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When Should You Travel With a Tour Group?

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

Some travelers always choose guided tours, while others prefer to make travel arrangements on their own. There are times, however, when traveling with a tour group might be the better choice. Let's take a closer look at some of these situations.

Unfamiliar Language and Customs

Perhaps you have always wanted to visit China or Russia, but worry that you will not be able to make yourself understood or find your way around. A tour group led by a guide that speaks your native language fluently might be the best way to see your dream destination. Your tour guide knows the local area and can give you tips for finding good restaurants and exploring during your free time. You will be able to ask your tour guide as many questions as you like so you can make the most of your vacation experience.

Driving Is Not an Option

There are times when driving in an unfamiliar place is not a good idea. You may be dealing with newly-diagnosed impaired vision, or you may just want to avoid driving on the other side of the road. In some countries (Ireland, for example), car rental companies set age limits that might also prevent you from driving on your own. You may want to explore an area where rental car companies will not let you take your rental car, either because of theft risk or because the roads are in poor repair. Finally, you may want to go somewhere, such as Denali National Park, where private vehicles are banned. In cases like these, a tour group could be your most affordable option.

Access to Sights, Events and Opportunities

If you have always wanted to travel to Cuba and are an American citizen, or you yearn to see penguins, a tour group might be your only option. Some travel opportunities are available only to tour groups. For example, US citizens may only travel to Cuba with an approved travel provider, and most visitors to Antarctica get there via cruise ship or tour group.

You Need Specialized Equipment or Vehicles

Sometimes taking a tour is the easiest way to gain access to specialized gear, such as a bicycle, or a vehicle, such as a tundra vehicle, that you will need at your destination. It is difficult to safely view polar bears without a tundra vehicle, and you can't rent one at the airport. Similarly, if you are doing a bicycle tour on another continent, going with a tour group will make the logistics of renting a bicycle much easier because your tour operator will coordinate the rental for you.

Meeting New People Is a Priority

For some travelers, making new friends is very important. It is much easier to meet people in a tour group, where people must travel together, than it is if you vacation on your own. In a tour group, you will be able to get to know your fellow travelers during bus rides, at mealtimes, and during your sightseeing excursions. Your fellow travelers will want to make friends, too, so you will have no trouble finding travel buddies.

You Don't Have Time to Plan Your Trip

Researching destinations, transportation options, accommodations and sightseeing opportunities takes a great deal of time. If you are too busy to research and plan your vacation, taking a tour might be a good choice for you. Your tour company will make your travel arrangements, and you will be able to visit your chosen destination without having to think about flights, ground transportation or hotel reservations. Many tour companies offer customizeable tours. This might be a good option if you cannot find an itinerary that includes all the places you want to visit.

Personal Safety / Solo Travel

If you are traveling by yourself or are worried about personal safety, you may feel more comfortable traveling with a tour group. You will be able to see the sights without worrying about most safety issues. Be prepared to guard against pickpockets; they prey on tour groups as well as individuals.

Tip: Solo travelers may be asked to pay a single supplement , which could significantly increase the cost of your trip. Consider finding a travel companion or participating in your tour group's roommate-finding service, if offered, in order to avoid paying the single supplement.

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10 benefits of a guided tour vs. independent travel

Of all the ways to get out and see the world, the best way to travel is on a group tour because you can sit back, relax, and soak in the beauty of your destination—while learning more than just a thing or two about the local culture along the way. No figuring out transportation, researching hotels, or booking flights required.

Here at EF Go Ahead Tours (the EF stands for Education First!), we know a thing or two about creating immersive, local-led tours. If you’re wondering what all the hype is around group tours, check out these benefits of guided travel, which you’ll find on all of our more than 175 trips .

1. You get the ease of an all-in-one tour package

Imagine a world where you don’t need to scour the internet for the perfect hotel, diligently monitor flight prices, or scroll through Google to figure out how to spend time in your destination. Good news: That’s one of the main benefits of traveling in groups. You can have the trip of a lifetime without having to research or book any of these travel essentials. Say hello to these advantages of guided tours, and goodbye to travel planning nightmares.

“You have the fear of going someplace and everything falling apart and I felt like from the get-go you guys gave me piece of mind,” said traveler Lydia. “I’m going out of the country and everything is taken care of. I don’t have to worry about the language. I don’t have to worry how I’m going to get from here to there. You get to go on vacation and be stress-free. Sometimes you can’t do that… but I truly, truly got to enjoy the vacation.”

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11 BEST Travel Guides for 2024 [Websites & Guidebooks]

* This article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you.

TL;DR: The two best travel guides are Rick Steves for first time travelers—especially anyone going to Europe—and Bradt Guides for off-the-beaten-path destinations and “Slow Travel.” Both are reliable, will give you ideas for what to do, and help you plan the best trip.

The way we travel has changed drastically in my lifetime. Information is more readily available in the digital age, a massive plus for traveling. 

Everyone, including myself, wants to make the most of every trip abroad. That’s why I love reading travel guide books or online guides. 

Some of these guide books help you get off the beaten path. Others give information on tours you can take on your own to learn the history of a certain destination you’re visiting. 

But which are the best?

After years of reading and doing research, I have found the best travel guides for you to use when planning your next trip abroad!

Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

A smiling brown-haired woman wearing sunglasses and a backpack slung over her shoulder, holding an example of one of the best travel guides in the form of an open book, with an out of focus city square behind her.

Here’s a quick look at our recommendations

  • DK Eyewitness
  • Bradt Guides
  • Rick Steves
  • Lonely Planet
  • Blue Guides
  • Footprint Guides
  • Frommer Guides
  • Tripadvisor
  • Rough Guides
  • Moon Travel Guides
  • Insight Guides

Table of Contents

#1 DK Eyewitness

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of DK Eyewitness books.

DK Eyewitness is one of the best travel guide books on the market today. But they offer more than just travel information. 

After publishing books for over 45 years, DK Eyewitness Books cover everything from travel, science, history, pop culture, and children’s topics.

Their travel guides give the information you desperately need for travel– such as maps, itineraries, accommodations, where to eat, and more! 

I also love how easy their visuals are to look at. I sometimes get lost in their maps and start imagining myself there (I’m a big daydreamer if you can’t tell!).

DK Eyewitness Travel guide books might not be the most in-depth on a particular location, but they help with travel inspiration. 

If you want more information, DK Eyewitness has a podcast called ‘Where to Go,’ which is another excellent way to get your travel information on the go!

  • 100+ destinations
  • Heavy on history
  • It has both outdoor and city guides
  • Amazing visuals
  • Not as in-depth as other guides

#2 Bradt Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Bradt Guides Books.

A Bradt travel guide is perfect if you’re interested in visiting countries that are less traveled to— written by experienced travelers with fantastic insider tips. 

Bradt travel guide books has a reputation as the “World’s leading independent travel publisher.” They are also the best India travel guide company.

Some unique destinations include Iraq, Sri Lanka, Galapagos Islands, and Grenada. But don’t worry. Bradt Guides also has a British series for those interested! 

Lately, I’ve been striving to travel like a local. Bradt has a ‘Slow Travel’ guidebook series, which I love using these days because it helps me travel like a local. 

The trip ideas are great in detail but might not be for your preferred country to visit. 

Bradt Guides prides itself on being the most comprehensive on the market. Their authors give cultural insights and expressions of interest and knowledge.

You can support Bradt’s Guides even further by subscribing to their Patreon! Here you can pay monthly for a specific tier and earn different things like one free e-book a month.

  • More off-the-beaten-path destinations
  • Slow travel series
  • Has a Patreon page
  • Unique style of travel not for everyone

#3 Rick Steves

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Rick Steves Books.

Rick Steves books are the guide books your mom hands you when traveling to your dream destination in Europe. And that’s a good thing! They’re trusted by many for a reason.

These travel guide books are always up-to-date, thanks to Rick Steves’ research partners. 

Rick’s books will have you feeling like you’re on guided tours! He ensures you’ll have some fantastic cultural experiences. 

I love Europe, but there are many other cultures throughout the world that I’m even more interested in. So, since Rick Steves’ guidebooks are primarily Europe-focused, I’m not as drawn to them.

Also, traveling in Europe long-term can get expensive. His books cater to a more wealthy crowd. 

Pick any European country, and you will have high-quality content on that destination. Rick has visited Europe countless times, and other travel websites can’t compete. 

Rick’s bestseller is his Italy guide, which isn’t surprising. In that guide, he goes over the best places to eat and sleep and how to beat the crowds. 

It’s a good idea to grab a Rick Steves’ book simply for the detailed maps.

  • Best guides for Europe
  • It gives in-depth information for solo tours
  • Perfect for a beginner traveler.
  • Catered to upper and middle-class travelers

#4 Lonely Planet

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Lonely Planet Books.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Lonely Planet , as they’ve been a dominant force in the travel scene for quite some time now. Their goal is to make travel planning easy, and they’ve succeeded!  

I loved using Lonely Planet books when I first started traveling. These books helped me up my game as a budget traveler. 

Lonely Planet dominates the internet with a wealth of online resources. While the information they offer online is easy to access, it can be vague. 

You can subscribe to Lonely Planet on their website for free. I’ve done this, but I’ve found that there tends to be some destinations/articles that are low in detail. 

Considering Lonely Planet’s sheer amount of content, it’s not too surprising that they sometimes gloss over details. 

Their claim to fame is their numerous experts located worldwide. These experts cover adventure travel, family holidays, food and drink, and much more. 

Plus, a Lonely Planet magazine is an amazing coffee table piece, am I right?

  • Backpacker friendly
  • An extensive collection of guides for the entire world
  • Free information is available
  • Some of their content is outdated or not detailed

#5 Blue Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Blue Guides Books.

If you love the art and history of Italy, then Blue Guides is for you! People often plagiarize Blue Guide books due to the amount of accurate information each book has. 

With over 14 books on Italy alone, you won’t find more detailed information on a particular destination than with Blue Guides– they deliver it all! 

Italy was the first country that I visited outside of the United States, and I’m so glad that I had a Blue Guide book with me. 

Their award-winning maps and exceptional attention to detail made it feel like I was on a private tour! 

Be aware: there aren’t a lot of online articles from Blue Guides or many countries to choose from, which could be an issue if you like to visit more unusual locations.

Blue Guides’ first publication date was in the early 1900s, so it’s undoubtedly a top guidebook for a travel junkie!

  • Helps travelers understand art and history
  • Multiple guides on Italy
  • Extremely thorough in their research
  • Not a lot of destinations

#6 Footprint Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Footprint Guides Books.

Footprint Guides is the go-to source for Latin American travel tips for all budgets! My love for this region of the world has only grown since I started using their books.

Even if Latin America isn’t one of your top destinations, they do offer other print books. All Footprint Guides are written by experts who have lived in that destination. 

Unfortunately, for North American travelers looking to plan a dream road trip, you won’t find much helpful information here, as their focus is decidedly on the south. 

Alongside their practical information, Footprint adds a layer of imagination to their guidebooks, giving them an edge that makes them one of the best travel guide series available today!

  • Wide range of budgets
  • Specializes in Latin America
  • Practical information
  • Not much content on the United States

#7 Frommer Guides

Frommer Guides

Does traveling on $5 per day sound appealing to you? Arthur Frommer thought so when he set out to create his Frommer travel guides . 

Alongside some of the best guidebooks, Frommer also offers other forms of information, including podcasts, online articles, and hotel deals!

I love using Frommer guides on road trips because they help me in many different situations. 

I usually like to have a podcast for when I’m driving , a guidebook on specific destinations while I’m in a hotel room, and online sources when on the go. 

Having Frommer guides in all their varied forms is essential since each one typically doesn’t go into heavy detail. 

If purchasing travel guide books doesn’t interest you, then keeping up to date with Frommer’s online travel guides is the way to go.

  • Many styles of information are available
  • Updates information frequently
  • Offer hotel deals
  • It covers only the main details

#8 Tripadvisor

Screenshot of the of the Tripadvisor website homepage.

Tripadvisor is an online source that most travelers have heard about. It’s unique on this list of travel guides because you interact with other travelers!

If you’re looking for help with trip planning, look no further than the Tripadvisor forum . Here you can talk with fellow travelers about your upcoming trip! 

When I have a specific question that needs answering, I always check Tripadvisor first. They have information on most countries, but some info on the forums can be outdated. 

Tripadvisor is great because it’s free! But they’re more than just a review and forum-based platform; you can also book different travel deals and tours through their website.

Sometimes the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming to click through.  If that sounds relatable, you might want to purchase some guidebooks instead. 

Tripadvisor started the wave of online travel planning. They’re worth browsing, even if you just want to write down a few travel tips!

  • Multiple reviews from other travelers
  • Travel deals available
  • Forum can be out of date
  • The massive amount of information can be overwhelming

#9 Rough Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Rough Guides Books.

Rough Guides has grown into a leader in the travel industry with its amazing travel guidebooks and online travel guides. 

What I love about these books is their authenticity. Their recommendations from locals helped to grow them into who they are today.

It all started with their Greece travel guide, and it quickly blew up. Demand increased for more and more Rough Guide content; they released a guidebook series for people who were eager for more. In 2017, Rough Guides expanded even further.

Today Rough Guides are more than just a travel guide company that sells books. They offer tours, custom-made itineraries, and more! I love using their website when planning my next trip. 

These custom-made itineraries and tours are expensive but for a reason. Rough Guides’ experts are located worldwide to give you the best travel experience ever. 

Rough Guides best selling guides offer a ton of background information and local tips, making them worth the high price!

  • Detailed itineraries
  • Personal recommendations from locals
  • An extensive list of countries
  • High prices for tours and custom itineraries

#10 Moon Travel Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Moon Travel Guides Books.

Moon Guides are my favorite guidebooks for traveling around the United States. Planning that perfect road trip is challenging but Moon Guides makes it easier.

Moon’s travel guidebooks are all about traveling sustainably. I’ve used them countless times in the Americas and have found them super helpful.

But Moon Guides don’t focus on the Americas only– they also offer some of the best travel guides for Japan in particular.

I’ve learned to use these books more for research instead of bringing them on my travels– they don’t always hold up with how rugged traveling can get for me.

Moon’s detailed maps are so good in their guidebooks that I fill my phone library with them. They are easy to read and use, which is what I think makes a good map. 

The best travel tips are from locals, and that’s what Moon’s travel guidebooks bring. They don’t have a fancy touring app or anything, but they don’t need it. 

If you want one of the best travel guides for families, then there’s no better choice than making Moon Guides your tour guide when traveling. 

Find your dream destination, get travel inspiration from their maps, and book that plane ticket.

  • Emphasis on the Americas and the Pacific
  • Easy-to-understand maps
  • Many pages of information solely for hotels/accommodations
  • Guidebooks aren’t durable

#11 Insight Guides

Screenshot of a search result page showing a selection of Insight Guides Books.

Insight is one of the best travel guidebooks on the market for a reason. The beautiful photographs in these travel guidebooks will have you daydreaming for days.

Insight guides are perfect for those history buffs out there like me. They combine great information with also some off-the-beaten-track activities. 

Insight has produced over 200 guidebooks and language books. Their books provide information on nearly any country you can think of (besides Mexico).

I love their books because they also have a mini-series.

During the Covid years, I was in the mood to read a lot. I picked a different destination each week and bought a new e-book. 

I could do this because they only cost five to ten dollars! Most of the best travel guidebooks are double this.   

Besides its guidebook series, Insight offers a handmade trip planned by experts to the destination of your choice. What more could you ask for?!

  • Multiple countries in each continent
  • Has language guides
  • Sells hand-picked vacation packages put together by locals
  • Offers mini versions of guides to sell for cheap
  • No Mexico guide

Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Travel Guide

A man wearing a red and black checkered shirt reading an open guide book holds hands with woman in a black and white striped tank top, jeans, and a wide-brimmed hat while walking down a European-looking cobblestone street.

What to Look for in Travel Guides

Is the information up to date.

Picking the best travel guidebooks can be an overwhelming process. But the most important thing to watch out for is making sure the information is up-to-date.

Compared to online sources, guidebook information tends not to get updated as quickly for obvious reasons. 

You don’t want a travel guide taking you to a restaurant that doesn’t exist anymore, do you? No. You want to get off the beaten track but not THAT off that it gets you lost.

Pick Locally-Based Travel Guides

My ideal travel style is meeting locals, living, and eating like a local. I have the best travel experiences when I dive deep into the culture.

The best information about a destination comes from locals. When you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, wouldn’t you want to consult someone who has lived there for many years?

When you rely on locals’ recommendations, you’ll truly have an experience of a lifetime. 

Know What Type of Traveler You Are

A young woman in a peach tank top and sunglasses holds a travel guide book under one arm, and checks her phone.

This next tip can be difficult for some, and it can change from year to year. I have gone from being a true budget traveler to somewhere in the middle. 

I used to love history (I still do) and would base my travels around that. Now I seek adventure activities. 

Different types of guides will focus on different things, such as budget travel, adventure, expensive tours, food, or history. 

Finding the travel guide that fits your style will be more beneficial in the long run.

Know Which Destination You Want to Visit the Most

The best world travel guidebooks are often better for certain locations than others. For example, Rick Steves has a reputation for being the best travel guide for Europe and, specifically, the best travel guide for Italy. 

So, choose your travel guide based on which one specializes in the area you’re curious about.

Other Helpful Travel Guides

Travel is a huge industry which means there are more guides than you could ever possibly use. 

If you prefer your travel content in video form, one of the best travel guide Youtube channels is Ryan Shirley . 

His videos showcase the top places to visit in different countries with some of the best drone shots you’ll ever see. 

FAQs About Travel Guides

A woman with short brown hair wearing a black and white striped tank top squints as she opens a Lonely Planet book on Myanmar in front of a blurred background.

Should You Even Buy a Travel Guide?

A travel guide has its place. It may seem outdated to use one, but you can find some of the best information in them. 

Some guides take years to make and are very specific in the details they write for certain locations. The maps tend to be better and easier to read in these types of guides as well.  

Which is better: Lonely Planet or Rough Guide?

It depends on the style of travel you prefer. I prefer budget travel and tend to take fewer tours, so I like Lonely Planet. Rough Guide also has amazing tours if you’re interested in those.

What is the difference between Fodor’s and Frommer’s travel guides?

Frommer travel guides are excellent for those who want an easy read. Fodor is typically the better choice if you want more details about your activities. 

Fodor also has one of the best travel guides for Ireland, so check out Fodor if that’s your destination.

Is it better to travel with a tour guide or alone with a travel guide?

The answer differs from person to person! If you want your trip planned, then a tour guide is perfect. Going alone with a travel guide is nice because you can go at your own pace. 

Do people still buy travel guides?

Absolutely! There’s something different about having a travel guidebook to look at rather than scrolling through a website. 

Rick Steves and Bradt are my favorite travel guides.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Phillip Anderson

Phillip Anderson is a freelance travel writer, personal trainer, and adventure enthusiast. With years of travel experience under his belt, Phillip is an expert in finding the best deals through travel apps and websites. He knows how to find cheap domestic and international flights, like a flight to Peru for as low as $350.

When looking for cheap accommodations, Phillip combines his knowledge of websites like Airbnb, Booking.com & Hostelworld with more unique sites like TrustedHousesitters, for even more savings. Whether it’s flights, accommodations, or local experiences, he teaches travelers to make informed decisions, ensuring their adventures are both memorable and economical. For more from Phillip, check out his website, JaywalkTheWorld.com.

Planning your next big adventure? Check out these related articles below!

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the best way to travel is with a tour guide

Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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How to Travel to Patagonia

Here's everything you need to know about visiting Patagonia, including the best treks and places to stay.

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

Stretching across Chile and Argentina, Patagonia has long lured travelers to what is very nearly the end of the world. Here, in the countries' national parks, are snow-capped mountains, cobalt fjords, and old-growth forests. At the southernmost tip of the Americas, icebergs rupture with a dramatic roar from ancient, massive glaciers.

Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina are two of the region’s top highlights, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. For a complete Patagonian travel journey, consider visiting both. Of course, doing so requires a lot of logistical planning — especially during the high season. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you maximize your travels in this wonderfully remote corner of the planet.

Though most hotels in the region remain open year-round, you might find amenities and activities that keep tourists comfortable and entertained throughout the busy season are unavailable during winter in the Southern Hemisphere, which is from April to September.

To avoid the crowds and still experience good weather, visit during the spring when the flowers are in bloom, or fall when the leaves are a fiery mosaic of red, orange, and yellow. The summer months (December to February) have the mildest weather, but keep in mind that temperatures average below 70 degrees and winds are strong.

Travelers should be aware that the weather in Patagonia is highly unpredictable, particularly in spring and early summer. Weather and temperatures can fluctuate without warning, and violent storms can sweep in from the Pacific. It’s helpful to pad your schedule with additional days in case you encounter inclement weather.

How to Get to Patagonia

Because distances are quite long in Chile and Argentina, you will probably want to fly to Patagonia (unless you have several days to spare for a road trip from Buenos Aires or Santiago). Airline seats fill up quickly during peak season (December to February), so you should purchase tickets as far in advance as possible: Six months is ideal. For other months in the high season (October until early May), book at least three months ahead to avoid steep fares and limited options.

In Chile, LATAM Airlines serves southern Chilean Patagonia year-round with daily flights between Santiago and Punta Arenas, a common jumping-off point for Patagonia travel, with a flight time of three and a half hours.

Sky Airlines, Chile’s low-cost provider, also flies between Santiago and both Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales — another jumping-off point to Punta Arenas' south — often stopping at Puerto Montt, though passengers usually get to stay on the plane. Sky Airlines generally offers lower fares than LATAM.

Puerto Natales fares are cheaper the earlier you book. And as for driving time, it's three hours between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, two hours between Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park, and four to five hours between Punta Arenas and the park.

In Argentina, Calafate and Ushuaia are the primary entryways, both less than a four-hour flight from Buenos Aires. These destinations are serviced by LATAM Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas. Los Glaciares National Park, home to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, is an hour's drive from El Calafate Airport. Another popular destination in this region is the trekking mecca El Chaltén, which is a three-hour drive from El Calafate Airport, where you can rent a car.

How to Get Around

Many of Patagonia's luxury hotels include transfers to and from the airport, as well as transportation for daily excursions. Traveling between Chile and Argentina can be done easily by land or sea. Unfortunately, there are no flights from Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas to El Calafate or Ushuaia.

By sea, Australis cruises run from the end of September to the beginning of April, connecting Punta Arenas and Ushuaia. Expeditions lasting four to eight nights navigate fjords, the Avenue of the Glaciers, the Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, and Cape Horn. Daily Zodiac rides get passengers up close to the ice and wildlife including penguin colonies and elephant seals.

For an overland trip, you can rent a car, organize a private transfer, or catch a bus. The bus company Bus-Sur connects Puerto Natales, Chile, and El Calafate, Argentina, daily during the tourist season and several times a week during the low season. The transfer takes five hours or longer, depending on how long it takes to clear customs. Book online at least a month in advance to guarantee a seat, especially during the high season.

Traveling by bus or organized tour is the most convenient way to cross the border because guides and drivers handle many of the logistics, but self-driving tourists travel between Chile and Argentina in private vehicles all the time. Do your research on the process before attempting a border crossing on your own.

What to Pack

In Patagonia, travelers will need to be ready for all kinds of weather. Since temperatures can go from freezing to 70 degrees over the course of a single day, it’s crucial that travelers pack layers. A waterproof jacket and trekking boots are essential, as are sunscreen and a pair of quality sunglasses (the sun can be extremely bright).

If you’re staying in upscale lodges, it's fine to bring a suitcase, but a backpack is needed for multiday trekking. Smaller backpacks are ideal for full- or half-day excursions. Many upscale hotels provide personal water bottles and trekking poles.

Packing Essentials

  • Long thermal underwear that wicks perspiration
  • Water-repellent hiking pants
  • Light pullover or sweatshirt
  • Fleece or down liner
  • Waterproof parka or weatherproof jacket
  • Hat for sun protection
  • Liner or wind-stopper gloves
  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • Long hiking socks
  • Neck gaiter
  • Hiking backpack or day pack

Chilean Patagonia Travel Tips

Chile's portion of Patagonia is smaller and more rugged — i.e., less touristy — than Argentina's. Head to the Chile side to get off the beaten path and go beyond the major highlights.

Travelers flock to Patagonia to experience the otherworldly beauty of Torres del Paine National Park and spot Patagonia’s wildlife, including the Big Five: pumas, llama-like guanacos, South Andean deer known as huemul, Andean condors, and the ostrich-like rhea (or ñandú). There are also flamingos, foxes, penguins, and more than 100 species of birds. Several tour companies offer multiday puma-tracking safaris through the park.

Visitors will also want to explore the park’s old-growth forests. In the canopies of primeval southern beech trees (lenga, coihue, ñire) you can spot Magellanic woodpeckers and Austral parakeets.

Full- and half-day treks along the famous W Circuit (named for the shape of the route) offer one-of-a-kind vistas of sweeping freshwater lakes, teal lagoons, ice floes, and glimmering glaciers. The W Circuit is a roughly 50-mile trail that takes four or five days to walk and showcases major attractions. Trekkers settle into refugios (basic dorm-style shelters) or campsites for overnight stays.

Less remote, you can stroll through the colorful fishing town of Puerto Natales, or explore the region’s labyrinth of scenic fjords, where immense glaciers and marine life can be admired from the deck of a boat. On the shores of Punta Arenas, visit penguin colonies at Seno Otway or Magdalena Island and look out for sea lions and whales that populate the waters. You can also kayak the Strait of Magellan.

Where to Stay

Patagonia's luxury lodges offer all-inclusive packages that cover airport transfers, a wide range of full- and half-day excursions, and three gourmet meals per day with premium wine and cocktails. Explora is a pioneer in this category, offering dozens of expeditions led by experienced guides in Patagonia and Torres del Paine national parks. Besides that, 14 exclusive villas are the signature of Awasi , where guests have their own private guide and four-wheel drive vehicle to explore the scenery at their own pace.

Overlooking Lake Sarmiento and Paine Massif, Tierra Patagonia subscribes to an adventure spa philosophy. Guests are encouraged to unwind after jam-packed days of exploration with a massage or a session in the open-air hot tub.

For glampers, the sustainable EcoCamp is a geodesic dome hotel inside Torres del Paine National Park. Accommodations range from basic to over-the-top heated two-story tents that boast private terraces, bathrooms, and windows facing upward to the Patagonian sky. Assisted camping experiences on the trekking circuit are arranged by operators like Las Torres , Cascada Expediciones , MT Sobek , and Swoop Patagonia .

A number of upscale properties are located in and around the colorful fishing town of Puerto Natales, too. The Singular Patagonia , a property situated on the banks of the Last Hope Sound, is an early-20th-century national monument that’s been refurbished with industrial-chic accents.

