Day tours, convenient or a waste of cash?

To complete my trilogy on tours, I will now spend a few hundred words on the use and abuse of day tours.
I am currently in Santorini, Greece, and have recently felt acutely aware of the rip off nature of some of the tours available.

An Oia sunset tour provided by one of the spruikers in Fira; a bus to Oia, dinner in a restaurant (not included) and a bus back. For thirty-five euros. Consider this, the local bus from Fira to Oia is 2.20 each way (2.80 after midnight). You are paying thirty euros and change for the ability to eat dinner at a table full of strangers… Sure in the highest of high season when reservations are harder to get this may feel like it is worth the payment, but when I asked which restaurant the seller replied with ‘ it changes, sometimes one place sometimes another’.

Yes this may be the dodgiest of examples, and there are definitely sunset tours worth splurging on – the catamaran option seems to be the coolest, I am yet to try it – but the fact remains that you can see the sunset from anywhere in Oia, and in fact anywhere that side of the Island for buttloads less – you know, free?

On the flip side day tours can be immensely useful to travelers. If you have limited time in a place, or are completely unaware of how to access a place of interest then a day tour can be handy. Most recently a friend of mine provided an excellent example of the perfect use of day tour. Those times when you’re travelling when you are so completely worn out and tired but don’t want to miss the place you’re visiting and you just want someone to come to your hotel, show you the thing, and take you back to your hotel. She had been sick for a few days and just plain didn’t want to deal with finding the right bus[es], walking the two kilometers to and from the site, and standing in line for tickets in the middle of Turkish summer, so a day tour was booked and thoroughly enjoyed.

Or like me, in Vietnam, I found a tour provided by a company called XO Tours. This was a unique experience I wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise. A motorbike picks you up, and takes you to a variety of street food vendors in different parts of the city. It was incredible and I would probably do it again to be honest. This added value to my travel and therefore was more than worth the money.

So, a few hundred words later, the conclusion can be made that day tours are useful tools. However, they should be used sparingly and only when the situation calls for it (no point using a drill when a hammer will do the job just fine). Just spend five minutes making sure you’re not paying double, or triple, or more, for little or no added value.

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