So you’re off on holiday and it’s somewhere exciting. The kind of exciting where insects are a local delicacy, no-one speaks your language and you have 15 cities to see in four days.
Do you go it alone? Launching headfirst into an exotic culture and bewildering bus timetables or let an expert guide you… and 30 others? If this is a question that has been running through your mind, let an experienced tour traveller guide you through the pros and cons.
The Case for a Tour:
Image by Pavel Vakhrushev
- Convenience: Probably the greatest appeal of tours lies in their stress-busting nature. Your tour leader is an expert travel guide and shepherd rolled into one. They’ll inform you of the history of destinations, show you the popular attractions and deal with scary border guards. And if the border is closed, or your bus breaks down, hey, it’s not you who has to deal with it. Unfortunately you can’t do away with stress completely. Oversleeping and only having five minutes to get on the tour bus before it leaves is a fairly stressful experience. Or so I imagine. Ahem. Moving on.
- Safety: While your tour guide is not your baby-sitter, the old adage ‘safety in numbers’ is an old adage for a reason. You will be staying in hostels/hotels that have been screened and unless you prefer exploring destinations by yourself, you will definitely have at least a few tour buddies to accompany you around.
- Tour Buddies: Not only do they make you feel safe, newfound tour buddies might make you laugh, drink and dance. Like me, they might even make your heart flutter (I met my boyfriend on a tour of Europe). Regardless of nationality, you are all in the same boat and will easily bond over new travel experiences. Don’t get me started on how fun it is to go out in a huge group of 30+ people!
Why go it alone:
Image by Dudarev Mikhail
- Make your own itinerary: While there are plenty of tours to choose from out there, at the end of the day they are all inflexible. You can’t pick and choose which destinations you visit and you definitely can’t decide to stay another three nights in Rio on a whim (a whim = because you want to attend the free Lenny Kravitz concert on Saturday night…). Some tours cram as many countries and cities in as possible, so it can all get very tiring too.
- Complete immersion: The downside of having 30+ new tour buddies is that you don’t really get the opportunity to meet and mingle with locals; you have enough new people to get to know. Also, unless you make a concerted effort, you will often just spend your time seeing the sights and attractions of a place and playing the tourist. If you’re travelling by yourself all those long-distance trains and coaches are an excellent way to get chatting with locals. Well, how else are you going pass the time?
- Cost: While you can get cheap hostel tours or camping tours, it’s fair to say that you could probably travel more cheaply by yourself, especially if you are budget-conscious. Just like the itinerary, tour prices are inflexible. The best way to tell if you are getting good value for money is to research the accommodation and transport options available in the destinations the tour is visiting.
In a nutshell: Tours are a great option for new travellers or those not confident travelling by themselves. It’s for those that want a general overview of a destination, or that want to see as much as possible in a limited amount of time. That’s why I think tours are a great starting point.
If you want to explore a specific destination in detail and really immerse yourself, travelling on your own terms would definitely be the way to go.
Either way, you’re bound to have a great time.