At Lakutaia Lodge , on Navarino Island next to Cape Horn, guests are deeply immersed in the surrounding glaciers and fjords. But the real draw for adventurers is the opportunities to helifish and heliski.

What to Eat and Drink

Most of the lodges on private reserves offer full room and board, employing talented chefs who take advantage of locally sourced ingredients like white strawberries, rhubarb, seaweed, Patagonian honey, and gamier specialties like guanaco and Patagonian hare.

From the sea, try South American king crab, snook-and-hake ceviche, conger eel, choritos (mussels), and oysters. Wash it all down with a Chilean pisco sour or bottle of local wine.

Day Trips From Chile

Hotels in Chilean Patagonia offer a staggering array of full- and half-day excursions for just about any interest and fitness level: mountain trekking, horseback riding, cycling, kayaking, sailing scenic fjords, and glacier cruises, among others. For avid hikers, hiking to the base of Torres del Paine ("Mirador Las Torres") is a must-do. It’s a challenging, full-day out-and-back trip, but a clear view — weather depending — of the granite spires rising from the turquoise glacial lake is an ample reward.

You can take a Zodiac voyage to get up-close views of ancient, glistening glaciers. Grey Glacier is a popular destination, as are the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers, accessible from the wharf in Puerto Natales. Otherwise, spend the day with Chilean cowboys at the family-run Estancia Mercedes for horseback riding along fjords.

General Tips for Visiting Chile

  • When visiting during Chile’s summer months, beware of biting midges. Spray yourself with natural insect repellent at regular intervals and wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves, as these small flies are attracted to dark colors.
  • If you are an avid hiker, avoid heavy crowds of backpackers in Torres del Paine National Park by traveling in November or April. ​ ​
  • On challenging treks, opt for two trekking poles. They will save your knees on the descent.

Argentine Patagonia Travel Tips

Argentina's portion of Patagonia is larger and more geographically diverse than Chile's portion. Another potential benefit is that the Andes Mountains leaves Argentina in a rain shadow, meaning it stays dry while the Chilean side takes the rain that rolls in from the Pacific.

The 97-square-mile Perito Moreno Glacier — a declared UNESCO World Heritage site in Los Glaciares National Park — attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. Located near El Calafate in one of the world’s most exceptional ice fields, it’s a must-see on the Argentine side of Patagonia. Boat cruises on Argentina's largest freshwater lake, Lake Argentino, will take you close enough to witness colossal icebergs fall from the glacier into the water. Some tours give visitors a chance to hike out onto the glacier wearing metal crampons.

Visiting the area’s historic estancias offers travelers a glimpse into the rural life of Patagonian ranchers. Estancia Cristina and Nibepo Aike (see below, Where to Stay) are destinations in their own right. Unspoiled landscapes and opportunities to hike, horseback ride, and visit the area’s stunning glaciers are abundant.

Three hours north by car from El Calafate is the laid-back hiking hamlet of El Chaltén, famous for its towering Fitz Roy mountain peak. The tiny frontier town is dotted with picturesque chalets and a network of scenic trails that suit every skill level.

You’ll travel to the “end of the world” in Tierra del Fuego. Its capital city, Ushuaia, is a port of arrival or departure when traveling by sea between Argentina and Chile. Take a boat cruise or catamaran trip to see penguins, sea lions, and cormorants inhabiting the legendary Beagle Channel made famous by naturalist Charles Darwin on his Beagle voyage in 1831.

Tierra del Fuego National Park offers a lush sub-Antarctic rain forest shaded with beech trees, while Glacier Martial offers a panoramic view of Ushuaia and the channel. International anglers make pilgrimages to the banks of the Rio Grande in the hope of hooking a record-breaking brown trout.

Two pleasant hotels offering relatively affordable accommodations right on the southern shore of Lake Argentino are Esplendor El Calafate Hotel and Xelena .

EOLO , 30 minutes west of El Calafate, is built on 10,000 acres of arid steppe and pampas grass with lake views. Antiques, heavy wooden furniture, and mismatched dishware give the lodge a cozy country atmosphere. Nearby, guests can take guided treks, go horseback riding, mountain biking, and bird-watching. The hotel can also arrange excursions to the Perito Moreno and Upsala Glaciers. Book one of the corner suites for an especially good view.

Further out of town is Estancia Cristina , an early-20th-century sheep ranch accessible only by the resort's boat across Lake Argentino. Set on 54,000 acres of wild Patagonian terra firma, the preserved estancia offers a menu of excursions including trekking, horseback riding, and sailing among icebergs near the Upsala Glacier.

Meanwhile, Estancia Nibepo Aike on the shore of Lake Roca is a working ranch founded by a Croatian pioneer at the turn of the 20th century. The estancia still raises cattle and sheep, granting guests the opportunity to see sheep be sheared, learn cowboy skills on horseback, and sample a traditional prepared asado (barbecue) of Patagonian lamb. Guests can also take day trips from here to explore the lesser-visited glaciers Cubo, Frías, and Dickson.

Between El Chaltén and El Calafate, you can stay at Helsingfors Lodge , a former ranch set on the shores of Lake Viedma with great food and stunning mountain views. On Lake San Martin, several hours north of El Calafate, there's also the pristine private nature reserve that houses Estancia El Cóndor , named for the nearby condor nesting sites.

Los Cerros , located on a hilltop providing epic views of El Chaltén, is the most luxe option in a backpacking haven brimming with hostels. And the exclusive Aguas Arribas Lodge , about an hour's drive north of El Chaltén, is a secluded lakeside retreat looking upon the north face of Mount Fitz Roy.

In Ushuaia, luxury properties Los Cauquenes and Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa both overlook the Beagle Channel and offer guided wilderness hikes and excursions on the water.

Most estancias offer full board with three meals per day, but there are some local delicacies you must check off your list.

El Calafate gets its name from the calafate berry (barberry), and there is a local legend that says whoever eats one will return to Patagonia. Try calafate gelato, calafate liqueur, and delicious jams made from chaura (prickly heath) and zarzaparrilla (wild currant).

Experiencing a Patagonian asado is a must at one of the estancias . Watch the asadors cook local lamb on an iron cross over a live fire and enjoy it with a glass of Patagonian pinot noir in hand. One of the best restaurants for grilled cuisine is La Tablita in El Calafate. In Ushuaia, dine on classic Argentine seafood at the restaurant Kaupé , considered one of the best in the country.

While you're in Argentina, be sure to try Beagle , a beer brewed using meltwater from nearby glaciers. However, arguably the most important and culturally significant of all Argentine drinks is mate. It's a longstanding social ritual to drink yerba mate tea, a caffeine-rich blend of dried herbs steeped in hot water, from a hollowed gourd or wooden mate cup. Of course, you must use a bombilla (a traditional straw) for the full experience. Try adding a little sugar if the taste is too bitter for your palate.

Day Trips From Argentina

UIG/Getty Images

A trip to Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park is one of Patagonia’s most iconic excursions. Book an ice trekking adventure — big or small — with Hielo & Aventura .

Another guide company, Marpatag , takes guests on multiday glacier adventure sailings along Lake Argentino, visiting the Upsala, Spegazzini, and Perito Moreno Glaciers.

A full-day excursion to Estancia Cristina includes a boat ride past glaciers and waterfalls, too. Cañadon de los Fosiles is a 4.5-hour trek from the estancia providing views of Lake Guillermo and the Upsala Glacier before descending through a valley of ancient fossils.

El Chaltén offers a variety of scenic day hikes including the Cerro Torre Trek, which takes about six hours, and the more challenging Mount Fitz Roy Trek, an eight-hour hike to Laguna de los Tres. You can also ice hike atop the Viedma Glacier.

In Tierra del Fuego, look for marine wildlife in the Beagle Channel or visit panoramic lookout points on hikes through Tierra del Fuego National Park.

General Tips for Visiting Argentina

  • Perito Moreno Glacier’s ice treks have strict age limits — typically from 18 to 65 years old — that differ by tour.
  • If you plan to spend a night at Estancia Cristina, you should overnight in Calafate before and after, as the boat departs early in the morning and returns in the late afternoon.
  • Avid hikers should visit El Chaltén in November or April to avoid heavy crowds.
  • Outdoor equipment is expensive in Argentina, so be certain you’re well equipped before traveling.

Do Americans Need a Visa to Visit Patagonia?

The capital cities Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, both serve as gateways to Patagonia. Americans do not need a visa or to pay a reciprocity fee to enter either country.

Which side to start on is a matter of personal preference. However, if you plan to visit both countries, you can start in one city and finish in the other, so you have the opportunity to experience both.

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The Ultimate Guide to Road to Hana Tours

Dimple

Imagine embarking on a journey where every twist and turn unveils breathtaking vistas of cascading waterfalls, lush rainforests, and dramatic coastal cliffs – this is the essence of the Road to Hana. In this ultimate guide, you’ll navigate this scenic route with ease and confidence, from the best tours and must-see stops to essential tips for a safe and unforgettable trip.

What is the Road to Hana?

Road to Hana Maui Hawaii Drive

Historical Background

The Road to Hana, officially known as the Hana Highway, is steeped in rich history dating back to ancient Hawaiian times when it served as a vital path for local communities. Originally built in the early 20th century to connect the remote town of Hana with the rest of Maui, the road has since become a symbol of Hawaiian heritage and natural beauty, preserving the island’s lush landscapes and cultural landmarks.

Learn More: The History of the Road to Hana: How It Became Hawaii’s Most Famous Drive

Geographical Overview

The Road to Hana stretches approximately 64.4 miles from Kahului to the charming town of Hana on the eastern coast of Maui. This winding highway features over 600 curves and 59 bridges, many of which are single-lane and date back to the original construction. Along the way, travelers are treated to stunning views of Maui’s diverse terrain, including tropical rainforests, rugged coastlines, and verdant valleys.

Types of Road to Hana Tours

Waterfall on the road to Hana, Maui, Hawai'i. High quality photo

Self-Guided Tours

Self-guided tours offer the freedom to explore the Road to Hana at your own pace, allowing you to linger at your favorite spots and take spontaneous detours. While this approach requires careful planning and navigation, essential tools like the Shaka Guide App provide invaluable audio commentary and turn-by-turn directions. However, driving the winding roads can be challenging, and you may miss some hidden gems without a local guide.

Guided Tours

Opting for a guided tour brings the benefit of expert narration and local knowledge, ensuring you don’t miss any of the road’s iconic and hidden attractions. With everything taken care of, you can relax and enjoy the scenery without worrying about driving or navigating. Expect insightful stories, historical context, and safe passage through the road’s many twists and turns.

Private Tours

For a more personalized and luxurious experience, private tours are an excellent choice. Tour operators like Holo Holo Maui , Skyline Hawaii , Hike Maui , and Stardust Hawaii offer bespoke itineraries tailored to your interests, providing exclusive access to secluded spots and flexible scheduling. These tours ensure a comfortable and intimate journey, perfect for couples or small groups seeking a unique adventure.

Group Tours

Group tours, such as the helicopter tour , picnic tour , and cave expedition , are a cost-effective way to explore the Road to Hana, offering a social and interactive experience. Traveling with others allows for shared discoveries and camaraderie as you collectively marvel at the natural beauty of Maui. These tours are generally more affordable and provide a structured itinerary, making them ideal for those who prefer a guided experience without the higher cost of private tours.

Adventure Tours

Adventure tours cater to thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts, featuring activities like hiking through rainforests , swimming in hidden waterfalls , and exploring off-the-beaten-path trails . These tours often include more physical exertion but reward participants with access to less-visited, pristine locations. They are perfect for those looking to add an element of excitement and exploration to their Road to Hana experience.

Specialized Tours

Specialized tours focus on specific interests such as photography, cultural insights, or historical exploration. These tours are designed to delve deeper into particular aspects of the Road to Hana, providing opportunities for photographers to capture stunning landscapes, for history buffs to learn about Maui’s past, and for cultural enthusiasts to engage with local traditions and stories.

Must-See Stops on the Road to Hana

Top attractions.

twin falls on maui's famous road to hana, also known as caveman falls

The first major stop along the Road to Hana, Twin Falls offers a refreshing start to your journey. This popular spot features two stunning waterfalls cascading into inviting pools, perfect for a quick swim. Surrounded by lush tropical foliage, it’s an ideal place to experience the natural beauty of Maui and snap some breathtaking photos.

Wailua Falls

Maui, Hawaii Hana Highway - Wailua Falls, near Lihue, Kauai. Road to Hana connects Kahului to the town of Hana Over 59 bridges, 620 curves, tropical rainforest

Known for its dramatic 80-foot drop, Wailua Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls on the Road to Hana. Easily accessible from the road, this majestic waterfall is often shrouded in mist, creating a magical and serene atmosphere. The view from the lookout point is simply spectacular, making it a must-visit for any traveler.

Hana Town Maui

At the end of the Hana Highway, you’ll find the charming and historic Hana Town. This quaint village offers a glimpse into traditional Hawaiian life, with its quiet streets, local eateries, and friendly residents. Be sure to visit the Hana Cultural Center and Museum to learn more about the area’s rich history and culture.

Hidden Gems

Red sand beach (kaihalulu beach).

Red Sand And Blue Waves of Kaihalulu Beach, Hana, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Tucked away in a hidden cove near Hana Town, Red Sand Beach is a striking and secluded spot known for its vibrant red sand and dramatic backdrop. Accessing the beach requires a short but adventurous hike, rewarding visitors with a truly unique and picturesque setting.

Keanae Peninsula

Keanae Peninsula, Hana Highway, Island of Maui, Hawaii, United States

A detour worth taking, the Keanae Peninsula offers stunning views of rugged lava rock coastlines and powerful ocean waves. This peaceful area is also home to taro fields and the historic Keanae Congregational Church, providing a glimpse into the traditional Hawaiian way of life.

Learn More: 10 Must-See Stops on Your Road to Hana Adventure

Planning Your Road to Hana Tour

Wet road to Hana in Maui at Kaumahina State Wayside Park Hawaii

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Road to Hana is during the dry season, from April to October, when the weather is more predictable, and the roads are safer to navigate. During this period, you can expect fewer rain showers, making it easier to enjoy the scenic stops and outdoor activities. However, even in the dry season, the lush environment means occasional rain, so it’s wise to be prepared for varying conditions. The road can be more crowded during peak tourist months, so consider starting your journey early in the morning to avoid the rush.

Booking Tips

  • Research and Reviews: Look for tour operators with excellent reviews and high ratings.
  • Inclusions: Check what is included in the tour, such as meals, entry fees, and equipment.
  • Group Size: Consider the group size for a more personalized experience.
  • Expert Guides: Ensure the tour guides are knowledgeable and experienced.
  • Cancellation Policy: Review the cancellation and refund policy before booking.
  • Special Interests: Choose a tour that aligns with your interests, whether it’s adventure, luxury, or cultural focus.

What to Pack

Packing essential items is crucial for a comfortable and safe Road to Hana tour. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated, as well as snacks for energy along the way. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes suitable for walking and hiking. Pack a lightweight rain jacket and a change of clothes in case of rain or swimming opportunities. Don’t forget sun protection, including sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. A camera or smartphone is a must for capturing the stunning scenery, and a small first aid kit can be handy for minor injuries. Finally, bring a fully charged phone and a car charger for navigation and emergencies.

Learn More: What to Pack for a Road to Hana Tour: Essentials Guide

Safety Tips for the Road to Hana

Famous Road to Hana fraught with narrow one-lane bridges, hairpin turns and incredible island views, curvy coastal road with views of cliffs, beaches, waterfalls, and miles of rainforest. Maui, Hawaii

Driving Tips

  • Drive Slowly: Take your time on the narrow, winding roads.
  • Use Turnouts: Allow faster vehicles to pass by using designated turnouts.
  • Stay Alert: Be prepared for sharp turns and one-lane bridges.
  • Avoid Distractions: Focus on the road and avoid using your phone while driving.
  • Check Weather: Monitor weather conditions to avoid hazardous driving situations.

Health and Safety

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the trip.
  • Motion Sickness: Bring medication or remedies if you are prone to motion sickness.
  • Frequent Breaks: Take regular breaks to rest and stretch.
  • First Aid Kit: Keep a small first aid kit handy for minor injuries.

Environmental Awareness

  • Leave No Trace: Pack out all trash and belongings.
  • Stay on Paths: Stick to marked trails to protect the environment.
  • Respect Wildlife: Observe animals from a distance and do not feed them.
  • Cultural Respect: Show respect for local customs and sites of cultural significance.
  • Noise Levels: Keep noise to a minimum to preserve the tranquility of the area.

Enhancing Your Experience

Welcome Display On The Road To Hana, Hawaii

Local Food and Drinks

Along the Road to Hana, you’ll find several delightful stops to enjoy local food and drinks. The Nahiku Marketplace offers a variety of fresh treats, including coconut water and homemade banana bread, perfect for a quick snack. For a more substantial meal, stop by Hana Farms for their wood-fired pizzas and farm-fresh produce, or visit Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread for a taste of a local favorite. These spots not only provide delicious food but also a chance to relax and soak in the local atmosphere.

Cultural Insights

Engaging with the local culture and history can greatly enhance your Road to Hana experience. Visit the Hana Cultural Center and Museum to learn about the area’s rich heritage and the significance of various landmarks along the route. Take time to speak with locals at the marketplaces and small towns you pass through, as they often share fascinating stories and insights about the island’s traditions and way of life. Respectfully observing cultural practices and historic sites will deepen your appreciation for the journey.

Photography Tips

Capturing the beauty of the Road to Hana requires a few strategic photography tips. Start your journey early in the morning to take advantage of the soft, golden light. Use a wide-angle lens to capture the vast landscapes and lush scenery. Don’t forget to stop at key vantage points, such as the Keanae Peninsula, for stunning coastal shots. When photographing waterfalls, use a slow shutter speed to create a silky effect with the flowing water. Lastly, be patient and take your time to frame each shot carefully, ensuring you capture the true essence of Maui’s breathtaking vistas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to drive the Road to Hana?

The drive along the Road to Hana typically takes about 2.5 to 3 hours without stops, but most travelers spend the whole day exploring the scenic route.

Is the Road to Hana dangerous to drive?

The Road to Hana can be challenging due to its narrow, winding roads and numerous one-lane bridges, so cautious and attentive driving is essential.

What is the best time to start the Road to Hana trip?

It’s best to start early in the morning, around 7-8 AM, to avoid traffic and have ample time for sightseeing.

Can you swim at the beaches on the Road to Hana?

Many beaches along the Road to Hana are suitable for swimming, such as Hamoa Beach and Waianapanapa State Park, but always check local conditions for safety.

Is the Road to Hana child-friendly?

Road to Hana is not particularly child-friendly due to its long drive, winding roads, and limited facilities along the way.

Do you need a 4x4 vehicle for the Road to Hana?

A 4×4 vehicle is not necessary for the Road to Hana; a standard car is sufficient, but ensure it is in good condition for the drive.

Ready to Hit the Road?

This guide has equipped you with everything you need to know for an unforgettable Road to Hana experience. For more inspiration and detailed information, check out HawaiiActivities.com and explore our curated list of books, blogs, and articles about the Road to Hana. Now it’s time to turn your dream into reality! Embark on this journey and immerse yourself in Maui’s breathtaking beauty and rich history.

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A writer whose words flow where the mountains meet the sea.

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How to plan an Italy trip

Want to know how to plan an Italy trip? You’ve come to the right place. Italy trip planning is one of our favorite things to do. So much so that we set up this website.

We wrote this article to take you step by step through planning your trip. From deciding when to go and how much it will cost to what to take and how to use your mobile phone, it’s all here to remove the overwhelm and make your trip planning easier. Even if you choose to hire a travel agent to assist with your bookings, it is a good idea to walk through these steps as it will help the agent build the best trip for you.

You can see an overview of the steps you need to follow in the article contents below. Follow our guide and you’ll be on your way to planning your own trip or choosing the right tour for you and your travel companions.

Article contents

Step 1 – Decide when you want to go and your budget

When to go to italy.

There is no bad time to visit Italy but there may be one that suits you better. Depending on your interests and the places you want to see you need to be aware of seasonal differences that you need to know about:

  • Summer – June to August: peak tourist season, weather is hot and prices higher. Many Italians are on vacation and the coastal areas are very busy especially in mid August
  • Fall / Autumn – September to November: September remains hot and busy in most of the major tourist centers. By October the weather is cooling and ferry services on the coast and lakes stop running. At this time grape harvest is in full swing. November is generally quite wet but there is lots of sunshine between the showers.
  • Winter – December to February: As the weather cools so do the crowds. Attractions are much less busy and the lead up to Christmas is magical with lights and decorations in shop windows. In January and February restaurants in many coastal areas are closed. February’s Carnevale in Venice is generally one of the most expensive times to visit the city
  • Spring – March to May: In March and April wildflowers bloom and the countryside is awash with color. Easter is a popular holiday for Europeans to visit Italian cities especially Rome, Florence and Venice.

NOTE: peak season in the most visited destinations is May – October.

Our favorite time to visit Italy in the shoulder months. In April and May and October and November the weather is generally sunny and mild, the crowds are manageable and you can find great value deals on your flight and accommodation.

Although we are past the worst of the pandemic and travel restrictions, things can change quickly – you can check our article Can you travel to Italy plus current situation.  We update this regularly with the latest travel news.

READ: Our full article on the Best time to visit Italy

How much will it cost?

This will depend on your expectations, interests and travel style. You can travel very cheaply in Italy if you visit lesser-known regional areas and avoid the big cities. Even in the big cities it is possible to find free attractions and budget accommodation if you know where to look.

If you want to see the main sights and enjoy experiences such as cooking classes, private boat cruises and wine tours then the sky is really the limit when it comes to cost.

Most travelers fall somewhere in the middle however and a reasonable daily budget per person for food, transport and activities is around €100 on top of flights and accommodation.

READ: Our full article on Budgeting for your trip to Italy .

Expert Assistance

Need some help planning your trip?

Book in for a trip consultation with our expert Italy travel planners ready to help you build your dream vacation in Italy whether that be a classic first timer trip or an off the beaten path adventure

Step 2 – Do some preliminary research and preparation

Where to research your trip to italy.

From online news and magazines, blogs, Instagram, Facebook groups (check out Italy Travel Planning ) and even podcasts like ours – there are thousands of resources online. I am sure you’ve already seen quite a few of them already. Sometimes endless options can be overwhelming so we recommend collecting ideas in an online folder or scrapbook and organizing them into destinations that you really want to see.

You’ll probably want to “do it all” but really have a think about your interests and what will best suit you and your travel style. Once you have some ideas, it’s best to consult a structured resource to check your assumptions and thoughts.

Traditional guidebooks definitely have their place for planning a trip to Italy. Well researched and structured, they’ll give you in depth information on destinations and sights to see as well as practical tips to help you plan. Even after 30+ trips to Italy we still consult guidebooks for new destinations we want to visit. You can find our favorite Italy guidebooks here .

Italy travel planners

We noticed that even guidebooks can provide too much information in the planning process so we created one page travel planners for the top places to visit in Italy. Our planners tell you the top sights, best viewpoints, must have experiences and our favorite places to eat (including best gelato stops) in each place.

You can print them off or keep them on your phone and there’s a link to an online map so you can map out your days. We have guides for Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. Our goal is always to simplify the trip planning process and we know you will find them useful.

DISCOVER: Our Digital travel guides and planners .

Group tour itineraries

Tour companies – like ours ! – put a lot of effort into designing tours that cover the main sights and even lesser known regions. They know the times it takes to get around and how long you can stay in each place to get a taste or feel for the destination.

We often check itineraries of places we would like to visit as an input into our own planning.  Here are some recommended tour companies and itineraries to investigate.

Private tours

If you want maximum flexibility and comfort, consider a private driving tour . From the moment you land, to when you depart, you’ll have a personal driver with local knowledge making sure your trip is exactly what you imagined.

Passports and visas

At this stage of your planning it is a good idea to check the validity of your passport and if you require a visa. Citizens of the United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand may enter Italy and stay up to 90 days without a visa within an 180 day period. You must have 6 months validity on your passport when you enter Italy. Go and check this now as it can take several months for new passports to be processed.

All other nationalities should check this Italian government site that will walk you through whether a visa is required for your visit.

Citizens of the European Union can travel with photo identification.

Please note – this information is subject to change and it is always best to check with your local foreign office for the latest advice on travel to Italy.

  • United States –  click here
  • Australia –  click here
  • United Kingdom –  click here
  • Canada –  click here

READ: Can you travel to Italy plus current situation .

Step 3 – Confirm your itinerary

Itinerary planning is where many people get stuck. We understand. There are so many amazing places to see in Italy that deciding where to go and how much time to spend there can be hard. As a general rule, we like to spend a minimum of three nights in each place to minimize time spent traveling and also enjoy each place as much as possible. So if you have a 10 day trip then 3 main stops would be a good baseline to start with.

Where to go

From your research, you probably have an idea of where you want to go. You may want to visit the popular cities and regions on your first trip however each city and region in Italy offers something special.

Most popular cities

Most popular regions.

On our site, you can also browse Italy’s lesser-known cities and regions on the destinations page or visit our article on hidden gems in Italy for inspiration.

Itinerary suggestions

As a general rule, for a 3-5 day trip we suggest choosing one destination – a city or region. If you have a week to 10 days then you can plan 1-3 places in either the north OR south of Italy. In a two week trip you could cover 3-4 places and see both north and south.

Try not to squeeze too much in. It’s easy to underestimate transit times and getting in and out of airports and train stations. Plus you want to have plenty of time to enjoy yourself and soak up every last moment.

Suggested itineraries

If it is your first trip to Italy, like many first-time visitors you may choose to start your journey in Rome and visit Florence and Venice. This 10 day Italy itinerary covers that route. It includes detailed instructions on how to make the most of your time in Italy.

Want our FREE Italy trip planning checklist? >> Click here .

Alternative 10 day itinerary suggestions

Most people travel to Italy for 10 to 14 days so we built some itinerary suggestions to cater for that time frame that cover both northern and southern Italy.

