way to have a guided tour for less money. You will meet other travellers for the duration of the tour, and be able to go off and do your own thing once the tour is complete. These kinds of tours are usually pre-set to do a certain activity or see a specific sight, which makes it easy for you to have a great experience for that activity or sight without having to commit to a group experience for your whole trip.
4. Company-Coordinated Trip
If you want to leave everything up to the tour company, then you’ll want to choose to have your entire trip coordinated by a guide. This is often more expensive than if you do everything on your own, but you’ll probably gain access to places and activities you probably wouldn’t if you were on your own. The downsides are that you’ll have to stick to a schedule laid out by the company or guide. Make sure you do your research on tour companies before you book, and then you’ll have nothing to worry about for the duration of your trip.
5. Pros of Guided Tours
If you’re touring a city or country that isn’t the safest, tour guides can offer you a safer vacation. For places where you don’t speak the language (such as China), a guide can help you navigate your China tours, ask for directions when needed, and even order food. Some activities are usually not available unless you have a guide, like adventure sports and river rafting.
In a guided tour, you’ll have your very own translator who can help you with cultural practices and language. This will help keep you out of uncomfortable or even dangerous situations. If you choose a great guide, you’ll be able to learn a lot about your location, often in a much easier format than reading about it before you go. For example, a guide to see the rainforest will improve your experience of the wildlife since you’ll hear stories about it as you go.
You could get discounts or special entry that’s only available to tour groups. Some places give the option to “skip the line” so you’ll get in before everyone else. A tour guide will help you get the most out of your trip, which is especially nice if you don’t have a lot of time to sightsee.
6. Cons of Guided Tours
You might be able to get more out of your money if you can use a guidebook instead of hiring a guided tour. You can also use apps to supplement your research. The cost can be prohibitive for those on a tight budget.
You’ll definitely look like a tourist when you travel with a big tour group. This can make everyone in the group appear as juicy targets for pickpockets. You won’t have much control over what you see, and when you see it. This can make you miss out on the things that might interest you more than what’s included in the tour. There will always be sights that no tour guide is going to be able to show you.