Staying On - and Going Off - the Beaten Path

When I visit a new country, I like to both go on tours, and do my own thing. That way, I get the best of both worlds. Let's look at the advantages of staying on the beaten path and going off the beaten path.

Being the Obedient Tourist and Staying on the Beaten Path
"You're going on a tour? You'll not see the real side of the city that way!" - this is a typical response when people consider a day tour around a city. However, there are some real advantages to going on a tour. For a start, you'll get to all the key tourist destinations much faster than if you tried to do it yourself. Tours get your "to see" list ticked off faster. You'll also - if the tour guide is good enough - gain some insights into the places you'll visit. In a popular tourist destination, lots of tours are competing with each other - so you'll likely get good value for your money too. Moreover, your guide can advise you on things you can go and see on your own time after the tour too.

Going of the Beaten Path

Tours are all well and good for completing your "must see" lists, but they can make you feel like you're having an inauthentic experience since you're mostly traveling with other tourists, and the popular destinations are all crowded with coach-loads of yet more tourists. To see the "real" side of the country you're visiting, you need to get our of your comfort zone and do a bit of "DIY travelling". You might want to visit some local markets, or just wander the streets with no particular destination - these are excellent ways to see the more authentic side. It can be a little daunting, but you're more likely to remember such "slice of life" experiences than the whistle-stop tours.

So Which is Better?
I think neither are necessarily fact, I'd say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. By making enough time in your holiday to go on tours and do your own travelling is the best solution - to get the best of both worlds.

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