Group Tours

Packaged group tours of Italy are a popular way to travel and avoid the stress of planning your own trip. They are also a great option if you would like some company along the way. Here is a quick summary of popular tour companies:

  • Untold Italy small group tours – we run exclusive small group tours for food and wine-loving travelers wanting to get off the beaten path to see hidden Italy beyond the major cities and tourist areas. We lead groups of 14 people on journeys of discovery to experience the regions of Sicily, Puglia, Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria, Bologna and surrounds, Capri and the Cilento coasts > learn more
  • Trafalgar – popular and well respected brand appealing to the 50+ age group. Travel is by coach and the focus is on culture and history. Expect group sizes of 40-45 passengers and 4 star hotels. Trafalgar also include interesting local experiences such as wine tastings and unique stays in their itineraries. Check out their popular Best of Italy tour
  • Intrepid Travel – small group tours with an average of 10 travelers with plenty of free time built in for exploring. Their popular Italy Real Food Adventure is an 8 day itinerary that showcases their travel style well
  • Peregrine – Intrepid’s premium brand offers some interesting hiking tours of the Italian Lakes and Amalfi Coast
  • Tourradar – is a market place for group packaged tours where you can browse hundreds of package tours by different operators, and by date. You then filter by your interests and age group and read detailed reviews. You can browse fully organized tours to independent self-drive or train itineraries

READ: Our full article on the Best package tours for Italy .

When should you start booking your trip?

Italy is one of the most visited destinations in the world, so in our opinion, it is never too early to start the booking process. Book accommodation as soon as possible, and at least 6-12 months in advance especially for peak times in July and August.  We prefer to pay the higher rate for flexible bookings on both Booking.com and Plum Guide .

Day tour and attractions also sell out months in advance at peak times. In 2020 our preferred booking site GetYourGuide refunded all tours canceled due to the pandemic and stand by their policy of allowing cancelations with a full refund up to 24 hours before your activity starts.

Flight bookings will depend on where you are flying from. For long haul flights the best deals are generally found 6-12 months in advance while deals pop up regularly for travel within Europe.

Rail bookings can be made up to 4 months in advance on high speed intercity and standard intercity trains.

Step 4 – Book your flights, inbound travel & insurance

Flights to italy.

It is easy to fly direct (or with a single stop) into Italy from most places in the world. Rome Fiumicino [Leonardo da Vinci](FCO) international airport is the main hub for air traffic but you can also easily fly into Milan Malpensa (MXP) or Venice Marco Polo (VCE) airports from major hubs around the world.

There are many other airports throughout the country that can be accessed within Italy and Europe. Pisa is useful for trips to Tuscany and the Cinque Terre and you will need to fly into both Sicily and Sardinia.

To source the best flight deals to Italy we use a combination of Skyscanner ,  CheapoAir  and  Google flights .

  • Skyscanner  – portal where you can view cheapest days and routes to fly and set alerts for price drops
  • CheapoAir – uncovers the best deals on first and business class flights around the world
  • Google flights  – great for checking schedules and airline routes

Secure the best deals by setting up alerts on Skyscanner for the month you wish to travel and wait for price drops. It’s good to have a price that you wish to pay in mind but be prepared to be flexible on dates and stopovers. It is often cheaper to fly into Milan rather than Rome and that city is a useful entry point for northern Italy itineraries.

TIP: always use an incognito browser window to search for flight deals. Prices are amended up for users known to be searching for specific dates and times.

Inbound rail from within Europe

Major Italian cities – Milan, Rome, Florence and Venice – have fantastic fast speed train links from other capitals and major cities in Europe. The website  Seat 61  is a great resource for planning train travel within Europe.

Bus travel to Italy

If you’re on a tight budget and traveling within Europe, then you might want to consider coming to Italy by bus. Low cost operator  Flixbus covers 3,000 destinations in 39 countries.

You can compare schedules and prices using Omio – a useful site for booking a combination of train, bus and air travel within Europe.

Organize travel insurance

Once you have booked your flights or tour, we recommend organizing travel insurance straight away. The main reason you should purchase insurance is to cover health costs and emergency repatriation to your home country should you fall ill. Since 2020 you need to check whether there is cover provided for issues relating to covid19 however general health cover is recommended regardless.

Cover for cancelation, delays and loss of belongings is a bonus and again they may not apply under pandemic conditions. You need to read all the terms and conditions of your cover including any exclusions before you commit to buy.

Policy costs vary by your country of residence, what is covered, age, existing conditions and the insurer. You can visit Worldnomads for a quick quote. We use this company for our family travels and find the cost, coverage and claims process to be good to excellent.

Another option if you are in the United States is Safety Wing’s Nomad Insurance . Unfortunately neither option provides policies for those aged over 69. In this case you can try Travel Insurance Master – a service that allows you to compare quotes and insurance policies.

Step 5 – Book accommodation and transport

Accommodation.

Choosing where to stay at each stop is an important part of itinerary planning. Italy has many different options for tourists and you can expect the usual range of hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation as well as apartments and villas.

If you plan to spend any time in the country, consider staying at an agriturismo or farm stay. This is accommodation offered by Italian farmers who earn additional income by providing rooms and meals. Very popular in Italy and Europe, prices ranges from budget to luxurious. You can find agriturismi (plural) with swimming pools, hammams, restaurants and wine cellars. We always try to build them into our itinerary. 

LISTEN: Find out about farm stays in Italy in this podcast episode .

How much will accommodation cost?

Here is a rough guide to average prices for a double room. This will vary with prices higher in popular areas at peak times

Upscale / Luxury – €210+ [USD $240+] per night Midrange / Boutique – €120-260 [USD $135-295] per night Budget / B&B – €70-130 [USD $80-150] per night Ultra budget / Hostel or shared room in AirBnB – €30-45 [USD $30-40] per night

Best accommodation sites

Our favorite sites for booking lodging are Booking.com and Plum Guide – between them, you’ll find a huge range of options from hotels and resorts to bed and breakfast, apartments and farm stay accommodation.

Plum Guide is particularly useful for longer stays in apartments and villas and if you’re traveling as a family and need some extra space. Use the code “Untold5” for a 5% discount here .

Other sites we use and recommend

  • BookingsForYou – beautiful villas and apartments in Tuscany, Italian Lakes and Puglia – 5% for readers when you mention our site or code – UntoldItaly – when booking
  • VRBO – has some great options for long stay villas and apartments, particularly on the Amalfi Coast
  • Agriturismo.it – great for finding smaller farm stays but the booking engine is terrible. You can usually find the same properties on Booking.com
  • Airbnb – we have used Airbnb on many occasions in Italy but are now finding better value and booking conditions on Booking.com and VRBO

LISTEN: To more accommodation options and what to look for in this podcast episode .

Further reading:

  • Where to stay in Rome – a district by district guide to the best areas to stay
  • Best places to stay in Florence – neighborhoods and areas best suited to your trip
  • Where to stay in Venice – a neighborhood and area guide
  • Where to stay in Milan – best areas, places and hotels

READ: Our Italy accommodation guide .

Transport while in Italy

As a general rule, if you are traveling between cities and major towns then the best way to travel around Italy is by train. If you want to explore the countryside and small villages you will need to rent a car.

When you are mapping out distances to travel between destinations use Google maps or Rome2Rio .

Train travel in Italy

Trains in Italy are modern and efficient. Fast speed services link the major cities and regional trains connect smaller towns and villages. Two major train networks operate throughout Italy – Italo and Trenitalia .

You should book in advance for high speed intercity services where seats are allocated. If you purchase non-flexible tickets you can make significant savings with advance bookings. They are not required on regional services.

READ: Our Complete guide to train travel in Italy .

Recommended train booking sites – Omio and The Trainline

You can book directly with the Italian operators or an easier way is with:

Omio – compare train times and prices across both Trenitalia and Italo schedules and keep your ticket details on their handy app. Click here to search for rail tickets on Omio

The Trainline is a similar service to Omio offering schedules, pricing and booking for train companies in Italy and Europe. They also have a useful app and great instructions in English. Click here to search for rail tickets on The Trainline

High speed train intercity travel times on popular routes

Rome to Florence – 1 hour 30 minutes Rome to Naples – 1 hour 15 minutes Rome to Milan – 3 hours Rome to Venice – 4 hours Florence to Venice – 2 hours Florence to Milan – 2 hours

Car rental in Italy

One of the best ways to see the smaller towns and countryside in Italy is to rent a car and take to the open road. Driving in Italy is quite straightforward. You just need to do some forward planning and use your common sense. Here are some tips to

  • You are required to carry an International Drivers Permit – these can be arranged in your home country at minimal cost
  • Standard transmission on cars is manual or stick shift. If you want to rent an automatic car expect to pay extra, if you can find one available
  • Rent the smallest car you can to fit you and your luggage – roads are often narrow and you don’t want to get stuck!
  • Heavy fines apply if you enter ZTL zones or historic districts where driving is not allowed

We use both Car Rental by booking.com and AutoEurope to find the best car rental deals in Italy including one way options. They both search international and local providers so you get a wide variety of choice and there is 24/7 support if you need it. AutoEurope is usually your best option if you want a one way rental.

Click here to search for car rentals in Italy with Car Rental by booking.com .

READ: Our guide to Renting a car in Italy .

Internal flights

If you want to visit the islands of Sicily or Sardinia, or travel very long distances, flying makes the most sense.

Check on Skyscanner  or  Google flights  for routes and prices. Remember to set alerts for those routes you want to fly and book early for flights in the summer months.

READ: Our guide to all transportation in Italy .

Step 6 – Book Attractions, tours and activities

Major attractions.

The major cities of Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan – are some of the busiest cities for tourists in the world. And most visitors want to spend time at their famous attractions

We strongly advise you to prebook advance skip-the-line tickets for the following attractions – the Colosseum, Vatican Museums, Uffizi Gallery and Doge’s Palace. Otherwise, you could spend precious vacation hours standing in lines to enter these sites. Note – in winter months booking in advance is not as necessary.

We have given you the official booking sites and an alternative for approved ticket partners should you have trouble using the official site – unfortunately, that happens a lot! The direct sites are usually cheaper but the partner sites are generally more user friendly. Always check the terms and conditions of your purchase, particularly in relation to changes and refunds. GetYourGuide has a very easy cancelation policy which in many cases allows cancelation with refunds up to 24 hours prior to departure.

  • Colosseum – official ticket site OR buy Colosseum tickets on Get Your Guide
  • Vatican Museums – official ticket site OR buy Vatican Museum tickets on Get Your Guide
  • Omnia pass – Colosseum + Vatican + one other museum + hop on, hop off bus – click here for details
  • Uffizi Gallery – official ticket site OR buy Uffizi tickets on Get Your Guide
  • ‘David’ statue [Accademia Gallery] – official ticket site OR buy Accademia tickets on Get Your Guide
  • Duomo roof climb – official ticket site OR buy Dome climb tickets on Get Your Guide
  • Doge’s Palace  – official ticket site OR buy Doge’s palace tickets on Get Your Guide
  • San Marco basilica  – official skip the line tickets OR buy a tour of San Marco including tickets on Get Your Guide
  • ‘Last Supper’ painting – official ticket site OR buy Last Supper tickets on Get Your Guide
  • Duomo rooftop  – official ticket site OR buy Duomo tickets on Get Your Guide

READ: Our full review of Get Your Guide .

If you want to learn about the sites you are visiting then we recommend a group day tour. We prefer small group or private tours where you learn about the culture and history of the places you are visiting. It’s so much more fun than reading plaques and you are also able to ask questions.

So make sure to build in a couple of tours when you are planning a trip to Italy.

Our favorite small group tour companies are Take Walks (formerly Walks of Italy) and Liv Tours  and we prefer With Locals for private tours. Both offer very well designed and engaging tours of the major sights in Italy as well as interesting food and cultural tours.

  • Take Walks have a longstanding reputation for excellent service, groups under 20 people and guaranteed departures. So if you are the only person booked on a tour it will still go ahead. We recently enjoyed our Colosseum at night tour and day trip to Tuscany with them
  • Liv Tours – family run Italian company offering true small group tours of 6 people or less. All of their tours use expert guides who will help you fall in love with Italian history, culture, and food. Tours include a popular golf cart tour of Rome’s highlights and their fascinating Women’s history tours
  • With Locals offer great value private tours. You choose from a series of set itineraries and guides in cities across Italy. There are tours focused on history, food, culture and other themes or they can be customized them for your group. We tried their 10 Tastes of Naples recently and it was lots of fun. They also have great options for families
  • Eating Europe – food tour specialists who will ensure you discover the best local dishes

Save 5% on Liv Tours with code – ‘untold italy’ >> click here to browse tours

  • Rome: A 3 Day Itinerary
  • The best tours in Rome
  • Unmissable day trips from Florence
  • Day trip from Rome to Pompeii
  • Best tours of the Vatican
  • Tickets and tours for the Colosseum
  • Rome’s best food tours

Activities and experiences

Seeing the sights of Italy is always a treat but you’ll also love immersing yourself in Italian culture. These days you can choose from a wide range of experiences and activities. From food and wine tours, to football matches, concerts and exploring the countryside by vintage car, there are memorable experiences to suit you.

Recommended experiences

  • Cooking class with Nonna Nerina near Rome – Grandma Nerina teaches you how to make fresh pasta and welcomes you into her home. If you can’t wait until you get to Italy to do this she also does online classes
  •   Capri boat trip –  small group on a private boat means a slower pace and more time to see the island. You can read what to expect on this day trip here

Our favorite companies for searching for interesting and unique things to do in Italy are:

  • Cookly – cooking class and food and wine experiences like truffle hunting from small operators across Italy
  • Get Your Guide – has the biggest listing of tours and experiences

Step 7 – Get ready for departure

Organize your money and credit card.

The local currency in Italy is the € Euro.

You do not need to carry too much cash when you are there. Credit and debit cards VISA and Mastercard are widely accepted while American Express and Diners Club are not as popular. You may want to consider a foreign currency card like the Wise Mastercard where you can convert Euros easily and cheaply from your US dollar, Australian dollar or Canadian dollar accounts (plus many other currencies)

Be aware of foreign currency charges and ATM withdrawal fees applied to your account when you are abroad. You may want to review the cards you are taking with you prior to your trip. We recommend that you take two – one as a back up for emergencies. And inform your bank before you go. Sometimes they can be overzealous and place a block on your card if they see unusual activity.

Book airport transfers

Planning your arrival in Italy is recommended. Most of the airports are a fair way out from the city center – and in the case of Venice, in the middle of a lagoon!

Compare different transfer services on Suntransfers – a company that specializes in transfer options from major airports. They have options to suit all budgets and prices for coach, mini bus, private car and limo services.

Rome – transfers from Fiumicino airport

Taxis are fine to take in Rome. There is a set rate into the center of €48 and the ride takes around 45 minutes. Or, if you would prefer to be met at the airport you can pre-book a transfer. A transfer is the best option if you are traveling with more than 2 people and have several items of luggage. We recommend:

  • Welcome Pickups – available 24/7, a private car transfer means you are met at the arrivals hall and will take between 30 minutes and one hour door-to-door.
  • Suntransfers – offers a wide range of vehicles for groups of all sizes. Transfers can be canceled up to 48 hours in advance with no penalty.

Another popular way to transfer into Rome is to take the Leonardo Express train . This non-stop service between Fiumicino and Rome Termini (the main station) takes 32 minutes. Trains depart every half hour from 6:08 to 23:23, and the cost is €14. You can purchase tickets at the station on the day. Unless you are staying close to Termini you will then need to get a taxi to your accommodation.

The cheapest transfer option – this bus goes direct from the airport to Termini – €6-7 one way.

READ: Our full article on Rome airport transfers .

Venice transfers

The water bus company Alilaguna runs shuttles every 15 -30 minutes in peak season to and from the airport and the islands on the lagoon. This bus stops at San Marco and Rialto as well as some other secondary stops. The fare is €8 one way €15 return and the journey takes 1½ hours – you can book online here

A private boat transfer or shared transfer in a water taxi is the fastest (and most glamorous) way to transfer to your accommodation in Venice. Journey times and prices depend on the number of people in your party and exclusivity. A direct private transfer to the airport takes around 45 minutes.

  • Private transfer – around €200 for 6 people – book here
  • Shared water taxi transfer – around €32 per person – book here

You can also take a taxi (cost €25) or express airport bus to Piazzale Roma (cost €8) and then take a vaporetto (water bus) or walk your hotel/accommodation. A one way trip on the ferry costs €7 per person and is valid for 60 minutes.

READ: Our full article on Venice airport transfers> .

Florence transfers from Florence airport

Florence airport is very close to the city center and a 15 minute taxi ride away. There is also an airport bus that takes around 20 minutes.   A 20 minute tram ride takes you to the main Santa Maria Novella train station and costs €1.50.

Florence transfers from Pisa airport

Many people fly to Pisa to reach Florence as it is a larger airport. If you arrive during the day take the PisaMover train to Pisa Centrale train station – journey time 5 minutes. Then take a train to Florence. Starts at 6.00 am and the last train departs at midnight and it costs €5.00.

On our last visit we arranged a transfer with Suntransfers as we arrived too late for the last train. There is also a coach transfer option.

Amalfi Coast or Sorrento transfers from Naples airport or train station

We recommend organizing a private transfer for this journey. The train, ferry and bus via Sorrento can take 4 hours while a car service is around 1.5 hours. You can compare different services on Suntransfers – a site specializing in ground transportation.

You may find sites or groups where specific drivers are recommended. We do not recommend booking a driver this way for safety reasons – how do you know that the person recommending the driver is reputable, let alone the driver? And also for practical reasons – small operators may not have capacity or availability.

Plan how to access the internet

Consider how you will access the internet on your trip. You may be happy to disconnect and use paper or offline maps however many of us need internet access.

Italy has high speed internet and there are many options to stay connected depending on your needs. If you use minimal data and are happy to use offline maps and guides then you should be able to get by using wifi at your hotel or accommodation. Do not expect wifi to be available in restaurants and cafes because in Italy restaurants are for eating.

If you plan to use wifi make sure to turn off international data roaming before your trip to avoid unpleasant bill surprises.

Paid internet options

  • Use your provider’s roaming plan – usually very expensive and slow speeds if coming from outside Europe
  • Local SIM – purchase a tourist SIM before your depart or when you arrive that has enough data for map navigation and research. Italian provider TIM comes highly recommended and there are outlets at the airports and train stations
  • Portable wifi device – connect multiple devices to high speed internet for reasonable prices. We use and recommend Solis Wifi (Get 10% off with our code – UNTOLDM )

READ: Our full guide to Cellphones and getting online in Italy (SIMs, wifi and more) .

Packing for your Italy trip

The key to packing for Italy is to pack the minimum that you need. Many people like to take carry-on luggage only for their trips. This is a great way to travel as you will find it much easier managing trains, cobblestones and stairs that are a feature of travel in Italy.

But, most of us find that a challenge, so try to stick to a medium bag per person plus one carry on item. Large suitcases are not a good idea. You will also thank yourself if you consider your footwear carefully. Three comfortable pairs will see you through most trips.

Note – We have a complete packing guide coming soon.

LISTEN: to packing strategies in this podcast episode .

Must have items for your trip

  • Luggage – get the size right with our guide to the best luggage for Italy
  • Untold Italy travel planners – one page checklists of the must see sights, restaurants and gelato bars in Italy’s most popular places
  • Collapsible water bottle – stay hydrated and fill up at free water fountains all over Italy
  • Camera – for your vacation snaps. We recommend lightweight mirrorless models like these ones
  • Packing cubes – these make packing, organizing your luggage and unpacking so easy. We love them!
  • Power cube – don’t bring lots of bulky converters. This one has 3 USB ports
  • Battery pack – keep all your devices charged
  • Plug adapter – you will need one!
  • Face masks – for your safety and you may be required to wear one indoors
  • Hand sanitizer wipes – to keep germs at bay

READ: Our Complete packing guide for Italy .

Get started and plan your Italy trip now!

We hope you now have more confidence to start planning your trip to Italy. This will no doubt be a trip that you’ll remember and cherish for years to come. And, like many of us, you may find it sparks a passion to return to bella Italia again and again.

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We love travel in Italy and sharing our knowledge. Read our Italy trip planning guide or join our FREE Italy travel planning community . Our 140,000+ members are happy to answer questions about your itinerary, how to get from place to place, the best places to stay and fun things to do.

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The Ultimate New York Travel Guide 2024

The Ultimate New York Travel Guide 2024

Our new york travel tips for first time visitors.

Image of author Steffen

Are you traveling to New York for the first time and want to get an overview of what you should pay attention to? Here, I show you step by step the most important information you need to know for your New York trip. There’s a lot to see and do in New York, from world-famous landmarks like the Empire State Building to a wide selection of unique museums and New York-style foods that you should definitely try.

You may also like:

Where in new york should you stay.

  • The 33 Absolute Best New York Attractions
  • New York on a Budget

Now, sit back and enjoy our New York Travel Guide to help you have a wonderful time in New York City!

By the way, we now have over 1,600 spots in the city on our site. So, if you’re looking for suitable tours, bars, restaurants, and awesome spots to visit, then you’re in the right place!

Steffen Kneist Loving New York

Everything you need!

Hello you 👋 Here you will find everything you need for your New York trip!

These are our best New York Travel Tips for first time visitors:

Table of Contents

New York at a Glance

Best time to travel to new york.

Visiting New York is worthwhile at any time of year, but I personally like the warm months best. Summer in New York can be very hot and humid. So, for many, the best times to visit New York is April and June, and September and October.

Spending Christmas in New York or enjoying the pre-Christmas season in New York City is also a wonderful experience.  The ice rinks are open, the city is beautifully decorated, and, if it snows, the dream vacation at wintertime is perfect!

Paying in New York

You can pay for almost everything with your credit card, even the smallest amounts. Credit cards are accepted in hotels, stores, restaurants, and bars. Don’t have one yet? Then, check out the best credit card to have in the USA here.

New York for First Time Visitors: Everything You Need to Know for Your Trip (70+ pages)

New-York-First-Time-Visitors-370×200

Best Way to Travel in New York

Finding your way around New York is quite easy, even if it doesn’t look like it at first. The streets’ checkerboard pattern makes finding your way around easy. These are the best ways to get around New York:

Metro / Subway: If you have longer distances ahead of you, then the Subway is your friend, because here you can travel really cheap. It’s easy to use! The MetroCard is available at every Subway station. You can buy single rides or the popular MetroCard for 7 days; that way you can travel for a week in New York at a fixed price. You can learn more about using the  Metrocard in New York here.

Taxi:  In New York, you can choose between the Yellow Cab and Uber. You can check out our tips and all the information you need to know in our following blog:  Taxi in New York City .

By bike: With many of the New York sightseeing passes (you can find out more about this budget tip in my New York Pass comparison ), the bike rental is included. We ourselves really love using New York’s Citi Bikes. This city bike program has over 1,000 stations throughout New York City, and it’s super-cheap. We’ll show you how it works in the Citi Bike New York article.

On Foot: You’ll be surprised how much walking you’ll do in New York. After all, there’s something to see on every corner. So be sure to bring comfortable shoes!

Where to Stay in New York?

Which neighborhood is best for you depends on several things: your interests, how close you want to be to the attractions and what your travel budget is. In the image below, I’ve drawn you my favorite neighborhoods of New York including the main attractions nearby.

And, on the subject of safety: In all of Manhattan, the Bronx , Brooklyn, and large parts of Queens, you don’t have to worry about being out and about in the evening. New York City is one of the safest cities in the world!

More than 100 hotels and over 70 neighborhoods to choose from –and after just 4 quick questions, I’ll show you which hotels in New York are best suited for you!

Where Should you Stay in New York?

where to stay in New york

Manhattan – it doesn’t get more central than this: Manhattan is the most famous borough of them all. Plus, it contains 95% of all the attractions New York is known for. Everything is within easy reach, and you are right in the middle of it all. On the other hand, the hotels are a bit more expensive than in Brooklyn or Queens .

Here, you can find my 33 hotel tips for Manhattan .

Brooklyn – urban and relaxed: For a long time, Brooklyn was the insider’s tip: now it’s “completely” normal neighborhoods. However, you’ll quickly notice one thing: life is much more normal, because it’s more of a residential area. It’s super relaxed, pleasant, and just as diverse as Manhattan. Above all, you can enjoy the Manhattan skyline from here!

Here, you can find my 20 hotel tips for Brooklyn .

Queens – the new trendy neighborhood: Queens is a bit more “normal” than Brooklyn is, but, lately, we’ve noticed that it is getting more and more gentrified. The hotels in Long Island City (not to be confused with Long Island!) are especially popular because they are cheaper compared to Manhattan—and they have a perfect connection to the Subway, which makes Queens a great alternative to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Here, you can find my 20 hotel tips for Queens .

What to See in New York?

One thing to know in advance: just because there is so much to see in New York, a little planning makes absolute sense. For highlights like the Empire State Building ( here ), the Edge Hudson Yards observation deck ( here ) or the One World Observatory ( here ), I recommend buying the tickets online in advance. This will not only save you waiting time on site, but you can also be sure that you will actually be able to visit your desired sights.

👉 These are our 33 best attractions in New York .

These are my tips after more than 20 visits to New York:

  • Observation decks:  New York City has no less than five (!) major observation decks to offer, and each one is a dream in itself. My two favorites are The Edge Hudson Yards and the One World Observatory , because from here you have a sensational view of New York from above and you can see the Empire State Building . From the end of 2021, another cool option will be added with the glass One Vanderbilt . One more thing about the Empire State Building: It’s the most visited observation deck in New York, so it’s always busy. Avoid the crowds in the morning – and if you really want to go to the Empire State Building in the evening, choose Thursday, Friday or Saturday. During those times, a saxophonist plays on the observation deck. Important: book the Skip-the-Line-Tickets (you can do that here). Then, you can easily save 1-2 hours of waiting time!
  • Visit the Statue of Liberty : The trip from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty is super-popular. To save yourself long waiting times, make sure you take the first ferry of the day. Here, you can find the best Statue of Liberty Cruises right now.
  • Definitely take a boat tour , because seeing New York from the water is like being on vacation. Choices range from the free Staten Island Ferry or the NYC Ferry ($2.90 each way) to sailing tours (gorgeous) and the classic sightseeing tours that are included with all major New York passes.
  • Walk along the High Line from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards .
  • Visit Times Square in the evening – that’s when it’s at its most impressive.
  • Relax in Central Park or Bryant Park .
  • Plan a maximum of three attractions per day . After all, you don’t want any sightseeing stress.

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The 9 best observation decks in new york city, new york budget tip.

With the right New York sightseeing pass , you can easily save a lot of money on up to 100 tours and attractions. To find out if a New York Pass is worth it (or not), check out our free New York Pass Advisor to find out which New York Pass is best for you.

And on this page you’ll find our New York Pass comparison .

Itineraries in New York

You don’t know where to start? Then let us inspire you! We have some suggestions for you. By the way, the most popular is the 1 week New York itinerary .

The Perfect Itinerary For Your New York Trip

Itinerary New York 4 to 6 days

This itinerary contains over 50 spots and highlights of the city, including a map that shows you the best way to travel each day, taking you to or past the many big attractions. In addition, we‘ve added our favorite places, from great breakfast spots to start your day right to small bars and restaurants and hidden insider spots.

