There are usually options on how you can tour a location such as self-guided walking tours, group tours, or hiring a private guide. Even if you just read a guide book and walk the streets on your own, you are actually touring a location, it is just very casual. We have tried a variety of styles of touring and have probably done a combination of several styles on every trip. We don’t like being on a schedule, so we lean towards self-guiding ourselves through an area, but there are times when it requires a guide of some sort to really understand the history of a place.
- Self-Guided Tours – Whether you get a map and highlight the path that you want to follow or just pick a starting point and wander, self-guided touring is a very relaxing way to see a place. You can see what you want to see, decide how long you want to spend at a certain site, and stop for a bite to eat at a place that fits your style and budget. One of the downsides is that it is up to you to make sure that you have read all of the information to truly understand the history and interesting facts about a location. Also, there are often times when informational signs are only in the local language and if you are not fluent, you might miss out on some interesting facts.
- Group Tours – These can take on a variety of types of tours from hop-on, hop-off buses, river boat cruises, or group walking tours. These tours can be interesting depending upon the personality of the guide. It is often look this way, get a couple of sentences about it, and then you are off to the next site. If you are with a group of people who are truly interested in the place and have read a certain amount of information in advance, you can often learn interesting things based on the questions that are asked in addition to whatever information was on the guide’s script. The schedule is not your own, though, and you can sometimes end up spending more time in places that don’t interest you as much as perhaps it does others. Also, on walking tours, if you have people who decide to wander off to take pictures, you can find yourself standing around waiting for the group to regather.
- Private Tours – Although you definitely pay a little bit more for private attention, there a many benefits to having a private tour guide. We have found them to be highly knowledgeable about the locations that you want to see and you have their complete attention to ask them questions that are of interest to you. Since the tour is private, the guides are usually willing to cater to your tastes, physical capabilities, and even potentially add things to the tour that might not have been in the original schedule. Obviously, the experience is completely dependent on the personality of the guide. If you are going to spend several hours with only yourselves and the guide, they better have a good personality or it will be the longest few ours of your trip.
There is no one-size fits all solution when it comes to touring a location and we have found that it often takes a mix to see a place from all of the different angles. If you are going to do a guided tour, be sure to negotiate the price in advance, especially if you are hiring a guide right at a specific site. You should also consider a tip and it should be reflective of the information that you received and the quality of the tour and the guide.