Source: Unsplash | Chastagner Thierry
Traveling today is a lot easier than it used to be. We have a lot more ways to get to where we’re going and a lot more places to spend our nights there when we do. Not only do we have more options, we have less expensive ones, as well. Demand and opportunity have opened up a whole new world for travelers of all kinds of means.
Guided travel “officially” began in 1758, when British-born Richard Cox started the company now known as Cox & Kings. But while Cox & Kings might hold the title of world’s oldest travel company, there’s little doubt that other types of travel guides existed long before the 18th century. Indeed, the Guiness Book of World Records notes evidence of an actual guidebook from 330 C.E. that details the route for Christians to take from Bordeaux to Jerusalem, highlighting various stops for resting, eating and replenishing supplies along the way. And certainly there were other personal guides that led and assisted travelers on their journeys dating back thousands of years, even before written history began, for don’t people always find ways to move from one place to another, and don’t they always need help to do it?
With the advent of commercial travel, tourism saw a boost in popularity, with more people able to afford what once was a luxury. Boats, trains, automobiles and, especially, planes have made getting around easier than ever. Nowadays, exclusive and uber-luxe tour packages (like those of early, privileged travelers) exist, but it’s also common for “average” travelers to make use of professional tour services. You don’t have to be royalty to travel with an entourage. Here are a few interesting points to consider before deciding whether you should make use of a tour guide for your next vacation or try to go it alone:
Tour guides can be…
Time-Effective – Tour guides/professional tour packages can help you focus your time on sites and activities that really matter. They know what’s historically and culturally important so that you don’t waste time on things that aren’t significant.
Informative – Most tour guides are trained or have a high level of knowledge on a specific topic (at least those with reputable companies), making them experts at teaching you something you don’t already know. Just as you can trust an ER doctor or an eb1 lawyer to have the most up-to-date info on constantly changing medical research and immigration laws (respectively), tour guides are trained service providers who you can trust to deliver accurate and compelling context for what you’re seeing. Many also have special access to attractions, allowing you to avoid long lines or possible sold-out admissions. You can even hire guides specifically trained in certain areas. If you like art, you can find someone to show you around museums. If you want to try new foods, you can hire a guide to help you experience local cuisines. Tour guides can provide information that enriches your overall travel experience.
Safe – Assuming you choose an established company with a good reputation, tour guides help you steer clear of questionable locales and situations. With insider knowledge of the culture and language of the area, guides have the ability to keep you safe and out of trouble.
Tour guides can also be…
Prohibitive – If you’re looking to be spontaneous in your travels, having a guide isn’t a good idea. Tours thrive on schedules, leaving you little chance to explore anything interesting that pops up on your own.
Repetitive – Tour guides and tour companies aren’t known for branching out or trying new things. They know the big attractions and what works and usually stick to it. When revisiting favorite locales, you’re probably better off exploring things on your own so you don’t keep reliving the same experience over and over.
Gregarious – Depending on your view, the social nature of having a tour guide can be either good or bad. Your attitude not withstanding, tours can be loud and chaotic, especially when organized with a group. But even personal guides require a bit of conversational banter from you. If you’re not much of a talker and/or don’t enjoy being around other people for the majority of the day, then it’s likely a tour won’t suit you very well!