What awaits you here now is the perfect New York week, because this is what my itinerary would look like if I were visiting the Big Apple for the first or second time right now!

What to Do in New York?

For me, an unforgettable New York trip includes the following things in addition to visiting the main sights:

Go Shopping

New York is also really good for shopping. There are many small shopping spots and addresses, but also the big brands can often be found with flagship stores. If that’s not enough, you can go shopping in one of the outlets and flea markets of New York.

The best shopping areas in New York are Broadway, SoHo , Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. And, of course, 5th Avenue!

Avoid Times Square for shopping!

A real tourist trap are the stores around Times Square – they are not only overpriced, but also the quality is not right in most cases!

Here you can find our Guide to Shopping in New York  with everything you need to know!

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Visit a rooftop bar.

I love the rooftop bars of New York . You can sit and relax, enjoy a sensational view of the city and listen to relaxing music. All this mixes with the so-typical sounds of the city in the background, and if you have something delicious to drink or eat on top of that, it can’t get any better! You can see where we like to go in our article on the 43 best rooftop bars in New York .

By the way, if you want to experience the view of New York when you get up early in the morning, check out my list of the 26 best New York hotels with a view !

Visit a Broadway Show

New York is known for its many musicals and Broadway shows – most of which are performed in the Theatre District around Times Square. Here are our tips on the  best Broadway Shows in New York . If you already know which Broadway show you want to see, I recommend ordering the tickets in advance ( here ). If you’re still flexible, you can buy leftover tickets at TKTS in Times Square, for example.

Attend a Parade or Special Event

OK, hotel is booked, attractions are on the list, the myNY itinerary is ready, shopping spots are sighted and the first restaurants and bars are also noted. Now comes the last step on the list to the perfect travel planning for New York: the events, parades, and holidays.

They are the icing on the cake of every New York vacation and, therefore, could not be missed in our New York Travel Guide! Just check out our monthly specials that are relevant to you:  January , February , March , April , May , June , July , August , September , October , November and December .

Enjoying the Gastro Scene (in the Evening)

Now comes one of my favorite parts of planning our New York trips: the city’s many bars, restaurants, rooftop bars, and food markets. In our travel guide and insider guides on the website, we put a lot of emphasis on finding the best gastro spots and rooftop bars. So, feel free to browse through them, and if you like something, just add it to your myNY itinerary. Just click on the heart symbol, and you’re done!

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Marvel at grand central station.

Be sure to take the time to see Grand Central Station . Not only is it the setting for many series and movies set in New York, it’s also very impressive and has a fantastic ceiling!

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Walking through DUMBO and Soho

The neighborhoods of DUMBO in Brooklyn and Soho in Manhattan are among the most iconic neighborhoods in the city and are fascinating for their combination of old New York with new New York.

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What to eat in new york.

What should I start with first? With the New York pizza slice, the New York cheesecake, the wonderful pastrami sandwiches at Katz’ Delicatessen, or at the Pastrami Queen? In addition, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse and Luger are two really good steak restaurants waiting for you and if you want to eat really good burgers: go to J.G. Melon, the hidden Burger Joint or Shake Shack!

Get personal tips & tricks, specifically tailored to your trip!

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We will provide you with individual tips & tricks as you prepare for your trip. How to plan, save money and make sure you experience the most of NYC are only some of the topics covered!

Specify dates

I hope my New York Travel Guide helped you plan your first trip to New York. Was there anything missing? Feel free to write it in the comments!

I wish you a wonderful time in New York City!

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I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 25 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide . Also check out my hotel finder for New York !

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How to Plan Your First Trip to China 2024/2025 — 7 Easy Steps

China, with its long history and rich geography, may be on your bucket list. It is also the top place to explore Far-Eastern elements and culture.

Below are seven easy steps for planning a first China tour using our first-hand knowledge. We have been based in China since 1998 and have experience creating over 100,000 custom-made China tours, the majority of which were for families and couples.

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1. choose where to go, 2. decide how many days to stay, 3. consider when to travel to china, 4. consider your budget.

  • 5. Take a Private Tour

6. Check Out Visa Policy

7. getting to/around china.

With our knowledge of China and feedback from our clients, we suggest you visit Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai for your first trip, extending it to Guilin and/or Chengdu if you have the time.

1) Beijing — Explore China's Imperial Past

As an imperial and modern capital of China, Beijing is a must-see, because it is home to many of the finest icons of China's medieval and recent past. It is also China's top gateway city .

The Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City are both must-see attractions, especially if you are interested in China's architectural marvels and dynastic history.

For a special experience and some private time, we can arrange a less-crowded sunset visit to the Great Wall with a romantic picnic for you.

If you are interested in Beijing's local lifestyle, a locally-guided walk through Beijing's hutongs with your children or husband/wife is highly recommended.

If you want to try some new things with kids, we recommend a family morning tai chi session, a local home visit, trying Chinese calligraphy, and playing with a Chinese yo-yo. See more from our 11-Day China Family Tour .

Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family 's best-rated service across trusted platforms.

2) Shanghai — Explore Its Unique Blend of Old and New

If you want an intuitive sense of how China's recent past and present meet and collide, Shanghai is the place to go.

Hop on a ferry to cross the Huangpu River . You will see the historical architecture on the Bund as well as the modern skyscrapers opposite, giving you a distinctive contrast between modern life and the post-imperial past.

We have specially designed an in-depth Bund culture discovery walking tour for those who want to learn more interesting stories about the Bund and old Shanghai. You will walk a route that seldom tourist will find by themselves, see the most original bricks, and hear some interesting stories that you'll never find in history books. See our 11-Day China Classic Tour to Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, and Shanghai with the In-depth Bund Discovery Included .

If your schedule allows, extend your tour to Hangzhou or Suzhou to see water towns and classical Chinese gardens.

3) Xi'an — Discover China's Ancient Civilization

Xi'an is an excellent and interesting place to discover where the nation of China really began. China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, established the first capital of a united China there.

The Terracotta Warriors are definitely a must-see. We offer a more interesting and in-depth experience to learn more about the Terracotta Warriors: make a mini clay warrior with local artisans and visit their disappearing cave dwellings.

For couples and families, a hanfu costume experience in an ancient academy could be a highlight. A bike ride on the 600-year-old city wall is also great to do with kids.

See our 8-Day Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai Private Tour for inspiration. All our tours can be adjusted based on your needs.

4) Guilin — A Relaxing Escape with Picturesque Scenery and Minority Culture

First-timers love Guilin for its beautiful landscapes and relaxing places to escape from the cities — it is a true masterpiece of classic rural China .

A Li River cruise is the best way to enjoy karst peaks combined sublimely with the Li River .

Yangshuo and Longsheng, two counties next to the city of Guilin, offer most of Guilin's top highlights.

Yangshuo is a place where children can put down their phones and iPads and still be well entertained… by cycling around the idyllic countryside and even experiencing the life and work of a Chinese farmer.

Yangshuo also offers a natural romantic atmosphere for couples. A romantic riverside candlelit dinner set in a mountain retreat garden could be a great way to celebrate your 20th, 30th, 40th, etc. anniversary. Contact us to design a special time for you.

If you are interested in minority culture , the Longji Rice Terraces in Longsheng are really a highlight — both for enjoying the magnificent tiered fields and for experiencing the world of the Zhuang and Yao minorities.

Recommended China Tours:

  • 2-Week Riches of China to Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Guilin, Xi'an, and Beijing
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5) Chengdu — Have a Close Encounter with Pandas

Chengdu's giant pandas are for many the icing on the cake, the finishing touch to a China must-do list.

An even more special experience would be to have a close encounter with pandas by taking part in our giant panda volunteer program — cleaning the glass of their enclosures, making panda food, watching a panda eat it, and more.

Chengdu is also famous for delicious Sichuan food like kung pao chicken and spicy hotpot. A food hunting tour is the best way to taste the delicious specialties of Chengdu.

If you are interested in cooking, you can try cooking the most authentic Sichuan cuisine with a local chef.

After a long journey to get to China, you probably won't want to just scratch the surface of China and just take snapshots with the landmark attractions.

We suggest you take at least a week for your first trip to see a spectrum of the highlights in the top three cities: Beijing (3–4 days), Xi'an (2 days), and Shanghai (1–2 days). See our 8-Day Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai Tour for inspiration.

To discover more of China, like charming Guilin and lovely Chengdu pandas, you would need a few more days. See our 11-Day Classic Wonders tour of Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin/Yangshuo, and Shanghai.

Tibet is also a dream destination for many of our clients. If you want to visit this pure land, you may need 3 to 5 more days. See our 2-Week Private Tour of Beijing, Xi'an, Lhasa, and Shanghai .

All our tours can be adjusted based on your interests, travel time, group size, and other needs. Just contact us .

Or get ideas from our:

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China's cultural and historical attractions are good for a visit all year round. Things to do in Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai are seldom affected by the seasons.

Spring (April–May) and autumn (September–October) are generally the most comfortable and recommended times for a China tour. They are neither too hot nor too cold, but fall is generally drier and warmer than spring.

A more ideal travel time for you could be March and early April or early November when there are smaller crowds, favorable prices, and still good weather.

China is a good summer holiday destination too. There are not many rainy days in summer. It rarely rains continuously for a whole day, with rain coming in less and less frequent downpours as the summer draws on.

It can get a little hot in summer, but air conditioning and expert arrangements would help you avoid the heat as much as possible.

You can find more detailed tips on Best Times to Travel to China .

Traveling in China is not very expensive. The biggest cost could be international airfares. The cost of airfares from the US or Europe to China varies a lot depending on when you fly and which airline you use, from around US$1,200 to US$3,000 for an economy round trip.

The peak tourist times in China fall on the first weeks of May and October (China's two golden weeks), the summer holidays, and the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The biggest price difference between the off and peak seasons is in the price of hotels and airfares. Prices in peak season can go up by 50 to 100%.

For a private tour, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5-star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport. The more people there are, the cheaper the travel expenses.

If you travel in the peak season, book at least 2 or 3 months in advance. Check more China tours .

5. We Believe Private and Tailor-Made Is Best

A private tour is recommended for your first trip to China.

If you don't want to visit the Great Wall of China with a coach-load of 40 people and perhaps only have 20 minutes on the wall and so on, a private and tailor-made tour is definitely the better choice.

With our private tours, you would have much more personal choice in how your tour goes. You could have more hand-picked and interactive experiences, like walking on the "wild" untouched Great Wall or visiting a local family with your own local guide.

With private guiding and transport, we would maximize your time. You could focus on the sightseeing you want to do, skipping what's not of interest and the long queues in the most crowded attractions.

Just contact us if you would like a tailor-made private trip to China. We also offer economical, but still high-class and uncrowded, small group tours.

Visa-Free Access to China : If you're from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Poland, and Malaysia, you can visit China visa-free for 15 days until December 31st, 2025. If you're from Singapore, you can relish visa-free access to China for up to 30 days.

If your nationality isn't listed above or if you aim to discover China for more than two weeks, you will need to apply for a tourist visa (L visa) to visit China. We recommended that you apply for the visa one or two months before the intended travel date. 

When booking with us, we would provide the invitation letter that you would need for a tourist visa application.

we offer a Port Visa Service for just US$100 per person  once your tour booking is confirmed with us. No stress of embassy visits and visa interviews.

Whether you want to visit China via visa or visa-free, we can help you plan a trip including entry formalities. Feel free to contact us .

Flights from all countries to China have resumed, though maybe not yet at pre-pandemic frequency. At present, there are one or two direct flights a week from New York to Shanghai, Los Angeles to Beijing, Seattle to Shanghai, London to Guangzhou, etc.

There are also many flight options with stopovers that are more frequent and affordable.

Beijing and Shanghai are the top gateway cities for international flights. Most customers chose them.

Flights and high-speed trains are the best and fastest ways to travel intercity in most of China. Booking a private tour with us, we will arrange your transportation within China and provide worry-free and comfortable private transfers.

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Egypt Bucket List: Your Expert Guide to Cairo & The Nile

Table of contents, why egypt should be on your bucket list, egypt bucket list #1-journey to cairo, egypt, egypt bucket list #2-exploring the nile river cruise, best time to visit egypt, planning your trip: visa requirements and travel costs , unique egyptian adventures to experience, is egypt safe to visit , what are the best ways to get around egypt, do you need to book tours in advance, or can you explore on your own, what should you wear when visiting ancient sites and mosques in egypt , are there any health concerns or vaccinations required for traveling to egypt, do you need a visa to visit egypt, your egypt bucket list adventure awaits.

Your Egypt bucket list adventure starts here! Egypt , a land steeped in ancient history and rich culture, is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list . From the iconic monuments of Cairo to the winding Nile River, this captivating country offers a unique blend of awe-inspiring sights and immersive cultural experiences.

Having personally experienced the magic of Cairo and a mesmerizing Nile river cruise, here’s my expert guide, insider tips, and recommendations to help you plan an unforgettable Egypt vacation to this bucket list-worthy destination.

There are many reasons to visit Egypt and why it should be on your bucket list. Imagine standing in the shadow of the Great Pyramids of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, or gazing upon the enigmatic Sphinx, a testament to the ingenuity of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Beyond these iconic landmarks, Egypt offers a diverse array of experiences, from exploring bustling cities like Cairo to cruising along the mighty Nile River, witnessing remnants of ancient temples and tombs.

Egypt is also known for its welcoming people, delicious cuisine, and vibrant markets, making it an immersive cultural journey unlike any other.

Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of ancient wonders, Egypt has something to offer every traveler on an Egypt tour or Egypt vacation.

As the vibrant capital of Egypt, Cairo is a bustling metropolis that seamlessly blends ancient wonders with modern life. Here, you’ll find some of the country’s most iconic attractions, along with a lively cultural scene and a rich culinary heritage.

No visit to Cairo is complete without witnessing the awe-inspiring Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx . These ancient marvels, dating back over 4,500 years, are a testament to the ingenuity and engineering prowess of the ancient Egyptians.

For a unique experience , consider booking a camel ride to explore the Giza plateau and capture stunning views of the pyramids .

Beyond the pyramids, Cairo offers a wealth of cultural experiences. The Egyptian Museum is a must-visit, housing an unparalleled collection of ancient artifacts, including the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb .

For a taste of local culture, head to the vibrant Khan El Khalili Bazaar , where you can haggle for souvenirs, sample delicious street food, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.

For a comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Cairo, check out our article on things to do in Cairo Egypt .

Want to see more of Cairo? Get a glimpse of the beauty of Cairo in this video:

The mighty Nile River played a crucial role in the development of ancient Egyptian civilization, and today, it offers a unique way to explore the country’s rich history. A Nile River cruise is an unforgettable experience , providing a luxurious and convenient way to witness some of Egypt’s most remarkable ancient sites.

As you glide along the Nile, you’ll have the opportunity to visit iconic temples and tombs that have stood the test of time.

From the awe-inspiring Philae Temple Complex to the intricate carvings of Edfu Temple , each site offers a glimpse into the grandeur and sophistication of ancient Egyptian architecture.

One of the highlights of a Nile cruise is the chance to explore Luxor , known as the “world’s greatest open-air museum.” Here, you can delve into the Valley of the Kings, where ancient pharaohs were laid to rest, and marvel at the stunning Temple of Queen Hatshepsut , a stunning example of ancient engineering carved into the cliffs.

Throughout your journey, you’ll be treated to the comfort and luxury of a modern riverboat, complete with amenities such as spacious cabins, fine dining, and entertainment. It’s a truly immersive way to experience the wonders of ancient Egypt.

Egypt’s ancient history is also brought to life through captivating performances, such as the whirling dervish dance, a mesmerizing spiritual ritual that dates back centuries. Consider attending a show to witness this captivating display of music, movement, and devotion.

See these ancient wonders come alive in this video:

When planning your trip to Egypt, timing is crucial. The best time to visit Egypt is during the cooler months, from October to April, when temperatures are milder and more comfortable for sightseeing. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • The shoulder seasons (spring and fall) offer the best balance of pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
  • Peak season brings more tourists, but if that’s your only option, be prepared for the crowds.
  • Summer months in Egypt can be scorching hot, so consider that if you’re particularly heat sensitive.

When planning your trip to Egypt, consider attending major festivals like Ramadan or national holidays, which can impact opening hours and crowd levels at popular attractions.

To help you, I’ve created a guide covering everything you need to know while Visiting Egypt During Ramadan: Insider Guide to Celebration .

Before embarking on your Egyptian adventure, it’s essential to understand the visa requirements and travel costs. Check the visa requirements for your nationality well in advance. Many countries can obtain a visa upon arrival at Egyptian airports, but it’s best to confirm and be prepared. The visa fee is generally around $25 USD.

As for the trip to Egypt cost is relatively affordable compared to other popular destinations. You can expect to spend around $50-$100 per day for a mid-range traveler, including accommodation, food, transportation, and entry fees to major attractions. Here’s a rough estimate of some common expenses:

  • Airfare: $500-$1,000 roundtrip from major U.S. cities
  • Mid-range hotel: $50-$100 per night
  • Budget hotel: $20-$50 per night
  • Meals: $10-$25 per day (street food and casual restaurants)
  • Transportation: $5-$10 per day (for taxis and public transport)
  • Entrance fees: $10-$25 per site (e.g., pyramids, temples, museums)

To save money, consider staying in budget-friendly accommodations. A wide range of options exist, from budget hostels to luxurious hotels. Eating at local street food stalls and local eateries is incredibly affordable, and you’ll find delicious meals for just a few dollars. When exploring attractions, transportation like local buses and taxis is budget-friendly. Consider a Nile Cruise package for an all-inclusive experience.

Here are some unique adventures that you must experience when traveling to Egypt.

  • Soar over Luxor in a hot air balloon for breathtaking views of temples and the Valley of the Kings at sunrise-a true bucket list moment!
  • Camel rides near the Pyramids are a popular choice, but it’s important to be aware of the ethical concerns. To learn more, check out this article, Why A Camel Ride in Egypt Commands a Conflicting Ethical Decision delves into this complex topic.
  • Immerse yourself in Islamic Cairo. Discover its rich history and architectural beauty at the magnificent Al-Azhar Mosque.
  • No trip to Egypt is complete without sampling the delicious local cuisine! Try  koshari  (a hearty mix of rice, lentils, and pasta),  falafel  (chickpea fritters), and don’t forget stuffed pigeon – an Egyptian delicacy.

Planning a trip to Egypt can raise a lot of questions, so we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions to help you prepare for your journey.

Egypt is generally safe for tourists, especially when traveling with a reputable tour company or guide. However, it’s always important to exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings, and follow the advice of local authorities.

For long-distance travel, consider taking domestic flights or booking a Nile River cruise. Within cities, taxis and public transportation are affordable and convenient options. Hiring a private driver or tour guide can also make navigating Egypt more comfortable.

While it’s possible to explore some sites independently, booking guided tours in advance can provide invaluable insights and ensure a smoother experience. Guided tours are highly recommended for complex sites like the pyramids, Valley of the Kings, and ancient temples.

It’s important to dress modestly when visiting religious sites or Islamic mosques. Opt for lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Women may also want to carry a scarf to cover their heads when entering mosques.

No specific vaccinations are required for most travelers, but it’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider before your trip. Ensure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Bringing insect repellent and staying hydrated are also recommended.

Yes, most nationalities require a visa to visit Egypt. However, the process is relatively straightforward, and there are a couple of ways to obtain one:

Visa on Arrival: Citizens of many countries can obtain a visa upon arrival at Egypt’s international airports. The process involves filling out a form, paying a fee (typically around $25 USD, payable in cash), and having a passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.

E-Visa: For added convenience, many nationalities can apply for an e-Visa in advance through the official Egyptian government portal ([invalid URL removed]). The process is entirely online and typically takes a few days for approval.

Important Notes:

Specific Requirements:  Always double-check the visa requirements for your specific nationality, as there may be variations. Some countries may have additional requirements or longer processing times.

Visa Validity:  The most common tourist visa for Egypt is valid for 30 days. If you plan to stay longer, consider applying for a multiple-entry visa or inquire about visa extensions upon arrival.

Resources:  For official visa information and updates, visit the Egyptian government website or consult your nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate.

By following this expert Egypt travel guide, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and insider tips to plan an extraordinary journey through Cairo and the heart of ancient Egyptian civilization, Nile.

Egypt promises to leave a lasting impression and will surely capture your heart. So, pack your sense of adventure, embrace the rich culture, and embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to this bucket list-worthy destination.

The post Egypt Bucket List: Your Expert Guide to Cairo & The Nile appeared first on The Design Tourist .

Egypt Bucket List: Your Expert Guide to Cairo & The Nile

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Pros + Cons: Travel Guide Services

Consider integrating a travel guide into your next trip, or try a fully guided tour to help you ease into international travel.

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

Related To:

This summer, I took a guided educational tour of Australia and New Zealand with my brother, mother and a group of almost forty travelers from our hometown in Tennessee. The group was a combination of high school students and adults with almost a one-to-one ratio. On the trip I held a koala (what a dream!), snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, toured the Sydney Opera House, visited Hobbiton, luged down a small mountain, learned first-hand about Djabuki and Maori cultures, surfed for the first time and ate some of the best food I've ever had. Luke, our amazing tour guide, was there all along the way to point us to the best food and attractions, answer our crazy American questions and teach us about Australian Rules football.

The trip was undoubtedly worth the price, and I know it could have been years before I would have planned and executed it on my own, especially as a beginner international traveler. Is a tour service the best way to experience Australia? Doesn't matter. It's the way that got us there. Of course, a fully planned and guided tour shouldn't always be your go-to for travel. Independent travel has so many virtues and benefits that can't be overlooked, but there are ways to incorporate guides without sacrificing these. Whatever your reason for traveling, there's likely some kind of guide service that can add to your experience.

Local Guides

So you're a budget independent traveler who scoffs at big tour groups and actively runs the other direction. I get it; you want to escape the tourist traps and really get to know a place. There are tours for you, too. Think small and local. Often found with a simple call to a tourism department, small operations offer day guiding and walking tours that cover significant historical sites. These guided tours can usually be booked day-of or at least the day before, offering flexibility and spontaneity to planning-averse travelers.

Waiting for the geyser to spout during a local tour of Whakarewarewa Thermal Village in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

Waiting for the geyser to spout during a local tour of Whakarewarewa Thermal Village in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Photo by: Carol Shannon

Carol Shannon

Local and personal guides are usually passionate about their towns and very well versed in local knowledge. Not only can they teach you about local history, culture and lore but also provide excellent advice on restaurants, bars and off-the-beaten-path experiences.

Adventure Guiding + Active Tours

Backpacking in the Andes, mountaineering in the Alps, rafting the Grand Canyon, cycling the West Coast, climbing in Patagonia — I go could on with the list of adventures I would love to have but am not experienced enough to undertake on my own. Adventure guiding services offered by REI , Adventure Unbound and thousands of local outdoor guiding services are integral to anyone who wants a unique and challenging outdoor experience but can't devote time to tackle it on their own.

Enjoying Hobbiton on a semi-guided tour.

Enjoying Hobbiton on a semi-guided tour.

Too many people exclude themselves from incredible experiences like summiting a difficult 14'er or rafting treacherous rivers or camping in a desert because they lack experience. A proper guiding service will make up for inexperience and help you achieve your goal with the least possible risk. They can be hired for any level of adventure and budget from one of the 7 Summits to an overnight hike in an unknown part of the world.

Clay Britt, a friend who has traveled internationally on a budget over the last few years, prefers to rely on himself and knowledge picked up from locals on his adventures, but he makes a few exceptions for guiding services.

Clay says, "I used a guide on a five-day hike on the Salkantay Trek in Peru and on a camping trip in the Sahara Desert [in] Morocco. There is a certain sense of accomplishment when you complete something without help. However, for me there are certain cases where a guide is more beneficial in the long run. When trails are not easily navigable, and the knowledge of a local guide can provide you with more time enjoying the journey, I think a guide service is the best option."

On the other side of the coin, too many inexperienced people attempt ambitious and dangerous feats without guides and face severe consequences. Guided trips are the smartest way for most of us to check big adventures off the list.

Photography Workshops + Tours

Offered in hundreds of locations by as many professional photographers, these workshops satiate both the travel and photography bugs. Hobbyist and amateur photographers (pretty much anyone who knows how to use their camera) can spend 5-10 days developing their skills while exploring a new region or country with an experienced landscape or street photographer.

Admiring the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Opera House

Admiring the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Leading photographers have often been to the destination multiple times and scouted for the most beautiful landscapes and the best street photography areas. You'll be on location every morning for sunrise, and you'll set up every evening to capture sunsets, but between those key timeslots, some trips allow you to enjoy the city, town or park you're visiting. Think of the time in-between shooting as your personal exploration time. A few major travel destinations for photography workshops include Iceland , Cuba , the Pacific Northwest and China .

Student Tours

Parents of students, pay attention. Student tours offered by companies like Education First and Brightspark can ignite a passion for travel and cultural education in many young people before they're old enough to travel independently. These tours often cover everything you would need to worry about: flights, transportation, lodging, most meals and great activities.

Watching waves roll in on Franklin Islands National Park after snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.

Franklin Islands National Park

Watching waves roll in on Franklin Islands National Park after snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo by: Clint Shannon

Clint Shannon

Kayla Kitts, managing editor at Discovery who has traveled in 13 countries on both independent and guided trips, first travelled internationally as a student ambassador to France, Italy and Malta.

"This trip ultimately fed my passion for traveling and inspired me to take even more international trips," Kayla says.

After a few guided and independent trips, Kayla was able to pinpoint her preferred style of unplanned and laid-back travel.

While the benefits of international tours and travel for students are numerous, a few stand out. They will learn how to adapt when surrounded by different cultures, better understand diverse cultures, expand their perspectives of the world and develop meaningful connections with friends and fellow travelers.

Yes, these tours can be pricey, but the value can't be beat. Tour groups often host fundraisers and recommend grants and scholarships to ease the burden of cost. When possible, these tours are great opportunities for parents to join and share a potentially life-changing experience with their children.

Educational + Cultural Tours for Adults

Although some people can book their first flight ever, head across the world, plunge into an unknown culture and thrive, most of us have to work up to independent travel, especially international travel. Fully guided tours are perfect for anyone wanting to break into the travel world but nervous about their first trip. While great for first-time travelers of all ages, middle-aged to elderly adults who are finally finding themselves with time to travel may especially benefit from these.

Sun lights a restored prisoners' sleeping quarters in the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney.

Hyde Park Barracks

Sun lights a restored prisoners' sleeping quarters in the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney.

