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What Is a Self-Guided Tour?

Hikes through wilderness areas can be self-guided tours.
Many tourists take self-guided tours through the Forbidden City in China.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A self-guided tour is a sightseeing excursion in which individuals or groups don't have a professional guide present. It's the opposite of an escorted tour in which a professional guide leads the way as well as usually mentions relevant details. This type of tour may involve walking, hiking, driving and/or boating or it could involve a variety of transportation methods. A self-guided tour may be as simple as walking through a museum, art gallery or college campus or as complex as taking a lengthy trip using maps, instructions and following an itinerary.

Some travel companies specialize in planning and arranging self-guided tours for customers. These are often at least a week in duration and may even be months long. The travel company provides the customer with a trip itinerary to follow with most transportation and accommodation prearranged. This type of self-guided tour may at times involve a guide just for a small portion of the trip, especially if a foreign language presents a barrier to the individual or group or if special equipment is needed such as in a mountain climbing expedition. If a tour guide is part of the trip, the self-guided itinerary will mention the day, time and location where the individual traveler or party should meet the guide.

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Itineraries written for self-guided tours are usually organized for each day of the trip. Not only are instructions about what mode of transportation to take where or in which city and hotel to stay each night, but self-guided tour itineraries also usually give a summary of what the sights are to see in that particular area. Local restaurants of note may also be mentioned as well as shopping suggestions. A self-guided itinerary may also include optional tourist attractions or side tours.

Museums, art galleries and college campuses that don't typically use tour guides to direct visitors often have printed brochures as well as maps or signs designed to be easy to follow. In larger establishments or tourist attractions, there may be several different paths or route options to take. In some cases, there are even cellphone tours so a person doesn't have to necessarily attend a facility such as a college campus in person right away. A self-guided cellphone tour of a school can be helpful for a student who lives far away or is just beginning to put together a short list of possible colleges to attend.

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