Know your Options - Make a Smart Choice

Travelling Style

There are four different kinds of tours.

1. Self guided with audio guide or podcast.Even the most independent traveller would use this option, as it gives background for, and perspective of, what is essentially just a building, attraction or ruin.
2. Private Guide. This is the most expensive option. If you are interested in studying a destination, attraction or location in detail for academic or personal reasons, there is no better alternative than having a private guide. A well-informed local can also advise you on many other things, including the latest events, shopping deals and restaurants which may not be available in English on the web yet.

3. Day Tours. Day tours are used by backpackers or even luxury travellers who want to string together a number of places into one day, that are not connected well by public transport. These tours are usually priced very competitively, and deliver amazing value. A taxi, or even a hired car for four people, does not deliver as good value, because you have everything set out for you, and you know what time you have to depart and what time you will return to your base for the night.

4. Package Tour. A fixed-destination, timed, guided tour with a dedicated guide from beginning to end. This is known in the industry as a package tour. It is usually not cost effective, unless the destinations are so remote that it is not accessible. This is rarely the case, as any place that a 60 seater bus can go, you can too, in so many other ways. The tour rarely if ever, takes you out of your comfort zone, and a spaced out tourist rarely remembers anything about the area, and will probably not have a clear understanding about the life and culture there, other than the impression that your guide gives you.


Variety & Style

When planning an independent trip, try and include many different facets, that addresses the uniqueness of the destination, as well as the special aspects that you may be interested in. e.g. Sports, Food, Local Traditions, Music, Theatre, Language, History, Architecture, Art and Painting, Pop Culture, Science, Famous People and Locations, and more. Also, when planning your itinerary, include big towns and capitals, small towns, and villages where tourists would not usually stop. This would give you a mix of the heavy sightseeing cities, as well as places where you have lots of photo opportunities, but do not feel the need to constantly be on your feet to see the next place. If your travelling style does not allow you to stop overnight, at least treat yourself to a day trip. This can be both fun and give you a variety of different photos and memories. This works for Europe, the Far East, Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Remember to minimise the one day stops, and try to have at least one three night stop in your itinerary in the destination that you are most interested in. Longer is not always better - you will experience diminishing returns in value even in relaxation, unless you yourself are sold on the plan for each day.

1. Food. Try the local cuisine, but also try the food of the immigrants and something exotic, to give you variety. Give variety to the type of food as well. Many clients vary their dining from street food to bistros to luxury fine dining.

2. Day Tour or Free Tour This gives you an appreciation of your surroundings, and gives you ideas for your free time. You may even meet a new local friend, or a traveller from somewhere else in the world.

3. Traditions. Before you go, research the traditions that you would like to experience. There are only so much ruins, churches and buildings that you can see without a feeling of deja vu. Experience what makes your destination unique and interesting; this makes your whole trip that much richer.

4. Famous People, Pop Culture, Landmarks and Natural Scenery. These are general interest, and may (or may not) be included in a boilerplate tour. Hitler's Eagle's Nest, Mozart's birthplace and village where his mother was born, Austrian, Swiss, French and Italian Alpine views, the Black Forest area in Germany, places where Games of Thrones was filmed, the poet Wordworth's village, the Glenfinnan Viaduct, Piz Gloria at Schilthorn, the Lauterbrunnen valley which inspired J.R.R. Tolkien, the Tapas bar with Cava trawl in the evenings in Barcelona, and much more.

5. Architecture. This is usually the main  aspect which is addressed in the guided tour.  "This is the Eiffel Tower, it was built for the 1889 World's Fair", etc. And move on. You don't climb to the top and see the positioning within the city of Paris and its views of the Seine. Or the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona) in half an hour, and come out thinking that it is just another church. There is much more to see, appreciate and remember for architecture buffs, and they will appreciate the difference of spending as much time as is necessary, to do so.

6. Paintings.  Many of the great art galleries of the world, are free to enter. This includes the National Gallery in London and Edinburgh, the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C., the British Museum, the Museum of Liverpool, the Prado in Madrid (for limited hours) and much more. Others have a nominal entrance fee, such as the Louvre, the Vatican Museums and the Uffizi.

7. Hiking. Plan a few hours of hiking if you are in a scenic area. There are lakes, mountains and views of the ocean. If you are travelling off season there will be no other tourist in sight, and you will have that beautiful scenery to yourself, yours to photograph and savour.

8. History. Take some notes with you on the history of the city. This would give you things to see which are not on any map and will probably not be shown to you except on a good local walking tour. The Prague 1989 Velvet Revolution memorial, and Paris' Bastille memorial plaque at Rue Saint-Antoine, are just two of these. Keep an eye out for plaques and monuments, they are a good indication of the history and culture of the place that you are visiting.

9. Music. Whatever your taste in music, buy tickets in advance and go for a concert.  This is a very different experience to the tourist group concerts - it is the very best that the destination has to offer. If you are lucky, you may even get your favourite musician's autograph with a photo with him/her.

10. Theatre. As with music, you have the opportunity of seeing the world's best actors live on stage. Whether it is serious drama or musical theatre, you should book online in advance, or make use of three day advance window tickets at a discount. Try and avoid black market tickets, as the venue has the right to identify a scalped ticket and refuse you entry.

11. Superlatives and Unique Attractions. There are world record holding sights, such as the most visited attraction in the world (The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul), the world's oldest restaurant (Restaurante Sobrino de Botin in Madrid), the oldest parliament (the Icelandic Althingi in Rejkjavik), or the birthplace of Harry Potter (The Elephant House pub in Edinburgh), all of which you should definitely visit. Some of them are not included in guided tours, so you should make it a point to make time to go and see them.


12. Pilgrimage and Religious Interest. Whether it is Europe's great Norman, Romanesque, Gothic, neo-Gothic or Modern Cathedrals, charming little churches, places of religious significance, incorrupt bodies of saints, ancient artifacts, places of importance in Church history, to the great Mosques of Istanbul; there is plenty to see that will invigorate the soul as well as the senses.

13. Shopping. Slot in one of the last days of your trip to explore some shopping opportunities. Our shopping stops on your customised itinerary are usually at the end of your trip, so that you do not have to carry too many things for long distances. The proximity discount usually does not exist - e.g. things are usually more expensive in Switzerland and Finland, even if many things like watches and devices are made there.

These are just some of the aspects that make your trip unique and unforgettable, and no-one can tell you what works for you. Don't settle for a boilerplate standard holiday with optional tours. Plan your trip well and meticulously - you are, after all, paying for it. Make it a memorable investment.

Tourama (Pvt) Ltd
3/1, 304 Union Place,
Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: (+94 11) 2326181