Road Scholar , Go Ahead Tours (a subgroup of Education First) and Artisans of Leisure are three notable companies offering guided tours to adults. Major museums like The MET and Smithsonian also offer tours to unique places. Like educational tours for students, these can come with a hefty price tag, but again, consider the value. Were you to spend weeks planning and booking the same trip with all the same experiences, opportunities and amenities, you will likely be paying the same, if not more.

These tours reduce your planning time to none, save you the hassle of figuring out transportation, solve language barrier issues, provide an opportunity to make great friends with fellow travelers and maximize the amount of experiences you'll have in a short period of time.

However, there are potential downsides to consider. If you prefer spontaneous and flexible travel, most of these trips aren't for you, but day guides and local tours can still offer so much.

Travel guides can and should be used by everyone to enhance an experience, even highly independent and spontaneous travelers. From education to adventure to culture, different levels of guiding and the right guide will help new travelers find their way and add value for experienced travelers.

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IELTS Writing: Travelling in a group

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Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The best way to travel is in a group led by a tour guide. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Traveling is the best way to relax, leave one’s troubles behind and enjoy the beautiful moments. Some people prefer to travel alone. However, other people prefer to take a tour. I think that these options have their own benefits. In the following paragraphs I will give my reasons to support my answer.

First of all, traveling in a group led by a tour guide gives one the opportunity to meet new people, communicate, have a great time in the company. Second of all, one does not have to spend his time looking for historical places that he wants to visit. A professional guide leads group from one place to another. Also, it is very interesting to hear from a guide about historical events that took places there. In addition to these benefits a group led by a tour guide does not feel uncomfortable because of a foreign language. All the tourists need they can ask their tour guide. So, this allows to avoid difficulties to communicate with dwellers of that country.

From the other hand, sometimes people like to explore countries without the help of a guide. They like to make their own discoveries, be independent, feel freedom and stay in one town as long as they need. Personally, I think it is a great feeling. Sometimes I want to be alone to contemplate about my life, to forget all troubles that bother me and just relax.

To sum up, I believe that it is really up to a person how he or she prefers to travel. Some people even like to alternate traveling alone with traveling in a group led by a tour guide.

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Tour de France 2024 stage-by-stage guide: Route maps and profiles for all 21 days

This year’s tour de france will take the peloton from florence to a time-trial finish in nice via some epic climbs in the pyrenees and the alps, article bookmarked.

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A map of the 2024 Tour de France route from Florence to Nice

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The 2024 Tour de France will be a truly unique race when it begins in Florence on Saturday and ends – for the first time in its 121-year history – outside Paris .

This year’s Tour will wrap up without the usual procession to the Champs-Elysees, where security resources will be focused on the Paris Olympics starting five days later. Instead, organisers have opted to end the race with an individual time-trial in Nice, adding the possibility of the yellow jersey changing hands on a dramatic final day.

Before that, riders face a typically gruelling challenge, with a hilly start in Italy before crossing to France where a perilous gravel stage awaits in Troyes. Week two leads the peloton south to the Pryenees and the monstrous Col du Tourmalet, before a series of days in the Alps including a particularly brutal stage 19 with a summit finish in Isola.

It all concludes in Nice on Sunday 21 July, where the race winner will be crowned.

Stage 1: Florence to Rimini (hilly, 206km) | Saturday 29 June

Stage 1 map

The opening stage of the 2024 Tour de France will be a beautiful ride, starting with the Grand Depart on the banks of the Arno river in the centre of Florence before heading through Tuscany to the finish line on Italy’s east coast, on the beachfront of Rimini. The route also takes in San Marino, the Tour’s 13th country. But it will be tough on what is the most hilly first stage in the race’s history with 3,600m of climbing to conquer. It could be a day for Tadej Pogacar to immediately make his mark, or for an outstanding classics rider like Mathieu van der Poel to target, while young puncheurs like Ireland’s Ben Healy and Belgium’s Maxim Van Gils could be outside bets.

Stage 1 profile

Stage 2: Cesenatico to Bologna, (hilly, 199km) | Sunday 30 June

Stage 2 map

The second day throws up a more gentle ride, though it still contains six categorised climbs to test the legs. The purest sprinters will get left behind but the small ascents are unlikely to put off the more hardy fast men, like Wout van Aert , who will like the look of the fast finish in Bologna.

Stage 2 profile

Stage 3: Plaisance to Turin (flat, 231km) | Monday 1 July

stage 3 map

The long third stage will be the first opportunity for a bunch sprint to the finish line. Expect Alpecin-Deceuninck to try and control the final kilometres in an effort to position Jasper Philipsen for the win, but there is a stacked list of sprinters ready to challenge him including Arnaud de Lie, Dylan Groenewegen, Sam Bennett, Wout van Aert and Mark Cavendish, chasing a record 35th stage win to finally eclipse the great Eddy Merckx.

stage 3 profile

Stage 4: Pinerolo to Valloire (mountainous, 140km) | Tuesday 2 July

Stage 4 map

A tough fourth stage takes the riders into France via a couple of testing category-two climbs and to the foot of the Col du Galibier – the first hors categorie ascent of the race. The gradient averages only 5.3% but at 23km long, it is a draining slog of a climb to the top and the strongest climbers will come to the fore. Expect some attacks among the big hitters like Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard as we get our first real sense of the battle for overall victory.

Stage 3 profile

Stage 5: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Saint-Vulbas (flat, 177km) | Wednesday 3 July

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

The second sprint finish of this year’s Tour contains some small hills but nothing that should disrupt the power riders from reaching the finish near the front, where they will expect to battle for victory.

Stage 5 profile

Stage 6: Macon to Dijon (flat, 163km) | Thursday 4 July

Stage 6 map

An even flatter day looks ripe for a bunch sprint on the streets of Dijon. One small categorised climb early in the stage precedes an intermediate sprint which might be targeted by those hunting the green jersey, and a breakaway will almost certainly then take to the front of the race. But it is likely to be caught by the sprinters’ teams before the finish as the peloton’s power riders fight for the stage win.

Stage 6 profile

Stage 7: Nuits-Saint-Georges to Gevrey-Chambertin, (ITT, 25km) | Friday 5 July

Stage 7 map

The first individual time-trial of this year’s Tour de France sweeps through thick forest before opening out into the picturesque vineyards of Burgundy. The only climb is the short Cote de Curtil-Vergy (1.6km at 6.1%), followed by a descent into Gevrey-Chambertin, and here Remco Evenepoel – the reigning time-trial world champion – will plan to take some time from his general classification rivals who are less adept against the clock.

Stage 7 profile

Stage 8: Semur-en-Auxois to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises (flat, 176km) | Saturday 6 July

Stage 8 map

It may be officially listed as a flat day, but stage eight contains five categorised climbs and plenty more undulation, along with an uphill drag to the finish which should be enough to shake out some of the pure sprinters from contention. This could be a bunch sprint, a day for the breakaway or even a bold solo attack if the situation presents itself for an opportunist near the front of the race.

Stage 8 profile

Stage 9: Troyes to Troyes (hilly, 199km) | Sunday 7 July

Stage 9 map

The Tour de France takes on the gravel roads of the Champagne region to see out the first week, and the white dusty terrain could take down a few unfortunate victims. The 14 sections of gravel span 32km in all, and they are similar to the roads of the iconic Italian race, Strade-Bianche. The past winners of Strade-Bianche – Tom Pidcock, Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogacar – will fancy their chances here.

Stage 9 profile

Rest day: Orleans | Monday 8 July

Stage 10: Orleans to Saint-Amand-Montrond (flat, 187km) | Tuesday 9 July

Stage 10 map

The Tour heads down to the centre of France, where on paper it is a nice-looking day for the sprinters, but they will need to stay alert to winds which could split the pack along this twisting route south to Saint-Amand-Montrond in the Loire Valley. A short, sharp climb 8km from the finish could be the launchpad for a brave attack, though the muscle men of the peloton will hope to fight it out against each other at the finish in Saint-Amand-Montrond.

Stage 10 profile

Stage 11: Evaux-les-Bains to Le Lioran, (mountainous, 211km) | Wednesday 10 July

Stage 11 map

Six categorised climbs pepper a hard up-and-down day through the Massif Central. The third-from-last ascent is the toughest, the Puy Mary Pas de Peyrol (5.4km at 8.1%), with a painfully steep final 2km to conquer, and strong climbing legs will be needed to win the stage. A good day for a breakaway to escape and potentially stay away to the end.

Stage 11 profile

Stage 12: Aurillac to Villeneuve-sur-Lot, (flat, 204km) | Thursday 11 July

Stage 12 map

The ‘flat’ categorisation disguises the numerous small hills dotted through this picturesque route to Villeneuve which will drain legs if the pace is high. Expect a determined breakaway to make it difficult for those teams hoping to set up a bunch sprint at the finish – twice before, the day has been won by a rider in the breakaway here.

Stage 12 profile

Stage 13: Agen to Pau, (flat, 165km) | Friday 12 July

Stage 13 map

Pau is a staple of the Tour de France over the years, acting as the gateway to the Pyrenees mountains. The hilly finish to the stage might slow down some of the pure sprinters but they will be determined to reel in a breakaway – especially if they failed to do so a day earlier, and with so much hard climbing to come.

Stage 13 profile

Stage 14: Pau to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’Adet, (mountainous, 152km) | Saturday 13 July

Stage 14 map

The iconic Col du Tourmalet stands in the middle of this mountain stage, with the road peaking at 2,115m above sea level. The 19km climb averages 7.4% gradient and once it’s conquered, two more big climbs await including a summit finish at Pla d’Adet. The GC contenders will surely trade blows on this brutal day.

Stage 14 profile

Stage 15: Loudenvielle to Plateau de Beille (mountainous, 198km) | Sunday 14 July

Stage 15 map

A nice relaxing weekend in the Pyrenees is rounded off with five climbs over a 200km route, all rated category one or harder. Expect fireworks among the yellow jersey contenders as they race to the finish atop Plateau de Beille.

Stage 15 profile

Rest day: Gruissan | Monday 15 July

Stage 16: Gruissan to Nimes (flat, 189km) | Tuesday 16 July

Stage 16 map

This is the final chance for the sprinters to bag a stage before the road kicks up into the mountains once more. Those in contention for the win will need to keep their composure as roundabouts punctuate the long final strip into the line in Nimes.

Stage 16 profile

Stage 17: Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Superdevoluy (mountainous, 178km) | Wednesday 17 July

Stage 17 map

The peloton reaches the Alps for a day that will be draining as the road tilts from the start. There are bonus seconds to be collected at the top of the category-one Col du Noyer, before a fast descent to a small summit finish which caps a tough second half to this stage.

Stage 17 profile

Stage 18: Gap to Barcelonnette (hilly, 180km) | Thursday 18 July

Stage 18 map

A breakaway will certainly have a go at escaping up the road to clinch this stage, and they should be able to make it stick. The five official climbs are all category-three ascents which might mean some of the well-rounded sprinters, like Wout van Aert, can clamber over them and be a threat at the finish.

Stage 18 profile

Stage 19: Embrun to Isola 2000 (mountainous, 145km) | Friday 19 July

Stage 19 map

Perhaps the most eye-catching stage when the 2014 route was unveiled was this one: three monstrous Alpine climbs, back to back, with a summit finish at Isola. The middle climb of the trio is the giant Cime de la Bonette (22.9km at 6.9%), the highest road in France at 2,802m. If the fight for the yellow jersey is still alive at this point in the race, this will be a thrilling stage for the story to unfold.

Stage 19 profile

Stage 20: Nice to Col de la Couillole (mountainous, 133km) | Saturday 20 July

Stage 20 map

It may be a little shorter at only 133km, but this is another brutally tough mountain stage featuring four climbs and another summit finish, atop the Col de la Couillole, and it is another day when the yellow jersey could be won or lost.

Stage 20 profile

Stage 21: Monaco to Nice (ITT, 34km) | Sunday 21 July

Stage 21 map

The race will finish without the usual procession through Paris and instead see the riders contest an individual time-trial from Monaco to Nice that could decide the outcome of the Tour. The last time-trial finale saw Greg Lemond pinch the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees, beating Laurent Fignon by eight seconds. This route is longer than the stage-seven time-trial, and a little more hilly too, so there is potential for some significant time gaps.

Stage 21 profile

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Here's what you need to know to plan a trip around the world

Dec 29, 2021 • 7 min read

Cenote Suytun at Valladolid, Yucatan - Mexico

Don't start planning your round-the-world trip without reading this guide © Getty Images

In 1924, a team of aviators from the USA successfully completed the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe by airplane, a feat that took 175 days, 76 stops, a cache of 15 Liberty engines, 14 spare pontoons, four aircraft and two sets of new wings. This achievement ushered in an era of international air travel, and nearly a century later, travelers are still creating their own round-the-world itineraries. 

You might not have the same worries as those early aviators, but planning a round-the-world trip has never been a more complex process. As COVID-19 continues to alter world travel , heading out on a multi-country trip might be more complicated than it has been in decades. While it might not be the right time to hit the road, luckily it's never too early to start figuring out the logistics of a trip around the globe. After all, who doesn't have a lot of pent-up wanderlust at the moment? 

When it comes to booking your trip, there are several options for booking your airfare, as well as flexibility on timing, destinations and budget. But don't let that overwhelm you – start here with our handy guide on how to plan that round-the-world trip you’ve always dreamed of.

Where and how to get a round-the-world plane ticket

The most economical way to circumnavigate the globe is to buy a round-the-world (RTW) plane ticket through a single airline alliance. These are confederations of several different airlines that make it simple to maximize the number of places you can travel and pay for it all in one place or with points. There are three primary airline alliances to choose from: Star Alliance, OneWorld and Skyteam.  Star Alliance is a coalition of 26 airlines that fly to 1300 airports in 98% of the world’s countries.  OneWorld includes 14 airlines traveling to 1100 destinations in 180 territories.  Skyteam is made up of 19 airlines that serve 1000 destinations in 170 countries.  

Read more:   How to save money when you're traveling

Once you pick an airline alliance, whether because of a loyalty program you’re already a member of or because you like its terms, conditions and destination list, you can purchase a single RTW airline ticket made up of several legs fulfilled by that alliance’s partners. The RTW ticket rules vary between each of the airline alliances, with particulars like Star Alliance’s rule that a RTW ticket can include two to 15 stops. But there are some general principles that apply to most RTW tickets, no matter which airline group you go with. 

You typically must follow one global direction (east or west – no backtracking); you must start and finish in the same country; and you must book all your flights before departure, though you can change them later (though this could incur extra charges). Typically you have one year to get from your starting point to the finish line.

How long do I need for a round-the-world trip?

You could whip around the world in a weekend if you flew non-stop, especially with the advent of new ultra-long-haul flights that can clock in at 20 hours of flight time. However, the minimum duration of most RTW tickets is 10 days – still a breathless romp. To get the most out of your round-the-world ticket, consider stock-piling vacation days, tagging on public holidays or even arranging a sabbatical from work to take off at least two months (but ideally six months to one year). Because most airline alliances give you up to a year to use your ticket, you can maximize your purchase if you plan well.

A hiker approaching an archway on a mountainous trail in Nepal

When should I travel on a round-the-world trip?

The weather will never be ideal in all your stops, so focus on what you want to do most and research the conditions there. In general, city sightseeing can be done year-round (escape extreme heat, cold or rain in museums and cafes), but outdoor adventures are more reliant on – and enjoyable in – the right weather.

Research ahead of time if any must-see destinations or must-do activities will mean facing crowds. For example, if you’re hoping to be in Austria for the famous Salzburg Festival, you’ll want to plan ahead and book your tickets months in advance. If you’re hoping to fit a shorter thru-hike into your round-the-world trip, you’ll want to make sure you’re going in the correct season and starting in the right spot. You won’t get far or have as enjoyable an experience if you’re, say, attempting the Tour du Mont Blanc during the dates of the annual winter marathon or headed northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail in July, missing most of the warmer months. 

Accept youʼll be in some regions at the "wrong" time – though this might offer unexpected benefits. For example, Victoria Falls has a dry season each year , which means a slightly less thunderous cascade, but it does open up rafting opportunities and a chance to swim right up to the lip of the falls in The Devil’s Pool. Going to Venice in the winter might mean grayer skies but fewer crowds. Heading to Kenya and Tanzania in April is likely to mean fewer humans, but not fewer chances to spot wildlife, all while saving money on safari.  Also keep in mind that mom-and-pop locations have their downtime and holiday seasons as well; don't be too surprised if your local bakery in Paris is closed for a holiday week or two in August.

Where should I go on my round-the-world trip?

The classic (and cheapest) RTW tickets flit between a few big cities, for example, London – Bangkok – Singapore – Sydney – LA . If you want to link more offbeat hubs ( Baku – Kinshasa – Paramaribo , anyone?), prices will climb considerably. The cost of the ticket is also based on the total distance covered or the number of countries visited.

A train crossing a bridge curves through lush green hillsides in India

Remember, you donʼt have to fly between each point: in Australia you could land in Perth , travel overland and fly out of Cairns . Or fly into Moscow , board the Trans-Siberian railway  and fly onwards from Beijing.  Pick some personal highlights and string the rest of your itinerary around those. For instance, if youʼre a keen hiker, flesh out a Peru ( Inca Trail ) – New Zealand ( Milford Track ) – Nepal ( Everest Base Camp ) itinerary with stops in Yosemite , Menz-Gauassa and the Okavango Delta .

If budgetʼs an issue, spend more time in less expensive countries and plan budget city breaks along the way. You’ll spend more in metros like Paris, Dubai and San Francisco than in Nusa Tenggara , Budapest  and Buffalo . 

Tips, tricks and pitfalls of round-the-world tickets

Talk to an expert before you book a round-the-world ticket: you may have an itinerary in mind, but an experienced RTW flight booker will know which routes work best and cost least. A few tweaks could mean big savings in time and money. Hash out a budget well ahead of time, not only for your RTW ticket, but also for the whole trip. Reach out to friends or travel bloggers who have done a round-the-world trip or are full-time travelers because they can offer tips on how to budget for a trip around the world .

Be flexible: moving your departure date by a few days can save money. Mid-week flights are generally cheaper, as are flights on major holidays such as Christmas Day. Avoid days and times popular with business travelers to escape higher prices and more crowded cabins.

Think about internal travel: it can be cheaper to book internal flights at the same time as booking your RTW ticket, but with the global increase of low-cost airlines, you may find it better (and more flexible) to buy them separately as you go.

Be warned: if you donʼt board one of your booked flights (say, on a whim, you decide to travel overland from Bangkok to Singapore rather than fly it) your airline is likely to cancel all subsequent flights.

You might also like: 10 destinations perfect for solo travel Can visiting lesser-known places offer a better travel experience? 6 things I learned from flying 6 days in a row

This article was first published Mar 20, 2012 and updated Dec 29, 2021.

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the best way to travel is with a tour guide

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The Best Vatican Tours in 2024: Find Your Perfect Itinerary

Fri 28 Jun 2024

The Best Vatican Tours in 2024: Find Your Perfect Itinerary

There’s nowhere quite like the Vatican Museums. A treasure trove of art and culture that’s unique in the world, it’s here that you’ll find some of the most iconic testaments to human creativity ever made. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, The Raphael Rooms, St. Peter’s Basilica…and that’s just for starters! 

But whilst a visit to the Vatican is an absolute bucket-list must, we’d be the first to admit it’s not without its challenges. The Museums are HUGE - with over kilometers of galleries to navigate, you can quickly lose all sense of perspective here. To make things more challenging still, the Vatican can get very crowded indeed. That’s why we think a guided tour is the best way to visit. But which tour should you take?

At Through Eternity we recognize that all travelers are unique. That’s why we don’t believe in one size fits all itineraries, and instead offer a range of different Vatican tours designed to suit various audiences. Hate dealing with crowds? We’ve got an option for you. Want to get to the highlights with a minimum of fuss? We’ve got you covered. Are you a completist who wants to see everything there is to see in the Vatican? You’re speaking our language!

We have spent countless hours sitting down together brainstorming how best to organize our Vatican tours, and we’re very proud of what we’ve come up with. In this article I’m taking a look at the various Vatican itineraries we offer, and what kind of traveler they suit the best. Read on to find out the best Vatican tour for you!

1.  Early Morning Vatican with Sistine Chapel Semi-Private Tour

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

You’ll need to be up at the crack of dawn to join our special Early Morning Vatican tour, but just this once it’s well worth setting your alarm clock early! With its marvelous art treasures including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms, the Vatican Museums house one of the best - and busiest - art collections on earth. Every day thousands of visitors travel from all across the globe to traverse the Vatican Museums’ 7 kilometers of galleries; Forget jostling for the perfect view in the Sistine Chapel and steal a march on the crowds by joining our early morning itinerary to see the Museums at their least crowded. 

Who Is This Tour Perfect For? This tour is best for visitors who want the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel and other Vatican highlights with fewer crowds.

Tour Duration: 3.5 hours

Group Size: A maximum of just 10 participants. Also available as a private itinerary .

2.  Essential Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums & St. Peter's Basilica Semi-Private Tour

You could easily spend a day more poring over everything there is to see in the Vatican, but it can be a pretty exhausting experience. If you are the kind of visitor that doesn’t want to devote a whole day to a museum, then our Essential Vatican Tour is for you. On this itinerary we focus on the highlights, devoting most of our attention to the Vatican heavy hitters - that means the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms, the Ancient Sculpture Collections and St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s still plenty to be getting on with, but it means you’ll finish your visit to the Vatican ready for more adventures rather than heading back to your hotel exhausted.

Who Is This Tour Perfect For? Visitors looking for a crash-course in the Vatican that will take them straight to the highlights

Tour Duration: 3 hours

Group Size: The maximum group size for our Essential Vatican tour is 10 participants. This itinerary is also available as a private tour . 

3.  VIP Vatican In a Day Semi-Private Tour

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

Specially designed for visitors looking for a more in-depth exploration of the Vatican Museums than offered by most tours, our VIP Vatican tour provides a complete picture of the art and history of the Vatican Museums. Led by expert art historians, in addition to detailed up-close discussions of masterpieces like Raphael’s School of Athens and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, we’ll also have the opportunity to take a deep dive into the classical sculptures collected by popes over the centuries, including the Laocoon and Apollo Belvedere. The longer running time of this itinerary means we’ll also get to visit the Vatican’s picture gallery, a fabulous collection that is usually overlooked by visitors that is home to the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in Rome. To round things off, we’ll skip the lines at St. Peter’s to gaze on Michelangelo’s Pietà and the dramatic works of Bernini.

Who Is This Tour Perfect For? Art buffs or history enthusiasts looking for an in-depth exploration of the Vatican’s masterpieces in the company of a knowledgeable expert. 

Tour Duration: 5 hours.

Group Size: The maximum group size for our VIP Vatican tour is 10 participants. This itinerary is also available as a private tour . 

4.  Rome in a Day with Vatican and Ancient City

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

There’s so much to see in Rome that it can overwhelm even the most seasoned traveler. When you only have limited time available in the Eternal City, things get even more complicated. If you have only one day to see it all, then you’re going to need a little help. That’s where we come in! We’ve designed our comprehensive Rome in a Day tour to get you to the highlights fast: from the the epic grandeur of the ancient world in the Colosseum and Roman Forum to the masterpieces of Renaissance art in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, we’ll make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Who Is This Tour Perfect For? Visitors short on time in Rome but want to make sure they can see the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel alongside other city highlights in one day.

Tour Duration: 6 hours.

Group Size: This itinerary is our most popular private tour, so it’s reserved just for you and your group. We also sometimes run this itinerary as a small group tour with a maximum of 7 participants. Click here to check availability . 

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

5.  Private Vatican Night Tour

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

If you’re looking for a different way to experience the Vatican, then our Vatican at Night tour is well worth considering. Only available in the Summer months, entering the Vatican Museums after hours is a very special feeling. Enjoy the Sistine Chapel with fewer people blocking your view, and wander through the Raphael Rooms and classical sculpture gardens in the cool of the Roman evening. Best of all, Michelangelo’s frescoes and the rest of the masterpieces housed in the Vatican museums look at their spectacular best as the golden light of twilight suffuses the airy halls. With an expert art-historian on hand to guide you through the collections, this is a great and unique way to explore the Vatican Museums.

Who Is This Tour Perfect For? Anyone who wants to see the Vatican Museums in a new light. Perfect for returning visitors to the Vatican Museums!

Tour Duration: 2.5 hours

Group Size: This is a private tour, so will be reserved just for you and your group.

6.  St. Peter’s Basilica Tour with Dome Climb and Papal Crypts

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

Ok, we don’t actually visit the Vatican Museums on this tour, but our in-depth St. Peter’s tour is the perfect complement to our Vatican itineraries. Whilst we visit St. Peter’s on most of our Vatican tours, limitations of time mean that we can’t provide much more than a taster to the largest and richest church on earth. For that, you need to join a dedicated tour that gives St. Peter’s the time and attention it deserves. On this itinerary we’ll have the chance to climb to the top of Michelangelo’s dome as well as descend into the fascinating papal crypts. You’ll also have plenty of time in the basilica itself, where we’ll be able to learn all about amazing artworks from Bernini’s baldachin to Michelangelo’s Pieta and much much more. 

Who Is This Tour Perfect For? For visitors who want more than just a taster of the artistic and architectural riches of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Group Size: The maximum group size for our St. Peter’s Basilica tour is 10 participants. This itinerary is also available as a private tour. 

MORE GREAT CONTENT FROM THE BLOG:

  • How to Climb the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica
  • 7 Things You Need to See in St. Peter's Basilica
  • Art and Faith in the Vatican: The History of St. Peter's Basilica 
  • Visiting St Peters and the Vatican Museums: A Practical Guide 
  • A Guide to the Vatican Gardens 

Post Categories

Suggested Tours

Early Morning Vatican with Sistine Chapel Semi-Private Tour

Early Morning Vatican with Sistine Chapel Semi-Private Tour

St. Peter’s Basilica Tour with Dome Climb and Papal Crypts

St. Peter’s Basilica Tour with Dome Climb and Papal Crypts

Essential Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums & St. Peter's Basilica Semi-Private Tour

Essential Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums & St. Peter's Basilica Semi-Private Tour

VIP Vatican In a Day Semi-Private Tour: Experience Art and History As Never Before

VIP Vatican In a Day Semi-Private Tour: Experience Art and History As Never Before

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More From Forbes

Why your best hiking or biking trip might be self-guided active travel.

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You don't always need a guide to appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors and the thrill of ... [+] active travel in top spots such as Icleand.

Sometimes when we travel, having the best guide can make all the difference. Sometimes the best guide is you.

Self-guided active travel has been booming in popularity, and not just because it’s cheaper—and it is much more affordable, even at the luxury level. There are a number of other reasons besides price why if you enjoy hiking or biking trips, you might want to consider going self-guided.

