Organised Tours Vs. Independent Travel

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Organising a trip can be fun and exciting, but it can also often be stressful and-time consuming. There are so many things to balance - how to get from one place to another, how long to spend visiting each place, and what to do when you're there! So how do you decide whether to plan a trip yourself, or join an organised tour? It's a difficult decision, and one that can either make or break your trip. There are pros and cons to both methods of travel, and the notion that one style is better than another is, in my mind, crazy.

So how do you decide which style of traveling is best for you?

The first key factor to consider is the place you're going to visit. This is because depending on your destination, a guided tour can either restrict your experience, or make it 100 times better. For example, whenever I travel in Europe I always plan my own trips, I know what to expect when I visit, I know there are good transportation links, and ultimately I feel safe & comfortable when I travel there. However, when I planned to visit China in the summer of 2016, I knew very little about the culture, and thought that the size of the country, as well as the language barrier, could make things difficult. Because of this I decided to join an organised tour (I used G Adventures), and I'm so glad I did! We packed in everything I wanted to see, and I know I wouldn't have enjoyed the country as much if I hadn't been in a group.



There are also many different types of tours to choose from, so it's easy to find one that suits your style of travel, as well as your budget. Tours can range in length, ages of other travelers, and level of physical activity. You can also decide on the quality of accommodation you want. Are you okay with basic hostels, or would you only be comfortable with luxury hotels? Another thing to research is how much free time you get to explore during the tour. Some will have a very structured itinerary, whereas others may provide spare afternoons to use as you wish. This is where, depending on the tour, you could feel restricted by the level of freedom you have to do certain activities. So make sure you check beforehand that the sights you absolutely have to see are on the itinerary.

Most organised tours can be brilliant if you're pressed for time, as they help pack in the main attractions in a short period. There are always reasons why a place is famous, and a guided tour will make sure you see them. After all, they are professionals that have visited these places time and time again - they know what they're doing.



Although sometimes joining an organised tour can be more expensive than independent travel, constantly booking buses, accommodation and organising excursions can be tiring. With a tour, you can be chauffeured from place to place, with very little to worry about as everything is organised for you. It can make visiting a new country feel less overwhelming or intimidating, and can potentially be safer than travelling alone. This is especially true if you're going solo, as you will be with a knowledgeable guide, and an automatic group of friendly travel buddies. If you've picked a tour that suits you, you're most likely going to travel with like-minded people. You'll never be lonely, and there will always be someone to take your photo! 

I met several people on my trip to China that always use organised tours as a way to visit a new country, and they love it. Next year I'm hoping to visit Peru and hike the Inca Trail, and as it will be my first time visiting South America, I'm already planning to join a group tour. However, tours can also be used as a way to ease into backpacking independently. Many travelers start with guided tours before working their way towards travelling on their own.



Then there's the option of doing a trip alone, or with a friend. With independent travel, you have complete freedom over where you go and what you do. Depending on your trip, and on how much you've pre-booked, if you don't like a town or city, you can move along to the next destination! The same goes if you absolutely love an area - if you have the time, you can stay as long as you want and go at your own pace. This is most definitely true through South East Asia as you rarely need to book accommodation in advance. When I traveled through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos last year, I didn't particularly enjoy the city of Vientiane. Because of this I only spent an afternoon there, and then got on a bus to the next town on my list.

Planning a trip alone, or with your significant other or a friend, can be so satisfying. Especially when all of the bits and pieces come together and you know that you made it happen. Travelling independently, if you feel comfortable, can be such a rewarding experience. Also, with the internet and having access to so many travel guides these days, organising a trip has never been easier.



Personally I think there's no right or wrong way to travel, as both organised tours and independent travel have their advantages. For many people who have traveled significantly before, going it alone offers more flexibility and can be cheaper. However, there are some places you can't reach without joining a tour! For many others who don't feel comfortable visiting a country alone, or even with a friend, a guided tour provides that little bit of extra support. And who knows, after going on an organised tour first, you might want to visit the country next time by yourself!

(All photographs in this post were taken in Yangshuo, China)

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