What are the pros and cons of booking a guided tour?

Guided tours are a great way to explore various travel destinations. They can offer useful information on the country you are visiting and the opportunity to meet new people. But there are also disadvantages to booking a guided tour. Such a packed itinerary can be stressful, especially if your ideal holiday is to feel as relaxed as possible. Below are some pros and cons of choosing a guided tour, and why safety should be your top priority. 

One of the many benefits of a guided tour is that it requires little-to-no planning. Before you arrive at your destination, a tour company will often send you a pack containing all the relevant information you will need for your trip. Questions such as “what time are we leaving?”, “what sights are we going to see?”, and “when will we be back?” are all outlined in the travel itinerary. So, for those of us that hate planning, guided tours are a great way of seeing the highlights of your chosen destination without the hassle. 

Another benefit of taking a guided tour is the opportunity to meet new people. The characters you meet on these trips can make for a lifetime of funny stories. Whether it’s a cheesy joke made by the tour guide, or a man snoring loudly on the coach ride home, guided tours bring people together from all walks of life with a shared interest in travelling the world. 

Travel safety is the most important issue when deciding whether or not to book a guided tour. In countries where it is not safe to travel alone, guided tours can provide a safer alternative to exploring your chosen destination. This is especially the case for women who could be seen as vulnerable in countries where the local laws and customs are different from our own. A guided tour could educate you on these issues, helping you to stay safe during your trip. 

A guided tour might take away the hassle from planning a trip, but it does not allow for much spontaneity, especially if you are not interested in visiting the typically ‘mainstream’ tourist sites. Free time is also not a luxury you can afford on guided tours. The small amount of time you do spend away from the group is often cut short by tour guides shouting and holding up a large sign, ushering you back into the coach for your next activity. 

If your ideal holiday is to live like a local, then guided tours are not for you. You cannot immerse yourself properly in a culture if you spend all your time in ‘touristy’ destinations. After all, eating steak and chips from a set-menu in Rome is not exactly sampling the local cuisine, and an ‘I LOVE NYC’ keychain might not be the perfect local souvenir. If you choose to book a guided tour through a travel agency, it is important to make sure they are also supporting the local businesses in your chosen country. 

Finally, whilst guided tours can educate you on the dangers of travelling in a specific country, they can also be dangerous in themselves. Tourists are the perfect targets for pick-pockets and petty criminals, and a strict schedule means they know exactly where you are at all times. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has some great advice on how to stay safe whilst travelling abroad, including relevant information on 225 countries. 

Overall, guided tours are a great way to explore a chosen destination, so long as you are aware of their limits. It is important to remember that whilst a guided tour can educate you on local laws and customs, they can not always guarantee your safety. If you like to meet new people, guided tours are  perfect for that. Though, do not expect to be immersed in the local culture, and be prepared for several ‘touristy’ activities. Finally, for those of us that like to relax on our holidays, guided tours are both good and bad. On the one hand, they take the guesswork out of planning your trip, and on the other, they often involve a strict time-schedule with very little ‘free time’. Whatever you choose to do, travel is a fantastic way to explore new destinations and experience new cultures. Just remember that whoever you’re travelling with, the most important thing is to stay safe. 

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