08 Aug My First Viator Tour- Piran, Slovenia
So I really wanted to go to Piran in Slovenia. It’s this small city on the coast of the Adriatic. I love the water, I love these coast towns, and because I’ll be going to Montenegro and Croatia later this month, I really wanted to try to hit all of the countries on the Adriatic (Greece and hopefully Albania will come next year). I actually learned about this city from Twitter, where someone (I cannot find the tweet, at all) posted a picture, saying “Can you believe this place exists? And it’s in SLOVENIA?” and I couldn’t believe it. So I had to see it for myself.
I searched online and in the tourist information for a day tour to Piran. I had four nights in Ljubljana before heading up to Prague, and I didn’t have the time to give Piran more. And also, getting from Ljubljana to Prague- an overnight train with 4 changes, delays, and extremely crowded cars, was enough of a hassle without trying to make it from a little seaside town with no railway. And, of course renting a car was way too expensive for me.
I didn’t like any of the tours I was finding, either they were extremely expensive, weren’t available on the day I wanted to go, or didn’t include time for swimming and wandering around. I wasn’t going to the Mediterranean and NOT swim. It was starting to look like I wouldn’t be able to go, or I’d have to spend half of my budget for the summer.
I checked Viator, a site I’d heard some good things about online, and found a tour that really wasn’t a bad price, was long enough to fit many things in, but wasn’t lasting 12 hours. So I booked it.
What I didn’t realize before booking- and maybe it was just because I wasn’t paying enough attention, was that Viator doesn’t actually conduct the tours. They are a service that matches travelers with local tour companies. And not that it’s a bad thing, I just had no idea and was a little surprised to find out.
I was also surprised to find out that I was the only one on the tour. That’s one thing I would have liked to know beforehand, even if just to prepare myself.
I like going on tours once in a while because it takes a little pressure off of myself to find things to do, I usually learn a lot, both about history and about the people today, because the guides tend to be locals. But I also like going on tours because I tend to meet a lot of great people. Just like staying in hostels, I try to surround myself with people who, like me, are looking to meet people.
A few days before I’d gone to Lake Bled and met some awesome people. We happened to all be American so it was a little break from feeling foreign, and our guide loved comparing America to Slovenia and finding out all of our little quirks. I even met one girl who I met later for dinner. She brought some people from her hostel and we wandered through the open-air food market that was happening- something I didn’t know about- and it was nice to eat with other people and explore Metelkova, the strange, urban, “alternative” area where we felt like we had time-traveled to the 90s. So what I’m trying to say, is that I went on a tour, I met people, and I did things I wouldn’t have done alone, either because I didn’t know about them, or because I wouldn’t have gone by myself.
And so on this Viator tour, that’s what I was expecting again. Instead, what I got was a private guide and chauffeur, basically. He was an amazing man who called himself a hippie, and told me stories about Yugoslavia and how he used to buy goods in Italy, bribe the customs officials, and then sell the goods for 10 times their worth back in Ljubljana.
He took me to the Salt Fields where I saw how salt is made, an extremely boring process that takes months and I basically looked at dirty water mud pits in the blazing sun while he told me stories.
I had a great time though, he would explain, nonstop about the language, the traditions, the history, his life, current affairs, anything, and then would set me free to meet him at another place and time.
He took me to a beach where, thankfully, he went to a restaurant while I swam and soaked in the sun. I say thankfully not because he was creepy, but because it would feel like being in a swim suit while your school teacher sits and watches- just a little weird.
Another reason I liked it was because it didn’t really feel like a tour- other than his massive amounts of knowledge. Instead it felt like I’d met a local friend who’d offered to drive me around in his car and show me the best sites. I wasn’t stuck in a huge group where the guide has to shout and most people don’t care or are complaining- I hate that.
And while I really liked it, am glad I did it, and appreciate the time he spent with me. I’m not sure I’d take another solo tour again. Part of the reason I take tours, like I said, is to meet people, and while I enjoyed it, I left feeling a little, alone… which is never something I like to feel while traveling. Had I known from the beginning it was going to be a private tour, maybe I wouldn’t have felt that way because I wouldn’t have gone into it expecting to meet anyone.
And so, my question is, have any of you taken a surprise private tour from Viator? And what did you think of it? I’m also wondering if there is any way to check to see if other people have signed up for the tour before booking.