There are lots of opinions and thoughts on whether a group travel tour is the best way to see a country. I have now been on 7 of these tours, and think it is a great way to travel. So should you go on a group travel tour? If you ask me, the answer is yes. And here is why.
Travelling is a time consuming hobby. Even when I am planning something simple, like a short city break, it still takes time to plan what I want to do. Working out how to get from a to b. The best things to see in each destination. Where to eat. Where to stay. I work a busy job, sometimes up to 90 hours a week. Honestly for longer trips, as much a love the planning part, I just don’t always have time.
If you are travelling to a destination where perhaps the infra structure isn’t the greatest or public transport is hard to navigate, then it is definitely worth considering a group travel tour.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you are missing out on experiences. I have slept on many a sleeper train in China and Vietnam. I have travelled on chicken buses across Central America and taken ferries in Thailand.
With many group travel tours you have a local guide. Not always guide in the traditional sense, but they are a fantastic source of local knowledge. The CEO’s (Chief Experience Officers) I have been lucky enough to travel on my G Adventure tours with have provided me with countless shots of tequila, found so many hidden restaurants, taught me a Mongolian card game and introduced me to local families. These are things I definitely feel I would have missed out on if I was travelling on my own.
There is something different about travelling with people who calls that part of the world home. They force you to see it from a different perspective. As well as introducing you to new experiences and places you wouldn’t be able to access on your own.
They provide a great overview of each place visited, along with a bit of history or context. They also work so hard to make sure the trip runs smoothly, you don’t get ripped off, that everything is taken care of and that the restaurants are of a good standard. There was no way I would have been brave enough to eat Baleadas in Honduras without the encouragement of my CEO telling me it was fine. It was, and it still remains one of the most delicious foods I have eaten in my entire life.
Meeting like minded people
This is fairly obvious and clearly not exclusive to group tours, you obviously meet people travelling on your own itinerary. But with group tours you are thrown together for an extended period of time and go through the same journey. I have made friends for life through these tours.
Plus it now means I have places to stay all across the world. Australia I will make it to you soon!
It’s not just a bonus for when you are traveling alone either. When I have been on tours with friends, we have sometimes wanted to do different things. In Mongolia my buddy would often want to snuggle up in the ger with a book and I stayed up and played cards. It works really well because it meant we both got what we wanted out of the trip. Plus it is always nice to have some other company. Likewise in Central America I would often head out of an eve, while my friend had a more relaxed evening.
Travelling with friends can be intense – you spend an awful lot of time together, and so group tours provide the perfect balance for this.
Full confession, I’m not a particularly confident traveller. I find having the security of the local knowledge reassures me. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable travelling around Central America on my own; we transitted though some of the less desirable places – but our wonderful CEO kept us in check the whole time. I like knowing that the accommodation is sorted and going to be ok in each location. I like having the reassurance of someone telling me when to get off a train. I like being told that the less desirable looking restaurant I am about to enter into does THE BEST THAI FOOD ever and it’s is where all the locals eat.
This is particularly important for me when I am travelling on my own. I have a tendency to withdraw when I don’t feel comfortable, and this means I can sometimes miss out on things. But being on a group travel tour, means I am more than happy to try to new things, go to new places and experience everything and anything. I am with my new found friends and I am reassured it is safe, reputable and also ethical.
Itinerary on Group Travel Tour
Often when I have booked a group travel tour, it is for a destination I feel I am only going to visit once (although this does often change when I realise how much I love it and immediately want to come back). So by booking a tour, I feel I get to see the highlights and ‘must-sees’ of that destination. Group tours are designed for maximum impact, so you can feel safe in the knowledge your are going to get the most out of what ever time you might have. In my case it is often limited.
With somewhere like Mongolia, I wouldn’t have begun to know how to get around. There were no roads, and no GPS for any Sat Nav, so goodness knows what would have happened if I had been left alone! Being on a tour meant I was successfully guided around the most beautiful country.
Early morning starts are often the norm, but it forces me to get the most out of a day.
I am fully aware that group travel tours aren’t necessarily the cheapest way to travel. But firstly, there are different tour types for different budgets. These range from hotel standards, comfort, how much is included and transport used.
However, I do find group travel tours very useful for my budget. Because the tour is paid for up front, there are fewer surprises when you are away.
All accommodation and transport are already taken care of, including any internal flights that might be included in your tour. Often the key spots to see (such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia or the gorilla trek in Uganda) in each destination are included to.
I can then budget much more carefully for when I am away, knowing the majority of the expenses are already paid off.
Styles to suit different needs
As I said in the previous point, there are different tours to suit all sorts of agendas.
There are tours available that just help with the transport, such as Rabbies. You can then choose the accommodation to suit your budget. Other tours include transport and accommodation and some include excursions as well.
A lot of companies offer 18-30 something tours, meaning you are likely to travel with people of a similar mindset. There are group tours designed for solo travellers, group tours designed for partying and group tours designed for culture.
Do a bit of research on what you want and you will find a group travel tour to fit your needs!
Of course, there are downsides to this type of travel, I am not going to pretend there aren’t. The biggest one of course being freedom. The itinerary is set and if you fall in love with one town, you can’t simply decide to stay for a few more days.
But, my suggestion would be to look carefully at the itinerary. There are some tours with a lot more freedom than others, which means you often get a free day or afternoon in each place to explore as you wish.
Group travel tours I have been on
I thought at this point it would help if I mentioned all the group travel tours I have been on, and the rational behind each booking.
SE Asia – 3 tours over 9 weeks. This was my first experience of solo and long term travel. I was unsure and a little nervous. So I interspersed the tours with some time alone in the different countries.
Central America – My 3 week tour covered Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Initially I booked onto this tour to go on my own, but ended up travelling with my best friend. I decided to book a tour for two reasons. Primarily for safety. But also because I wanted to cover a few countries in a short amount of time, and the convenience of the tour itinerary helped with this.
Mongolia – Convenice. There was absolutely no way I would have been able to navigate my way around this roadless country without being on a group tour.
Kenya and Uganda – Itinerary and convenience. I loved the G Adventures Lando style of getting around, and visiting all those destinations would have been difficult using public transport given my time frame. I was on the Kenya and Uganda Gorilla tour.
So, should you go on a group travel tour?
In my opinion, yes.
The biggest thing travelling with a group travel tour has given me is independence. Sounds crazy? Well, through this style of travel I have found no destination is off limits. If I don’t have a travel buddy to go with, I can go on my own. And I can be safe in the knowledge I will meet people and have the best time.
The world is your oyster.
Have you been on a group travel tour? Would you consider one? If you have any questions, let me know!
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