Do you need a tour guide in Pompeii?

Until its death in 79AD, Pompeii was a rich thriving city. Walking amongst its broad avenues and exploring its opulent villas, shops and vast cemetery, Pompeii’s wealth and prosperity is clear to see even now. But do you need a tour guide to see Pompeii?

Do you need a tour guide in Pompeii?

There’s nothing quite as magical as walking the streets of Pompeii, following the footsteps of the ancient peoples who once trod the same paths and called Pompeii home.

To think that this great city – and there’s still over a third of Pompeii they still haven’t excavated – lay hidden for almost 1,700 years hurts your head. The set of volcanic eruptions from Mount Vesuvius covered Pompeii and nearby cities in 6 metres (20 feet) of lava and ash. It wasn’t until 1748 that anyone knew it was there.

Almost 2000 years after the disaster, we’re able to see exactly how the people of Pompeii would have lived. The detail that’s preserved is quite incredible. Everything – from frescos on walls to food on tables – is still here.

But ultimately, you’re probably wondering:

Do you need a guide to see Pompeii?

Do you need a tour guide in Pompeii? Main square

Short answer: no, you don’t.

You can easily explore Pompeii on your own with the maps provided at the ticket office and with your phone. And there are plenty of signs around the site that tell you about the city.

Plus, when you see a group following a tour guide, you realise you really don’t want to be part of that. The guides are over-worked and not great at rapport, the streets are often narrow and the groups get in the way. And most of all, you’re not allowed to explore at your own speed.

Also the lack of freedom even private tours tend to foster, our lack of conviction in the guides we saw (some of them seemed more like street scammers than professional guides) and the costs involved (private tours can be around €300), it’s hard to rationalise not going it alone.

Here’s a tiny snippet of what we saw while we were in Pompeii last – all without a tour guide:

Click here to view our video of Pompeii on YouTube.

Longer answer: maybe you do!

One thing that’s important to remember is that Pompeii was a city in 79AD and it’s still a city now. It’s big, so don’t come to Pompeii thinking you’ll be able to see everything. You’ll be disappointed and exhausted.

We’ve been to Pompeii a couple of times now and never with a guide. Each time, we’ve seen new things and really enjoyed exploring on our own agenda.

We’ve also always spent much longer there than we were expecting to, which could be a symptom of not having a guide with us. So if you’re pushed for time, a guide will show you many of the main highlights more efficiently.

Do you need a tour guide in Pompeii?

Alternatives to having a guided tour of Pompeii

Like I said, we’ve never had a guide take us round Pompeii and, to be honest I don’t think we’ve missed much. Of course, there’s always more to learn about places like Pompeii and professional guides have access to that information. Plus, registered tour guides do have access to restricted areas of Pompeii.

However, there are a few things that stop us every time we think about getting a guided tour there though:

Listen up

Another option offered at the ticket desk is an audio tour of Pompeii. This means you can still explore the ruins by yourself, but when you find a symbol for the tour, you can listen to the recording.

Audioguides are available within the site and are €8 each for adults – children and groups get a discount.

Do you need a tour guide in Pompeii? Frescos in a villa

Access to the internet

This might seem a bit cynical, but if I see something I want to know more about as I’m exploring Pompeii, I can just look it up on my phone. The official Pompeii website – – has an interactive map on it that tells you about many of the features of the ruined city.

But even Google Maps has information on many of the archaeological features here.

A lot of information is already available

There’s a wealth of info in the guide books and maps at the ticket office, and on signs around the city itself. Plus – as I’ve mentioned – all the information available online means we’re very reluctant to spend on a guide.


For the really popular bits like the brothel, the guided groups take up most of the space and the guides have to speak quite loudly. They can also be very rude, shouting at people not in the group to get out of the way.

If you’re nearby and can hear what’s being said, you get a little free tour.

It may not be ethical, but if you’re in the vicinity and the guide is speaking, what are you supposed to do? Put your fingers in your ears? I’m not saying tag along for the whole tour, but listening in a little as you pass by won’t hurt.

Do you need a tour guide in Pompeii?

