so I have limited time and a tight budget, should I go with a tour or go on independant travel?
I'd like to see Vietnam, Cambodia and a Phi Phi Island, Thailand. I've found a few deals that look good for tours in vietnam and cambodia and I'm happy to organise my own travel in Thailand.
So with a tight budget and limited time (3.5 weeks) what would everyone recommend is my best travel option?
Personally, I avoid tours unless it's virtually impossible to go somewhere without one (i.e. Ko Similan, or a hill tribe village trek outside Sapa). Of course, a lot of people prefer tours, especially if they don't have much experience traveling in the region and/or are on a tight time frame. Certainly there's something to be said for putting all the logistical responsibility on someone else's shoulders, if you can afford it.
If on a tight budget independent travel is almost always the way to go (although there are exceptions, like doing a tour of Chiew Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park is much cheaper than chartering a boat privately), but it really depends on what you're looking for. Package tours for days at a time take care of your every need but are expensive. Hiring a tour guide to take you through Bangkok's Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew for two hours would probably ensure you learn something you otherwise wouldn't or your own, but to me that would be totally unnecessary since it's so easy to do independently.
Sounds like a mix would be best for you. For somewhere like Angkor Wat, you can hire a specialist guide or go as part of a group tour, but often the tuk tuk drivers that are technically only supposed to take care of transport are just as good tour guides as anyone else. So, if I were you I'd look at each sight / destination individually and make case by case decisions.
It's also worth mentioning that tours come in many forms -- the "open tour" buses in Vietnam, for example, are really just a means of transport from place to place. If you want real guided tours in each destination, that would be something different entirely.
Tours are not a bad way to go, particularly if you find one that visits the places you want to see and is within your budget. The advantage of tours is that you can relax and let someone else worry about the logistics of transport and accommodation. Plus, they provide a ready-made group of people with whom you can share the adventure.
Given that you have limited time, if you can afford the tours you mention, it sounds like a good idea to me. Or you could pick one and skip the other. The nice thing is that you can do some tour stuff and make your own way the rest.
I've done tours with adventure travel groups in Turkey, Australia, and Baja Mexico. They were fun, affordable, and we met great people. The disadvantage is that you are with the group, and have to go where the group goes when the group goes.
Can you share more details about the tours you are considering?
great advise, thanks.
I'm currently looking at a tour by STA travel a south african travle company (I'm from SA) They work on a slightly more relaxed and less crowded way as contiki or one of the big ones, the tour leaves from Bangkok through Cambodia (angkor wat - Phom Penh and siem reap) to Saigon then South to North Vietnam. Its a 15 day trip, and the only added expenses are food and visa. I've considered this because its just myself and a friend (2 girls travelling and our first time in Asia) and at least I know exactly what to budget and what the cost involved is going to be.
I don"t generally like tours and but thought this may be a good way to meet fellow travellers and keep a handle on the budget. I am uncertain of hoe much things should cost etc.
I guess I'm worried about independant travel taking to long or landing up costing much more due to hidden costs or making a mistake of booking an expensive hotel.
I guess what I'm asking is what is the cheapest most effective way to see as much as possible and still enjoy (I plan to spend 6 days on Koh Phi Phi beach before the tour relaxing - so will be ready to see the sights!)