Everyone you meet has an opinion about travelling as part of a tour group. Whilst it definitely has it’s negative points and is not for everyone, in general I have a pretty positive attitude towards them. Here’s what I would consider to be the main pros and cons for taking part in group travel.
Your fellow travellers:
Unfortunately, your fellow tour members can be the biggest positive and the biggest negative of any trip. Luckily, I’ve experienced both sides. My first tour had an age limit and was very clearly only suitable for energetic, reasonably fit people – as you would expect of a two month tour of Peru which took in lots of hiking and other outdoor activities. As a group of ten 18-30 year olds, we had the time of our lives. Most of the group were Danish and if I learnt anything, I learnt that Danish people are awesome. On tours, you are basically living out of each others’ pockets, and we left best of friends. Everyone was caring, supportive and we compromised well but on the other hand, we all had similar interests so activities and excursions weren’t hard to agree on.
Fast forward a year, I was on a tour in Indonesia with only three other women, the youngest of which was older than me by 11 years. The age difference didn’t bother me at first as I found on my gap year that I was frequently the youngest, what with the increase in career gappers. We just never gelled as well as my first tour group. There was even times on that tour I was feeling angry and resentful that I couldn’t just leave group behind and move on to find different companions or different activities as I would if I was travelling on my own.
The Amount You’re Able to Fit in and See:
On tour, you’re able to move around every two days because nearly all your travel and lots of activities are pre-planned and booked. Travelling on your own, I found that if I wanted to spend two whole days sight seeing in a new place, I would normally have to plan around four days in order to factor in booking everything. You can’t always turn up on the day and get on that train/bus or that snorkel trip might only run on Tuesdays. As you don’t have to worry about how you’re getting to the next destination, you can spend the whole day doing what you really want to do rather than bartering at the bus station.
Fast Paced Travel and Rigid Itineraries:
The opposite to the above comment, the fast paced travel around a country can mean you see a lot but don’t actually experience much. It’s hard to get the feel of a town when you only spend two days there, absolutely exhausted because you’ve been on night buses for the last three nights. What happens if you fall in love with a place? You have to move on, promising yourself you’ll come back in another life.
Security for Single Travellers:
If you’re unsure about travelling on your own, tours are great, even if you only join them for a week before starting your own journey. I’m sure lots of mothers have been placated when their children make the decision to join a tour. There’s someone there if you get ill, are robbed, or are just generally homesick.
Making friends with your tour companions isn’t hard – in fact it’s a lot like moving in with new flatmates at university. You’re all in the same boat so for the first few days, guaranteed there will always be somewhere around for a chat or up for a trip to the beach. Depending on how well you actually get on, this may or may not continue, but those first days are brilliant for anyone feeling a bit shy.
However, if you’re an introvert and like your space, it might all get a bit too much. You will probably share a room every night with at least one other person on the tour. Whilst each tour normally has a good amount of ‘free’ days built in, you can’t be guaranteed a solo trip then either. Alone time might not be the easiest thing to find.
Generally, group tours cost far more than what you would spend doing the same trip yourself. Lots of tours won’t include your food or very many activities. However, I’d weigh up how much you would be willing to pay for someone to do all the organising and the knowledge of a guide for your whole trip, I know I definitely left my trip to Peru knowing that I’d spend the same amount of money again to have as good a guide as I did.
What do you think? Are group tours for you?