When I travel to a new city, there are usually a number of different places that I want to visit. As a solo traveller, I am also always looking to meet other like minded travellers with whom I can experience these new cities with. The best way that I have found to date to combine both of these things is a walking tour. The brilliant thing is that many of the larger hostels will offer their own daily walking tours so a backpacker like myself often doesn’t have to go any further than the lobby to find a group of fellow travellers and a guide who is ready to make the city feel like home.
So other than meeting new travellers, why do I love walking tours so much? It’s pretty simple. They are the best way to see a new city. The guides are usually locals who not only show you all of the major tourist attractions but can give you a local insight, whether that be a cool bar or a lovely street vendor for lunch. Some of my best meals have been in restaurants that walking tour guides have suggested. A personal favourite memory being a brilliant taco restaurant on Avenida 5 de Mayo in Mexico City which I went back to every single day to try as many of the combinations as possible. In my experience the tour guides are always happy to provide you with recommendations no matter what your request is.
I have saved possibly the best part of a walking tour until last. That they are incredibly budget friendly for backpackers. Often, they are listed as ‘Free’ Walking Tours. On the surface this is true. The majority of the time there is absolutely no requirement to pay any money for the tours, but it is common to give the guide a tip at the end if you enjoyed it as that is how they make their money. Of course, if you didn’t think the tour was good, something that I am yet to experience, then this is not required.
However, I usually tip around $5 per person for a tour, a very common amount amongst travellers and something that I think represents excellent value for money. Often a tour is a couple of hours long and might even include some special activities. For example, a walking tour that I went on in Quito, Ecuador, we tasted both local sweets in the market and also Ecuadorian produced chocolate in a variety of flavours.
If you, like me, want to learn about the history, the architecture, and the people of the city that you are visiting then a walking tour really is the best way. It is something that I would recommend doing at the earliest point of your trip. A walking tour really helps you put all of the major landmarks in relation to one another and I find that it allows me to work out which are the areas or places that I want to revisit and spend more time exploring.