I am a very independent traveler, from booking through every aspect of the actual trip itself. I love taking care of the little details, carefully researching each destination and creating sample itineraries to maximize our time. I never considered hiring a tour guide to help us while visiting new places; I just saw them as an unnecessary expense. I honestly didn’t think they would add anything to the experience, except to cost us money. Fortunately, my opinion changed while on a Mediterranean cruise.
By its nature, a Mediterranean cruise means that you don’t get to spend very much time in any one place. Rather you have a day, or maybe two at the most, to explore some of the most exciting cities of the world. While not for everyone, I enjoyed it as an introduction to certain countries that I ordinarily wouldn’t have visited. Because of the restrictions though, I had to find ways to maximize our time and money at each stop. This is how I learned the real value of a good tour guide.
I was particularly excited about the visiting the port of Kusadasi. Located on the coast of Southern Turkey, Kusadasi is best known as being the portal to Ephesus, one of the most historically significant sites in Turkey. I knew I wanted to tour Ephesus, but there were also several other places in the region I wanted to see, and only a day to see them. After some research, I found that there was a reasonably good bus service which could get us to almost all of the sites we wanted to see. The timing though was tricky and I wasn’t sure if we could do everything, knowing that we were bound to make mistakes with the bus system. So I decided to hire a tour guide.
Reading through scores of travel message boards and various reviews, I contacted Ekol Travel and told them what I wanted. We would be touring Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis, the Virgin Mary’s House and the Basilica of St. John, all with an experienced tour guide for only $75 per person.
We were met at the port by the driver and guide and started our day. Our guide was excellent and more than just taking us to the sites, she really educated us about what we were seeing and doing. By the end of the day, I had learned more about the area than I ever could have by myself.
Since then, I have experimented with tour guides and even started purchasing the audio guides at museums and sites when available. While extra fees are of course involved, they have made for a much richer travel experience. Guide books are great, but their information is limited and I have learned so much more with guides. Ultimately, their value usually far outweighs the cost. The honest truth is that most of of my trips are to places to which I will never return. I would be doing myself a tremendous disservice by not maximizing the value of these experiences and learning as much as I can while there. That’s why, in my opinion, it is definitely worth paying a little more sometimes in order to get a much more enjoyable travel experience.