Guided tours in Mexico are an excellent option when you don’t want to worry about making an itinerary. Some people prefer to take tours while others prefer to do everything on their own. I have tried both and have found out there are several advantages and disadvantages to consider.

You may be wondering if I recommend doing guided tours in Mexico. It’s not black or white. Nothing is set in stone. Let’s take a look at some important factors and I will let you decide in the end for yourself.

What Are Some Advantages?

Four vans in a row driving in the desert.

When I travel, I have found tours to be a convenient option over self-made itineraries. Guided tours are usually crafted by professionals who know what they’re doing. Above all, they’re made by locals who know what places are mandatory to visit by anyone who visits a destination for the first time. Some advantages I have seen are:

Access to places unavailable to the general public. I have seen this many times. Tour operators have relations with factory owners, artisans and many other key people who provide access to their facilities. For instance, I remember a few times when I wanted to visit a coffee plantation and a hacienda, but it was only possible to do so through a tour operator.

Easier access to remote areas. Now, there may be times when you can plan a visit somewhere on your own, but access there is not that easy. For instance, I remember my visit to Chiapas. We wanted to visit Palenque and Agua Azul. We were based in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital, about 5 or 6 hours away. Unless you have a car, it’s not that easy to get over there. The same thing applies to several archaeological sites and other destinations. Tours come in handy these times.

Convenient especially when pressed for time. Sometimes you’re in a city and you only have 1 or 2 days to spare. It’s not that much time to get to know a city. If you didn’t plan accordingly, you may find yourself looking for activities to do at the last minute, wasting precious time. When you find yourself in this case, you may want to consider hiring a tour. You will have the opportunity to visit key places and experience a condensed version which will help you plan a longer trip in the future.

No need to worry about transportation or transfers. You may be the kind of traveler who always rents a car or you may be the kind who only uses public transportation. I have done both. But I must confess there are times when I don’t want to worry about directions to a place or looking for parking. When you hire a tour, they will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel and you don’t have to worry about anything. I really love that.

They can be a lifesaver. On my most recent trip, I wanted to visit El Parian in Tlaquepaque, which is a plaza with bars and restaurants famous for their mariachi bands. If you go see mariachis play, you have to drink tequila. I’m a tequila lover and although I don’t get drunk, I get tipsy at least. It’s dangerous to drive like that so going on tour is an excellent option.

You are insured. In case anything happens, God forbid, you are insured against any losses or damages that might occur during your tour.

What Are Some Disadvantages?

Several people in a group with a young man in the center touching his forehead and holding a paper in his other hand.

There are also disadvantages to hiring a guided tour. Some of them include:

Elevated cost. Tours can be expensive. Depending on your destination, you may be looking at 65 dollars or more plus tip per person. If you’re traveling with family, each ticket will add up. However, if you’re traveling with a large group, you may be able to negotiate a rate with the tour company.

Strict cancellation policies. Many times, tours have to be canceled a specific number of hours beforehand to be eligible for a refund or time change. Other times refunds are not even allowed.

Limited forms of payment. Even though credit cards are widely accepted in Mexico, you might run into an operator who only handles cash. It’s not that uncommon, but it’s slowly starting to change.

Lack of flexibility. Usually, tour operators will try to include as many activities as possible. This means your time will be somewhat limited. If you want to stay somewhere for more time, you won’t probably be able to do so. Also, if the tour includes a place/activity you don’t like, you will have to wait for the group to finish to continue the tour.

They can take all day. Some tours start really early and end late. You might have been planning to do other things, and it can be a little complicated to plan other activities apart from your tour.

Tips When Hiring a Tour

Carry more than 1 form of payment. Although credit cards are widely accepted, there are still operators who only handle cash.

Try to hire directly when possible. You can hire tours through third parties, but I recommend you do it directly with the tour company. This way you will have more leverage to work in case something happens.
White check mark on a black square.

Always make sure to check what’s included. Ask about any activities and places included in your package to avoid any confusion.

Ask about their cancellation/refund policies. Don’t assume you will be refunded your money in case you had to cancel for any reason.

Do some research about the tour company. Only hire tours from reputable companies. You can find valuable information about them online.

Ask if they have English-speaking guides. You won’t have any problems in Cancun or Los Cabos, but there are some destinations where this question is not that silly.

What Tours Do You Recommend?

Well, the list can be really long and the answer to this question depends on several factors. However, I will list some tours you could consider when visiting Mexico.

Tequila tours in Tequila, Jalisco

Mezcal tours in Oaxaca

Archaeological tours in Chichen Itza, Tulum, Calakmul, Teotihuacan and Palenque

Coffee tours in Veracruz

Food tours in various cities

Handicraft tours in Oaxaca, Michoacan, Jalisco, Puebla, and various other cities

Mariachi tour in Tlaquepaque

Magical town tours

==>Click here to check more tours!<==

I will write about individual tours in more detail in future posts. Remember you can always check Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and many other resources online to look for information, reviews and ideas.

