A guided tour, as the name speaks for itself, is a trip that is facilitated by a licensed guide. The guided trip can go from as short as a few hours which works well for when you’re staying in New York City for a short period, to several weeks (or months!) for those making a journey of an entire country or more often, several countries.

There are different kinds of guided tours and here are the most popular ones:

NYC can be overwhelming for a first time traveler1. Self-guided audio tour

For those on the budget and for those who want more flexibility, an audio tour is your best choice since it allows you to control your trip. You can start, pause, and stop the visit whenever you want. You must be pretty independent to get the most of this kind of tour since you have to find your way around the area. It is easy when you have to use an audio guide in a museum or a site labeled with numbers on each point of interest. When you are going around, say, the Times Square, it can be more challenging and you might be missing out on the essential snippets that you can learn should you have chosen a tour guide.

2. Local tour guide

A local tour guide is usually hired for a specific area because of licensing issues. It is common for tour guides to only have permits for a particular city or town. It might be illegal for them to do paid touring outside of their locality. A knowledgeable tour of New York City, for example,  can help you understand the area you’re visiting, and he/she can even bring you to off-the-beaten places such as restaurants, sunrise and sunset spots, and shops that are popular among locals. It is usually the case that locals rarely go to where tourists go, and vice-versa.

The only challenge is it can be challenging to choose the best local guide among the hundreds available in the area. Your best bet would be to check online ratings and reviews or to hire guides that your family or friends recommend and have had the chance to try their services. There is nothing worse than sticking with a local guide who has no idea of his/her culture and history. Avoid guides who just seem to copy and paste their version of local history from Wikipedia.

3. Group tour guide

group tour on a bus with entertainmentA guided tour is usually associated with a group tour, where apparent tourists shuffle their way along busy streets to follow a person holding a microphone and a bright-colored flag. This sight always puts off many people, which may be the reason why many travelers always try to steer away from guided group tours. But it is unfair to think of all group tours to be this bad and off-putting. If going with a big group such as for your school, company or family, then a group guided tour is the way to go since it is easier to organize everyone. It is a challenge to book for restaurants, hotels, and sightseeing without a tour leader, so going for a group tour is not always a bad choice.

These are the three main categories of guided tours and all others, such as experience tours, are but off-shoots of any of these. A guided tour is always a good choice if you want to get the most of your travel experience, but it is crucial also to get a knowledgeable and passionate guide. Online reviews and friends’ and families’ recommendations can help you out, so don’t just book a guide on the fly.