Do you know that guilty feeling when you tell others, you took a guided tour?
For some reason it is considered a major travelling sin. You HAVE to organize everything by yourself and take the public transport or your own car to the sights, otherwise you are just going comfy way and eitherway you are just going to be ripped off.
I hate that talk.
Yes guided tours can be a bit of a rip-off and yes sometimes it is just so much more uncomplicated to just hop onto a tour bus and not having to worry about local transport , the times and walking routes.
I for my case love guided tours.
There are several reasons:
It can be horribly difficult to get to some places, especially in Asia, but no less in Europe. Some sights are somewhere in the middle of nowhere and public transport can be a hassle or it will take hours to get there. If you just have a limited amount of time, you may won’t be able to go to all the places you would like to see, because of this.
Often Hostels and Hotels offer tours to several of the major tourist attractions. You hop on the bus, they let you off and tell you the time you should be back. If it’s a good tour you get all kind of historical information. So much better than constantly hiding in your guidebook figuring everything out by yourself.
Sure time is limited and really exploring the sites is not possible. But most “normal” (not history fanatic tourist) will have enough time to check things out and enjoy the sight. In the end you have a full day of sightseeing, in the shortest amount of time possible (if you don’t have an own car).
2. New people
Most who travel alone know this issue. At times you just want to talk to other people. As much as travelling alone is fun, visiting sights is even more fun if you have somebody with you, to talk about what you see.
On tours you always meet all kind of people and it is easy to connect if you are stuffed into one bus. Still there is no pressure to be social. Nobody will care if you prefer to be on your own, but everybody will gladly help you out, if you want a picture of you in front of that awesome sculpture.
Usually on this tours you will meet people, with whom you can hang out in the evening(dinner alone can suck too at times). It is a great chance to make new friends.
Yeah you heard me, taking a tour can actually be cheaper than travelling on your own to the sights. If you check the public fares and entry fees it can be cheaper for you to join a tour.
This is why my sister and me are going to take 2 tourist tours in Ireland this summer.Driving to each of this places is more expensive than actually just taking a tour. Mostly those offering tours get money for bringing you to special places to eat or shops to buy, this is why they are able to offer you some decent deals. In the end you can save money and stress.
But there are some things people hate when taking tours, which should be mentioned
Often, especially in Asia, tour guides will take you to a couple of shops and factories were they try to sell you stuff. This annoys most people….
BUT it is not like you actually have to buy anything. Stroll through the shop maybe you will find a nice souvenir, if you don’t they can’t force you to buy.
I actually enjoy these tours.
I saw how silk was made, how to tell if Jade is real or if it is glass, how they process coffee and tea and other typical crafts for the region I was travelling in. It is usually quite informative and I found some great presents for my family.
Another issue is the time (either it’S not enough ot too much)
Well, now if you should be one of these picky people and you just need a certain amount of time, then you better do the sightseeing on your own and not go on a tour.
As people prefer different things there is always one person not happy about the time management. Please be somewhat understanding and deal with it.
Usually if everybody wants to have some more time at one sight and you talk with your guide they are understanding and will give you some more time.
Just ask kindly.
Last but not least- the rip-off.
This is a big issue. Over priced, no entry included, several sights not visited. There are times when things just don’t work for example traffic jams or other issues.
This sucks, but can happen, if you are lucky you will get a discount.
But if you follow this simple rules, you can avoid to be ripped off.
First don’t take guided tours from people who randomly talk to you on the road. These catchers are rarely serious about showing you around.
If you do follow them, we did it once (but just because my uncle already lived two years in china and knew how things worked) always state clearly in the beginning what you want to see, where you want to go and most important, how much you will pay in the end of the tour. Don’t pay in the beginning, otherwise your guide might leave you in the middle of nowhere.
I prefer to take tours offered from the Hotel or Hostel I am staying in. Especially the ones in the hostel tend to be fairly cheap, some even over free tours (F.e. free city tours in Hostels in Brugge)
If you check tripadvisor or the Hostel website you often can find out if the tour is any good or not. I like to check things out before hand. Thanks to the Internet people are sharing so many useful information. Just a quick look in the evening can give you a good idea on which tour to take.
If you have some time free compare public fares and entries to the price offered on the tour. If the tour is slightly more expensive, that is ok, considering the work you save and that you will have a guide telling you all about the places, but if it is twice as expensive, you might want to reconsider if it is really worth spending the money.
Also consider the guides and drivers often get extra tips at the end of the tour, (which is the right thing to do and is a bit of an obligation, you can choose how much you want to give them. They often don’t get much money from the agency and the tips can be very important for them) But if your tour already is expensive this all adds up and makes the whole thing a bit of a rip-off.
So stay reasonable, check local prizes. A tour in Ireland priced at 50 Euro sounds all right, a tour in Malaysia for the same price sounds a bit over priced.
Besides that ask ,before hand, about details and also take the flyer with you(if there is one) and read it properly. Sometimes there are these little words hidden, like this sight “or” that sight.
So check the details, if things are unclear ask the person selling the tour about the facts. This way you won’t have any unpleasant surprises. If possible get a written statement, (just if it is an expensive tour, otherwise it might won’t be worth the trouble) this way you have a proof if you want to have your money back later.
Last if things go wrong, and from time to time they do, no matter if travelling with a tour group or on your own, stay calm and take things how they come. It won’t help you to stress about things and in the end even the biggest disasters can be a great story to tell in a couple of years.
By the way if you are interested in reading what some other travellers (all of them quite experienced) say about taking tours, I found a great post yesterday and it was just perfect timing, I have to mention it here. Feel free to check it out. To tour or not to tour.
Furthermore I am taking part in a lil’ blogging challenge, because I was slagging off so much these last weeks, I decided to go all out and fill this blog with a post everyday, for 30 days, with the help of the amazing Sarah, who made this great challenge.