Conclusion

Are guided tours in Mexico worth it? Like I said above, the answer to this question depends on several factors like your budget and how much time you have. Some people avoid them altogether and prefer to do everything on their own. There’s nothing wrong with that. I have hired tours and I have made itineraries on my own and I have learned a lot from both.

Don’t discard tours automatically. They can be an excellent option when visiting a new destination. I’m not saying to just hire tours during your whole trip. That’s expensive. But don’t be afraid to hire 1 or 2. At the end of the day, the decision is up to you.

As always, feel free to ask any questions you have and leave your comments below. See you soon!

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18 Replies to “Guided Tours in Mexico – Are They Worth It?”

  1. Great post!
    I have been on short trips before that were much more enjoyable because we hired a guide for some of the trip. There are key areas that locals know of that others don’t know about. This can give you excellent and memorable experiences.
    I live and work in an area that gets a lot of tourists who visit. I have just enough local information that can help make someone’s day have that extra level of enjoyment.
    I like to go on trips where for the most part it is on my time. But having a guided tour for some parts of the trip can be really worth it.
    The coffee tours in Veracruz sounds interesting to me because I really like coffee.
    Thank you for sharing this information!

    1. Hey, Jesse,

      I agree with you. Sometimes it’s better to hire a tour, while other times it’s better to explore on your own. Like you said, there are key areas locals know of that may not appear on travel guides.
      Have you considered becoming a tourist guide? I haven’t discarded it altogether. I love the interaction with people.
      I’ll be writing about coffee tours in Veracruz soon. Stay tuned.
      You can check out more information about tours in Veracruz and other parts of Mexico here.
      Thanks for commenting.

  2. I have been fortunate to travel the world and like you, I have hired tour guides and done trips on my own. Both were very enjoyable!

    As you quite rightly say there are advantages and disadvantages to both options however for me personally I have come to the conclusion you can definitely see more in a shorter time by doing organized tours.

    The other main advantage is being able to go to restricted places with a guided tour. Last year I was in Tanzania and took a guided tour to go deep into the jungle to see a tribe living in the jungle. This is something I would not have been able to do on my own and would have missed out on a great experience.

    Early 2020 I am planning on spending a few days in Mexico and I quite fancy doing the Mariachi tour in Tlaquepaque. Is this one of the better tours or would you recommend a different tour?

    1. Hi, Moni,

      Wow! That’s impressive! I’m focusing on Mexico at the moment, but I’d like to travel to other places in the future.
      You got an important point there. There are places restricted to locals, so having a tour guide really helps in these cases.
      Glad to hear you’re planning on visiting Mexico. Answering your question, the mariachi tour in Tlaquepaque is a must. As far as I know, they’re mostly night tours. They will give you a quick tour around the city center and they play music and serve drinks (tequila) while on the bus. Then they will take you to El Parian which is a plaza full of bars/restaurants with a kiosk in the center. I will be writing more about it in a future post.
      Feel free to reach out with any other questions you have. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thank you for the thorough and thoughtful review about Guided Tours in Mexico! We go to Mexico quite a bit and tend to avoid tours because of the elevated cost. The benefits that you outline are definitely something to think about though, and I never considered that some tours can get access to areas where the public can’t go. In addition, I appreciate your recommendation for guided tours in Mexico, the Mezcal Tour in Oaxaca sounds great!

    1. Hi, Jessica,

      I don’t always hire tours. It depends on several factors, but I don’t discard them altogether. They can be an excellent option for first timers or in cases where there is no public access.
      I’ll be writing about individual tours in future posts. Stay tuned.
      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Thanks for showing both the advantages and disadvantages of guided tours. I’ve also done both, been on organized travels and also on my own.
    In the last years me and my boyfriend prefer travelling on our own without travel agencies or guided tours. It gives us more freedom.
    I’ve just remembered when I was in LA years ago, we had a guided tour arranged via a travel agency and we then wanted to see Las Vegas as well but it wasn’t part of the tour. The guide took us there on his own, he made a trip there with his mother and we actually paid for their night out because he took us with them. Do you think something like this is possible in Mexico, too?
    I haven’t been to Mexico yet but I would love to go there. Do you think it’s safe to travel throughout the country with a van?

    1. Hi, Sophie,

      Yes, there are always pros and cons to consider. We have to determine what’s more important to us.
      There are times when a tour is the only option to go, but when I can do it on my own, I go for it.
      Answering your question, it really depends on the company. If it’s a large company, there isn’t usually that much flexibility. However, when it’s a small company, a family business or an individual, it’s easier to make this kind of arrangement.
      Regarding traveling with a van in Mexico, you can do it. The only thing I would recommend is travel by day and always use toll roads. You’re safer this way.
      Let me know if you have any other questions. I’d be more than glad to help. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. This is an excellent post, Enrique. My husband and I are thinking about visiting Mexico in a few years. And I think we will take your advice and get a tour guide because like you said they are the locals and they know the best destination to attend.