But first a definition: Self-guided is not the same as DIY (Do It Yourself) and in this case does not mean just going it alone like a backpacking or bikepacking or camping trip. These are the same kinds of supported, itinerary-based active trips with hotels and great food that have boomed in popularity in recent years through companies like Backroads, Butterfield & Robinson, Vermont Bicycle Tours (VBT), DuVine, REI Adventures, Sojourn and many others. They include detailed daily directions, hotels, meals and special attractions along the way (winery visits, museums, etc.) and perhaps most importantly, baggage transfers from one hotel to the next so you don’t have to carry more than a day pack (if the itinerary involves moving, which most do).

With well marked trails connecting charming towns in one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, ... [+] the Dolomites are a top spot for self-guided hiking and biking.

In short, these self-guided trips are just like fully guided trips except for three things: no guide, no other guests besides the ones you choose to travel with, and no obligation to choose pre-set departure dates to join a group. They are ideal for both couples and groups of friends or families who want to spend more time together. And did I mention they cost less?

Self-guided travel has been more popular in Europe for decades, and one of the biggest and best-established companies in the space is UK-based Macs Adventure , whose motto is “Active Travel Led By You.” Unlike other companies that offer self-guided as an option, it is all they do, for the past 20 years, with a broad array of walking and biking trips all around the globe, hundreds of them. Addressing the growing U.S. market, Macs opened an office in Denver that ramped up from 11 to more than 40 employees in less than 12 months, and last year, 2023 trips by Americans jumped 70% over the previous year. Last September was their busiest month ever in terms of travelers. Walking and hiking trips have always been more popular, but cycling grew 90% last year over the previous year and is closing the gap, and Macs now also offers e-bikes which are proving popular.

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Tourissimo is an active travel expert in in all things Italy, and can set up a dream self-guided ... [+] trip through their favorite spots.

“Traditionally, adventure tour travel involved integrating with a group of strangers. As Americans seek to travel for personal discovery (which include celebrating major milestones, personal and spiritual growth), it’s much more meaningful and adaptable when you’re traveling on your own, and not with a group of strangers who are unlikely to share your priorities or values,” said Campbell Levy, spokesperson for Macs, in an email. “Personalized, authentic and immersive experiences are desired today, and self-led perfectly delivers this. And yes, price. Self-guided trips are definitely less expensive, making them more accessible to a broader range of travelers.”

Price is important in travel, but it’s hardly the only appeal of self-guided. I love cycling and you might love cycling, but we probably don’t share the same passions for culture, food, museums, or history. Self-guided allows travelers to be more independent with their time off the bike or hiking trail, to do more of what they enjoy and further customize the experience. Also, some people don’t want to travel with strangers, and self-guided is great for groups of friends or families.

Sometimes a day pack and good instructions are all you need for a memorable hikng trip

It also caters to people who are like minded about fitness, like a group of people who all hike roughly the same pace and mileage. Every guided active trip I have gone on has been very clear and honest about the physical expectations, but almost every time, paying guests ignore this. When I did the Tour du Mont Blanc, an iconic but strenuous long-distance hike through three countries in the Alps, there were people signed up who simply could not manage the physical effort required, forcing the guides to split up, disadvantaging everyone on the trip. Unlike a van supported bike ride, many hiking trips don’t cross roads often and offer no way to cut the trek short once you’ve started.

“Self-guided tours are cheaper than fully-supported tours, but price is not the main motivation for all guests, especially the ones who come to us,” said Heather Dowd, co-founder of Tourissimo , an active travel company based in Turin with a U.S. office, specializing in hiking and cycling trips in Italy, a favorite destination of American travelers. “They tend to be a bit more independent and want to have that time on their own during the day for discovery and adventure while still having the harder logistics (route planning and luggage, etc.) taken care of. They also like that there is someone they can call to assist them in the event of an emergency.”

Macs Adventure is the leading self-guided active travel specialist, and offers several itineraries ... [+] for the Tour du Mont Blanc, one of the world's most iconic hikes.

Macs Adventure has several different trip categories from more budget-oriented to In Comfort and In Style, the most upscale, but as a whole, their trips are quite affordable. For instance, the 8-day Best of the Bernese Oberland in Style through the Swiss Alps has one of their highest accommodations levels and at $3,585 per person is very reasonable in this sector, but quite pricey for the company, which has weeklong trips starting at under a thousand dollars. Cycle the Loire Valley in Style is a 6-day trip with their highest level of luxury accommodations, using 4-star Châteaux hotels, and runs just $2,965. Other categories include Discovery Trips that cover more ground using trains and/or ferries and Pilgrimage Trips for more spiritual journeys.

They also have a focus on “Classic Routes” around the world which are offered in sections or as a whole, with some much longer trips than most active travel companies offer, such as the entire Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain, 40-days, along with more than a dozen different sections or variations of the Camino in Spain and Portugal. One of the most popular categories is the Tour du Mont Blanc, often considered the best multi-day hike on earth—I’ve done it and it is absolutely fantastic, a Bucket List for avid hikers. The 12-day Complete Tour du Mont Blanc in Comfort, the highest level of accommodations they offer on this route (some sections have no luxury hotels no matter who you go with) is $3,960, while the Complete Tour du Mont Blanc in mountain huts is $3,145 for almost two weeks of travel.

Self-guided can still be luxurious: Butterfield & Robinson uses luxury hotels like the legendary ... [+] Palazzo Avino in Ravello on Italy's Amalfi Coast

Campbell mentioned celebrating major milestones, and that’s exactly what my wife and I did when we booked a self-guided cycling trip in Burgundy with Butterfield & Robinson for our 20 th wedding anniversary. B&R is known as the inventor of luxury guided active travel way back in 1966 and is atop the category in terms of white glove service, posh hotels, VIP experiences and amazing food. They are a fantastic company with a very high repeat rate and loyal customers, but all of that comes at a price, and in my case, the affordability of self-guided was important. B&R is the only company in the top luxury tier of active travel offering a self-guided option , and besides price it appealed to us for several reasons. Burgundy is a classic cycling dream destination, but our anniversary did not coincide well with the scheduled group dates. Also, while it is enjoyable to meet new people and I’ve had a lot of fun on active group trips, for this we wanted a more romantic experience. But we got the same great luxury lodging, food and special experiences along the way.

As an example, the B&R Self-Guided Burgundy trip includes an expert-led wine tasting at the luxury hotel the first night, a meet up with a local guide for a guided tour of medieval Beaune the second day, another private expert-led tasting in a wine cellar the third day, and a farewell dinner at a fancy hotel restaurant off the regular a la carte menu, all included. The only thing missing was someone actually riding with us, and other guests. The first day we were met at our hotel by a local B&R guide who delivered the bikes, did the fitting and gave us an orientation. Today, with GPS loaded routes in bike computers doing self-guided is easier than ever. They pick up and move your luggage every time you change hotels and have 24/7 emergency support available.

Many self-guided active trips are in wine regions like my anniversary ride in Burgundy, and there's ... [+] no skimping on wine tasting

Butterfield focuses their offerings on the places best suited to self-guided travel, with two dozen hiking and cycling trips in Slovenia, Switzerland, Tuscany, Vietnam, Provence, Spain, Croatia, the Dolomites and several others regions of Italy. Perhaps the most iconic trip in cycling is a week in Tuscany, and in this case, B&R’s self-guided version is a thousand dollars per person less ($5,695 vs. $6,695). It’s still pricy, it’s still luxury, but that’s two grand a couple you can use to splurge on anything from daily massages to jewelry while having the same quality active experience.

Among U.S. companies self-guided is still a bit of an obscure niche with some smaller players in it, mainly at the budget end. One exception is Vermont-based Country Walkers , another large well-known active travel company that offers a self-guided option to its “regular” guided trips. It’s all walking and generally a little less physically challenging, and as their website explains, “When you hit the trail on a Self-Guided adventure, you’re armed with route notes written by insiders who know the area. Without a large group of traveling companions, you’ll be able to blend in with locals, make new friends, and discover the highlights that guidebooks miss. Want to know the best local spot for dinner? Check your route notes…” They offer 10 self-guided trips in Scotland, Portugal, Maine, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Italy, France and England, with 6-7 day itineraries from $2,345 to $5,195 with most in the $3-4,000 range, and in general these are about $1,000 less than their similar guided trips.

A couple on their own trip with Macs Adventure, riding E-bikes through the olive groves of Tuscany.

Country Walkers’ sister company, Vermont-based VBT Biking Vacations , also offers elf-guided trips across Europe and the U.S., with E-bikes available. A 6-day Italy trip in the Dolomites is $3,795 while the guided option is $4,695.

“We've been getting more and more requests for self-guided tours. It’s not our main product, and a typical self-guided tour isn't really our style. So, what we offer is what we called “Co-pilot Tours,” said Tourissimo’s Dowd. “These are private, unsupported tours, but you're not completely on your own. You get the same attentive customer service before the trip, and at the start you are met by a Tourissimo guide who introduces you to the program and assists with bike fitting. You’re on your own for the rides, but we can arrange meals and activities. Some people have taken one of our fully-supported itineraries and asked for it to be run as self-guided. So, they get all of the services of the fully-supported tour, but without a 24/7 guide and support van. Our Co-pilot tours are cheaper than fully supported tours, but they are not as cheap as other self-guided programs.”

I’ve done both hiking and biking trips with Tourissimo , and highly recommend the company, whose focus is on showing their Italy to visitors, with a deep dive into local food wine, usually including cooking class, and curated family-owned small hotels (in castles and wineries and such) that would be very hard to find on your own.

“Why go self-guided on a Co-Pilot tour?” asked Dowd. “For the independence and adventure, with the harder details taken care of so you can focus on the riding and the fun.”

“Why not go self-guided? Many of our guests choose our full-service tours to enjoy being fully letting go while on vacation. They know the guides are looking out for them and they don't have to make any decisions. Several of the people on our last hiking tour mentioned that they loved the fact that for the week they didn't have to make any decisions. It's freeing and relaxing.”

Either way, active travel makes for a fantastic vacation.

Larry Olmsted

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bike Touring

We answer all your questions about how to plan a bike tour, including route building, what to bring, and more.

a bike with bags surrounded by some snacks and a map

How do you plan a bike touring route?

Which bike should you ride on a bike tour, what should you wear on a bike tour, what gear should you bring on a bike tour, how do you pack for a bike tour.

If that’s what you’re after, keep reading to find out what you need to consider when it comes to where to go, which bike to ride, what to pack, and how to approach your first self-supported bike tour.

What is bike touring?

While there’s no standard definition of bike touring, it generally means riding your bike from destination to destination over a period of at least several days, if not weeks, or even months.

While you can do a supported bike tour, where a company or professional guide gives you a route , provides support along the way, and arranges your meals and lodging, you can also do a self-supported bike tour, where you’re carrying your own gear. If you plan to camp and prepare your own meals, that includes a tent, sleeping bag, and a campstove.

With the exploding popularity of gravel cycling in recent years, you’ve probably heard a lot about bikepacking , which differs slightly from bike touring. While the two certainly overlap, “bike touring generally tends to cover longer distances, mostly on paved roads, and carrying more gear, often in panniers, whereas bikepacking tends to be shorter trips, ridden on more remote roads and challenging trails, and featuring a lightweight, streamlined bag setup,” says bike touring expert and video creator Sheelagh Daly .

When it comes to deciding where you want to go, how much ground you want to cover each day, and how long your tour will last, the options are limitless. Below are a few factors to consider that will help narrow things down.

“If all of this feels overwhelming, you don’t have to start from scratch,” says Daly. She suggests exploring pre-constructed routes online , which will likely have a GPX file or a paper map to follow, signage to help you stay on track, and easily accessible resources such as food, water , and bike shops en route.

Other resources to help you plan include Google Maps, searching bike touring Facebook groups, or searching in an app like Komoot or Ride with GPS to see what other riders did in a particular area, says Daly, who has explored multiple continents by bike.

“It’s helpful to remember that no route-creating app is perfect,” Daly says. “Road conditions can change, construction can pop up, or an app can deem a road okay for cyclists that you do not feel safe on. That’s why I’ll often punch in where I’m heading from and to in two different apps. In this way, I can compare them and choose the one that feels best, while potentially having a back up if needed.”

Personal preferences

Think about what you value as you look at different routes, suggests Macs Adventure sales specialist Gavin Hermann. How much will road quality impact your enjoyment of the ride? Are you a foodie who wants to explore the local culinary scene? Do you want to be accessible to hotels? Would you rather explore the mountains or the coast? Are there certain historical or natural landmarks you’d like to include? All of these questions should come into play as you decide where to go, says Hermann.

Your fitness level

As you plan your route, consider how fit you are and how much you want to suffer during your bike tour. That means being realistic about how you’ll handle significant elevation gains and/or high mileage days , especially if you’re on a tight timeline and don’t have the flexibility to take a shorter day or a day off if you’re fatigued or not feeling well.

You also need to decide where you want to stay each night, says Daly. Before planning your route, determine whether you’re looking for campsites, hostels, hotels, or a mix of all three. She also reminds would-be self-supported touring cyclists to think ahead about where you plan to get your food and water, and to plan a route accordingly.

“It’s also important to consider what types of roads you want to be on,” says Daly. Think about whether you prefer dirt roads versus paved roads, or busy roads with wider shoulders to quieter roads with small or no shoulders. Then ask yourself what types of roads your bike and set up are best suited for, she says.

Finally, look at whether there are any safety considerations on these roads or in the region, says Daly. Factors to consider may include crime rates, wildlife, and natural disasters that may affect the region you aim to explore.

“There’s a saying in the bike touring community that I love: ‘The best bike is the one you have,’” says Daly. In other words, there’s no need to worry about being on the “perfect” bike. As long as your bike is safe and comfortable, Daly suggests using whatever you have available.

That said, if you have a few options at your disposal, here’s what different types of bikes have to offer.

Touring bikes

“Touring bikes are going to be a hybrid between road bikes and hardtail mountain bikes ,” says Hermann. As such, the frame will generally be heavier and the tires will be wider than a traditional road bike, making them sturdier and well-equipped to carry heavier loads. And with mounts built into the frame, they make it easy to carry all your essentials.

This is the most efficient option if your tour will mainly be on well-maintained roads, says Hermann. “You will get the most out of each pedal stroke because you are going to be riding in a more aggressive stance. You will have handlebar drops and typically have two chainrings (one large and one small) which will give you the ability to maintain a more efficient cadence ,” he says.

That said, they aren’t designed to be loaded with gear, and will feature much narrower tires than a gravel or touring bike, which isn’t as comfortable on dirt roads or gravel paths.

Gravel bikes

Gravel bikes are heavier and therefore slower than a road bike; however, with wider tires, they provide more stability on varying terrain, says Hermann. They can also be great for carrying gear.

“Most gravel bikes come with mounting points built into the frame so you can attach frame bags thus making for a more efficient way to travel if you plan on bringing clothing, shoes, repair kits, etc with you while you ride,” says Hermann.

If you’re comfortable in the saddle, you might not notice any bike seat pain , but if you’re not, it can ruin your trip. So, make sure you’re wearing the right shorts. “Invest in a good chamois [padded cycling shorts] that has been tested before setting off on your journey,” says Hermann.

You’ll also want to avoid wearing clothes that absorb moisture or cause chafing . “Always wear quick-drying clothing made of either synthetic or wool material. This goes for biking shorts, shirt, socks, gloves, and any layer that will be touching your body,” say Hermann. “The exception to this rule is a rain jacket , which will be made of a weather resistant shell that has a waterproof membrane.”

It’s also important that you feel good in whatever you bring. “Choose clothes you’re going to enjoy wearing, because you may be in them for many days,” says Daly. Not only should they be comfortable, but they should be clothes you’ve worn on the bike before. The last thing you want on a multi-day tour is unexpected chafing, itching, or other textile-related issues.

And whatever you do, bring plenty of layers so you’re ready for all kinds of conditions. Daly reminds readers to research the weather you can expect along your route and “plan for the worst.” That means not just planning for wet conditions, but also the cold temperatures at mountaintops and the sun exposure you’ll experience all day.

As you would on any bike ride, make sure you have everything you need to fix a flat tire . That includes at least one replacement tube, a pump or a CO2 cartridge, tire levers, tire boot, and a patch kit. It’s also worth bringing a small first aid kit, says Hermann.

For general repairs and maintenance , Daly recommends a bike repair kit including chain lube , a rag, zip ties, a multi-tool, and duct tape. And depending on how long you’ll be away and how remote you’ll be, consider bringing spare parts. “Most importantly, work with your local bike shop or bike co-op to make sure you know how to use your kit,” says Daly. Your tools are useless if you don’t feel comfortable putting them into action.

If you’re camping, bring a reliable tent and sleeping bag, says Daly, adding that it’s even better if you have a chance to practice using them ahead of your trip.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, make sure you know where you’re going and how to get there before you begin. “This can be as simple as a paper map with a waterproof cover, or an app like Komoot or Ride With GPS on your phone. You can also use a computer such as a Wahoo or Garmin,” says Daly. Whatever system you use, consider using another system as backup, as technology can fail.

Finally, don’t forget your basic safety items, such as a good helmet , a reflective vest, and reliable front and rear lights , says Daly.

“In terms of bags, we are blessed with an abundance of options,” says Daly. Whether you opt for panniers, trailers, frame bags, fork packs, saddle bags , handlebar bags, or some combination, you’ll find something that works for you.

If your bike can accommodate a rear rack, Daly suggests a simple option of a pair of rear panniers and a handlebar bag. “The panniers give you space to take a few extra things as you figure out what you need or don’t, and the handlebar bag balances out the weight a little and gives you a spot to access your most important items quickly,” she says, adding that she always goes with a waterproof option to keep her belongings from getting wet or damaged.

Whatever you choose, remember to check your bike’s dimensions against the dimensions of any potential storage systems to ensure they’re compatible before you buy, says Hermann.

Pam Moore is an occupational therapist-turned-intuitive eating coach, certified personal trainer, and award-winning freelance writer with bylines in outlets including The Washington Post, Time, SELF, Outside, Runner's World, and others. Listen to her podcast, Real Fit, or subscribe to her newsletter, Real Nourished, at 

pam-moore.com

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United States Travel Guide

Last Updated: April 14, 2024

sunset over the Grand Canyon, United States

The United States isn’t a popular destination for backpackers and budget travelers. Most overseas tourists come here for a short vacation, visit one or two cities, and then head home. They usually stick to the big coastal cities or places like Disney.

And it wasn’t until COVID that Americans en-masse bothered to hop in their cars and explore their backyard.

The U.S. is massive country that lacks a lot of tourist infrastructure or good cross-country transportation. Hostels haven’t quite caught on, trains don’t go to many places, and we don’t offer working holiday visas to attract young working backpackers. In short, it’s hard to get around.

However, the United States has a lot to offer: stunning national parks, gorgeous landscapes, incredible and diverse culture, world-class music, and a variety of delicious cuisine that varies from region to region.

I think the U.S. is one of the best destinations in the world to road trip . I’ve done several multi-month road trips across the United States . While the coastal cities are fun, the U.S. really reveals itself in the middle and countryside (it’s much more affordable there too). It’s in the nooks and crannies of America that you get a sense of its quirks.

But even if you aren’t spending months visiting the country in a car, there’s still a lot you can do via train, bus, or plane.

This travel guide to the United States can help you navigate the country, save money, and get off the beaten path.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on the United States

Click Here for City Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in the united states.

Dramatic, jagged mountains in front of an expansive blue lake with a small, tree-covered island in the middle, in Glacier National Park, United States.

1. Explore New York City

The city that never sleeps is one of the greatest cities in the world. There’s nothing you can’t do or see and you’ll find every language and food from around the world here. From world-class museums and art galleries to innovative theater performances to unique restaurants to the expansive Central Park, you can fill a lifetime of activities here. You can take the ferry to Ellis Island, see the Statue of Liberty, hang with the hipsters in Brooklyn, see a Yankees game, and so, so much more. Check out my detailed guide for everything you need to do .

2. Visit the Grand Canyon

Words can’t describe how epicly beautiful the Grand Canyon is. It’s simply breathtaking. Most people just look out at the canyon from the overlook at the top, but its vast size and beauty are best appreciated with a hike down to the Colorado River so try to do that if you have time (make the time). The canyon itself is 6,000 feet deep, and you can find plenty of hikes to take you further into the canyon that will give you a chance to experience it in more detail. For a shorter hike, Grandview Trail to the first overlook at Coconino Saddle and back is only a couple of miles. If you have a whole day to spend and want to challenge yourself, try the 12.5 miles from Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point. Just be sure to bring plenty of water!

3. Discover Austin

The warm weather, lively honky-tonks, funky house bars on Rainey Street, amazing walking and biking trails, tons of outdoor activities — Austin is great (I lived there for many years). You can always find great live music on 6th Street. On a hot day, Barton Springs pool is the perfect place to cool off, there’s always something to do, the food scene gets better and better, and everyone is very welcoming. It’s one of the best cities in the U.S., boasting a combination of nature, city, and delicious food. Be sure to binge on BBQ while you’re here!

4. Visit Glacier National Park

This is my favorite national park in the country. It’s home to gorgeous snow-topped mountains, a beautiful lake from which to admire said mountains, large glaciers, and hiking trails galore. It is one of the most mind-blowing places I’ve seen on my adventures. There are more than 700 miles of hiking trails in the park that provide everyone an opportunity to explore the landscape. Park rangers offer various programs and guided tours are also available. There are spots for fishing and additional trails for biking and horseback riding. (If you plan to visit multiple national parks while traveling throughout the United States, it’s worth it to get the America the Beautiful Park Pass, which costs just $80 USD and provides entry to all the national parks for a year.)

5. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast is considered one of the most scenic landscapes in the world, offering sheer cliffs, forests descending to the shoreline, miles of beaches, and giant redwoods. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) runs 1,650 miles from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington taking you from the warm, sunny beaches to the lush temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Highway 1 thorough California is one of the longest historic state highways in the country. The California portion alone route takes 10 hours without stopping but I recommend dedicating at least several days to enjoy all the great stops along the way.

Other Things to See and Do in the United States

NOTE: There’s a lot to do in the United States and you can spend months traveling around the country . I could write an entire book on the places to visit! This is just a list to give you some ideas. Be sure to check out some of my other articles and city specific guides (scroll to the bottom of this guide for links) for more suggestions.

1. Have fun in Memphis

Gritty and industrial, Memphis appears like its best days are behind it. But don’t let the rough exterior fool you — the city is home to some killer food and a vibrant blues music scene. It is a cool city with boisterous and friendly locals. I love the vibe here. There’s Graceland (Elvis’s home) for fans of the King, a big waterfront for walking, and the phenomenal Museum of Civil Rights (it’s huge, so don’t rush it!). The city is going through a big revival right now. To use a cliché, it’s a hidden gem as most people, to their detriment, skip over it.

2. Discover Asheville

Asheville is full of tasty craft beer, great restaurants, and plenty of outdoor loving residents. The beautiful Smoky Mountains are a short drive away, Asheville Botanical Gardens are right near the university, and the gigantic Biltmore estate (the largest privately-owned home in the U.S. and once home to George Vanderbilt) is on the outskirts of the city. (If you’ve ever seen Downton Abbey, that’s what the house is like!) The town has a lot of parks and there are a lot of beautiful biking and hiking trails that you can get to from the center of town.

3. Explore Redwood National Park

Along the Pacific Coast is Redwood National Park, a huge expanse of towering redwood trees filled with picnic areas, places to camp, and miles upon miles of hiking trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous, and there are many loops that head out to nearby beaches. The trees range from 200-240 feet tall. It’s utterly beautiful, awe-inspiring, and humbling in every way. Admission is free, though the three adjoining state parks (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park) each charge $10 USD.

4. Explore Denver

Known as the Mile High City (the city is one mile above sea level), Denver offers a mix of outdoor ruggedness and big-city living. It has a huge craft beer scene, excellent restaurants (including, Sushi Sasa, one of my favorite sushi restaurants), a large international airport with lots of connections, and is close to the mountains. There are a lot of interesting museums, including the Denver Art Museum, Meow Wolf Denver, and the Clifford Still Museum. There’s plenty of art outside of the museums as well and there are walking tours available to show you around, if you prefer that to exploring on your own. It’s clean, lively, and the locals are incredibly friendly.

5. Get off-the-beaten-path in Natchez

I was surprised by Natchez . I didn’t know anything about it when it was recommended as a place to see historic 19th-century homes. These mansions were built by white plantation owners wanting to escape the summer heat and socialize with each other. As cotton became king, the houses became ever larger and more elaborate. Today, the homes are historic monuments you can tour while enjoying a view of the Mississippi River. It’s far off the beaten path and you’ll need a car to visit but it’s worth the trek.

6. Visit Savannah

Sitting on Georgia’s coast, Savannah escaped the wrath of the Civil War, allegedly because General Sherman thought it was too pretty to be destroyed. With streets lined with Spanish moss-covered oaks, large and inviting parks, and a bustling waterfront, Savannah is a wonderful place to experience the slow pace of the South. There are a number of interesting historical sites like the Bonaventure Cemetery and Factors Row. The city is full of small squares and sprawling parks where you can enjoy a stroll or a picnic. And nearby Tybee Island is a draw for many visitors due to its sandy beaches and slow pace of life.

7. Dive into Nashville’s music scene

Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. It’s got a wonderful music scene (duh), a growing cocktail bar culture, and some world-class down-home Southern restaurants. There’s not a lot of “touristy stuff” to do here, but what makes this city one of my favorites are the music, the food, the wildly friendly people, and the positive energy the city seems to exude. When you’re here, plan to spend a few hours at the Tennessee State Museum. It goes into detail about the state’s history (and it’s more exciting than you might think!).

8. Catch some rays in sunny San Diego

I love San Diego. San Diego’s weather is almost always perfect, leading to a permanently happy population that’s friendly and outgoing and that loves the outdoors. From hiking, days at the beach, or running, people here love to get out and enjoy the sun. The downtown Gaslamp area — as well as the famous Pacific Beach — is full of trendy restaurants, bustling bars, and some seriously life-changing taco stalls.

9. Get tipsy in California’s Wine Country

California is home to some of the best wine in the world, and a visit to the Sonoma or Napa Valley shouldn’t be missed. While Sonoma is cheaper than Napa, both these destinations are meant for splashing out. Take a tour, book a cozy vineyard Airbnb, and enjoy a relaxing few days learning about the region’s wines. Tastings usually cost between $15-20 USD. If you go to Sonoma, check out Three Fat Guys winery. They have phenomenal reds.

