There is a consistent message that when traveling you should go after an authentic experience. You should get to know the culture, the people, the neighborhoods. I’ve always been told to stay where the locals stay, eat where the locals eat and well, do what the locals do. Not saying that is wrong advice, however the one thing people tend to dismiss are tours while traveling. Tours tend to be labeled as too touristy and unauthentic. You can picture the tourist underdressed, overly excited, and carrying a DSLR camera he doesn’t know how to use here. Tours aren’t just for the lame tourists, there are tours for anyone and everyone. With so many options you can find an experience that might even be authentic. Stop worrying about looking like a tourist, you are one, and tours have a lot of value.
You won’t know where the cool spots are, or how to get there. Usually tour guides are locals, they guide you to local places, to do local things and hey, then you get to hear stories from a local. Tours allow you to pay for a whole day of activities, you could spend a whole day at multiple sites. This makes exploring more efficient. Tours can also give you more mobility; You may not have access to a car or public transportation to get to specific spots.
Tours can be adventurous and exciting. Sure, the locals in The Dominican Republic probably don’t spend every weekend zip-lining but that doesn’t mean that you should miss out. Tours allow you to do things you haven’t done before, in a country that is new to you. I know I am looking forward to cooking authentic food with a local mom in her kitchen and hiking on a glacier during my upcoming trip to Iceland this Winter. Visiting elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand is also on my list of things to do and it is probably best done with a guide. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to risk getting stomped on by elephants.
The best booking sites and finding the best tours for you:
There will be tours that are not your vibe so do your research and look for the ones with the good reviews. Now days you can find small businesses or locals that post yoga classes, meditation classes, hikes, cooking classes, or even photography sessions all hosted directly by local people. I really recommend looking for experiences on Airbnb. Most people who post on there want to meet tourists, are friendly and want to get to know you. This could also lead to going out to local bars, making friends and even staying in touch. If you are staying in hostels, talk to the front desk, they often have tours that they do for their guests. Sometimes they even have free tours and activities like cooking dinner together or bar hopping. I have also booked tours through Viator and they were great! The key thing is booking on reputable sites and again, check the reviews.
There is pressure to not be a tourist and people say that tours are lame or not authentic experiences, but let me tell you, it is how I toured a coffee farm in Puerto Rico and hiked in the Dominican Republic to hidden waterfalls. You can also book tours with multiple destinations and activities. I did a tour in Ireland; we went from Dublin to castles, to cliffs, to Giant’s Causeway, to Northern Ireland and back all in one day. Don’t spend every day on a tour but book at least a couple. They are fun, exciting, tasty and actually allow you to experience more of the destination than you would otherwise. Go do the tourist thing, take out your GoPro and film yourself zip-lining through the Caribbean rainforest.
Have you ever done a tour while traveling? What did you do and do you have any other tips to add? Let me know in the comments!