Tourists at Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Tours for Non-tourists: Why You Should Take a Tour

I’m going to make a generalization here and say that our DIY-travel generation, with countless apps and reviews at our fingertips, is largely anti-tour. We like to think we can travel better and cheaper by calling the shots ourselves. And you know what? We often do.

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Tourists at Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
Tourists at Trevi Fountain, Rome © Benson Kua

I always saw tours as a sort of travel cop-out: tourism’s version of a bland, prepackaged meal. Then on one trip, a couple friends and I decided to travel to India. We’re all seasoned international travelers but the more we read and researched the more overwhelmed we felt. What do you mean hotels had all sorts of different room categories? How would we know if we were getting ripped off? On top of recognizing there would be some big cultural chasms, we also wanted to pack a lot in a relatively short amount of time. Finally, we booked a tour.

I felt defensive explaining our choice to everyone, which is really silly in retrospect, because here I am writing this post. We chose to go on a tour with a local operator and they took care of sorting out all the matters that we were concerned would distract us from actually seeing and experiencing Incredible India, like getting from one city to another.

Just as there’s a multitude of tools to plan and plot out trips these days, tours too have diversified from the one-size-fits-all affairs that typically conjure images of XL buses with visored tourists being herded on and off. I have the option of connecting directly with guides right in the destination where I’m going on Viator and GetYourGuide and can even work in interests like biking or cooking with a click. This is in defense of doing a nuts-to-soup tour.

You see, do and learn it all

Rest assured every highlight and “must” will be hit. You’re not just going to see it and skim the little placard aside it, either, but you’ll get all the history that comes along with it. In India, we had a different guide at each stop and every single one had a Master’s degree in history or a similar subject. Our inner nerds delighted at all that knowledge to soak up, even if I never really got the Mughal dynasty figured out.

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  1. I really do agree with this. I rarely take tours, but when I do, there is inevitably some random facts that I come away with. You get to know more about the history, the troubles, the quirky tales of a place. I like to save taking tours for somewhere special, but I’m rarely disappointed when I do!

    1. Totally agree, Rich!

      I prefer slow travel whenever possible. But I turned the corner on tours within the past two years and find that I really enjoy one that’s well done. You just have to do a bit of research. They’re especially useful on very short trips when I might be looking to see a lot in a minimal amount of time.

  2. I agree with this. I do not travel that much but when I do, I will make sure that I will spend my travel as fun as I could make it. Be in new places, meet some new friends, eat new food etc. But honestly, I’ve never traveled outside my country’s boundaries… yep, I haven’t left Philippines ever since I was born, but I’ve been to lots of cool places here. I want you guys to experience Philippines and apply for a tourist visa.

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