There’s so much in the city that you want to explore and you want to learn as much as possible. That’s great! A tour is a fantastic way to see the sights and learn a lot too.
There are lots of different tour options to choose from:
General – This tour takes you to specific locations and you are in a group with other tourists.
Private – This tour is just for you and the people you are travelling with. You choose where you want to go and what you want to see.
Hop-on hop-off bus – A bus that takes you to the most popular places. You buy a ticket for the day and you can use the bus as often as you want to take you to the biggest attractions in the city. While you are on the bus, you will hear lots of information about the city.
You may see some tours advertised when you visit Tourist Information. These are general tours and will often take you to the most popular places.
If you don’t want to be with a crowd of people, or you want to do something particular that is not offered in a general tour, then a private tour is a great option for you.
In a moment, you’ll hear from our expert tour guide, Elspeth, talking about her Top Five Tips when choosing a tour. Elspeth is a tour guide in Edinburgh, but you can use her advice when choosing a tour in any city!
Here’s some vocabulary to help you:
Accredited – to have official authorisation
Rigorous – extremely thorough and careful
Downside – a disadvantage
Nooks and crannies – a place or part of a place that is particularly small or remote (this phrase is used in Scotland very often).
Invaluable – extremely useful
Now, listen to Elspeth’s Top Five Tips. You can use the transcript below to help you if listening is difficult.
‘My first Top Tip would be: do your research! Make sure that you’ve taken time at home so that you can check what tours are available, what suits you, that you get your interests, that the person that’s going to take the tour is suitable for you and is reputable. If you take a little bit of time at home, you can save yourself a lot of time when you’re on holiday. Time you don’t want to spend looking at different tours, and also you can avoid any disappointment.
Top Tip number two: check and see if your tour guide is accredited. That means whether they’ve got a professional qualification to be a tour guide and are a recognised member of a recognised tour guide association. That’s really your guarantee for knowing whether somebody has got a really good standard of knowledge. They will have had to go through a rigorous training course, so that they have attained a really good level of information and they will have good experience of taking people out on tours. If they haven’t got a qualification – a professional qualification – check about their specialist knowledge because sometimes people have got a qualification through work that gives them a specialist knowledge of one particular area that you might be interested in. They will make very good guides for that particular specialist sphere.
My third Top Tip would be: do you have a specialist interest? Do you want to have a tour that is particularly focused around, for example, films or characters from books or TV series? Or are you interested in art, gardens or geology? If you have a specialist interest and you want your tour guide to specifically give you a tour around that interest, then check that out. There are plenty of guides that are qualified for specialist interests that will really suit you and you can then be absolutely guaranteed that the knowledge that they give you, and the information that they give you will be trustworthy.
My next Top Tip would be: do you want to be part of a private tour that is just for yourself and your friends or family? Or do you want to take part in a general group tour? The general group tour will be at set times, will have a set schedule that you will have to fit into and that might not suit you. You might not have the time for that. Or you might, again, as we mentioned earlier, have a specialist interest that you want included in your tour. If you do, then a private tour would be better for you. It’s more flexible, it will completely take into account what you want to learn, what you want to see. The only downside to that is that they can be a bit more expensive. If you’re part of a general group, then check before you go how many people there will be in the maximum general group for a set tour. You want to make sure that you’re getting as much information and that you can hear the person easily. Whereas if there’s a huge group, sometimes it’s difficult if you’re at the back. So check your budget and see what you feel will fit in best with the money that you have, and with the time that you have available.
Final Top Tip if you’re coming to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is quite a hilly city, so you really need to know what kind of tour you’re going to be going on. Are you going to go on a walking tour? Are you planning on going up hills? Or are you planning just a few streets and maybe going into a few different historic sites and monuments. Decide whether you want to have a walking tour which might go on for a few hours, or whether you would – if you have less ability to walk for longer – perhaps take a private taxi, or even to take a bus tour. Those aspects will really determine what kind of tour you want. If you haven’t got much time but you want to cover a lot of ground, it might be an idea to include a little taxi drive in your tour. They can take you to places that you can’t get on a bus. Perhaps even to the top of one of the hills, such as Carlton Hill, where you’ll be able to see fabulous views. They’ll also be able to take you into a park, which other buses – commercial buses – are not allowed to enter. So there are places that you could see in a little taxi tour, but also if you combine that with a walking tour, you’re getting to see the little nooks and crannies, the little places down alleyways and closes that you wouldn’t be able to go to in a car. So those are also really invaluable places to look at. So have a think about your level of fitness and the accessibility of some of the places you want to visit. Has it got a lot of stairs and has it got a lift? Are you struggling to climb all those stairs? Can you get a transfer on a little taxi that’ll take you to the place you want to go?
And finally, if you are on a really limited time. If you’ve got just hardly any time to visit the city at all and you want something that just gives you a brief flavour of the place, then my top tip would be to get on a hop-on hop-off bus. It will take you right round all the city sights quickly and easily and if you do have a little bit of extra time, you can hop off and visit one of your favourite sites en route.’