Traveling on a shoestring, backpacking, solo and independently are considered signs that one is an experienced traveller, that hardly needs a guidebook let alone participating in a guided tour. Just about any travel blog has a post that enumerates the various reasons why traveling solo – at least once in life – is a must. I have read about its benefits at least a dozen times in the last month. Sure, I am convinced. In fact, I have been doing it regularly. However, what independent travelers will rarely admit, is that – YES! – guided tours are actually a good way to visit certain places, they can be lots of fun and that they would often be better off joining one.
So, here’s 10 reasons that will convince independent travelers to go on guided tours.
1. Participating in group tours is less time consuming
Guided tours are an easy way to visit a country when, for as independent and experienced a traveler you may be, you don’t have a lot of time to plan a trip or to travel. A group tour comes pre-packed: no search of hotels, flights, transportation and connections needed. An experienced professional is doing this for you instead.
2. Tour operators actually are knowledgeable and professional
We, independent travelers, may have traveled the world, read books, consulted a million blogs, done research. But specialised tour operators have entire teams working on designing the best itineraries – which they also test! They have staff that is specialised in finding the best flights (because, believe it or not, the software they use is actually much better than the many online search engines available to the rest of us). They will study an itinerary that will optimise the time available and pick the best accommodation for the set budget.
3. Satisfaction is almost always guaranteed
Guess what? Tour operators want you to come back and be happy, so happy that you will consider to buy more tours from them and recommend them to your friends and relatives. This means that they will do anything possible to let you have a great experience, so that you go home with a great understanding of the place you have visited.
4. Group tours are usually cheaper than what you may think
Once you put together the flight, the accommodation, add up the costs of local transportation, entrance fees to the various sites, and treat yourself to a local guide to learn something about the country you are visiting, you will blow your budget. Tour operators can get better prices for placing bulk orders, and dividing the fees of a guide is also convenient.
5. You simply can’t visit certain places independently
Try as you might, certain locations are really off limits to solo travelers, because either dangerous or hard to reach. Or, do you really think that a night safari or Antarctica are doable alone?
6. Group tours are safer
Sure, experienced travelers know how to watch their back and avoid scams. But some places are actually dangerous, and sometimes it is handy to have someone’s help, and being in a group that has a tour leader speaking the local language and culture makes it a good deal easier.
7. Cheaper and independent isn’t always better for the locals
If you rely on a good company, a guided tour may benefit the local economy as it will employ local stuff and use locally run hotels. A good chunk of your money is likely to stay in the country, thus helping the local economy.
8. You will have a tour leader and/or a local guide
Having a local guide or a tour leader is actually better to learn a few facts about the place visited. Or else, archeological sites such as Tikal and Machu Picchu will just remain “ruins” and you won’t be able to get a proper idea of their significance; the villages around Lake Atitlan will all look the same and you won’t learn that each one has a different style of weaving; you will have to do your research to find out that Toniná was more powerful than Palenque. A tour leader or guide will also keep you safe (yes, you are an experienced traveller, but it never hurts to be extra cautious); he will take you safely across borders; he will point to the best restaurants and local dishes at the markets and will share lots of funny anecdotes.
9. You can finally relax and worry about nothing
Taking a guided tour means that someone else – your tour leader or your guide – is doing all the thinking for you. You most likely don’t even have to worry about what to wear the next day, as you will be given suggestions on that! All you have to worry about is whether you should have a beer or a mojito at sunset.
10. You are likely to meet people as cool as you are
Similar people are somehow attracted by the same things, so chances are that you will meet somebody as cool as you are on a guided tour. You may well end up with a whole bunch of new friends. The bonus? You will always have someone to take pictures of you, and won’t have to use that horrible selfie stick.