Simply put, a self-guided trip is a trip in which there is no group or guide, and the traveller walks or cycle on their own following a detailed documentation provided by the agent, which also takes care of the logistics of the trip – such as booking the hotels or transferring the client’s luggage from one hotel to the other.
Very popular in the Northern Eueopean countires such as Holland, Sweden and Germany, this way of travelling has been gaining more and more success thanks to the great flexibility and freedom it offers. It is a great compromise between a guided group tour and indipendent planning as it guarantees the support and hastle-free organisation of a trip package without the schedule constraints imposed by a group or a tour guide.
A self-guided trip is also a great option for a low budget vacation, as not having a tour guide with you keeps the price of these trips notably lower than a group tour. In most cases, it also offers great flexibility in choosing the starting date of your holiday: you won’t need to stick to the fixed departure dates of group tours, as everything will be organised on request.
A self-guided walking trip package usually includes:
Overnights in hotels in private rooms, breakfast included;
Luggage transfer from one hotel to the other as you walk;
Any transfer needed to get to the starting point of the daily walk, if public transportation is not available;
Detailed documentation describing the itinerary and the logistics of the day; this can be printed or digital, in the form of a brochure, a guidebook, an APP, or both; .
24/7 support from the tour operator – usually in the form of a telephone number always available to call;
Medical / Luggage insurance.
Cancellation insurance is usually offered as an extra.
The inclusions vary depending on the type of trip requested – in some cases, such as the hut to hut trips in the Dolomites, one may have to share room or the bathroom, or the luggage transfer may not be available for some or all the stages of the trip. This will be clearly stated in the trip page and the contract.
Also the documentation can vary greatly depending on the trip and agent chosen: it generally consists of a paper guidebook or a leaflet with turn-by-turn description of the itinerary, maps, and sometimes a navigation APP or GPS tracks of the daily itineraries.
This may be more or less necessary as often the trip follows signposted itineraries – such as official mountain paths or long distance routes like the Camino de Santiago or Via Francigena.
The main service a self-guided tour does not include is – obviously – a guide, or fellow walkers to travel with. This is the reason why this travel formula is usually suggested to someone who has reasonable sense of direction and has already taken part to other multi-day walking or cycling trips – but with the right itinerary and training, self-guided may also be perfect for beginners.
Usually there is no initial briefing, and the traveller does not meet anyone from the tour operator, but some trips may include a briefing if there is something specific that the traveller should be explained or trained to use (e.g. an e-bike, in the case of cycling trips)
When considering to go self-guided on your next walking trip, you should carefully think of the characteristic of this travel formula, which makes it perfect for some travellers but not ideal for others.
Self-Guided is perfect for you if:
You would like to be supported in the logistics of a walking cycling trip, but are not a fan of group tours as you don’t like the idea of needing to follow an imposed schedule;
You like the idea of walking at your own pace and have the flexibility to stop to enjoy a longer lunch, take a lot of photos to a wonderful view, explore a village along the way or simply walk slowly to soak in the beauty of the landscape you are crossing;
You have a set date in which you’d like to depart and have no flexibility in choosing a different one, but would love an itinerary catered on your needs or in a specific area of Italy;
You have a limited budget and find that guided tours can be very costly, while you know you would do well without a guide or a group;
You want to create your own schedule – leave very early in the morning and get early to the next village to explore around, for example, or avoid the central hours of the day and start walking later in the afternoon to avoid the sun.
You have some experience with walking or cycling trips; have already been on self-guided tours or guided walking tours but found that you would do well on your own;
You have a reasonably good sense of direction and are able to read a simple map or use the APP to navigate yourself;
You have at least a pinch of sense of adventure and are even willing to get lost a couple of times, as it’s all part of the fun – knowing that you’ll still be supported by your agent and in case of need.
Self-Guided is not the right formula for you if:
You are never been on a walking or cycling tour and are not sure if you’d be able to face one – even very easy – on your own;
You have no sense of direction at all and maps are a nightmare for you to look at; you get really confused at anything with directions on it, be it a map or an app;
You would like someone to lead the way and tell you all about the territory your are travelling through, or feel that you’d prefer having someone with you for immediate support; .
You like the idea of travelling with a group to find new friends and share the road;
In the case of a cycling trip, you are no familiar at all with the basic mechanic of a bike – such as changing a flat tyre or fixing a bike chain.
This is my first walking tour, can I go self-guided?
Yes, if you and your operator carefully assess your needs and experience and choose the right tour; self-guided tour can be suitable even for beginners. The best thing would be starting with a weekend-long trip to make sure this formula is right for you, before opting for a longer holiday.
My sense of direction is terrible. Do I need to be able to read maps ?
This kind of maps are very easy to read, and most operators offer APPs – similar to google maps – as an alternative to paper maps. To be more comfortable, you can ask for a signposted route – such as Via Francigena or Camino de Santiago – where you will be able to rely on signs along the way.
What do I do if I need help?
You will have a telephone number available 24/7 to call if you need any kind of help, provided that it is not easier, faster or safer to call emergency directly. Severl APPs provided by tour operator have the option of sending your GPS position to the operator, which will immediately know where you are.
I am a woman travelling solo. Is it safe?
Most of solo-travelling walkers are women: these trip are generally very safe. If you feel more comfortable, you can decide to opt for a very popular path such as Camino the Santiago – you will walk on your own but find a lot of fellow walkers along the way.
Will I find other walkers along the way?
We can’t guarantee that you will find other walkers along the way, especially on less-frequented paths. You should consider the possibility of walking the whole time without another person in sight. If you feel more comfortable, you can decide to opt for a very popular path such as Camino the Santiago – you will walk on your own but find a lot of fellow walkers along the way.
Do hotels know that I’ve booked with you?
Hotels will always have yoru name associated with the operator that you have booked with, and will know that your accommodation is paid for. In any case, you will receive vouchers from your operator with all services included in the package – you can show them to the hotels and services along the way as a proof of booking.
What do I do if am not able to walk or need a transfer?
You can contact the 24/7 emergency number and your operator will do its best to assist you with the best and easiest solution. This can be book an extra private transfer, for example, or let you know what’s the easiest and fastest way to reach your next hotel with public transportation.
If I’m travelling self-guided, why should I pay a tour operator?
A tour operator takes care of all the logistics, so that you can just focus on walking and enjoying your holiday. They will support you each step of the way and be there with a 24/7 number, should you need any help. They will have scouted your itinerary and created the detailed documentation, answered any question before and during the trip, frequently rewalked and recycled the itinerary to make sure it’s safe and suitable.
If you'd like to know more about of the beautiful Borghi you will be able to see on a self-guided trip, Check this article about our favorite borghi!`