Whether you’re a short-term or a long-term expat, I am sure you’ll agree that getting lots of visits from family and friends is one of the most enjoyable parts of the expat experience.
You short-term expats need to see as much of your adopted country as fast as you can, and taking friends and family around provides the perfect excuse to do just that. You’re probably getting a ton of visitors all at once, since everyone wants to make sure they get their visit in before your time abroad is up. Of course, you are having a blast with all these visits, but sometimes receiving multiple guests over the space of just a few short months can leave you a little burned out.
Fellow long-term expats like me will find that visits are more spread out over time. We get a lot of repeat visitors, which is great, because they don’t want to see the same things over and over, so it gives us a chance to go off the beaten path.But let’s be honest: sometimes you just run out of places to bring people, especially if this is their third or fourth time visiting you.
Also, sometimes your guests come when you are swamped with work and can’t get away to take them around. Worst case scenario: you might be sick when your friend is in town.
In any of these situations, a great option is to have your guests take a guided tour. If that sounds interesting to you and your visitors, your next step is to choose either a bus tour or a walking tour.
Over the years, I have been on plenty of walking tours and bus tours here in Madrid, and my guests and I always have a great time. Choosing a tour really depends on your visitors’ needs and preferences.
5 Reasons to Choose a Bus Tour
1. Bus tours stop at all the major sights. Since you won’t miss any of the city’s top attractions, you don’t have to remember to see something by yourself later. That makes organizing a vacation easier.
2. You will be taken to sights that are farther away from the city center. If you’re just walking around Madrid, for example, you may not have enough time—or motivation—to walk all the way out to the Las Ventas bullring or to the Kio Towers, which would be a shame. A bus tour will take you there in a matter of minutes.
3. You can see more sights in one day, so this choice is especially good if your guests are only with you for a weekend. A typical bus tour around Madrid will take you to the three main art museums (the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen), to the Puerta del Sol, to the Royal Palace, to the Plaza Mayor …
4. You get to rest between sights. Bus tours are not as tiring for tourists, so they are a great option for older visitors, or for younger tourists who want to have energy left over to enjoy the nightlife.
5. You won’t be bothered by inclement weather. From the comfort of your bus seat, you won’t care if it’s raining, freezing or sweltering hot.
5 Reasons to Choose a Walking Tour
1. You get a better feel for a city’s atmosphere and energy with this choice. Wandering through Madrid’s narrow, winding streets is a great way to get to know the city.
2. You meet new people. You’re going around the city with the same crowd all day, so conversations will be struck up, and you will inevitably meet other interesting travelers.
3. Since you are walking through the city, you have more time to contemplate the smaller details. A good tour guide will point them out to you, and even throw in some stories and anecdotes.
4. Walking tours are more personalized. You and the other travelers get a better chance to ask the tour guide more questions, so your tour guide can get an idea of what you are more interested in seeing or hearing about.
5. You get a better idea of where the sights are located in the city, and how close or far they are from each other. This means you can go back to your favorite sights later at night, and then you can also enjoy the nightlife.
However your visitors choose to see your adopted city, I am sure they will have a great time!
by Sheila Sullivan.
Sheila is a freelance translator, editor, writer, and serial blogger who has been in Madrid long enough to consider herself a permanent Madrileña.
Read Sheila's other Expat Focus articles here.