Are walking tours worth it?

To walk or not? That is the question. But what is the answer?

walking tour in new york central park

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her required holiday reading is Collective magazine, a great new fiction novel or a personal development book. Unlike photos, she feels you can never be over-developed.

To walk or not? That is the question. But what is the answer?

Recently, I have found myself on quite a number of free walking tours. Dragged along by travel companions who were lured by the concept of something for nothing - this isn't always the case.

While walking tours can be a fantastic way to see a city or get an overview of its history, some of them can be an utter waste of valuable time. Often taking up to three hours, how can you know beforehand if it will be worthwhile or be time spent better soaking up the culture in other more enjoyable ways (did someone say food and wine)?

Here are five tips to make sure you don't get stuck on a dud walking tour, enviously eyeing off other tourist’s freedom.

Get the facts
Find out where and what the walking tour is actually going to take in. This may sound obvious but I have been on two that were not what we expected. The first was a Latin Quarter walking tour in Paris - sadly this was misleading as it simply met in the Latin Quarter and then went around the main sites, all of which we already had visited. The second was simply a guide telling us where we could get good deals on food while ignoring every point of interest we walked past - seemingly more of a promo tour than anything else.

Do your research
The most reliable way to end up on a valuable walking tour is to ask around. Pick the brains of friends who have been to the destination. Do the same with any other tourists you come across, and don’t forget to ask staff at your accommodation. Recommendations are key in this situation. If all else fails turn to Google and pick one that comes well-reviewed or that you think can hold your attention for the duration of the tour.

Get specific
Trailing around listening to not-so interesting facts for hours on end is not many people’s idea of time well spent. With so many unique offerings these days, pick one that's different in some way. Many cities offer tours on bikes or even Segways. London offers tours led by homeless people, which is a great way to give back to the. Some tours also take place at night, offering a different perspective on the city.

segway tour in paris

There's no such thing as a free ride
Or walking tour really. In many cases, the guides who take them rely on tips to make a living, meaning that the tour isn't really free at all. While they can't force you to tip them, it is a bit harsh to go along for the ride and then not offer them anything for their time. Bear this in mind when choosing a tour. It may make more sense to pay for an interesting quality one  rather than skimping for something of less value.

Know when to cut your losses
While it may sound rude, if you find yourself on a tour you're not enjoying or learning much from, do not hesitate to leave. There's really no point in wasting any more of your precious travel time stuck on a bad walking tour. That said, make sure you've given the guide a decent amount of time to set the standard of the tour ­– it's rare you'll learn all that much in the first half an hour – and try to sneak away as subtly as possible. Having escaped bad tours twice,  I recommend staying at the back of the group and waiting until you're in a busy area before breaking away.

What's your stance on walking tours when travelling? Where have you experienced good or bad ones before?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    15th Jul 2017
    Sneaking out of a 'walking tour' is ok, but still let the guide know, he/'she might worry that one or more of the pax got lost. It is a matter of courtesy. Take this from an experienced tour guide
    15th Jul 2017
    Its always worth checking if the local tourism board/council offer walking tours. If they do they are usually free or very well priced, informative and interesting.

    15th Jul 2017
    Probably just me but i can never understand why people, having arrived at a new exciting destination, always want to rush off and find somewhere to eat or drink!
    Why sit in a crowded, noisy place for ages when one can go around seeing sights, which was supposed to be the main purpose anyway?
    15th Jul 2017
    I love walking tours and also free trams and buses that give commentary as they go along. If they tell you something of interest you get off at next stop and enjoy it. Better than organised tours any day.

    Tags: travel, tips, tour

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