Learn about your destination and connect with people along the way. This is why city tours are great for solo travelers.
It's also great fun to take the occasional tour of your home town. You'll learn far more than you ever expected. I've done so and it's amazing.
But how to choose a city tour? What are your options? What do you look for?
There are many possibilities. Choosing wisely will ensure that you enjoy a rich travel experience.
Favorite City Tour Themes that May Surprise You
You can take a standard city tour, on foot or by bus, during which you are inundated with facts and dates. But the tours I enjoy most are the ones that connect you to the stories of a place through interesting themes. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Food A food tour, beyond being a delicious experience, gives you an interesting avenue into a destination's culture, history, and even language. Read A Fabulous Trastevere Food Tour.
- Architecture I know nothing about architecture but that doesn't really matter. On such a tour, you learn about the building of a city, the reason that certain building materials and designs are used, why neighborhoods were established, migration patterns within the city, and, in some places, a myriad of explanations for a unique architectural feature such as Montreal's outside staircases. It's amazing what you can learn. Chicago is famous for its architectural tours.
- Beer Historically, beer was the beverage for all, adults and children, as it was safer than drinking water. As a result, the beer tour I took of Toronto not only introduced me to local craft brews but also involved many fun, historical stories.
- Graveyards Gravestones and the lives behind them reveal much about a city. Prominent city officials, artists, and academics usually lie in privileged cemeteries. A good tour will also speak of those who are not in the graveyard, the poor and working class.
- Street Art Street Art tours are a more recent addition to the city tours on offer around the world. They position their destination into local and international, political, and artistic contexts. See Solo Travel Destination: East End London, England for an overview of an East London graffiti tour.
How to Choose a City Tour
Why did you choose your destination? What is it that drew you there? What are your personal interests? How much time do you have to explore?
All these questions will influence the type of tour you take. Here are a list of the most common options, from the most general in nature, to tours designed for your specific interests.
- Hop-on Hop-off I rarely learn anything that sticks on these tours but I do get an overview of the city. It's a great way to get oriented when you have a few days at a new destination or it's a fast way to cover a city if you have only one day. I suggest that you spend only a few hours doing the tour and dig deeper for the rest of your day.
- Free These are typically walking tours guided by an unpaid local doing it for tips. As a result, they are much better than you might expect. After all, the better the tour, the better their tips.
- Walking A walking tour that you pay for typically includes entrance to a restaurant to taste a local delicacy or a museum to see one particular exhibit. In other words, it's more involved than your free walking tour.
- Local Greeter City tours are great for solo travelers, and this is my favorite type of them all. It's private, costs little (a small donation to the greeter organization and a small gift to your greeter) and gives you a very personal perspective on the city. I've done Greeters tours on foot and one by bike.
- Private These are the most expensive but also customized to your specific interests.
You can usually find any of these tours with a quick google search.