Rome Stories and Tips

Option 3 - Arrange a Private Tour

You may have to do some research and Googling but PRIVATE TOURS – My opinion is that it is the BEST way to go. You combine the flexibility of independent traveling with a guaranteed itinerary with the comfort of personal service. Private tours typically pick you up and drop you off at the cruise terminal with either a private car or van, with just a driver and a personal tour guide.

ADVANTAGES: 1) having a private tour guide is PHENOMENAL and the most recommended way to go. The guides are not only knowledgeable of the destination but will have everything pre-arranged for you before arrival from purchasing tickets in major sites to the hotel accommodations (if needed) and of course, since you are in a private car, you can get on and off the sites you want to see much faster than a big hulking bus through narrow streets. 2) Semi Flexible Itinerary - Most of the time, since you are in a private tour, you can request a last minute change of itinerary, for example or if you have extra time (which you will have), you can see even more of the destination if you request it. 3) You can ask as many questions or as little as you want and they will answer any and all your questions without worrying about 50 other people in the bus. In fact, most times, the guide will ask you what kind of information you want… history? Culture? Political? You name it and they will tailor their comments for you just like that. Unlike big group tours, they have to tell you stuff that is generally what the group wants to hear. 4) Having a personal guide gives you a bit more of a cultural experience because they tend to give you not only more information but also (once they get to know you) be able to customize the excursion a bit to your liking. For example, if the guide knows you are a bit squeamish on the local food, he or she will arrange for your meals to be in a hotel or more western in nature or vice versa. Or, if he or she feels you like to do more shopping then sightseeing, the guide can rearrange the itinerary to fit your needs. (I will go over private tours in my stop in Cairo during this journal).

DISADVANTAGES:
1. Though personally, I never had this happen, I've heard some reviews about private tours going awry because the guide doesn't speak very good English. That would really be bad and you are stuck with that guide the entire tour. Again, this has never happened to me so just so you know this can happen.

2. For the company I used for Cairo, the private tour company (Ramses Tours) only accepts cash basically. You can do travelers checks but they'll just take you to a bank to cash them for you and most places charges you to cash travelers checks. This means you'll be carrying a lot of cash around. The way around this is that I used the ship's ATM. After the tour, my wife ran back up to the ship, got onto the ATM and pulled enough cash and came back down to pay the guide. Most private tour companies who specializes in these types such as General Tours (generaltours.com), however, do take credit cards but will require payment up front.

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