Do you prefer group tours or independent travel?
Hardcore travellers might want to look away. Because while they're anathema to people onto their sixth or seventh passport, guided tours really can be the best option for some travellers as they make their way overseas.
Sure, you lose a little of your freedom. You'll lose the opportunity to fall in love with a place and just decide to stay. And the other passengers might ignore you.
But regardless of what the veterans might say, there are plenty of good reasons to do a tour for those who fancy it, whether that's a traditional whip around Europe in a bus or an expedition to the bottom of the world. "Tour" doesn't have to be a dirty word.
Try one if...
Surely the number one reason for people to consider a tour is their lack of experience, whether that's in travel overall or in the new country they've decided to visit. A tour gives you an extra sense of security - strength in numbers, plus the expertise of a guide to help you through.
This is not an insult - some people just aren't interested in all of the finer details in planning a trip, and they don't want to deal with changing them while they're travelling. It's all about relaxing, right? So if you want that stuff taken care of for you - the hotel bookings, the transfers, the restaurant choices, the sights to see and things to do once you arrive - then a tour might just be the way forward.
You're going to India
Even for experienced travellers, a first trip to India, particularly to the northern states, can be pretty intimidating. The place is nuts. It takes a while to find your feet, and the constant haggling and arguing and cajoling that make up everyday life for tourists in northern India can become pretty wearing. Do a tour, and many of those stresses go away.
You're flying solo
Some people love seeing the world on their own, but others find it a lonely existence. For the latter group, being presented with a bunch of like-minded travellers to share the adventure with is the perfect tonic. Doing a group tour is also beneficial from a security point of view.
You're a terrible linguist
Regardless of where you're going, you'll probably get by just fine with English and sign language. If you're really worried about the language barrier, however, particularly in places that don't see too many tourists, it can be nice to have a guide who's both a source of information and a translator.
You're going to East Africa
Take one look at the public transport on offer in countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi and all of a sudden the idea of travelling in the back of a truck with a bunch of Western tour passengers sounds like heaven. Do you go for the clapped out minivan with 30 of your closest local friends, or opt for something a little safer? Up to you.
You're pressed for time
You might not have time to plan your trip - so let someone else do it. You might also have a limited time to travel, and want to see as much as possible. I spent two weeks on a tour of South-East Asia with Contiki a few years back and managed to tick off numerous bucket-list experiences in that time. It's worth thinking about.
You're into wild journeys
As you read this I'm leading a bunch of travellers on a two-week cycling trip from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. We've got fancy mountain-bikes, a guide to show us the way each day, and a support vehicle filled with empty seats, bottles of water and vials of EPO (I assume). Imagine trying to organise all that yourself. Same goes for the three-week 4WD trip I did in Namibia a few years ago with Classic Safari Company - it would be a logistical nightmare to put together alone, but a realistic adventure on a tour.
You're after some local insight
While the stereotype of tour passengers is that they tend to float through foreign countries without ever interacting with its citizens, I've found it can actually be the opposite. Many tour companies, including Intrepid, Chimu Adventures and World Expeditions, employ local guides in each country, meaning all of those niggling questions you have about a place can immediately be answered. You might not get that travelling alone.
You don't have any other option
Sometime's you gotta do what you gotta do. Want to trek the Inca Trail in Peru? You're going to need a tour, even if it's only a very small group. Want to go to Antarctica and see the penguins? You need a tour. Want to do tackle the Himalayas? Unless you're very experienced, you need a tour. Get used to the idea.
The writer has in the past travelled as a guest of Intrepid Travel, Classic Safari Company, World Expeditions, Chimu Adventures and Contiki.
Do you think there are good reasons to do a tour? Or would you never go on one again? What are some of the better tours you've done?
- FFX Aus