10. Hike around Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is impressive and beautiful. Ringed by tiny mountain communities, this is a terrific place for hiking and boating in the summer and skiing in the winter. For fun in the sun, be sure to spend some time lounging at Kings Beach. For hikes, check out the Rubicon Trail (16 miles/25.7 kilometers) or the Cascade Falls Trail (1.4 miles/2.2 kilometers). You can’t really go wrong here.

11. Anywhere in Montana

A lot has been written about how stunning Montana is, but words cannot do this state justice. To me, it’s the most beautiful state in the Union, filled with wondrous mountains and hills as far as the eye can see. It’s a nature-lover’s paradise and there is a huge craft beer scene here too, with tons of local breweries all around the state. If you want nature, good food, friendly locals, and just quiet, Montana is it!

12. Relax in Cape Cod

I spent a lot of summers on the Cape since I grew up in Boston. You’ll find plenty of small beach towns along the coast (Provincetown and Hyannis being the most famous but I also love Chatham, Falmouth, Wellfleet, and Brewster). There’s not a lot to “do” but if you’re looking for seafood, beaches, boardwalks, and that perfect family vacation, visit the Cape! Just avoid the weekends when it gets a little too crowded.

13. Explore Deadwood

Tucked away in western South Dakota, this town was famous during the Old West days (noteworthy enough to be the focus of the eponymous HBO series). Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, and many other infamous gunslingers all spent time here. Sort of kitschy and re-created, it’s nonetheless a very cool place where you can experience a taste of the old frontier days. It’s also conveniently located near the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore so you can use it as a base for exploring the region.

14. Be surprised by Kansas City

I really loved this city, which features some of the world’s best BBQ and a lively downtown core. There’s a detailed and enlightening jazz museum here, as well as the eye-opening Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (that’s the actual name). This is yet another super underrated and under-visited destination.

15. Stay weird in Portland

Portland , Oregon is incredible. Here you’ll find an impressive food truck scene, cool bespoke bars and cocktail lounges, a craft beer scene that’s religion to residents, relaxing parks (including a peaceful Japanese garden), a vibrant art scene, and hiking in the nearby mountains. Portland is just an awesome city, especially in the summer when the weather is perfect and there are festivals and events galore.

16. Hike our national parks

America has 63 national parks as well as countless state and local parks. These parks highlight the best of the American wilderness. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, Byrce, the Smokey Mountains, Rocky Mountain Park, the Badlands — the list goes on. Make sure you visit as many national parks as you can to get a sense of the grand and diverse landscape that is the United States. You can use this government map to find a park near you! If you plan to visit multiple parks, get the America the Beautiful Park Pass, which costs just $80 USD and gets you free entry to all the national parks for a year.

17. Admire the architecture in Chicago

One of my favorite cities in the world, Chicago is full of amazing architecture, great parks, delicious and hearty food, and a fun nightlife. One of the best ways to see the city’s unique architecture is on a river cruise. There are multiple operators and prices start around $45. Don’t miss trying deep-dish pizza (it was invented here, along with stuffed-crust pizza) and seeing the iconic “Bean” sculpture in Millennium Park. Additionally, check out the city’s famous pier, aquarium, and waterfront park. The city also hosts one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country.

18. Enjoy Lively New Orleans

This French-influenced city has incredible seafood and Cajun cuisine and even better live music. A visit to New Orleans is a must for any jazz or blues fan. Live music is available seven nights a week. Frenchman Street is one of the best places to go (my favorite venue is the Spotted Cat). There are also tons of amazing walking tours that highlight the city’s unique culture and history (including ghost and voodoo tours). Nature lovers will enjoy wandering through the massive oak trees in City Park where you can also visit the city’s Botanical Gardens, which are open year-round. Admission is $12. Plus, there’s incredible independent bookstores, creole food, art museums, and the simply incredible and informative World War 2 museum. Don’t skip roaming the redone and revitalized Bywater district too. It’s a bit hipster. If you plan on celebrating Mardi Gras in NOLA , book early. Accommodations fill up fast.

19. Get some sun in Hawaii

Closer to Asia than the United States, Hawaii is America’s slice of South Pacific paradise. White sands beaches, clear blue water, tropical jungle, and great surf — Hawaii has it all! Don’t miss the otherworldly landscapes of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the somber memorial at Pearl Harbor, and the hikes at Diamond Head and the Lanikai Pillbox Trail near Honolulu. There are a ton of opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving where you get a chance to see manta rays, sea turtles, and plenty of colorful fish. Waimea Canyon and the Napali coast on the island of Kauai are places you can get up close and personal with the natural landscape. There are helicopter and boat tours or, if you’re up for a challenge, you can hike the iconic Kalalau Trail. Every island has its own vibe so, if you can, visit more than one.

20. Check out Boston

The birthplace of the revolution (and my hometown), no one leaves Boston disappointed. It’s a big city, but its lack of high-rises, as well as its cobblestone streets and brick buildings, give the city a small-town feel. The Freedom Trail, which covers all the main historic stops, is a must because it gives you a look at the city’s historic past. Be sure to lounge in the Boston Common and catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park too (the city is big on sports).

21. Visit the nation’s capital

The country’s capital is home to many of the best museums in the country. And, given the large number of international embassy workers here, it’s unsurprising one of the most international cities in the country. You can find food from anywhere in the world thanks to all the embassies in the city. Plus, there’s a vibrant music and cocktail scene. Don’t miss the National Mall and all its monuments, the Holocaust Museum, and the various Smithsonian Museums (some of the best are the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of the American Indian, the African American Museum, the National Zoo, the Smithsonian Castle, and the American Art Museum). If you visit in the spring, you’ll get to see the cherry blossoms bloom along the Mall.

22. Learn about Mt. Rushmore

Completed in 1941, this historic monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a lot smaller than you expect, but it makes a good stop while driving. Originally, the indigenous Lakota Sioux inhabited this area, however, when gold was found in the hills, white settlers forcibly removed them from their homeland. At the Wounded Knee massacre, U.S. forces killed over 250 indigenous women and children. Decades later, Rushmore was built, much to the dismay of the local indigenous population, who consider the land to be sacred. Take a guided tour to learn more about this iconic monument’s complex and tragic history.

23. Be a kid at Disney World

Sure, it’s cheesy . Yes, it’s built for kids. True, it’s not authentic. But despite all that, Disney World is still a fun time and they have a lot of rides for adults too. I recently went back as an adult and there’s a lot to do there: they have some good restaurants, and Disney Springs has a fun nightlife. If you are in Florida, take a stop for a few days. Indulge your inner child. Tickets cost around $110 USD per day and go up from there.

24. Hike the Appalachian Mountains

Stretching the east coast of America, these mountains are almost 500 million years old and offer great hiking, camping, and trekking. For a multi-month adventure, hike the 2,190-mile (3,524-kilometer) Appalachian Trail which covers the entire mountain range and takes 5-7 months to complete. You can also do day hikes or weekend hikes of its various sections if you want a more manageable outdoor getaway.

25. Unwind in Put-In-Bay

One of the coolest, not-so-hidden places in the U.S. is this group of islands in Lake Erie. Widely known to Midwesterners (but unknown to most everyone else), South Bass Island is home to Put-in-Bay, where Midwest hospitality meets Caribbean vibes (you ride around in golf carts and bars have sand as floors). My favorite spot is Mojito Bay, an outdoor tiki bar with sand floors and swings for bar seats that offers up more than 25 different mojitos. These places get very wild on the weekends too.

26. Explore Maine

Tucked away up in the northeast, Maine evokes images of endless shorelines, wild forests, iconic lighthouses, and lots and lots of lobster dinners. It’s often overlooked yet it’s incredibly beautiful and perfect for a short road trip. Don’t miss trying lobster rolls (a regional favorite) and hiking in Acadia National Park. Portland has some great eateries (such as Duckfat and Eventide Oyster Co.) and picturesque historic lighthouses, including Maine’s oldest operating lighthouse, the Portland Head Light, which opened in 1791 when George Washington was president. Additionally, tiny Bangor is home to tons of breweries and Moosehead State Park is an incredible place to go hiking for a few days. And you can’t go wrong stopping in any of the quintessential New England fishing villages up and down the coast. Maine is one of the best states in the union!

27. Take a road trip

The only good way to see this vast and diverse landscape and the small towns that populate it is with a road trip . I highly suggest renting a car and driving across the U.S. It’s an amazing experience. I’ve done several coast-to-coast trips as well as regional trips around New England , California , and the South . It’s the best way to see the country and you can do it for under $50 USD a day.

For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars .

28. Take a tour

You can find all sorts of amazing walking tours, bike tours, and food tours all around the country. They’re a great way to get an in-depth look at the city you’re in with the help of an expert local guide. Take Walks is my go-to walking tour company when I’m looking for something thorough and insightful (and fun). They can get you behind the scenes and are much more comprehensive than your average free walking tour.

For information on specific cities in the United States, check out these city guides:

  • Austin Travel Guide
  • Boston Travel Guide
  • Chicago Travel Guide
  • Hawaii Travel Guide
  • Las Vegas Travel Guide
  • Los Angeles Travel Guide
  • Miami Travel Guide
  • New York Travel Guide
  • Philadelphia Travel Guide
  • San Francisco Travel Guide
  • Seattle Travel Guide
  • Washington D.C. Travel Guide

United States Travel Costs

Arched Bixby Creek Bridge along the Pacific Coast Highway, with lush hills in the background, in California, United States.

Accommodation – Hostels can be found in most major cities, though options are generally slim in the country. A bed in a dorm room with 4-6 beds usually costs between $35-55 USD per night. Rooms with more beds are marginally cheaper (they start around $25-30 USD per night). Private rooms are usually $75-125 USD. Expect prices on the higher end in bigger cities and during peak season. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities. Hostels with free breakfast are rare.

If you plan on camping, expect to pay at least $20-30 USD per night for a basic tent plot for two without electricity.

Cheap motels usually start around $60-75 USD per night and can be found along any highway. Expect basic amenities like TV, Wi-Fi, and AC. Some have pools.

Budget two-star hotels start at $90 USD per night. But, in major cities like NYC, LA, or Chicago, they start closer to $125 USD. The U.S. is very vast and prices fluctuate a lot depending on what region you’re in so check out the specific city guides listed above for more detailed information on accommodation. The United States is too diverse to pin down a specific number!

Airbnb is available around the country, with private rooms starting at $40 USD per night, though for good rooms, you’ll likely pay closer to $60 USD. For an entire home/apartment, expect to pay at least $100 USD per night. Prices in large cities are usually double. Again, there’s a lot of variation depending on where you’re going so check out the city guides for more specific prices!

Food – From seafood in New England to BBQ in the South to Tex-Mex and organic whole foods in the West to German influenced food in the Midwest, there is no singular food culture in the US. Every region has its own staples, which means you’ll never get bored of eating your way around the country.

Since the country is so big, prices for food vary a lot. What is $5 USD in Kansas is probably $15 USD in New York City. Below are some country averages but, if visiting a big metropolis/coastal city, add about 25% to the price.

Grab-and-go sandwiches usually cost around $10 USD while fast food costs $10-12 USD for a combo meal. Meals from food trucks will cost between $10-15 USD. Mid-range casual restaurants cost between $25-30 USD for a meal and drink. At some place a little nicer (think white table cloth), expect to spend at least $60 USD per person on dinner. Prices go up from there and the sky is the limit. Again, consult the city and destination guides for specific prices.

You can generally find takeout pizzas for around $10-15 USD while Chinese and Thai cuisine start around $10-12 USD for a main dish.

Beer is around $6-8 USD, a glass of wine is $8-10 USD, and cocktails start at $14 USD in most cities (about $20 USD in NYC though!). A latte/cappuccino is $4-5 USD and bottled water is $2 USD.

If you cook your own food, expect to pay about $60-80 USD per week for basic staples like rice, pasta, vegetables, and some meat.

Backpacking the United States Suggested Budgets

How much does it cost to visit the United States? Well, how much you spend largely depends on where in the United States you’re going to visit. For example, New York City is much more expensive than Memphis and San Francisco is going to hit your budget harder than Boise. The South is cheaper than the North and the interior states are cheaper than the coasts. The comparisons are endless! However, this overview can give you a basic look at what to expect based on your travel style and assuming you’re going to mix cheap and expensive destinations.

On a backpacking budget of $75 USD per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook your meals, use public transportation to get around, limit your drinking, and do free activities like walking tours, hiking, and hanging out at beaches. If you plan on drinking, add another $10-20 USD per day. If you can camp or Couchsurf, you can likely get this down to $50-60 USD per day.

On a mid-range budget of $210 USD per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb or motel, eat out for most meals, enjoy some drinks, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like museum visits and food tours.

On an upscale budget of $350 USD or more per day, you can stay in a midrange hotel, eat out for all your meals, drink more, rent a car to get around, and do as many guided tours and activities as you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.

United States Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

There are plenty of ways to save money when you travel the U.S. but it varies a lot by region (as I’ve been repeating). The general tips below can help you get started but, for more specific tips, visit my city guides.

  • Take a free tour – Taking a free walking tour is the best way to get introduced to a new place, and most major cities in the U.S. have free walking tours. You get to see the main sights and ask all your questions to a local guide. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
  • Take the bus – The cheapest way to get around the U.S. is by bus. Bus fares cost as little as $1 USD, though 2-3-hour journeys start around $30 USD. Between cities, the best companies are Megabus, Greyhound, and FlixBus.
  • Redeem hotel points – Be sure to sign up for hotel credit cards before you go and use those points when you travel. This is especially helpful in big cities. Be aware that most hotels charge parking fees if you have a car.
  • Get a U.S. Park Pass – This national park pass lets you into all the national parks for free so you don’t have to keep paying admission. The annual fee is $80 USD and it pays for itself after four parks.
  • Cook – The United States has some of the cheapest groceries in the developed world, while eating out here can add up quickly once you factor in a tip and tax (which varies by state). Grocery shopping can about $60 USD per week and is way cheaper and healthier than eating out every day. Cook and save!
  • Stay with a local – Couchsurfing lets you stay with a local for free, cutting your accommodation costs drastically. You’ll get to spend time with a local who can share their tips and advice while sharing your own travel stories and culture. You can also use the app to meet people for activities (coffee, museum visits, etc.) if you don’t feel comfortable staying with a stranger.
  • Camp – Most campsites start around $20-30 USD per night for a tent — much cheaper than a hostel. You can use nps.gov to find campsites run by the National Park Service. You can also camp for free in National Forests or Bureau Land Management (BLM) lands (search for “dispersed camping” options). Just be sure to respect the environment and follow Leave No Trace principles when camping.
  • Use city tourism cards – City tourism cards allow you to see a large number of attractions (and often include free public transportation) for one low price, usually $75–100 USD. If you plan on seeing a lot, these can save you a ton.
  • Share your ride – If you have a car, taking on riders can be a way to lower your costs. On my first trip across the U.S., I offered rides to people I met in hostels. On another trip, I had friends and readers join me along the way. You can post ads on Craigslist and at hostels to find riders. This not only makes the trip more enjoyable but lowers your gas costs too. If you don’t have a car, you can use look for rides in the same places.
  • Stay at roadside hotels – There are a plethora of cheap roadside hotels such as Motel 6 and Super 8 to the rescue. Rooms start around $60-75 USD a night (plus tax). They’re great when you’re traveling with someone and can split the cost.
  • Find free museums and events – Inquire at tourism offices, use Google, or ask hotel or hostel staff for information about free events and museums. Many museums offer free or discounted admission times throughout the week.
  • Get free water or free refills – If you order a drink, most restaurants allow free refills while you eat your meal or refills at a low cost. If you ask, tap water is usually provided for free.
  • Save on gas – If you’re on a road trip, use the app GasBuddy to find cheap gas near you. Also, sign up for gas station loyalty programs as they can save you money on fill ups.

Where to Stay in the United States

Hostels are not all that plentiful across the United States yet. Generally, those that do exist are clean, social, and fun. You’ll find a lot of budget hotels wherever you go. here are some of my recommended places to stay around the USA (the cities guides will have even more suggestions):

  • HI Hostel (Boston)
  • The Revolution Hotel (Boston)
  • HI Hostel (Chicago)
  • The Arlo (Chicago)
  • Banana Bungalow (Los Angeles)
  • Hollywood Historic Hotel Los Angeles
  • Hostel Memphis (Memphis)
  • Hu Hotel (Memphis)
  • Freehand (Miami)
  • Hotel Ocean (Miami)
  • HI New Orleans (New Orleans)
  • Villa Convento (New Orleans)
  • The Local (New York City)
  • Heritage Hotel (New York City)
  • ITH Adventure Hostel (San Diego)
  • Old Town Inn (San Diego)
  • The Green Tortoise (San Francisco)
  • SW Hotel (San Francisco)
  • The Green Tortoise (Seattle)
  • MarQueen Hotel (Seattle)

How to Get Around the United States

Amtrak train passing through trees in the United States.

City transportation – Most U.S. cities have public transportation, including metro systems and buses. Fares cost around $2-3 USD for a single journey, but there are usually packaged options for visitors. For example, you can get a 7-day unlimited MetroCard in New York City for $34 USD, which covers both buses and the subway system, while San Francisco offers a 7-day transit pass for $41 USD.

Outside of major cities, subways are rare. Some of the smaller cities have trams. Everywhere has a bus though and that’s usually the best way to get around.

Taxis – Taxis are metered with charges starting around $3 USD plus $2-3 USD per mile. This is one of the most expensive ways to get around, however, so I’d skip it unless you have no other choice.

Ridesharing – Uber and Lyft are generally cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to take a bus or pay for a taxi.

Intercity Bus – Taking the bus is one of the cheapest options for getting around the country, with fares as low as $1 USD if you book far enough in advance. Popular bus companies include:

A 4-5-hour bus ride from New York to Washington D.C. starts at $30 USD, while the 7-hour journey from Chicago to Detroit starts at $27 USD. Austin to New Orleans is around $54 USD. Booking early can save you upwards of 50% so try to plan ahead if you’re going to be taking the bus.

To find bus routes and prices, use BusBud .

Flying – Flying is your quickest option for long distance. You can occasionally find sales for as little as $100 USD so it’s worth it to check several websites ahead of time to see what deals are on. Post-COVID, fares are a lot higher than they were in the past. But if you find a deal, book in advance, or go off season, you can usually get a cheap fare. Sample one-way fares include San Francisco to Maui for $100-150 USD, Seattle to Austin for $85-115 USD, or New York to L.A. for $250 USD (round trip). However, prices can easily double if booked last minute.

For more information on how to find a cheap flight, check out this article .

Train – Amtrak is the rail provider for the United States, but it’s not the quickest or most affordable way to travel. They have routes all around the country ( here’s their route map ) and offer a cross-country pass for $499 USD. The USA Rail Pass gives you 30 days of travel over 10 segments, which averages out to around $50 USD per leg.

If you have a valid student ID you can save 15% on your tickets.

As for prices, A 20-hour train ride from Chicago to New Orleans costs around $110 USD, while a multi-day trip from New York to Los Angeles is around $280 USD. Book in advance to find the best deals. Shorter trips lasting 2-4 hours are usually under $40 USD.

Car rental – Roadtripping is a great way to explore the country, and car rentals can be found for as little as $35 USD for a multi-day rental. Renters need to be at least 21 years old. For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars .

Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in the United States is common and safe. Dress respectably, smile while making eye contact with drivers, and use a cardboard sign to tell people where you’re headed. Be prepared for long bouts of no pick-ups, especially if you’re traveling through more rural areas. Pack plenty of water and a light meal or two, like sandwiches and fruit. Hitchwiki is a great resource for additional hitchhiking tips.

When to Go to the United States

Since the United States is such a large country, the climate and temperature change drastically from coast to coast and from north to south.

The northern states have clearly defined seasons. In cities like Chicago, Boston, and New York, winter can bring heavy snowfall and more severe temperatures. Coastal areas like Seattle and Portland, Oregon, tend to be milder. Spring can start as late as May in the northernmost parts of the country, but this is a good time to visit because the weather begins to warm up and the busy tourist season hasn’t started yet. Summers are gorgeous and temperatures climb into the 80s°F (30s°C). It’s also the busiest time of year for tourism. Autumn is a wonderful time to visit the northern states because many parts of this region have a lot of trees. Temperatures have cooled, crowds have dwindled, and the changing leaves offer an something extra to enjoy.

The southern states have less defined seasons. In the southwest, winters tend to be dry and mild. In the southeast, temperatures are mild but places like and Memphis can be rainy. Spring is a wonderful time to visit this part of the country because temperatures are warm but not stifling. Summers get incredibly hot and humid in the southeast. In the desert areas of the southwest, like Las Vegas, temperatures can soar well above 104°F (40°C) on some days. Autumn cools things off across the southern states, but can also bring severe weather in the southeast. .

Ultimately, the best time to travel to the United States depends on where you’re headed and what kind of activities you’d like to do. Visit our city guides for more specific information on when to go.

How to Stay Safe in the United States

The United States is a massive country and “safety” changes a lot depending on where you go and what you do. Generally, the US safe place to travel around — even if you’re traveling solo.

Violent attacks tend to be confined to certain areas (especially where drug and gang violence are a problem). You may encounter petty crime, like theft, especially around popular tourist landmarks and in larger cities, especially on the west coast where theft is a much more common problem. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, especially while taking crowded public transportation.

Gun violence and mass shootings tend to dominate headlines when they happen. However, the chances of it happening to you are slim. Do not let this discourage you from exploring the United States. The U.S. is very big and very, very diverse. And, due to this size, there is a lot of cultural (and political) variation. Despite what you hear, crime in America is low. (There was far more crime in the US in the 1990s!). For more information, read this post, “ Is it Safe to Visit the United States?”

If you rent a vehicle, don’t leave any valuables in it overnight. Take common sense safety measures and you’ll be fine.

Moreover, be sure to read about common travel scams to avoid here .

When hiking, always bring water and sunscreen. Be sure to check the weather before you depart and dress accordingly.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe but all the standard safety cautions apply. For specific tips, I would read one of the many incredible solo female travel blogs on the web. They’ll give you tips and advice that I can’t.

If you do experience an emergency, dial 911 for assistance.

Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

United States Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

United States Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on United States travel and continue planning your trip:

Where to Stay in San Francisco: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in San Francisco: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

The 12 Best Things to Do in Chicago

The 12 Best Things to Do in Chicago

The 5 Best Hotels in San Francisco

The 5 Best Hotels in San Francisco

How to Experience Milwaukee Like a Local

How to Experience Milwaukee Like a Local

The 7 Best Hotels in New York City

The 7 Best Hotels in New York City

The 7 Best Hotels in Miami

The 7 Best Hotels in Miami

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  • How to watch in the UK
  • How to watch in France
  • How to watch in Australia
  • How to watch in the US
  • How to watch with a VPN

How to watch Tour de France: Live stream the race free from anywhere

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The Tour de France, the most iconic cycling race in the world, is back for its 111th race. We've put together everything you need to know about how to watch the Tour de France, including free live streaming options. 

Contrary to its name, the race will kick off this year in Florence and coast around Italy for a few stages before heading into France for the majority of the contest. The competition is spread across 23 days, with 21 different race stages and two Mondays for rest. The race will conclude on July 21 in Nice, France. The winner is determined as the cyclist with the shortest combined times across the entirety of the race.

Danish cyclist Jonas Vingegaard won the 2022 and 2023 races and will return to defend his title following a massive crash in April that left him hospitalized for several days. Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogacar, who won the 2020 and 2021 Tour de France, is Vingegaard's main competition heading into the race this year. In May, Pogacar won the Giro d'Italia, the first of the annual Grand Tour races, by a shocking, almost 10-minute margin.

Keep reading to learn all of the ways you can live stream the Tour de France, no matter where you are in the world. Plus, we'll keep updating this page with daily start times for each leg of the race.

  • See also: Where to watch US Olympic Gymnastics Trials | Where to watch Formula 1 | Where to watch MotoGP

How to watch Tour de France in the UK

The Tour de France will air daily on ITV4 in the UK, which means that it's available to live stream for free through ITVX . This English-language option only requires account creation to use and is a popular international option for VPN users around the world.

How to watch Tour de France in France

In France, the Tour de France will live stream on France.TV . This is a free French-language option that you just need to make an account to use.

How to watch Tour de France in Australia

The Tour de France live streams are free on SBS in Australia. This is another English-language streaming option that only requires you to create a free account to watch. 

How to watch Tour de France in the US

All stages of the Tour de France will live stream on Peacock in the US. Occasionally, the race will be simulcast on NBC, including stages 8, 14, and 20. Peacock subscriptions start at $5.99 a month and will also cover you for the Olympics, which begin later in July.

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

Peacock is a convenient streaming source for hit NBC TV shows, Universal movies, and select sports like Sunday Night Football. Prices start at just $6 a month, with additional discounts on annual plans.

How to watch Tour de France from anywhere

You can still access the free streams via VPN if you aren't in the UK, France, Australia, or any of the options outlined above during the race. Short for virtual private networks, VPNs allow people to temporarily change their device's virtual location so that they can access their usual websites from anywhere. VPNs are especially popular among people looking to boost their online privacy and keep up with all their apps while abroad.

Our go-to recommendation is ExpressVPN since it's beginner-friendly and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Check out our ExpressVPN review for additional details, and keep reading to learn how to use a VPN.

the best way to travel is with a tour guide

With its consistent performance, reliable security, and expansive global streaming features, ExpressVPN is the best VPN out there, excelling in every spec and offering many advanced features that makes it exceptional. Better yet, you can save up to 49% and get an extra three months for free today.

How to watch Tour de France with a VPN

  • Sign up for a VPN if you don't already have one.
  • Install it on the device you're using to watch the race.
  • Turn it on and set it to the location of the streaming service.
  • Go to  ITVX (UK) , France.TV (France)  or SBS (Australia) and create a login if necessary.
  • Enjoy the Tour de France.

Note: The use of VPNs is illegal in certain countries, and using VPNs to access region-locked streaming content might constitute a breach of the terms of use for certain services. Insider does not endorse or condone the illegal use of VPNs.

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Italy food tours: the best regions for gourmands to visit in 2024

Eat your way around Italy one region at a time

hands of senior woman holding homemade orecchiette orecchiette are a pasta typical of apulia, a region of southern italy their name comes from their shape, which resembles a small ear

As much as Italian restaurants and cook books might have us thinking otherwise, it's important to note that there is no one unified national cuisine. Italy is in fact divided into 20 regions, each boasting its own signature dishes that are closely tied to the unique terroir, traditions and history of the area.

That’s why in Sicily you'll find so many recipes featuring aubergine, for example, that was first introduced to the island with the Arab domination of the 9th century and now grows on the land in abundance – while somewhere further north and generally cooler will hardly use it at all. It’s also why you’d never find Venice ’s famous sarde in saor or Trentino’s Germanic canederli dumplings anywhere beyond their borders… And why 'real' pizza can only come from Naples , where the sea and volcanic soil of Campania produce the plump tomatoes and creamy mozzarella needed for that perfect balance of flavours (just don't bring it up with the Romans).

