Planning to visit a new place to explore new boundaries is as colorful and as exciting as traveling itself. The journey lets you wander roads less traveled, and lets you experience unique cultures. As a traveler, you have different ways to get around places, and you have several options to enjoy at your disposal. You can travel with your friends, go solo on an independent travel journey, embark in a guided tour, or try a self-guided adventure.
In this article, however, we will focus mainly on the benefits and advantages of self-guided tours. So what is a self-guided tour and how do you do it?
According to Wikipedia, a self-guided tour is “a self-governing tour where one navigates a route oneself as opposed to an escorted tour where a tour guide directs the route, times, information, and places toured.” Basically, it is when you travel solo to a destination, normally with established trails, with the help of companies or other individuals.It is like going solo relying on yourself and becoming independent, but still having the guidance of travel guides.
There are two main ways to go on a self-guided tour. First, you can kick off by traveling a popular path on foot. While the other option isby driving through an established way.
A good example of a self-guided tour on foot are the Germany – Bavarian Alps tour in Europe, the Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal, and the Hawaiian Volcano tour.These tours normally require coordination with local and online agencies to complete. You will have to secure permits and plan your itineraries very well, as it involves days of walking. Despite the elaborate planning that is required, a self-guided tour on foot comes with several advantages. One of which is that you can visit places that no vehicles can penetrate. This means a whole new world will unfold before your eyes that only the brave will ever see. Additionally, it also allows you to be on your own without taking the risk of getting lost or stranded because, after all, you are following a trail.
The second type of self-guided tour involves driving vehicles. Most European and Asian self-guided tours involve traveling several distances that are best traveled by car, boat, bus, train, or even by plane. An Indochinese (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam) self-guided tour is a good example. Traveling from Bangkok to Hanoi takes days of being on the road, traveling through sleeper buses with strangers and other travelers, who are mostly backpackers. Unlike traveling on foot, this type of tour covers several cities or even multi-countries. You will be exposed to different societies and cultures, enriching what you already know.
Now, it is already clear that a self-guided tour entails legwork and requires you to hike and bike. But is there a standard tool you need to use to complete a successful tour?
Well, completing a self-guided tour like a pro does not mean using one standard tool. It could actually be a combination of several media, such as the ones listed below.
1. Audio tours
Most museums, such as the Louvre in Paris or the National Gallery in London, now offer a self-guided audio tour, where guests and visitors are given a handheld device with a recorded spoken commentary. It is ideal for those who want to enjoy the attraction on their own. This may not be available if you are traveling to remote places in the mountains, but is a good buddy if ever you are in the city.
A walking tour of Europe will not be complete without using the old but reliable way of traveling – using booklets. These booklets include printed travel guides, maps, and tips that will help you get around. You can normally get a booklet from travel agencies which offer tour packages or from the city’s tourism office. Aside from being informational, you can also keep these booklets as souvenirs.
3. Smartphone Apps
In recent years, Smartphone apps have become one of the most useful tools in making your plan a reality. Almost everything that you need is now available in an app. Travel guides, along with maps and customer reviews, embeded within a travel app make it easier for you to complete a solo tour. The majority of these apps also allow you to save content for offline viewing.
4. Online Travel Guides
Online tour guide experts Viator.com and Smartdestinations.com are only two of the many websites that offer services to solo travelers. Aside from providing options to hire a local travel guide, just in case you need one, they also give you additional information about how to tour a particular destination or what attractions to see in a particular country on your own. They also come with a prepared plan with an itinerary that covers transfers, hotels, and even meal plans.
Regardless of how you want to go about your self-guided tour, it is always fun to try new things and indulge in exciting activities, because on a self-guided tour you are free to go at your own pace. There is always going to be more pros than cons, and listed below are just some of the many benefits you will get.
- Self-guided tours keep your imagination active.
- It gives you the liberty and the freedom to explore beyond your comfort zone.
- It is much cheaper than hiring an actual guide.
- A DIY tour lets you interact more with the locals.
- It makes you more of a traveler than a tourist.
- Established trails on a self-guided tour are safe.