If you’re taking a trip to a new destination, you may be considering whether or not to book a private tour. You have options to go explore on your own or join a group tour. Private tours can be a great way to see a new place, but they have advantages and drawbacks.
Booking a private tour or not depends on what is most important to you as the traveler. Here are some of the pros and cons of booking a private tour.
1. You get a dedicated guide who can customize the tour to your interests.
A private tour makes it a more personalized experience. You can customize the tour to go to places you want to visit. A private tour guide can tailor the itinerary and make it more personalized to suit your interests. You only go to places that you want to see.
2. Flexibility in schedule.
Go whenever you want to go. A private tour guide will pick you up and drop you off later from your hotel anytime you want. Forget the hassle of getting up or returning to your hotel early.
3. Your tour guide will bridge the language barrier for you.
You’ll feel safe in good hands than when traveling on your own. Your guide can negotiate prices on your behalf to get a good deal if you want to buy souvenirs.
4. You’ll have a personal guide throughout the experience.
No need to worry about admission fees and falling in long lines to get into an attraction. I experienced this convenience at the Taj Mahal one time. The ticket and entry lines were long, but we got in fast without falling in line because our guide did everything.
6. Private tours with your car and tour guide can be more intimate and relaxing.
You can forget about car rentals and parking, the stress of not being in a strange place, or having to worry about finding a ride and getting lost or scammed. You don’t have to share the ride with 60 strangers in a cramped bus.
7. You can set your pace.
A private tour guide allows you to stay as long as you want in one place or skip some landmarks. You’re the boss. I hired a personal tour guide around Ho Chi Minh City one time, and I already have a list in my mind of where I want to go. Naturally, the tour guide wants me to show the city’s highlights.
I sensed she felt frustrated because I skipped many of the usual destinations and skirted the typical welcome orientations to our places. I dove right into taking photos. If you go on a group tour, you cannot go off independently but have to keep up with everyone. Usually, if the itinerary is full, the guide will shepherd all of you to an attraction or scheduled stop as fast as possible.
8. You can learn more about the history and culture.
If you explore on your own, there’s no one to talk to about where you are. In a group tour, your time is limited, and the tour guide usually gives a memorized recitation about a place. A private tour gives you the advantage of seeing these places through the eyes of locals, not as a tourist. You can glean in-depth knowledge about the history and culture you can’t get from a group or solo tour.
9. You can hit more places in a short time.
A private tour is a way to go if you have limited time in a new location. The local guides know where to take you, and you can visit more attractions than when you go off on your own.
10. You have an instant personal photographer.
Stop worrying about taking selfies. It’s always awkward to ask strangers to take your photos because they are tourists and want to enjoy the place as much as you do. You can ask your guide to take pictures. You can also rest easy that you don’t have to risk handing your camera or phone to strangers.
Now, let’s look at the downsides of why you shouldn’t book a private tour.
1) They are more expensive than public tours or going off alone.
This is to be expected because you are receiving a one-on-one service. Your tour fees include transportation, tour guide, driver, and admission fees to some or all attractions.
2. You won’t meet other travelers on a private tour.
If you go on a group tour, you share seats and experiences with others. If your travel goal is to meet as many people as possible and make as many new friends as possible, you may want to check out group tours.
3. You may feel uncomfortable if you’re not used to having a personal guide.
If you prefer to spend hours at a theme park, or a museum alone, you might consider going off without a guide and save some money.
5. You might not get along with the tour guide.
Tour guides, like regular people, are not created equal. Although they usually go out of their way to please you, there may be instances when you just won’t hit it off. I’ve been with guides who were like reporters when they ask questions and drown you with information overload. Some talk non-stop and share their life stories, and will ask you about your life. They are the over-sharers. Other guides will speak on a need-to-know basis and only answer questions if you ask them. Some guides will give you quiet time to absorb the views around you.
I don’t usually talk on a trip because I’m always taking photos on the road. My favorite private tour guide was the one I had in Chiang Mai who just pointed out important landmarks but kept conversation minimal. When he saw that I was taking photos of everything, he changed our route and took me to picturesque streets and colorful areas in the city.
Top scrambled Tips
Here are the top tips if you book a private tour, go solo, or go with a group tour.
- Research, research, research. In every country, there are hordes of tour companies. Don’t jump in for the first one you see because they offer cheaper rates than others. Trim down your choices and compare the services.
- Read reviews. Spend time reading reviews, especially the negative ones, so you will know what to expect. If negative comments outweigh the positive, move on and find someone else.
- Choose your priorities. You can’t cover everything in a day. Make a list. Where do you really want to go? How long do you want to spend on a location? You only have so many hours on a day.
- Tip your tour guide. If you are happy with the service, be generous with tips.
When going for a private tour or joining a group tour, decide what’s important to you and choose accordingly. Private tours come at a cost, but if you think it’s too expensive for you, you can always go solo.
My pros for booking a private tour guide outweigh the cons. I feel comfortable going with someone who knows about the place, and I can take photos and videos without having to look behind my back all the time. However, that will also depend on how much time I have to stay in a particular place. If I was going to stay long in a place, I’d probably just explore on my own. Go for whatever and wherever you feel comfortable.
Don’t be shy to share your thoughts and comments below.