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Wandering around a new place without any idea of what you are seeing is a good way to waste your valuable vacation time.  If you have an aversion to guide books or lack the time to read them, consider hiring a guide. 

 

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Travel Advice - Didn't read the book? Hire a guide

Many travelers have good intentions, but will not find the time to do  the homework necessary to make a vacation great.

We recommend that you get a good guidebook and use it to pre-select the attractions you want to see.  Guidebooks provide interesting background information on the most important attractions and can be used to create an itinerary focused on your interests. (See our article  Choosing the right guidebook for you.  If you do not have time to read a guidebook, see our Destination Guides for a concise overview of the best places to visit in the countries we cover.) 

 

Unfortunately, many travelers attempt to “cram” for the trip by reading the guidebook during the flight to their destination.  Guidebooks are not action packed reads and the last minute "crammer" usually  falls asleep with the book on his or her chest. Then, on arrival, this traveler grabs a tourist map from the hotel and heads out to tour the city.

  • Don’t let a giveaway tourist map be the main influence on what you see on your vacation.
  • Sightseeing without knowing the historic or cultural context of what you are seeing deprives you of understanding the significance of the destination.

If you have not had time to read your guidebook, we make the following suggestions:

1.  Read and print out our Destination Travel Guide for the location.

2. If there is a local tourist information office at your destination, stop in, explain your interests. and ask for assistance.

  • Usually the tourist bureau staff can suggest an itinerary that will meet your needs.

3. Most tourist information offices can put you in contact with a guide who is an expert on the area's attractions and knows the ins-and-outs of when to visit the attractions with the least amount of difficulty.

  • Guides who provide tours to groups do so on a fixed schedule are relatively inexpensive.
  • Guides who work with individual parties are more expensive.
    • Individual guides are usually hired for a whole or a half-day and take more time with individual questions, often tailoring a tour to your specific interests.

4. If there is not a tourist office, your hotel can usually put you in contact with a qualified tour guide.

  • Be sure that you agree on a fee before your tour starts and be clear on what the tour includes (transportation, attractions, etc).
    • In addition, if the tour continues through meal times, determine if you are expected to pay for the guide's meals.
  • Do some shopping around and make sure that you are not overpaying for a guide.

5. If you are visiting a museum or gallery, ask if they offer guided tours or automated guides (CD-ROM or tape players) and use the one that you prefer.

  • The guided tours may be individual or group.
  • In most cases, the guides at these institutions are very knowledgeable and provide good value.

Yes, we know that guides may be expensive and that tours take time but vacations are the journeys of a lifetime and you should make the most of the experience. Good guides and quality guidebooks  are fundamental investments that will help you enjoy your visit.

 

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