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To guide or not to guide

We have a 4 day land tour booked next week with a Greece tour company. The private driver/guide is supposed to be knowledgeable about the area, but the trip doesn’t include licensed guides within archeological sites and museums. We are trying to decide which places will be worth paying for a local guide. The two locales we are considering local guides for are Delphi (150€) and Epidurus/Mycenae/Naplflio (250€). Looks like these are a day each. Part of our reason for this part of our 2 week trip is for my husband’s sabbatical to learn more about Ancient Greece for his middle school ancient history curriculum. Thoughts?

Posted by
1274 posts

Get the local guides. Knowledgable guides make sites more meaningful, and since that is one of your husband's goals it seems to be well worth it. I've never had a bad guide.

Posted by
4533 posts

We found Rick Steves’ guidebook worked well for us at Delphi. Epidaurus and Mycenae are big enough, and with Napflio added in as well, I could understand the benefit of a guide for €250. We used Rick’s book, and the Loneky Planet book as well,

Mycenae is pretty ruined, with a lot of rocks on the surface of the hill, but it wasn’t clear if they indicated the walls of a room, or were simply rocks. A guide would give you a much better understanding of what must’ve been a sprawling site. If you go to the big tomb just down the road, I hope you don’t get the huge swarms of wasps inside that we did in April 2018. We left the massive chamber after just a couple of minutes, before we’d get stung.

Posted by
2397 posts

I would definitely spring for the guides. I agree with FastEddie that a knowledgable local guide is a fantastic resource. The vast majority of private guides I have used have been great, but I have had a couple of mediocre ones (one being a RS-recommended guide mentioned in his Germany guide). It's worth doing a little research on the internet to see if you can find some feedback on the guides you are planning to hire.

Posted by
3071 posts

I’ll just point out that the tax deduction for professional expense will offset, to some extent, the cost of the guide. I agree with the others that a good guide immeasurably enhances a travel experience.

Posted by
1551 posts

I tend to agree with Cyn about where a guide is most effective. The local guides that RS Tours uses are frequently available for private guiding. It might be worth it to start a thread asking who had an exceptional guide for whatever area you need. Having someone with a passion for the area makes it come alive - much as your husband will with his curriculum.

Posted by
2513 posts

A so=called "private driver/guide" is simply a taxi hired for the day. THat person has NO credentials and will not be allowed INTO any ancient site or museum... he will fob you off with some brochures and "ancient anecdotes" that may have no connections to history. You should not have booked a tour thinking you'd get professional guiding.... with an agenda like y our husbands, more advance research would have avoided this. For example there is a wonderful 2-day tour with Licensed guide covering the Peoloponnese sites with Key tours... the only group tour I ever recommend for that.

Viator used t o have a website listing LICENSED guides, giving a photo, info about their experience, how much thy charge per hour, and reviews. Most wre for athens but some for Delphi & the Pelopponnese... but I just found it was closed down during the pandemic.

For licensed private guides for Nafplio & the local area (mycenae, epidaurus etc)

This is the best-known most praised pvt guide for Delphi. Georgia Hasioti - when contacting her on such short notice, you should ask nicely that if she is busy,would she provide you with links to an alternative.

If trying to do Athens without a private guide , I HIGHLY recommend the step-by-step FREE downloadable audio guides of Rick Steves for the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora ... also his free audio guide to the Top 10 Dont-Miss Treasures of the Nat. Archeological Museum. All available on this website (wath read listen on LH corner).

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks a ton for the input. We actually did a lot of research before booking this shorter multi-day tour (the tour company was highly recommended for what we needed). We were well aware that drivers couldn't enter sites and museums and licensed guides were extra. The tour company was very up front about that. My husband has done extensive study on Greece during his sabbatical, so we knew we didn't need 4 days of hand holding. We decided for private guides for these two days based on input here. (Our other two days outside of Athens we opted out of the private guides). After this tour, we will be on our own for a few days in Athens and will use the RS audio guides or hire a guide for the big things. We are doing a cooking class, our family tradition.. Then off on an eight day small boat cruise through the Greek isles. So excited!!!

Posted by
2513 posts

Sounds like a SPLENDID adventure ... we are all envious!

Posted by
2513 posts

Since you really are doing "in-depth" I do recommend a couple of things, based on my Greece visits (13 so far). I hope that your 8 day small-boat cruise is one that gets to an island and allows you to stay overnight there... thus allowing you to go ashore and dine there in local tavernas, not be forced to board before sunset and have dinner on the ship. So often I've been sitting in a harbor with friends enjoying the sundown, and see people being forced to leave at the best tme of the day!

If you are allowed t o stay overnight on NAXOS, its tiny museum atop the t own is THE most spectacular collection of the mysterious ppre-minoan statuettes (sculptures) in the world... from 3" high to 3 FEET in size. If you cannot make it there, in Athens I highly recommend the Cycladic Museum there ... great collection, and also, on top floor a splendid video about ancient Greek culture and how its children were raised ... good to look at, for his curriculum. Also, check out the small "Childrens Art Museum" -- all the art (cards, posters etc) are BY children... winners of natl contests. My favorite wall poster was the 1906? Natl winner of the Contest "My Home Town" ... a 9yr olds representtion of his city, crowned by the Parthenon and (importantly) Athena's sacred Olive tree. I gave a copy to the Professor of Greek & Roman Art history at U of Pennsylvania & she uses it in her lectures.

