How it works:
- Opening: you may encounter touts wearing “official tour guide” tags. They will make all sorts of claims to get you to join an overpriced tour. For instance, they lie about the queue length and claim to help you skip it, or even help you arrange tea with the Pope!
- Set-up: once you sign, the tout will send you to another guide. This will be a low quality tour where not much is shared and is difficult to understand. You will also not go to all places promised. When questioned, the guide will act clueless on what was agreed between you and the tout.
Places to beware:
- Florence: Uffizi Galleries, Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza del Duomo
- Rome: San Pietro in Vincoli, Pantheon
- Vatican City: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
What to do:
- There may be good unofficial guides – test them for a minute before committing. In general however, they are not worth it. Get a licensed, reputable guide instead:
- Offline operators: ask – is the operator licensed? Is there a website, office and working phone number? Are there real online reviews? What does the price cover – is it too cheap?
- Reputable operators: some reputable local names to consider include ArtViva, etc.
- Online platforms: GetYourGuide (leading day tour platform globally) also has some popular tours (e.g. Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel, Murano & Burano Islands, Colosseum and ancient Rome walking tour, etc).
- Paying: avoid paying in full upfront (unless reputable operator) or off the (online) platform.
- Seeking recourse: for major problems, you can also seek help from ENIT (Ente Nazionale Informazione Turistica) – Italy’s tourist board.