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We have always been big advocates for independent travel, but we have realized that this is a type of travel that’s not for everyone.
Some people may prefer guided tours over independent travel, because they offer security, ease of planning, and the chance to meet others.
There have been certain times when we have considered taking guided tours instead, especially when we’re not sure about a place and how to get around.
We have come to realize there is no one right way to travel. Whether you take a guided tour or travel independently largely comes down to personal preference and what you want to get out of a trip.
So if you’re thinking about taking a guided tour over traveling independently, here is a complete guide to the benefits of guided tours so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.
- Is A Guided Tour Better?
- Benefits of Guided Tours
- 1. Time
- 2. Comfort Levels
- 3. Meeting People
- 4. Information
- 5. Less Hassle
- 6. Safety
- 7. Some areas suit guided tours
- 8. Helps with The Local Language
- 9. Completely Planned Itinerary
- 10. Discover Hidden Gems and Local Cuisine
- 11. Exclusive Experiences
- 12. Creates Great Travel Stories
- 13. Someone to Take Photos for You
- Tips for Choosing Tour Companies
- Final Thoughts on Advantages of Guided Tours
Is A Guided Tour Better?
There are many benefits to travel with tour companies and they really do suit the purposes of a lot of travelers.
In fact, now that we have a child, I am more inclined to consider guided tours for specific regions.
Yes and No.
While I’d love my kids to have this cultural experience, this momma-bear-fearful-heart of mine probably could not stand the pressure.
For families with small kids looking to travel to remote locations and off the beaten path destinations, then a guided tour is probably better than independent travel.
Benefits of Guided Tours
Some people just do not have the time for independent travel. Let’s face it catching local transport often takes a whole day or more to get from one destination to another.
If you consider the fact that most Americans get on average only 2 weeks paid holidays, independent travel may not work.
Even those in other countries who can get 4-6 weeks off, with this limited time to travel independently you really have to stick to one small region in order to make the most of your stay.
This is where guided tours with tour companies can prove to be a great choice for those who want to see as much as they can in a small space of time.
Try to limit the number of countries you visit so you can experience more of the culture of your destination.
2. Comfort Levels
Independent travel is not easy. A lot of travellers, especially when first beginning their around the world adventures, start with group travel on guided tours.
This helps them to adjust to this new lifestyle, slowly stretching the comfort zones out until they feel confident enough to take it on themselves.
For some people the thought of trying to order local food in a foreign country causes them to faint at their knees.
Instead of never leaving the house, a guided tour would be a great way to travel within their comfort zone limits.
3. Meeting People
Many of my friends kicked off their living in London/ European tour with a Contiki tour. They made a lot of new friends because of it, which meant that they arrived in London to live already knowing someone.
This can be very reassuring to those shy first-time travellers who might not be so great at getting out there and meeting people on their own.
After my beerfest tour, we met up with our travel friends from the tour group several times upon return home to London. It was great to have so many new friends who all shared a common travel memory.
Sure, at first you are a bunch of strangers and there’s always the off chance that you don’t get on, but usually you’ll find that people you meet on group tours are like-minded people, and you don’t have to be an extrovert to fit in.
There is no better way to travel than with a group of friends, so if you’re a first-time traveller and worried about social interaction, this is one of the greatest benefits of group travel.
Even when I am traveling independently, there will be many times I will take a guided tour of an historical site or cultural experience.
This is because I want to learn more about the place I am visiting. And I don’t want to be walking around trying to read it from a guide book while I am there.
I want someone to point out certain features, tell me stories about the area and relay the important information. Guided tours are a great way to sit back, absorb the area you are in and allow someone else to tell you all about it.
5. Less Hassle
Travel planning takes a lot of time and research and then of course you need to be constantly adapting and changing these plans as you are going along.
You have to decide how to get there, how to get around, where to stay, what to eat, what to see, how to change money and who to talk to for help.
The list of tasks never end, it can be tiresome, cumbersome and just plain irritating.
Taking a guided tour means removing all the hassle of the planning stage.
Someone can take you by the hand while you concentrate on the only thing you want to concentrate on exploring, learning, eating, drinking, shopping and having fun.
Many people fear travel as they believe the world is unsafe.
A guided tour may give a person like this the opportunity to travel as they feel much safer. There is always someone watching their back and people who they can turn to for comfort when feeling afraid.
As I mentioned above, now that I am mum this is a very important factor in making travel decisions for my family.
7. Some areas suit guided tours
There are certain travel experiences and destinations that only lend themselves to group travel and guided tours.
For example, going to Antarctica would be extremely difficult without being on a tour.
In Africa, night time safaris can only be done by guided tours, Robbin island can only be visited through a group tour and trekking to base camp, I’m sure would be best to be done on a group tour.