Another overlooked gem in Athens is the Melina Mercouri Institute (look it up, it's free i think, but these days opening times are limited). It's whole first floor is a panoramic photographic exhibit of her amazing career, not as just actress, but as a patriot rallying WORLD opinion against the 1970s "General's Coup" and her subsequent achievements as Minister of Culture, reviving Greeks' pride in their ancient heritage (she made ALL Greek ancient sites & museums free to all Citizens.. until the EU rules forbade it). Nearly half a million people turned out to follow her funeral cortege. All nations need artistic heroes/heroines like this.

Posted by
28 posts

My wife, daughter and I are hoping to visit later this month. One thing I learned from contacting some of the independent Greek tour guides recommended on the Rick Steves site is that certified independent tour guides (not tour companies) are prohibited by law to drive tourists to/from the archeological sites. You have to meet them at the sites, which means renting a car and driving yourself there.

I could use some advice from some of the experienced travelers here though. When we are in Greece, we are thinking about a half day or full day tour from Athens. However, as my wife has some difficulty walking over long distances, very rough terrain, lots of steps, etc (due to prior back and knee surgeries), what sites might people recommend? I have heard that Delphi has some rather steep terrain, so that one might be a no-go.

Posted by
801 posts

A Do-it-Yourself guide is not that difficult especially with all the info on the internet and guidebooks.

Obviously a guided tour is convenient and stress free but can be pricey and also on the tour guides time frame and not yours.

Also you'll end up with many other tour groups which tends to make many of the sites crowded, rushed and mostly done during the hottest part of the day.

Rick Steves guide to Athens offers a step-by-step do-it-yourself tour of all the "must see" areas of Athens and the archeological/historic sites. Very do-able on your own.

I haven't been to Delphi but have been to Epidavrous, Mycenae and Nafplio on our own and they are all very do-able with a bit of research. In addition you won't be rushed, shoved along, and save a lot of money.

In the end do what is best for you.

Posted by
2513 posts

This is for Paul & Melissa --
You certainly need some straightforward advice, and since you say "later this month" you need it fast. We need FACTS. When you say "hope to," do you mean you have booked nothing yet. How many days do yo have in Greece? (do NOT count departure day, and do not count arrival day unless you land by 9 or 10 am). Are you just thinking about Athens mainly? What is your main interest... landmarks? Museums? Beaches? Have you done any homework at all? Have any guidebooks? What are you hoping to experience?
Your wife's limited mobility presents a huge problem, since Greece has rugged terrain Everywhere, and a lot of walking is involved.

Frankly there are almost NO 1-day guide to sites outside Athens that I would recommend, because the drive will take SO much time ... and when you get there, the group will have to go climbing and your wife cannot. There is only one group tour that I recommend and it is a 2-day tour (and before you object, let me first say that YES, an Athens hotel will let you leave for a night and then come back -- these hotels are SO used to such tours, they do it every day. They put your biggie bags in a locked room, and when u return they put you back in your room or an equivalent room. You just have to email them about it before you arrive).

Here's the tour, by KEY TOUR -- to Peloponnese and Nafplio & back. Read Description Thoroughly!
-- you leave Athens, see at least 3-4 wonderful sights with LICENSED GUIDE... but best of all, the whole afternoon & evening of Day #1 is FREE TIME in the most beatiful Old Town (Nafplio) in all of Greece, and the Next Morning Free time Too! You can stroll the town, and sit down at a cafe & rest, and enjoy a beautiful sunse... Your wife can take arest while u & your daughter do the more strenuous stuff. In Nafplio, hire a TAXI to go up to the top of Palamidi Fortress, take stunning photos, & taxi back. Easy.
-- The trip makes short "photo stop" at CORINTH CANAL (no walking), then MYKONOS (your wife may wish to skip part of it & sit under a shady tree). Then by lunch to NAFPLIO... main town all on a level. On Day #2, en route back, you see EPIDAURUS. You &wife can sit at stage level, others climb to top of amphitheatre.
-- IMPORTANT - thee's choice of Deluxe Hotel for the 1 night or the pleasant "Tourist Class". CHOOS the LATTER. It is right off the main square, has elevator. The fancy hotel is outside of town.
- IMPORTANT - if you like this tour BOOK NOW... it only goes 1x per week.. I think Tues--Wed.

FAB D-I-Y adventure you can do with limited mobility -- Day sail to AEGINA Island!!... only 1 hour from Port... Here's GREAT photo album of day trip in DETAIL -- Heres HOw:
(1) Athenians rush out there on weekends, so go on a WEEKDAY, then it is serene.
(2) Taxi from your hotel to PIRAEUS SEAPORT -- about €20-25 from Central Athens depending on traffic.
(3) Go on a Conventional Ferry with deck you can sit out on , NOT a Hydrofoil (the latter have inside seats only & frosted over windows). Regular DECK ferry less frequent... i think 8:30 & Noon. You can buy tickets at any ticket agency near your hotel, so you'll have ticket in your hand when you are dropped at ferry dock.
(4) When u arrive, rent a car... and you can drive to the beautiful Temple of Aphaia in mid-island, then on to a beach town like Ag Marina?? Swim & lunch, then back to port, wander around the back streets (not touristy, shops for locals) ... late day cocktail at seaside at sundown? Last "deck ferry" goes 6:15, but if you took Deck ferry outbound, u could take a hydrofoil back.

OK -- these are your "marching orders" for a family with a non-marcher --- now hurry up & book that tour!

Posted by
2513 posts

A PS for Paul & Melissa -- if y ou rent a car on Aegina, you would need to get an Inernational Driver License In USA befdore y ou go (you stop by an AAA office, takes just 20 minutes & $25). Or if you don't wnt the bother of car rentalL& driving , just hire a taxi to drive you around Aegina and then to a beach, and get another taxi back to port. Done!