Let me start off by clarifying that I don’t hate tour guides perse, they’re normally locals who have learnt a great deal about a certain city or attraction, a lot can speak at least one foreign language and they probably have to put up with the same boring questions day in day out and display immense patience. On the face value these fountains of knowledge seem useful, if not vital to fully uncovering the secrets and history of a city but that is where I think you’re wrong.
Yes they might know the 2000 year history of the ruins you’re visiting and their English (French/Spanish etc) might be near perfect but what are you actually gaining from them? Below I have outlined what I believe is wrong with them:
1. Anything they have told you could’ve found out on the internet by yourself if you’d been bothered to (it really is a wonderful tool).
2. They take you to the sights and sites that they think you want to see and are the most popular. This means two things: a) You only get to see a select number of things before moving onto the next location. b) Because your tour guides takes you to the popular sights chances are every other tour guide will also take their clients there so it will be over crowded and you will ultimately get to see less.
3. Unless you’re in a small group or at the front of a large one you can’t hear what’s being said anyway.
4. You often have to follow someone through crowds who you identify by the flag/umbrella/shoebox (when in Prague I saw a guide doing this) to me it come across as the same feeling I had when I was 4 holding my mum’s hand whilst shopping.
5. They’re expensive, especially for backpackers who tend to be travelling on a tight budget. You might able to afford the expense during a weekend break to Paris but if you’re travelling for a couple of weeks or months then the price of paying for a guides at every ‘tourist location’ you go to would be astronomical.
6. They take away your freedom. You’re told where to go, what you’re going to see, how long you’re going to spend there and you have no flexibility outside of these parameters.
7. You miss sights. It’s simple, you won’t see everything there is to see. You’re only visiting things that someone else has deemed ‘must see’.
8. Most importantly the sense of adventure is taken out and lost.
In summary I believe tour guides themselves are impressive but everything that they represent I hate. You lose your freedom, you can’t explore and you’re told where to go and what to see because someone has decided that they’re important. If you go without a guide you can spend as long/short as you like anywhere, you can go super early in the morning to avoid queues, you don’t have to wait for the whole group to catch up, you get to see things you otherwise wouldn’t (I mean how many tour guides take you to the downtown areas of a city? Even though its always one of the most interesting places) and finally you can explore, discover new places and have an adventure which to me is what travelling to new places is all about.