From much-loved classics to little-known regional recipes, there are so many delicious dishes to discover in Italy – making it the perfect place to visit for a food tour . We'd recommend eating your way around the country one region at a time, taking the time to visit local producers and farms to see what goes on behind-the-scenes, before enjoying all the delicacies in an authentic trattoria , osteria or family-run eatery nearby.

So, if you're looking to plan an Italian food tour in 2024, make sure you check out our list of the best regions for gourmands to visit in Italy – complete with tried-and-tested tips for making the most of your trip, as well as must-try dishes to tick off when you're there.

What is the foodie region of Italy?

We'd argue that every region is Italy is a certified foodie region, but if we had to just choose one to shout about, it would have to be Emilia-Romagna . Located in the north of the country, it's widely regarded as the food capital of Italy thanks to its rich gastronomic tradition and abundance of world-famous produce, including Parma ham, balsamic vinegar , Parmesan cheese, salami, tagliatelle pasta and piadina bread.

What are the must-try foods of Italy?

Each region has its own must-try foods that are specific to the location, which we've listed in our Italy food tour guide below. That said, there are some classics that you can't leave the country without sampling – and we've specified where you'll find each at its most authentic, too:

  • Pizza - Naples
  • Ice cream / gelato - Florence
  • Spaghetti alla Carbonara - Rome
  • Tiramisù - Treviso
  • Tagliatelle al ragù - Bologna
  • Arancini - Sicily
  • Risotto alla Milanese - Milan
  • Burrata - Puglia
  • Fiorentina steak - Tuscany
  • Cannoli - Sicily
  • Porcini and truffles - Umbria

Emilia-Romagna

brisighella, italy october 26, 2014 the rocca manfrediana is a fortress built in 1310 on one of the three chalky pinnacles that dominate the village of brisighella after the restorations it hosts a museum

Emilia-Romagna should be your first port of call if you're planning an Italian food tour. Located between Florence and Milan in the north of the country, the region is widely considered to be the food capital of Italy thanks to its rich gastronomic tradition.

Indeed, many of Italy's most important – and delicious – food products originate from here: namely, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and Aceto Balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar), among others. Many of the historic dairies, farms, vineyards and artisanal botteghe (workshops) that produce these ingredients are open for tours and tastings, making it perfect for foodies who want an educational, behind-the-scenes experience.

The region's main cities, too, are hubs of culinary excellence. Modena is home to the one of the finest and most famous restaurants in the world, Massimo Bottura's iconic three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana, that's top of any die-hard foodie's bucket list (you'll just need to book well in advance). Parma is also a must, for obvious reasons, while Bologna is the place to go for pasta dishes such as tagliatelle al ragù , lasagne and tortellini in brodo , as well as tigelle bread pockets filled with local cured meats and cheeses.

We'd also recommend venturing a little off the beaten track to visit the likes of Ravenna, Ferrara, Piacenza and Cesena for equally fabulous food in a quieter, more authentic setting.

Alternatively, you can leave all the hard work to the experts and simply book onto Good Housekeeping's gastronomic tour of Emilia-Romagna . It includes everything from exclusive factory visits and cooking lessons, to museum visits, overnight stays in stylish hotels, and, of course, plenty of eating.

a gondolier paddles towards the sunset in venices grand canal photo taken from the famous rialto bridge

Home to cultural heavyweights Verona, Padua, Lake Garda , Vicenza and, of course, Venice, the Veneto region has tended to be overlooked by those planning an Italian food tour – and wrongly so. For aside from boasting impressive art collections, elegant architecture and epic carnivals, Veneto also has a strong culinary identity that is well worth discovering.

First of all, it's the region responsible for such sweet masterpieces as the Tiramisù and Pandoro – the former invented in Treviso and the latter in Verona – as well as Prosecco and Aperol too. Speaking of which, Veneto has also perfected the art of the aperitivo, made all the better by the addition of cicchetti . Akin to tapas, these little finger-food snacks are served in local taverns and wine bars, and have become an art form in themselves. The most traditional bites to try are baccalà mantecato (salted cod balls), sarde in saor (sweet-and-sour sardines), crostini with savoury toppings, and fried croquettes filled with meat, tuna, cheese or potato.

With its large stretch of Adriatic coastline and city that's literally built on the water, it should come as no surprise that seafood dishes are excellent in the region – but there's also much to be said for Treviso's famous radicchio, Asiago's cheese, Bassano's white asparagus, Padua's meat stew as well as the polenta and rice that are a staple of the local diet.

If you're interested in discovering Veneto's foodie side, why not join Good Housekeeping's eight-day cruise around the region with celebrity chef James Martin ? Not only will you have the opportunity to enjoy his food during an on-board gala dinner, but you'll also try local delicacies, head out on excursions and have VIP access to iconic monuments.

FIND OUT MORE

You can also explore the fine wines of the Veneto region on a 'Path of Prosecco' tour , which is a self-driven trip featuring behind-the-scenes tours and tastings in prestigious wineries.

polignano a mare, italy october 1st, 2018 scenic view of lama monachile cala porto beach in polignano a mare, province bari, region puglia, sauthern italy

The so-called 'heel of Italy', Puglia has become something of a holiday hotspot in recent years thanks to its unspoilt beaches, whitewashed hill towns and unique trulli . In short: plenty of things to see and do to help you work up an appetite!

You'll likely be very well acquainted with the region's olive oil already – Puglia is responsible for the majority of the 'liquid gold' that's produced in the country, making it a great spot to visit if you fancy learning more about how it's made and sampling different varieties.

Puglia is also famous for its bread – namely taralli , filled panzerotti , focaccia and friselle , that are the perfect accompaniment to an aperitif of local wine. The mozzarella , burrata and stracciatella in Puglia are second to none, so we'd recommend seeking out a dairy farm tour for a demonstration and the chance to try your hand at making it yourself, before devouring the lot at its very freshest.

The towns of Lecce, Ostuni, Otranto, Bari and Brindisi are brimming with epic restaurants to discover, too. Make sure to try the signature local dishes, such as orecchiette pasta with broccoli, spaghetti with sea urchin, fava bean puree with chicory, fried octopus sandwiches and fresh seafood cooked in myriad ways.

Good Housekeeping's culinary tour of Puglia is the perfect way to taste the region's famous flavours. Over the course of six fun-and food-filled days, you'll eat your way around the best restaurants as well as experiencing an olive oil tasting and learning to make orecchiette pasta from scratch.

scenic picture postcard view of the city of napoli naples with famous mount vesuvius in the background in golden evening light at sunset, campania, italy

Set in the shadow of the magnificent Mount Vesuvius, the southern Italian region of Campania boasts a unique terrain that produces some of the most flavoursome produce in the world. Think juicy San Marzano tomatoes, milky mozzarellas and fragrant basil – which, incidentally, combine to make the perfect UNESCO-certified Neapolitan pizza.

Naples, therefore, is an absolute must for foodies – but there's a lot more than just pizza on offer. When you're in town, make sure to also tick the following local delicacies off your list: frittatine (fried cheesy pasta bites), rum-soaked Babà cakes, pizza fritta, ricotta-filled sfogliatella pastries, pasta alla Genovese (that's not, in fact, from Genova) and, of course, a few ultra-strong Neapolitan coffees to aid digestion.

Once you've eaten your way around the city, head out of town and along the picturesque Amalfi Coast for a taste of La Dolce Vita. Here, you'll find dishes centred around the freshest seafood that's caught just a few metres from your table, as well as drinks and desserts made from the ubiquitous local lemons. Stanley Tucci disciples will also know to book a table at Lo Scoglio da Tommaso for those courgette spaghetti.

a really beautiful peaceful holiday destination that has retained the charm of old style sicily

Sicily's cuisine is undoubtedly one of the most varied and interesting in the country. An island set off the toe of Italy, its prime position in the Mediterranean Sea made it an important trading hub that throughout history has been occupied by everyone from the Arabs to the Normans – and nowhere is this more evident than in the region's eclectic gastronomy.

Here, you'll find many flavours and ingredients that are rarely seen on the mainland. The sweet and sour caponata , for example, is a direct product of North African and Spanish influences; Trapani's signature dish is centred around cous-cous; arancini are thought to come from the Levantine kibbeh , while aubergine has been a mainstay ever since it first came to the island with the Arabs in the 9th century. For an Italian food tour that's steeped in rich, multi-cultural history, you can't get better than Sicily.

Each of Sicily's areas has its own distinctive character and food, too, so you'll need to set aside a good amount of time to get a full picture of the island's culinary scene. Go to Palermo for pasta alle sarde and street food staples ( arancine , panelle and sfincione are a must), Catania for cassata, pasta alla Norma and horse-meat (if you dare!), Marsala for the wine, Taormina for granita, Trapani for cous-cous and a southern take on pesto, and Siracusa for spaghetti with cuttlefish ink.

Good Housekeeping Holidays offers a solo trip to Sicily, where you can discover Noto, Syracuse, Ragusa and more, while experiencing delicious Sicilian food along the way. The tour includes a wine tasting and pairing dinner on the slopes of Etna.

panoramic view of the historic town of assisi on a beautiful sunny day with blue sky and clouds in summer, umbria, italy

Known as the green heart of Italy, Umbria is the in-the-know foodie's go-to region for rustic, country-style cuisine without the crowds. Being far less tourist-trodden than the neighbouring Tuscany (though no less beautiful), it's managed to retain its authenticity while still moving with the times, making it the perfect place for a seriously spoiling escape.

Food is central to life in Umbria: its ultra-fertile soil lends itself perfectly to vineyards, olive groves and farmland, while prized truffles and porcini mushrooms abound in the dense woodlands. There's something particularly satisfying about sitting down to a plate of pasta that is heaped with fresh local truffle for a fraction of the price you'd pay elsewhere – in fact, we'd say that alone would be worth organising a whole food tour for.

Other signature dishes in the region include the indulgent penne alla Norcina (pasta with sausage meat, mushrooms, truffle and cream), torta al testo bread stuffed with cured meats or Umbrian sausage and bitter greens, hearty lentil stews, and porchetta (roast pork) sandwiches. As one of the few Italian regions not bordered by the sea, a meat-focused cuisine is only natural – though the Lake Trasimeno does provide plenty of freshwater fish too.

The city and province of Perugia is the main hub for restaurants – including three newly Michelin-star-awarded establishments – but we'd also recommend hopping in the car to explore the region's smaller towns and family-run eateries off the beaten track. Oh, and make sure you visit the Perugina chocolate factory while you're in town too – even if just for the free samples.

HOTELS IN UMBRIA

a city with trees and buildings

Lazio's main city, Rome, really does have it all: good weather, fascinating history, important art, ancient ruins, iconic buildings, the Vatican... And, of course, an abundance of fabulous food. You'd be hard-pressed to find a foodie who wouldn't want to sample Italy's most famous pastas in the place they were invented: carbonara , cacio e pepe , Amatriciana and Gricia all come from Lazio, and nowhere does them better. The fact that the guanciale and pecorino used in them is made locally certainly helps, too.

But the Roman food scene offers far more than just the well-known classics. Adventurous types should make sure to sample trippa alla Romana (tripe) and ox-tail stew, while if you're after a street food-style snack, supplì and a trapizzino will do the trick: the former is a particularly delicious take on the Sicilian arancini, while the latter is a new panino-pizza hybrid that's fast becoming a local staple.

Other must-try dishes that are specific to the region include carciofi alla Giudia (alarmingly addictive deep-fried artichokes) and the decadent maritozzi – huge sweet buns bursting with whipped cream, that are perfect for dipping into your morning coffee.

HOTELS IN LAZIO

val dorcia, tuscany, italy springtime, path, meadow fields, rolling hills and cypress trees

One of Italy's most-visited regions, Tuscany is a manicured marvel of rolling landscapes, sweeping pine-tree-lined roads, vast vineyards and picturesque hilltop towns. In short, it's the rural Italian idyll – and its style of cuisine follows suit.

Tuscany specialises in a style of cuisine called 'cucina povera' that centres around simple, homegrown ingredients cooked to perfection in traditional recipes. Pappa al pomodoro , torta di ceci , panzanella and crostini are perhaps the best-known "poor" dishes, while lampredotto (offal) sandwiches are the perfect example of the deep-set zero-waste mentality – and well worth a try.

That said, Tuscany is also a haven of fine dining: there are more than 30 Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from in the area, while oenophiles will find themselves spoilt for choice with so many excellent locally-produced wines to choose from. And for when you're after something a little more low-key, don't miss the chance to feast on a gigantic Fiorentina in one of Florence's many historic steakhouses, followed by a walk along the river with a homemade gelato in hand.

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UK Travel Planning

The Complete Guide to Walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

By: Author Tracy Collins

Posted on Last updated: June 22, 2024

Discover what not to miss while walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh in our complete tour of this iconic route.

If you want to see the highlights of Edinburgh while immersing yourself in history, there’s no better way than to walk the Royal Mile. This route stretches between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and is actually a little over a mile long. 

This guide will lead the way when you want to take a self-guided walking tour in Edinburgh. Covered here is what to see and do en route, including what to look out for. Of all the best walks in Edinburgh, this has to be number one!

When walking this route, we recommend you start at the castle and work your way down towards Holyrood. This means you get to take a downhill walk, instead of an upward slog. As the route ends close to Holyrood Park, you could also take a post-walk break there while enjoying the scenic views. 

If you do want to visit the castle, you can also do that before it gets too busy. But you can of course take the walk in any direction you like!

From the ultimate Edinburgh self-guided walking tour to where to stay and eat, plus our top tips and FAQs, read on. Here’s where to go and what to see on the famous Edinburgh Royal Mile. 

View down the Royal Mile in winter

Best tours and tickets along the Royal Mile

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⭐️ Guided Walking Tour with Entry Ticket to Edinburgh Castle

⭐️ Dark History Royal Mile Walking Tour

⭐️ The Scotch Whisky Experience Tour and Tasting

⭐️ Real Mary King’s Close Guided Tour

⭐️ Royal Attractions with Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours

⭐️ Palace of Holyroodhouse Entry Ticket

⭐️ Late-Night Underground Vaults Terror Tour

The Ultimate Edinburgh Royal Mile Walking Tour

Entrance to Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is incredibly rich in history, and in the past, has been home to a succession of Scottish monarchs. Tour it today and you can see the ancient buildings, the Crown Jewels, and of course the sweeping city views from the top. 

Standing proudly on an elevated site above the cobbled streets of the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle is the perfect starting point for your Royal Mile walk. 

Click here to book tickets for Edinburgh Castle

Scotch Whiskey

After leaving the castle, one of the first sites you’ll pass on the Royal Mile is the Scotch Whisky Experience. This popular visitor attraction shares the story of Scotch whisky . You can take tours, shop, dine, or attend tastings here. 

Tickets including tastings and a tour are very popular, and cover five Scottish whisky-making regions. 

Click here to book tickets for the Scotch Whisky Experience

Close to the Scotch Whisky Experience is Camera Obscura and World of Illusions . This appeals to people of all ages, featuring five floors of illusions, scientific wonders, and interactive experiences. 

View down Alleyway off the Royal Mile

Don’t miss the alleyways that you will see along the Royal Mile! Look out for Advocates Close (for that great view of Scott’s Monument) and other wonderfully named passageways.

I did a fabulous tour a few years ago to learn all about the dark history of the Royal Mile which included exploring more of these fascinating alleys.

Gladstone’s Land is one of the Royal Mile’s oldest buildings. You can go inside to discover what life was like centuries ago, and view original costumes and other exhibits. Don’t forget to look up, so you can see the stunning ceiling frescoes dating from 1620. 

There’s also a cafe and ice cream parlour on the ground floor. 

Heart of Midlothian

The Heart of Midlothian Mosaic on the Royal Mile is in front of St Giles Cathedral. This spot was once the entrance to the city’s Old Tolbooth. It’s said to be good luck to spit on the heart, so don’t be surprised if you see football fans doing just that!

St Giles Cathedral 1

One of the key sights along the Royal Mile, the Cathedral of St Giles is the Scottish answer to London’s Westminster Abbey. Look out for the stained glass window featuring John Knox, an influential preacher who spread the word for Protestantism and the Church of Scotland. 

The church is open to everyone, has been a working house of worship for around nine centuries, and is the venue for important services, including those involving the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, and the Kirking of the Parliament. 

Free walking tours are offered daily, at 10.30 am or 2.30 pm.

Real Mary Kings Close

Just past St Giles’ is the real Mary King’s Close. It’s beneath the Edinburgh City Chambers building. It’s the only 17th century street in the city, and you can tour it to imagine what life for Mary King, and other residents, must have been like. 

The close allows you to immerse yourself in four centuries of history, and has been named as Scotland’s Best Heritage Tourism Experience.

Click here to book tickets for the real Mary King’s Close

John Knox House

Moubray House and John Knox House are conjoined, and dating from 1470, together form the Royal Mile’s oldest mediaeval building. Knox didn’t actually stay here for long, but it’s his association with it that means it’s still standing. 

If you go in, look up at the The Oak Room ceiling to find the hidden devil. John Knox House forms part of the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Whether you’re travelling with kids or want to please your inner child, the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile is a must. It’s free to enter, too, with a suggested donation of £3 per person. 

Exhibits span the period from the 1800s to today, and include toys, games, books, dolls, and even clothes.

Just off Cranston Street on the Royal Mile is the Chocolatarium, where you can make and taste all kinds of chocolate treats. A must for chocoholics!

Click here to book tickets for the Chocolatarium

Like the Museum of Childhood, the People’s Story Museum is also free to enter, again with a suggested £3 donation. Objects, images, and stories are used here to tell the tale of the city’s working class residents, between the 18th and 20th centuries. 

The building is interesting too, as it’s a tollbooth dating from the 16th century. 

Canongate Kirk can be found right by the People’s Story Museum. A number of prominent Scots are buried here, and the Presbyterian church dates from the 17th century. See if you can spot the graves of the poet Robert Fergusson and the economist Adam Smith. 

As well as the Kirk, the Parish of Canongate includes the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament. It’s used by the Royal Family when they’re visiting Edinburgh. 

Toolbooth Tavern

The Scottish Parliament Building is at the end of the Royal Mile. It’s a modern structure, and construction commenced in 1999. Talks and guided tours take place here, and the public can also watch meetings, debates, and First Minister’s Questions. It’s always free to visit. 

Whether you enter or not, this bright, contemporary building with lots of curves, windows, wood, and local stone is well worth seeing. 

Palace of Holyrood in the rain

This royal palace dates from the 16th century, and is also at the end of the Royal Mile, by Holyrood Park. Today this is King Charles III’s official residence, and was also once home to Mary, Queen of Scots. 

The State Apartments, the Throne Room, and the Great Gallery are among the highlights. There’s also a cafe for refreshments. Entry to the palace is ticketed. 

Click here to book tickets for the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Holyrood Park

Whether you want to climb up to Arthur’s Seat or simply unwind with a picnic, picturesque Holyrood Park makes the perfect stop at the end of your Royal Mile walking tour. You can even find a lake, St Margaret’s Loch, in this sprawling park. 

Where to Eat on the Royal Mile

There are lots of restaurants, cafes, and pubs on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, so there’s no shortage of places to eat! You can simply pick one and wander on in, or we do have one recommendation.

Makars Mash Bar

This Edinburgh eatery is rated fourth among all the city’s restaurants, which number over 1,600. It’s the place to sample hearty Scottish fare crafted from local ingredients. While meaty options of course feature, plant-based alternatives are available.  

Mashed potatoes are of course the speciality, served with a huge variety of flavourings and toppings. Makars Gourmet Mash Bar is situated on Bank Street, close to Lawnmarket. 

Where to Stay on the Royal Mile

Here are some suggestions if you want to find hotels on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. We also have a guide to where to stay in Edinburgh if you would prefer an alternative location.

These deluxe apartments are only five minutes’ walk from Edinburgh Castle. There are studios, or apartments with up to three bedrooms, some with balconies. They’re luxuriously appointed and offer superb Royal Mile views. Breakfast is available daily, and there’s a gym and 24-hour reception desk. 

Click here to book Cheval Old Town Chambers

This is a four star, landmark property offering three floors of accommodation. Luxury rooms come with large flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and even GHD hair stylers. There’s a bar serving pub food and drinks, and you can also order room service. The castle is just five minutes away on foot. 

Click here to book the Inn on the Mile

The Royal Mile’s Radisson Blu Hotel comes from a trusted name in hospitality and offers a range of room types. A real perk here is the indoor pool, sauna and gym.

You can also find Itchycoo Bar and Kitchen here, overlooking the Royal Mile. The concierge here is particularly helpful, too. 

Click to book the Radisson Blu

Tips for Walking in Edinburgh

Steps in Edinburgh

If you’ll be walking in Edinburgh, comfortable footwear is a must! It’s easy to get heels caught in the cobbles, so avoid those. Sneakers for spring, summer and autumn, or walking boots for winter, are good choices to keep you comfortable all day long. 

It can get very chilly in Edinburgh in winter – and surprisingly hot in summer! Dressing in layers is the best way to cope with this, so you’re prepared for whatever conditions the Scottish weather brings. 

As in the rest of the UK, rain is a feature of Edinburgh life. So be prepared by bringing along a packable rain jacket and/or a compact travel umbrella. 

a person walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh in the rain.

If you visit Edinburgh between late spring and early autumn, you could be surprised by how hot it can get! Even in winter you’ll need to drink water when doing lots of walking, anyway. 

If it’s dry and warm enough, bring along a picnic to enjoy in Holyrood Park at the end of your walk. While there are plenty of shops on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, many are gift shops, so you might like to pick up supplies from supermarkets in the Princes Street area. 

🎧 Listen to the UK Travel Planning Podcast Episode #58 which shares our tips for first-time visitors to Edinburgh

The Royal Mile FAQs

Pub on the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is a series of streets leading between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood. The route through the city’s Old Town is actually a little over a mile. Along its length you can sample Scotch whisky, see ancient and modern buildings, and visit a range of museums and tourist attractions. 

The Royal Mile is in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It connects Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The streets making up the Royal Mile are Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate, and Abbey Strand.

Bakehouse Close

The Royal Mile is actually slightly longer than a mile. So how long does it take to walk the Royal Mile? It really depends on the stops you make en route. If you walk briskly without stopping, you could make it in under half an hour. 

But in reality, stops and crowds will slow you down! It’s best not to rush this quintessential Edinburgh experience, anyway. 

Walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is an experience not to be missed! With so much to see and do along the way, it’s best to set out early to make the most of it. Allow at least a morning, but you could easily fill a full day with the sights there are to see. 

Plan ahead if you want to visit popular sites such as Edinburgh Castle, the Scotch Whisky Experience, Camera Obscura, or the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Tickets for the former, in particular, are often sold out, so be sure to book early to avoid disappointment on the day. 

📖 Read next

  • Edinburgh Travel Guide
  • 14 Best day trips from Edinburgh by train
  • How to get from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
  • 9 Best Edinburgh Ghost Tours
  • 20 Practical Tips for first-time visitors to Edinburgh
  • 21 Best Day Trips from Edinburgh
  • 27 Things to do in Edinburgh

🎧 Listen

  • Episode 88 – Exploring Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard
  • Episode 87 – Scotland Adventures with Edinburgh Black Cab Tours
  • Episode 73 – Unforgettable day trips from Edinburgh by train
  • Episode 63 – 36-hour Edinburgh Itinerary
  • Episode 58 – Essential tips for first-time visitors to Edinburgh
  • Episode 26 – London to Edinburgh by train

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    Tour de France 2024 stage-by-stage guide: Route maps and profiles for all 21 days. This year's Tour de France will take the peloton from Florence to a time-trial finish in Nice via some epic ...

  20. How to plan a round-the-world trip

    To get the most out of your round-the-world ticket, consider stock-piling vacation days, tagging on public holidays or even arranging a sabbatical from work to take off at least two months (but ideally six months to one year). Because most airline alliances give you up to a year to use your ticket, you can maximize your purchase if you plan ...

  21. How to Plan a Trip in 8 Practical Steps (& What NOT to Plan)

    Travel Insurance: We always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY recommend it - visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies ...

  22. The Best Vatican Tours in 2024: Find Your Perfect Itinerary

    This tour is best for visitors who want the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel and other Vatican highlights with fewer crowds. Tour Duration: 3.5 hours Group Size: A maximum of just 10 participants.

  23. Why Your Best Hiking Or Biking Trip Might Be Self-Guided Active Travel

    Sometimes the best guide is you. ... adventure tour travel involved integrating with a group of strangers. ... B&R is known as the inventor of luxury guided active travel way back in 1966 and is ...

  24. Beginner's Guide to Bike Touring: Answers to Common Questions

    While you can do a supported bike tour, where a company or professional guide gives you a route, provides support along the way, and arranges your meals and lodging, you can also do a self ...

  25. United States Budget Travel Guide (Updated 2024)

    This travel guide to the United States can help you navigate the country, save money, and get off the beaten path. Table of Contents. Things to See and Do; Typical Costs; ... Take a free tour - Taking a free walking tour is the best way to get introduced to a new place, and most major cities in the U.S. have free walking tours. You get to see ...

  26. See And Do At Denmark Travel Guides: Explore Categories

    A Different Way To Experience Copenhagen. Planning - Bookable Tours. The 10 Best Experiences in Copenhagen. Planning - Art. An Expert's Guide to the Best Art Galleries in Copenhagen. ... Culture Trip uses an independent third party trust account held by PT Trustees Limited in accordance with the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements ...

  27. How to watch Tour de France: Live stream the race free from anywhere

    The Tour de France, the most iconic cycling race in the world, is back for its 111th race. We've put together everything you need to know about how to watch the Tour de France, including free live ...

  28. Italy food tour: the best regions for gourmands to visit in 2024

    Make sure to try the signature local dishes, such as orecchiette pasta with broccoli, spaghetti with sea urchin, fava bean puree with chicory, fried octopus sandwiches and fresh seafood cooked in ...

  29. The best way to travel is travel in a group led by a tour guide

    It is undeniably true that travelling has become quite popular among people. This. can be widely well-liked among the young generation who love the idea of travelling. While some people claim that it is good to have a. tour. mentor who can provide guidance to overcome any hindrance that people encounter during the. tour.

  30. The Complete Guide to Walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

    This guide will lead the way when you want to take a self-guided walking tour in Edinburgh. Covered here is what to see and do en route, including what to look out for. Of all the best walks in Edinburgh, this has to be number one! When walking this route, we recommend you start at the castle and work your way down towards Holyrood.