Much has been said recently on the beauty and on the necessity of travelling alone to find yourself, to listen to the inner needs and to win your fears, to truly immerse in the culture of the place visited, and to learn to appreciate others much more. I don’t need to read any more of those articles, I think. Yes, I am among those who enjoy a good few weeks by herself, to explore new territories. But I would consider taking part to a guided tour at least once in my life.
For as much as I love independent travel and I enjoy travelling alone (which is what I did on my last trip to South America), I think a guided tour is a great way to visit countries for those that, for a variety of reasons, don’t have the time or patience to organise their trips. I believe in the value of an organised tour to the point that I even took a course to become a certified travel designer, so that I can design vacation packages and tours (either bespoke or group ones) in a professional way, for those who don’t want to and can’t do it by themselves, and I worked as a tour leader for a tour operator, leading some of their tours across Central America, from Nicaragua to El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize, and in Mexico.
So, here’s why I think everyone should participate in an organised tour at least once.
Ten reasons to take a guided tour at least once in life
An organised tour is less time consuming
Taking part in small group travel, with a tour leader, is an easy way to explore a country for those who don’t have a lot of time for their holidays and want to maximise the days available, and also for those who don’t really have a lot of time to sit and plan their travels. I don’t have to search for hotels, flights, buses and connections and to go through the sometimes boring process of comparing prices, reading reviews, and making reservations: someone else is doing that for me. Unless one is an avid and particularly curious reader with a passion for guide books, one doesn’t even have to buy one: it won’t really be needed.
Tour operators are knowledgeable and professional
Good tour companies have great in depth knowledge of specific regions; they have a team of consultants who study the best itineraries (which they have tested out themselves for best results); personnel that books the best connecting flights; staff that searches for the best accommodation; they will organise the trip in a way that optimises the available time for the tour.
Satisfaction is (almost) always guaranteed
Tour operators want their customers to come back and buy more tours. Good ones will do their best to make sure the customers who bought a guided tour have an amazing experience and go back home with an overall good understanding of the country they have just visited and its culture; they will make sure that I will be so happy that I will consider travelling with them again.
It may be cheaper than you think
A guided tour may often end up being cheaper than travelling independently. Relying on a tour operator may thus be the best option to save on time and even money – yes, an organised tour may at times be considerably cheaper, as tour operators can get great bargains for booking large numbers of people in a hotel, for example.
It is easier to visit certain places on a guided tour
Some places simply can’t be visited independently, because it is just too difficult. I can’t do a night safari tour by myself, just as I can’t do Antartica cruises alone.
A guided tour is actually safer
Travelling in a group is generally safer, and I will always have someone watching over my back. This is particularly important for those who are not confident at speaking a foreign language, for elderlies or for families with children.
It may be better for the local economy
The best tour operators employ local companies and businesses that hire local people in the country I am visiting. This way I will know that the money I am spending is most likely staying in the country and I am helping the local economy.
I will have a tour leader who will make sure everything runs smoothly
A good tour operator will choose an outstanding tour leader who will work hard to make sure the trip runs smoothly, that problems occurring on the way are solved in the most satisfying manner, and that the various members of the group are 100% happy and safe. Tour operators rely a lot on their leaders, who act as their ears and eyes during tours, who are trained to solve problems and face the most difficult situation (including dangerous or unsafe ones, as well as medical emergencies), and who will turn a good organised tour into a memorable one for the members of the group. A tour leader will warn me against scams; will take me safely across borders; will take me to the best restaurants and advise on the best local dishes; will pick the best local guides; will share some good information about the country I am visiting; and will have lots of funny anecdotes to share.
I can really relax and enjoy without having to worry about anything
When on a guided tour, I really don’t have to think about anything other than what cocktail I wish to have at sunset. Someone else has done all the previous thinking for me, and will do all the thinking for me while on tour too – without me even noticing it. I will not even need to remember things such as taking my camera, or consider what to wear on a specific day, as my tour leader will most likely remind me politely.
I can go by myself without being alone
Not everybody is up for the challenge of travelling alone, but it may be hard to put together a group of friends for our adventures. Taking part into an organised tour may take the edge off. Tour operators that sell guided tour usually have a specific target audience, and chances are that those participating in one of their trips are similar in terms of age, social background, education, interests and passions. Tours are designed with a clear idea of who should buy them. So, one tour operator may be targeting a young adventurous audience who wants to travel on little more than a shoestring; another may be better for an older crowd of people who have more economic means and look for more comfort. Some tour operators prefer having small guided tours of no more than 10 participants, others will take on board even larger numbers. I won’t have to worry about taking pictures with a selfie stick as I will be able to ask others; I won’t have to sit through endless lonely meals; I will be able to share my “wows” with others and are likely to come back with a good bunch of new friends.
All I have to do is some research on the best and most reliable tour operators that organise a guided tour of the country I wish to visit.
Have you ever been on an organised tour? Do you have any good tour operators to recommend?