As with many decisions you make when you’re travelling, this is a balancing act. And also a lot down to research and preparation. Knowing a little bit about Pompeii before you arrive will always help.

Check out how to get to Pompeii from the Amalfi Coast without a car, or – for a longer trip – our Pompeii to Provence itinerary is here.

And for more on our travel guides in Italy, click here.

Have you had a guided tour of Pompeii? What was it like? Do you usually go for the guided tour option or are you more of a lone wolf explorer? Tell us in the comments!

Do you need a tour guide in Pompeii?


  • Reply January 15, 2020

    Gary Francis

    I agree you don’t need a guide for Pompeii, but if you can get a good one it can make the whole experience a lot of fun. And you can learn a lot of things about what you’re seeing and what happened there 2000 years ago. I guess it depends a lot on the time you have and your budget.

    • Reply January 17, 2020

      Mr Romance

      Absolutely, Gary. I’m sure a good guide would make exploring Pompeii even more interesting. There’s so much to see there it’s easy to just walk past something that has so much historical importance without even knowing it’s there. I suppose the trouble is finding a good guide. Some of the ones hanging around the entrance look and seem so dodgy, it’s hard to tell if they are real guides or just hustlers!
      Cheers – Jim

  • Reply June 2, 2022

    Don Francis

    Hi Gary,

    Thank you for perspective. Is there a guide service you’d recommend?

    Thank you.
    Don Francis from Oregon

    • Reply June 7, 2022

      Mr Romance

      Hi Don. Like I mentioned, it’s a bit of luck of the drawer with guides at the gate, but that’s mostly down to each guide’s personality – the same with any guided tour really. As long as you go for someone with an official guide licence (they have them on lanyards around their necks) you should be ok. And obviously make sure they speak your preferred language!
      Hope you enjoy your time in fascinating Pompeii and beautiful southern Italy.

  • Reply July 24, 2022


    Great post! Do you have any input on which of the “extra” entries were worthwhile: VILLA REGINA (BOSCOREALE), VILLA DI POPPEA – OPLONTIS, MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO DI STABIA LIBERO D’ORSI, CASTELLO DI LETTERE. I really like tile frescoes and examples of home life so I’m thinking to do at least one of these extras…

    • Reply August 5, 2022

      Mr Romance

      Hi Lori. Thank you! I hope it’s helpful for your travel plans. Unfortunately we haven’t been to any of these extra sites you’ve mentioned, but they look fascinating. I’d say Oplontis and the Museo Archeologico di Stabia Libero d’Orsi look like they have the most to offer though. I’d also highly recommend the National Museum of Archaeology in Naples, which is where most of the real artefacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum are kept. And for that matter, Herculaneum itself is well worth the trip. It’s much smaller than Pompeii but it’s also much better preserved. Bet you’ll find some amazing frescos there. 🙂
      Hope this helps – and please let us know how you get on. We’d love to hear about your trip.
      Cheers – Jim

  • Reply July 26, 2022


    Hi there! Thank you for the perspective, do you have a post on how you got around Naples? My family (8 adults) are hoping to just take a taxi to Pompeii instead of spending hundreds a person just to do a huge group tour. What would you estimate that would cost? Would you recommend Vesuvius next or Catacombs?

    • Reply August 5, 2022

      Mr Romance

      Hi Rachel. Thank you for your comment! Taxis are one option for getting around Naples, though you’ll probably have to take two as maxi taxis aren’t that common in the city. Alternatively, Naples is a great walking city and the train system is actually pretty good. We took the train to Pompeii in fact – though this was from the Amalfi Coast, not Naples. It’s still possible to go from Naples though. The train goes from Napoli Garibaldi Station 2 to 3 times an hour and is only a few Euros a ticket.
      As for Vesuvius or the Catacombs, it really depends on your family’s interests and physical rigour! The Catacombs are more about the Roman civilisation (and are a bit easier on the body) whereas Vesuvius is more about the hike to the top and the incredible views over the bay. You’ll also be able to see Pompeii etc from there too.
      Hope this all helps. Have fun in Naples. It’s such a great city.
      Cheers – Jim

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