Independent travel isn't for everyone, and for some, doing an "adventure tour" to Southeast Asia can be the perfect blend of adventure and convenience with a not totally unreasonable price. So read on to find out ten key points that we believe can work in favour of doing an adventure tour.
- Adventure tours are easy
One of the best things about tours is that operators like All Points East take care of everything. Sure they're called adventure tours, but they're not so adventurous that you need to argue with unscrupulous tuk tuk drivers, berate hoteliers whose air-con doesn't work, or fume at corrupt immigration officers. There's generally a minder, ie., guide, who looks after all these aspects of your adventure.
- Adventure tours are a great way to meet people
And you don't have to kill them! If you're travelling solo and are a bit nervous about meeting other travellers, a tour with an adventure company like Interpid Travel can be an ideal way to get an "instant" group. Of course it might not be a group of people you actually like, but that's a separate issue.
- Tours are efficient
Planning a four day trip to India, Nepal and Tibet? They don't call an organised tour organised for nothing. If your time is limited and your planned itinerary certifiable, then a tour is the way to go.
- Adventure tour = instant group
Because you're already travelling in a group, there's no wasting time hanging out waiting for enough people to form a group to this or that -- this or that being some prohibitively expensive mini-adventure if you're travelling solo.
- Tours are insured -- or should be
If you're booking with a well-regarded, legal tourist company, then the operator should be bonded and fully insured. So if they go broke, you'll not have to walk home.
- Tours make budgeting easier
There's nothing worse than budgeting $2,000 for a month long trip only to run out of dough after ten days. By taking a tour, a very large part of the cost is settled -- upfront. Sure, you may still run out of cash, but you'll still have a bed for the remainder of the nights and a flight home.
- Tours smooth over language issues
If you're not up on the lingua franca and would rather consume a few gallons of beer on the flight than the first few chapters of a phrase book, then you'll be in safe hands with a tour company. Tours invariably engage local guides -- guides who double as translators.
- Tours can be customised
If you opt for a small group adventure tour, chances are you'll have a group size of under eight to ten people. With a group this small there's often considerable opportunity to customise the trip -- obviously this will depend on the operator, but you'll be surprised just how much customisation is possible. With a provider like Thailand Travel Plan you can really build your own trip.
- Tours know what they're on about
Of course there are tours and there are tours, but generally tour operators know the highlights of any country or town and they take you to them -- as efficiently as possible. Sure you might miss the funky little cafes that just the expats know, but you'd have had to hang around for a month to find it yourself.
- Tours are not as expensive as they seem
Don't get distracted by the price -- $100 a day isn't as much as it sounds when you factor in the cost of the accommodation, transport, food, drink and the sights. Sure companies like iExplore make a margin -- but they're saving you a lot of time and effort. Yes, nine times out of ten you could do the same trip independently for less money, but you'd spend a larger amount of your time getting from A to B, finding a room and so on and so forth. Also keep an eye out for special deals -- for example GAP Adventures offers up to 25% off their adventure travel deals. Don't forget, adventure tours sell the convenience as well as the experience, so don't do all your shopping by numbers.
What to look for in an adventure tour company?
Check they're fully licensed and insured. Make sure you have travel insurance yourself. Check their itineraries carefully and read the small print for hidden extras. Make sure that your guides will be proficient in the language you require. Be sure to ask after maximum group size and likewise check about minimums -- some companies run tours with just one passenger and that may not be what you're after. Compare prices but don't shop by price alone.
Looking for a specific recommendation?
I'm happy to personally vouch for UK operator All Points East and Australian-operated Intrepid Travel. I've met some of the people behind these companies and really think they've got the right idea when it comes to putting together good travel packages.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 5th August, 2009.
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