Tours Versus Independent Travel

By passing the trials and tribulations of travel onto a tour guide, you are also handing over your freedom.

Everyday decisions such as when you wake up, what you eat and how you get places are taken on by the tour company. This is great news if you are short on time, or don’t fancy researching every last detail. Tours also attract people who are nervous about going alone.

There can be a great camaraderie within a tour group, and when trips are organised properly the tourers run rings around independent travellers. They have a local expert at their fingertips, a tried and tested route, and the moral support of a fixed group of people to get them out of bed each day.

Tourers don’t lose sleep over bus times or feel isolated if things go wrong. They are wrapped up in a touristy bubble that floats from private bus to nice hotel to busy attraction and back again. They are unlikely to stroll into the rough part of town, or end up staying in a total dive.

If you have an ambitious ‘must-see’ list and not a lot of time, a tour is a good way of guaranteeing structure and progress. But if you don’t mind muddling through on your own, an organised tour can feel suffocating.

As Londoners we have all seen the best and worst in people, so we tend to be more streetsmart. With a little bit of forward planning, you can enjoy your own expedition and save money for special activities or day tours to harder-to-reach places.

Pre-booked tours can be really expensive and often have hidden costs. Tipping, water, snacks, and other entrance fees and charges all add up. Plus eating out in nice restaurants regularly can completely blow the budget.

‘High risk’ or unusual activities in less travelled or remote areas often require a tour. But the world is a small place nowadays and the vast majority of it can be done under your own steam, if you have the inclination. If you do decide to go with a tour, take your time deciding what’s best for you and your needs. After all, if you’re signing your life over, you want to make sure it’s to the right people.

Do you have any bad tour experiences? Or is being guided the only way to go in your opinion?

Image courtesy of Flickr

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1 Response

  1. Rachel Young

    I went interrailing to Europe for 3 weeks with a friend. It was really good to be able to do our own thing but stressing out with the trains and carrying our backpacks across town was a bit of burden. As you say its good if you’ve got the time to explore for yourself a bit. I met quite a few people on contiki tours who basically did the same things we did but they were all organised for them. They seemed to have a really good group atmosphere. I’d say the tours are a great way to get to know a certain group of people really well. The ones we came into contact with had a lot of fun as a group.

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