The Pros and Cons of Guided Tours
OK, I admit it, it’s been many years since I’ve been on a full guided tour where I’ve flown to a destination and picked up a tour with a group of other people.
Although I prefer to travel independently now, choose my own accommodation, activities and sightseeing, there is a time and place for guided tours.
I’ll be as unbiased as I possibly can with my slant towards Indie travel, the following list is how I see the pros and cons of guided tours.
Pros Of Guided Tours
First Time Traveler
Studies show that the largest amount of people taking guided tours are first-time travellers. We humans are funny people, we like the sense of adventure, however, we want certainty as well and peace of mind and a feeling of safety for our loved ones and will opt-in for group tours if we are traveling for the first time.
Safety, especially for women, is high on the list of reasons people prefer to travel in a group rather than independently and if you are not comfortable exploring a new city either on your own or as a couple, then group travel will be high on your list. If I were traveling to Egypt solo then I would definitely book a tour.
Many friendships are forged on group tours, I know of several friends who met this way with two of our family members meeting AND marrying after meeting on a guided tour!
Tour groups are usually marketed to a certain demographic as they generally have the same values, think Contiki for 20-35 year olds partying their way around Europe! You could be guaranteed that there will be no party animals on your tour if you are heading for retirement and vice versa.
If you are limited by time then having everything organized for you is very appealing. Not having to think and make decisions is a holiday in itself! You don’t have to think about accommodation, meals or transport as it’s all done for you.
Because everything is done for you and a guide is supplied, then guided tours can be more expensive, depending on the standard of tour, e.g. luxury – budget
If you experience any problems along the way then a guide will generally take care of any hassles for you, leaving you to enjoy your time away, saving you precious time for more cocktails around the pool, right?
Tour company’s are not about to expose you to any risky areas throughout the world, with booking you with certain airlines, hotels, resorts, etc, they will want to keep you as safe as possible given the world we live in, including the rise in insurance claims.
If you are a person that loves certainty then guided tours are definitely for you. Before you leave the comfort of your home you will know where you are staying, what sights you’ll see, what time you’ll leave, arrive and possibly even where you will eat each night.
Hard to Reach Places
Group tours are fantastic for hard to reach places such as Antarctic, remote Islands and far-flung places that require plane or boat charters, it will also keep your cost down.
Cons of Guided Tours
Sightseeing For The Masses
You’ve probably seen this already if you travelled outside your own country. Masses of people, usually transported by buses to popular sights, herded like sheep, told when to get on and off the bus, where to queue and when to return.
This rang true for me on the tour I did around Europe, I especially wanted to see the Colosseum in Rome and was so excited we were visiting there. We spent a whole ½ hour there on our tour, including getting on and off the bus! Several years later I returned and spent over 5 hours there!
No or Little Free Time
Because there is always a schedule on a tour there is little or free time. In order to meet deadlines and the distance to travel most activities are carefully planned, sometimes down to the last minute!
Imagine just settling in for the afternoon on a sun-bed, gazing at the ocean, or perhaps you’ve just finished the most delicious meal and want to return for more a few days later at a rustic restaurant perched on top of a cliff with the most spectacular view you’ve ever seen and having to return “because it’s time”. Sorry, not possible on a tour you have to comply with the timetable!
As a tourist, pickpockets and petty criminals know where the tours are. After lunch, one afternoon, two little girls shouting something in their own language, to gain her attention, approached my Mother. While she was focused on them, a small boy held a piece of cardboard up just below her shoulder so she couldn’t see her handbag. Meanwhile, another young boy’s hands were already in her bag grabbing her money purse.
Fortunately she felt them, swung around, yelled at them and they ran off. Our tour guide then told us that happened quite a lot.
Tour Guide Hit and Miss
Which brings me tour guides; they can make or break a trip. If you are fortunate to have a passionate, enthusiastic guide that is both informative and helpful, then you’ll have a blast. If you don’t, well you can imagine, I’m sure.
Eat Tourist Food
If you love all you can eat, banquet-style meals and set menu’s you will love guided tours as that’s mainly how they feed the masses.
There’s no opportunity to sample street food (it won’t kill you, honestly ☺) sample the local speciality or even the best local vintage white or red.
No Chance To Mix With The Locals
One of the main things I love about traveling is the people I meet along the way. We humans are basically open-hearted people and very enthusiastic about where we live and our home-town.
We have an innate need to help people, so when you get lost up a laneway or need to find your way back to hotel, or want to eat at a restaurant off the beaten track, that’s when you get to sample the local culture.
On a tour you’ll be taken to touristy restaurants, markets and sights, snap photo’s to your heart’s content, but will you have a chance to really immerse yourself in the culture?
On The Go All The Time
You want to go on a vacation to relax and de-stress, right? If you are looking to do this then a guided tour won’t be for you as you’ll be on-the-go constantly and forget sleeping in! Most bus tours want you on the road by 8am at the latest in my experience and that’s with the expectation that you’ve already had breakfast!
This is another BIG one for me, sometimes I just love to go with the flow, stay a while longer if I chose. I did this in Europe on a trip with only the first 4 days and the last week booked and the rest of the time just decided the day before, where to next?
What looked like a good trip was totally changed due to the experience I was having, cutting some places short and extending others. It’s the best vacation I’ve had (so far!).
So there you have it, the pros and cons of guided tours, which side of the line are you on? Are you pro guided tours or not?