8. Helps with The Local Language
Contrary to what you might think, there are some countries in the world where English is not widely spoken. Language barriers are still a thing and can be a huge headache on your trip.
It always helps to travel with someone who can speak the foreign language of that country, especially when you do travel as a large group.
9. Completely Planned Itinerary
If it’s your first trip abroad, having your entire itinerary planned for you is one way to make it stress-free.
Not only do they schedule all the attractions and travel experiences, but they also book your accommodation and transport, and even offer suggestions for the best places to eat.
This gives you peace of mind knowing you don’t have to plan a thing.
There will also be free time where you can enjoy some flexibility from the main itinerary.
This means you can explore more with your tourmates or simply hang out by yourself if you need a little me-time.
10. Discover Hidden Gems and Local Cuisine
While you may have some bucket list experiences you want to cover, and tour companies do take you to them, they can also be a great way to discover hidden gems.
Whether you’re looking at a multi-day guided tour of a day tour, taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide is a great way to find places that tourists don’t frequently visit. Like our guide in Petra who took us the back door in, which ended up being a spectacular 9 mile hike with it almost to ourselves.
11. Exclusive Experiences
Most tour companies hire local guides who know the areas well. They love to treat their guests with warm hospitality and insider’s perspectives of a country, as well as convenience.
This means you may have the chance to visit some exclusive attractions that other tourists cannot visit, such as visiting a homestay in one of the less touristy neighborhoods, or have a guided tour of a local farm.
Most of the time, the tour operator will have a partner in a destination who takes you on your travel experience, and they want you to get the full local experience.
What better way to get that than with a local themselves?
12. Creates Great Travel Stories
When I think back to some of my fondest travel memories, they are often funny stories that happened when we’ve traveled as a group.
Perhaps it’s a memory of sitting around a bonfire telling stories, or hiking up a mountain and cheering each other on when it gets tough, or snorkeling off a boat and seeing a turtle swim past.
Sharing these experiences with others is the most rewarding feeling.
13. Someone to Take Photos for You
When you’re traveling alone, it can be awkward and annoying setting up a tripod or using a selfie stick.
Traveling with a guided tour means you always have someone who can take nice shots for you.
You never know, they might even be better with a camera than you!
Tips for Choosing Tour Companies
1. Do your research
Find those reputable companies that run guided tours through the destination you want to visit. Contiki are popular for Europe, but not for Asia. Ask around for advice and read reviews on travel message boards.
Also, most companies have a Facebook page, get on them and ask questions of past participants. Be absolutely certain that the tour company you choose is the best you can get for your travel budget.
Two guided tour companies we can recommend are G Adventures and Globus Travel. See next…
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2. Be very clear on your travel goals
What are your absolute must sees? What sort of experience are you looking for? Purely cultural, adventurous, photographic, or having a massive party?
Once you know what you really want, you’ll know the best tour company is for you.
3. Check the Age Group and Vibe
Contiki is well known for its 18–35-year-old party type atmosphere. And on the flip side, one of my good friends will never forget unknowingly ending up on a guided tour of Europe that was full of pensioners.
Not really the experience his 25 year old self was looking for.
4. Don’t try to fit too much in
Do you really want to have a 5 minute ‘I was here’ experience, or do you want a more enriching experience? Less is more.
5. Check Their Safety Procedures
If you do your research properly and find a reputable company then I am sure you will discover they have adequate safety measures in place. Make sure they have the proper accreditation
6. Think Eco-tourism
Choose a company that not only respects the local environment, but the local culture as well. You want to make sure you are leaving a positive impact wherever you are going.
7. Get A Clear Outline Of Costs
Make sure you know the costs, including any extras of your tour. Certain activities on tours may cost extra. You must know all this beforehand.
You would hate to turn up to the Serengetti on your African overland tour only to discover you needed to pay an extra $200, which you don’t have.
Know how many meals are included, what accommodation type is covered by the tour, transfers, etc. Tours should be able to give you a rough estimate of spending money you will need as well.
8. Read Reviews of The Guides
As discussed, a benefit of a guided tour is the knowledgeable tour guide who will be showing you the area and teaching you more about it.
Part of your research should be to find out what sort of guides the tours use and how knowledgeable they are.
We had a local Kenyan on our guided tour of the Massai Mara. He knew an incredible amount about the animals and the back roads he could take to find them. He really helped to make our first Safari experience a memorable one.
Final Thoughts on Advantages of Guided Tours
Whether you’re looking to travel long-term or simply looking to take a day tour from a city, you’ll find there are many advantages to guided tours over going independently.
We hope this guide helped you make a decision about whether to go alone or as a group.
Can you recommend any tour companies? Let us know in the comments.