For every traveller who can barely finish a tour before thinking about booking their next one, there is a sceptic trying to navigate their own way around a foreign public transport system.
Perhaps tours are not the ideal travel experience for everyone, but before you turn your nose up at the idea and decide it’s not for you, allow us to sift through the myths surrounding tour travel and set a few things straight.
1. Tours are all about partying.
While it’s true that some travellers and tour groups are fully focused on barely being able to remember their trip courtesy of one or 23 too many beers, there are plenty of tourists out there with nothing more on their list than managing a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, enjoying a hot cone of chips in Brussels or stepping into some steamy baths in Budapest.
One way to be sure you choose the tour – and group – that’s right for you is to research the kind of tour and the company itself. Some companies are more popular with the party-loving crowd, while others are catered to the type that insist on dedicating an hour every night to recounting their day in their journal.
2. Tours are too expensive.
When looking at the cumulative cost for a tour it is easy to balk at the prices, but it’s important to keep in mind that all those plane and train tickets, the hostels and hotels, the booking fees, the snacks, meals and bottles of water, and anything else that might pop up, like visa fees, add up. By the time you’re finished with your personally-planned holiday, you may well have spent more than you would have on a tour.
One of the best things about a tour is that they are usually all-inclusive, with accommodation, transport, visas and most meals taken care of before you even step on the plane. This not only helps cut down costs, but also removes a lot of stress. No one enjoys finding out their card is not accepted in a certain country when trying to pay for a hotel, or keeping a constant eye on spending to make sure they don’t run out of money for the next leg of their journey.
3. Tours are not authentic.
One of the most common complaints about tours is their lack of authenticity. People tend to think that if they travel alone or with a small group they will have a more genuine experience of a place than they would with a knowledgeable tour guide who has visited a certain town so many times he knows all the locals and their pets.
Not only do tour guides have a lot more experience in the places they visit than you do, they know the best restaurants and takeaway joints to eat at, which dark alleys are dangerous and which hide a killer karaoke bar, and probably even some local lingo. Plus, it is their job to ensure you have an amazing time getting to know the place you’re visiting, which means you probably will.
4. Listening to tour guides is boring
Once upon a time the whole tour scene was a little less creative, so you would be forgiven for thinking of listening to a spiel about Santorini’s magnificent caldera as a certain form of mild torture. Now, tour companies actively recruit young, fun, personable people capable of grabbing the attention of a group and holding it.
Tour guides also enjoy a different experience with every group, so you will likely find they have just as much fun getting to know you as you do them.
5. There is not enough time to look around
Looking at an itinerary for a tour can be a little daunting. A typical tour program is packed pretty tight, but do not be mistaken and think that means you will be herded around at a break-neck pace. In most destinations you will be given ample freedom to explore on your own, rest in the accommodation if you like, or participate in group activities.
The key thing to remember is that the tour is all about making sure you have the experience of a lifetime, in a safe, enjoyable environment. And isn’t that what travelling is all about?
Author’s Bio: Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC.