Do you walk on the wild side when you travel?
I am a walker. I come from a long line of ‘prowlers’ and my restless legs are always eager to hit the road. I've pounded the pavement around the world, first to save precious coins on bus fare while making my own way to the hostel, and secondly out of impatience – I can often reach a destination myself by the time it takes to wait for subway train or taxi. My ultra-speedy mission walk is legendary! Occasionally, these restless legs break into a run, as they did in Paris, where I ran the marathon in 2006.
It comes as no surprise that walking tours are a favourite part of any trip. From a practical point of view, they are a great jetlag buster. With fresh air and light exercise, walking tours are a fun and healthy way to keep yourself awake without having to worry much about being alert enough to keep track of directions or details.
In terms of value, walking tours can be some of the best deals in town. Bus, boat, Segway, horse drawn carriages, and bike tours are a lot of fun, but they are also more expensive. Walking tours usually beat most other tours and forms of entertainment when you break down the cost per hour. Best of all, many walking tours are offered free by municipalities or on a tip based/pay what you can basis.
Walking tours are also a great deal for your limited time. Travelers pressed for time will often join a hop on, hop off bus tour program, but I've always found a walking tour or two will allow you to see twice as much in the same amount of time. Strolling down narrow alleys, visiting hidden courtyards, avoiding busy roads and never being held up in traffic mean that a walking group can really maximize their tour time.
Practicalities and value aside, walking tours are just plain fun! There are walking tours that offer a general oversight of a city as well as very specific neighbourhood and interest based tours for those interested in something a little bit different. My favourite tour company, London Walks, offers excursions on every topic and interest imaginable in London. I used to plan my walks not based on the subject, but instead on what was easiest for my schedule and I was never once disappointed by the diverse offerings.
Walking tours are a great way for travelers to learn about hidden neighbourhood gems (I guarantee your tour guild will be able to recommend a great place to find chocolate chip cookies and great takeaway!) There's always a chance for travelers to meet one another and make new friends. Many walking tours end at a pub and offer a chance for some friendly relaxation and refreshment. For solo travelers, especially women, walking tours offer a fantastic opportunity for socializing and entertainment at night.
And for those night time tours, you can’t go wrong with a ghost walk. I love the history, folklore, and oral story telling tradition that accompanies ghost stories and, while I can’t claim to really believe in the spooks myself, I love the drama and theatre that comes with a great story. Sure, they can be a bit cheesy and not all tour guides are really cut out for the job, but overall a ghost walk is a fun and unique look at history.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. What is your favourite kind of tour? Do you prefer a self-guided tour or one with a professional guide?
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