We have done a bit of traveling in our time and mostly when we discover the world we venture off on our own. Sometimes though, when we aren’t too confident about a place or we have limited time, we resort to one of the many tour companies on offer. There are so many options of companies to choose from these days so here are a few things we look out for when selecting.
Group size: We tend to veer more towards companies with smaller group sizes as this makes everything a lot easier when traveling. It means the company can stay at smaller, local hotels and when you have a group meal you can eat at local restaurants, no fuss. Small groups also allows you to get to know the other people in your group much better.
Local guides: Having a local guide when traveling makes life so much easier on the road. If something goes wrong or you see something out the window while traveling they can generally give you the answer straight away. They are also always willing to tell you all about themselves, their culture, their history, the do’s and don’ts and the best places to eat and shop so you don’t have to get out that pesky Lonely Planet.
Image from Travel Indochina
Western guides: Sometimes having a western guide on board is helpful – along with a local guide right next to them. While the local guide talks about their country and day-to-day life the western leader ensures everything is running smoothly behind the scenes. They also understand your point-of-view when you may have small frustrations while on the road (like moving the group to the shade instead of standing in 45oC heat while listening about the history of temples when in Cambodia for example).
Image from Sarah Reid
Standard of tour: The tour standard you go on really depends on which destination you are traveling to and how much money you have to spend. In India and other parts of Asia we have done the standard and deluxe. Standard in Asia will always be satisfactory, but in India if you can afford it then go deluxe. Europe standard is acceptable. Africa is always basic unless you can afford the upgrade to the incredible lodges. Just remember to read your tour notes to see what is and isn’t included before you leave home.
Price, date and destination: The biggest of them all. To some the price means nothing, and to others it is everything. If there is only a couple of hundred dollars difference between tours then make sure you sit down, go through each itinerary and check what is included, the destinations visited and reviews of each.
If you are traveling because you have limited amount of time and want to see as much as possible then everything may narrow down to only one company. Don’t just settle if it’s not what you are looking for and it’s the only option left – don’t forget you can always customize a tour, pay a bit extra and go privately!
And make sure the tour goes exactly where you want to go! If it’s on your bucket list, then make sure it is included. If it’s not in that particular itinerary then check other companies. If you can’t find the right one consider a short trip after the tour ends once you have got to know the country a bit more and have more knowledge from the local guide.
Image from Sarah Reid
Some of our favourite companies:
Intrepid – small groups, local guides, great experiences, worldwide destinations, all ages.
G Adventures – small groups, local guides, worldwide destinations, 100% guaranteed departures (you book, you go), all ages.
Travel Indochina – small groups, local and western guides, Asia specialists, boutique and luxury company, great family itineraries, usually 40+years.
Topdeck Travel – larger groups (in Europe/USA/Egypt), smaller groups in Morocco, local guides, 18-30 something years old (in Australia no age limit), more party style in Europe and USA, still get lots of history (more random facts).
Africa Travel Co – all ages, locally based company, team of driver, cook and guide (all locals), camping (can upgrade locally), 4WD trucks all in good condition (fleet being upgraded), great itineraries.