Self-guided tours are the perfect compromise for travelers who don't want to be shuttled around like sheep with other tourists, but who also want the convenience of having everything planned for them. These kinds of tours provide a detailed itinerary, including the best accommodations and city recommendations. Unlike regular guided tours, you can do everything at your own pace, allocating as much time as you want to any particular activity.
These tours are available all over the world, allowing you to see the famous landscapes of South America or the small coastal cities of Europe. You can take a car to cover the maximum amount of ground or go it on foot allowing you to really appreciate the land you're visiting. Cycling tours in Europe and Asia are also popular self-guided options, providing exciting itineraries and breathtaking views.
The small towns of Italy and Portugal are popular self-guided tour destinations, putting you in the driver's seat of your European adventure. You might find yourself trekking around the stunning landscapes of the Algarve or cycling around the Danube through monasteries and castles in Austria. These tours give you the freedom to see the European countryside at your own leisure while still providing an organized itinerary and accommodations.
Self-guided cycling or motorbiking tours are especially popular in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand. The best part of taking this kind of tour is that it allows you to see parts of the country that are not easily accessible by car, providing interesting rides and stunning views from the coast to the mountains. You can bike through rice fields and ancient temples before stopping for a night of fun and rest in the big cities.
South American self-guided tours allow you to discover the ancient paths of the Incas and the natural wonders of the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. These self-guided tours allow you to walk on the wild side, with a good dose of adventure and discovery thrown in. From the ruins at Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley to Bolivia's surreal salt flats, itineraries offer country-specific tours or lengthier multi-country treks.
A self-driving tour in Australia might be the best way to explore the country's metropolitan cities and its vast outback. Your itinerary might include taking a 4WD ride around Alice Springs and Ayers Rock or driving along the coast from Sydney to Melbourne, with plenty of sights and stops along the way. Walking tours, which can sometimes take you to places only accessible by foot, are also popular in places like the Blue Mountains and around Victoria.
Since self-guided tours, especially cycling and walking tours, can often take you places you can't reach any other way, these tours are perfect for adventure travel. You and your companions might find yourself hiking up world-famous mountains and through ancient ruins. You might take a boat through sea caves off the coast of Africa or go snowshoeing in the highest peaks of Europe. These tour itinerary sometimes include activities like rafting, canoeing, or snorkeling.
Walking tours are a popular way to experience some of the world's most gorgeous and famous hiking trails. From the Amalfi Coast to the Lost City of Colombia, your self-guided tour can get you in touch with nature in a way that no other tour can. There's nothing like the satisfaction of getting to the highest peak on your multi-day hike and enjoying the view you earned to get there. Since some tours include hiking in mountainous and rough terrain, difficulty varies, so the best self-guided walking tour will depend on your level of fitness.
One of the most popular self-guided alternatives is to take a car and embark on a road trip around a country or region. These are great because they allow you to cover the most ground in the shortest amount of time. Self-driving tours typically include the cost of the car rental and insurance, as well as the accommodations along the way. They give you an incredible amount of flexibility to stop anywhere you want along the way.
Planning Your Trip
A self-guided tour is the perfect blend of stress-free and flexible. Without the rigidity of a guided group tour, you can feel free to explore without having to go through the trouble of planning your escape.
What to Look for in a Self-Guided Tour
To choose the most appropriate self-guided tour for you, you have to consider your interests and abilities. Many self-guided trekking and cycling tours include information about how difficult the route is. Since you'll be on your own, it's important to consider your own abilities and whether you'll be able to safely complete the trek. The best tours of this type offer a way to transport your luggage from one place to the other while you're traversing the countryside on foot or by bike.
Common Types of Self-Guided Tours
Depending on the location, self-guided tours can have a different focus. Tours that take you through cities will include more sightseeing and local activity recommendations. Tours focused on nature and wildlife will provide you the tools to enjoy the most picturesque sights of a country or region's landscape. These often include activities best suited to those that are more adventurous, who aren't afraid to explore the road less traveled.
Typical Tours Costs
Self-guided tours can be more expensive than traditional tours, where the costs are shared by many travelers. Aside from accommodations and equipment, such as a car or bicycle, these tours offer support along the way, sometimes even providing a support vehicle to transport your things you hike or cycle. Driving tours might be as little as $700, where cycling and trekking tours might have an upper range of more than $3,000, depending on the length.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Your packing strategy will depend on the kind of self-guided tour you choose. For an authentic backpacking experience, you'll need a specific kind of lightweight bag that provides the most comfort when you carry it all day. If your tour offers transportation for your luggage or you're doing a driving tour, you don't have to worry as much about what you'll need to pack. Typically necessary gear, like bicycles or items needed for excursions, are included in the cost of a tour.
Other Tips for Self-Guided Tours
In some countries, you may need to obtain a tourist visa in advance. As you search for the perfect self-guided adventure, you should take this into account. You'll also need to be prepared to get specific immunizations before a trip, especially if a lot of your trip includes the outdoors, where there's a greater chance of bug bites or contact with wildlife.