Guided tours aren’t necessarily horrible and fake ways to travel.
There, I said it. Encouraging guided tours is probably one of the more controversial opinions I’ve stated on this blog, but what’s the point of blogging if you’re not gonna speak your mind? We need more honesty in the travel blogging world.
Anyway I waste a lot of time on various travel forums. Too much time, maybe, but that point is moot. All I know is if you go to Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet forums, sometimes you’ll stumble across a poster who asks for advice about a tour company, usually Contiki, Trafalgar, or Globus, or something similar. 9 times out of 10, the original poster isn’t acting like a troll or even trying to stir the pot. Usually, s/he’s asking for basic advice about the tour s/he is interested in.
Then the nasty, superior comments spill in.
“Do it yourself!” “We’re only geared toward independent travelers!” “Why spend that money?! It’s cheaper to do it independently!” “That’s not really travel, is it?”
I won’t shame anyone with specific links, but do a google search yourself and you’ll immediately see what I mean.
Before I get into the real point of this post, I have a bit of a bone to pick with other travelers. For a group of people supposedly so open-minded, we can be a snotty bunch of brats. Look, can we not rip someone to shreds because he/she is too nervous to plan a whole itinerary via public transportation or rental car? It’s bullshit that travelers are so judgmental, sometimes. Your travel style =/= everyone else’s. Stop it.
I’ve been on a few guided tours in my traveling life. I’ve traveled with Busabout, G Adventures, Haggis Adventures, and Shamrockers. Sure, some tours were much better than others, but each tour was an experience that I don’t regret. I’ve learned a lot more about my travel style, as well as how awesome it is to explore the world even without a partner or friend. Like it or not, tours have a purpose.
I especially think you should book a tour if you’re scared to travel. Anxiety shouldn’t stop you from traveling the world. At all. And I want to say, loud and clear, that booking a tour is a great way to ease yourself into travel and doesn’t make you a loser. I promise.
Here are a few benefits of taking a guided tour especially if you’re a nervous traveler.
- You immediately meet new friends. If you’re shy about randomly approaching people in hostels, then a guided tour is for you! Aim to book tours that only take 10-25 travelers per tour. I enjoyed my smaller tours way more than my gigantic ones. A 50 person coach gives me hives. Trust me, I speak from experience here. In particular, G Adventures and Intrepid promise small groups. Also select tours based on your travel style. You don’t wanna be stuck on a bus filled with senior citizens if you’re 18 and vice versa.
- You don’t have to worry about missing a train, ferry, or bus. Public transportation frustrates the living crap out of me. Even NJ Transit has the potential to give me a migraine. NYC Penn Station, anyone? If you suffer from anxiety or are simply a nervous person, removing the public transportation hurdles can be a big help and allows you to enjoy your trip more.
- You can enjoy a country that you wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable navigating yourself. Let’s be honest. Some countries are easier to navigate than others. For an English-speaking Westerner, it’s much easier to go around England than Papua New Guinea. There’s nothing wrong booking a tour to experience more challenging destinations on your bucket list. I’m sure I’ll do it myself in the near future.
- You benefit from a tour guide’s knowledge. This point depends on your tour guide. Crappy tour guides exist, which is why you need to write reviews. A knowledgeable guide makes taking a tour worth it! You learn so much about the history and culture, and otherwise mundane places can take on many deeper meanings. Even when I’m not taking a guided tour, I love going on walking tours to learn more about the city I’m in.
- You will have spare time to enjoy the sites and restaurants. Most tours offer their guests free time to explore a city or town. Read itineraries carefully. If you’re a slow traveler, you don’t want to book a tour that boasts about being a “whirlwind” experience. To be honest, my Busabout Eastern Treks moved way, way, way too fast for me. However, a lot of tours have built in slack time. For example, I had a chance to break away from the pack and explore Whistler alllll alone on my tour of the Canadian Rockies. It was awesome.
Are you taking a guided tour in the near future? Have you gone on a guided tour? Do you like tours or hate them, and why? As always, thanks for supporting Blond Wayfarer!