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Tourism: Should I take a Tour?

Organized tours range in duration, focus, price points, and modes of transportation.

Day Tours

Many day tours focus on an overview of the city, though there are many different options focusing on particular aspects like architecture history. There are also tours focusing on the dining scene, raucous pub tours, and tours of particular attractions.

Most of these tours last about 3 hours and are inexpensive. Free tours have become quite popular and advertised in most cities. While it is true that these tours are without a fee, it is customary to pay at least 5 euro as the tour guide must pay a percentage of their tips to the company.

How to Find a Tour

Many of these types of tours meet at tourist attractions, transportation hubs, or at large hostels. Look out for flyers at cafes, bars, and restaurants and investigate the scene before arrival through forums.

Beware unofficial guides. In some places, you will be approached on the street by people offering advice. They may offer their services for free, and then demand an exorbitant fee at the end of the day.

Extended Tours

Booking an extended tour can offer a ready-made vacation. Airfare, transportation, accommodation, and dining may all be included. These tours offer pros and cons and it is important to understand both sides to decide if they are a beneficial option for you.

Estimate the Pros & Cons of a tour:

    Pros
  • Tours may be less expensive than booking everything individually. Finding a package with airfare can offer vast savings.
  • A vast reduction in stress as you don't need to do the majority of the planning.
  • Instant camaraderie and the feeling of safety and security in a group.
  • A knowledgeable guide who speaks your language can offer specialized information about the sights.
    Cons
  • Tours are not as flexible. If you want to move on, you will just have to wait.
  • Local tour guides usually earn a commission by taking a group to specific shops and stores near major sights. You may find yourself getting the "hard sale"
  • Traveling in a large group makes it difficult to meet local people.

How to Choose the Right Tour

It can be quite difficult to choose a tour. Even if there are reviews, stranger's opinions can only inform your choice so much. Here are some general tips to help you make your decision.

  • Try not to Cheap Out - An inexpensive tour that compromises your safety is not worth it. Understand that a safe and fulfilling tour is the most important thing. Conversely, just because a tour is expensive does not make it the best. Understand what terms, fees, and services will be rendered.
  • Go in Person - If at all possible, go to the tour office talk to someone in person. This will reveal more about the company than any website ever could. You may even be able to negotiate a lower cost while there.
  • Trust your Instincts - If you aren't comfortable, trust your instincts.
  • Research - Talk to as many people as possible about the trip you are planning to take. Find out what they liked about it, and what they didn't. This knowledge can help you define what you want out of the tour and to define common pitfalls.

When you are inquiring with tour companies, ask them questions to confirm they are a company that can meet your expectations.

    Basic Questions:
  • How long has your company been in business? While a new company isn't necessarily a bad choice, experience is valuable.
  • What is your safety record? How many people have been injured on one of your tours? Watch for their reaction and look for red flags.
  • Can you put me in touch with former customers who have taken your tour? Good tour companies should have no problem supplying references.
  • Exactly how long does the tour last?
  • Is transportation provided? What is the mode of transport?
  • Are any meals provided? Which ones? What type of food is served?
  • What are the sleeping arrangements if this is a multi-day tour?
  • What equipment do you provide? What do you recommend I bring?
  • What is the maximum number of people who will be in our group? What is the ratio of guides to tourists? It is your preference if you prefer a smaller or larger group, but it is important to know beforehand.
  • What paperwork is necessary for the tour? If you're heading to a country specifically for this tour and a visa is needed, do they take care of it for you? Any vaccinations? Malaria medication?
  • What is your cancellation and refund policy?

Pick wisely and enjoy your travels!


 [16-01-2012]
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