    It would be sooner but we are going on a cruise to Hawaii at the end of January 2020 for two weeks. But Mexico is our next vacation for sure!

    Thank you for the post.

    1. Hi, Kelyee,

      Glad you found this useful. This motivates me to continue.
      I hope you have an excellent trip in Hawaii. I hope to visit someday.
      If you have any questions when planning your trip to Mexico, feel free to reach out.

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. I think guided tours are great if you have never been to the area before. My wife and I took a tour through Tulum when we were in Cancun years ago. I think that was a great experience for first-timers like us. As you get more and more used to the surroundings, then you can venture out on your own a little more.

    I agree with you, there are pros and cons to guided tours. The tours might be crowded with people. If you are in unfamiliar territory though, I think guided tours in Mexico are an excellent idea.

    1. Hi, Steve,

      Definitely. Guided tours can be an excellent option for first timers. I’ve done it myself. I hire a tour and then on my following trip I venture on my own.
      There are always pros and cons. You have to consider as many factors as you can and determine what’s more important to you. It’s okay to make mistakes. We’re not perfect beings. It’s all part of the travel experience.
      Thanks for commenting.

  7. Hello! Thank you for sharing such an informative article. I like your post because you help me so much. My wife suddenly wants a tour in Mexico recently. Then she asks me to find the tour about that. Importantly, I don’t like going out so I know nothing about traveling. I have to learn and search for everything from zero. It wastes me a ton of time to search and learn about that.

    Fortunately, I landed your post. You list down the advantages and disadvantages in a good way. I can read and learn faster. I don’t need to spend more time to search it separately online. Each of the guides is in-depth and clear. Moreover, you provide me the tips to hire a tour.

    You also provide the tour for me. If it comes with a comparison between them, I think it will be better.

    I believe my wife should be interested in your post too because she loves traveling. I believe it can save her a lot of time and I will also share this post with my friends.

    I will bookmark your site and read it regularly. I hope you can keep sharing with us because what you write saves me.

    1. Hi, CT,

      Yes, that’s another advantage to tours. If you’re not into traveling or researching for activities, then tours can be a life saver.
      There are so many kinds of tours out there for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re into art, music, dancing, food, archaeology…you will always find one that suits your needs.
      I’m glad you found this useful. Thanks for sharing this with your wife and friends. Feel free to drop me any questions you have. I’d be more than glad to help. Hope you visit soon.

  8. Hi Enrique,

    This is a really nice post about guided tours in Mexico! You have covered all the advantages and disadvantages very well.

    I also the tips that you included and the list of recommended tours. Which tour is your personal favorite?

    -Joonas

    1. Hi, Joonas,

      Thank you! This really motivates me to do my best helping people.
      Answering your question, it’s really hard to tell. Regarding the most recent tours I’ve hired, I really enjoyed the mariachi tour. It was an excellent experience where we drank, sang and enjoyed ourselves with traditional Mexican music. Hope you try it someday.
      Thanks for commenting.

  9. Wow! This is real good information!
    I can see where guided tours can really be an advantage. Although it’s expensive, I would rather spend the extra money and see as much I could during this sort of trip.
    I’ve wasted so much time trying to find things to do and then running out of time because of it.
    Going to Mexico is really starting to sound like something I would enjoy. I’ve always been told you couldn’t drink the water there unless it was bottled. And then for the same reasons, can’t use their ice. Is the water really that bad?
    I’ve also been told to stay within the resort unless you were part of a guided tour because of the dangers that exist outside of the resorts in some parts of Mexico. Is that true?
    I’ve only been out of the country twice, once to Jamaica and the other was to Dominican Republic so I still get a litter nervous.
    I look forward to reading your articles about each of the recommended tours.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Devara,

      Yes, guided tours have their pros and cons. I’ve done them many times and for the most part, they’ve been good experiences.
      Like you pointed out, they can save you time, but there are obvious economic costs.
      Answering your question, it really varies. I would drink water from the tap when I was younger and never had any problems because of it. Eventually, when I grew up, I started drinking bottled water and became used to it. From what I’ve found online, experts say you can drink water from the tap, although quality varies depending on the region. So, you’re better off drinking bottled water. There are also water purification drops, although I’ve never used them myself.
      Regarding dangers in Mexico, as a matter of fact, I wrote a post about that subject today. Check it out: https://traveltomexiconow.com/is-it-safe-to-visit-mexico-debunking-the-myths/

      I totally understand your hesitancy. We have been exposed to so much negative information about Mexico. But I sincerely hope you give it a chance. You will really enjoy it.
      Let me know if you have any other questions. I’d be more than glad to help.

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