South Africa… The trip that started it all. I volunteered for two weeks with VESA during a summer while at university and well and truly caught the travel bug. I’d never been further than Spain at that point and hadn’t been out of the UK since I was 8 years old. Since then I’ve travelled to 18 countries over 4 continents, many of which have been on package tours.
Girls are constantly told that travelling alone is dangerous. WRONG! Solo travel is one of the best things I’ve ever done, but it can be nerve wracking, especially at the start! So why not travel with a group of like-minded people? I love having total control over my own trip and doing things at my own speed, but I will always have a love of package tours!
When I started travelling, I was too afraid to go solo, but rather than miss the trip altogether, I found a tour and packed a bag! If you’re worried about being on your own, then adventure tours could be exactly what you’re looking for! I ended up making some amazing friends that I’m still in contact with today. We’re even planning a reunion for later this year! I’ve met some inspirational people and gained knowledge of countries I’ve never been to just from hearing stories from people I’ve met while travelling. I’ve added countries or activities to my bucket list that I didn’t even know existed (like tobogganing down the Great Wall of China- yep, that’s a real thing!).
The first thing people say when I tell them I’m going on another package tour is ‘but they’re so expensive!’. It’s true, they can be pricey, but in my opinion, they are more than worth their price tag! The amount you see and do while on group tours is incredible! In just two weeks, I watched a cricket match in Pushkar, watched the sunrise over Jaipur from a hot air balloon, touched the Taj Mahal, rode a camel through the desert at sunset and so much more. I learnt how to do things I never thought I’d do; scuba diving, horse riding, drawing, painting, block printing, different languages, the list goes on. Even better, you may even get to skip the queues if you’re part of a group – bonus!
We stayed in 8 different destinations throughout our two-week stay in India and got a real sense of how the country differs between North and South. Tours can be very fast paced and aren’t always the most relaxing of trips, but you do have the option to pick a slightly less intense one. They’re a great way of seeing as much of a country as you can in a short space of time. So for those of you who are trying to travel around your job, tours are a great option!
As strange as it sounds, it may be actually be cheaper to go on a tour despite the upfront costs. In cheaper countries like Thailand you could probably do the same trip yourself a lot cheaper, but in more developed countries like America, it may actually be cheaper and more cost effective to go on a tour. When you look at the amount you would pay individually to do the same activities, have the same accommodation and use the same transportation as you would on the tour, you see that most package tours are actually great value!
So many of my friends have travelled through Asia alone or with their friend or partner and had the most amazing time. I’ve only ever been to Africa or Asia as part of a tour. The transportation is different, the language, the traditions, the culture and social norms are all so different to ours that I feel safer and less stressed being with a group. I’m just not comfortable in those countries alone yet. Maybe I never will be. And you know what… that’s fine! Travel in a way that makes you happy!
If your parents are like mine, then you’ve had the ‘but it’s not safe’, ‘i just don’t understand why you have to go alone’ conversations. Yep, all too familiar with those. That’s where package tours are great. You’re not going alone! There will always be someone around if you need them. And if you want some alone time, that’s fine. In each destination of your trip you will be given free time to do whatever you want, with whoever you want.
Knowing that there is always someone around if I need help makes me feel so much safer. On my trip to India, I ended up spending 2 nights in hospital. Of course the tour couldn’t stop just for me, so the rest of the group carried on to our next destination, leaving me in the current town. Before I was even aware of what was happening, I was in a private hospital room with my own nurses assigned to me. All thanks to my guide. My CEO (G Adventures Tour Guide) stayed right by my side the whole way! When he eventually had to leave to join the rest of the group, he always made sure I wasn’t alone. He asked his friend (who we’d met earlier that week) to bring me a mobile phone so I could stay in touch with him and so that he could keep an eye on me. He also got other tour guides to come and keep me company, bring me food and watch TV with me while I was away from the group.
After being discharged with various pills and injections, I took a taxi to meet my new friends. A few hours later, I was riding a camel through the desert on my way to a sunset dinner. Just a heads up, if you’ve just been discharged from hospital, maybe give the bumpy camel ride a miss. Everyone at home asked me why on earth I didn’t come back home straight away. Finish the trip early?! No way! I’d been dreaming about India since I was a little girl. Although, if I’d gone alone, I think I definitely would have come home early. I don’t know how I would have coped without the others in my group and my CEO.
As much as I try to learn a few phrases at least before I travel to a new country, there will always be a language barrier. Having an English-speaking guide has made trips so much easier and they teach you some of the language while you’re on the tour anyway! I’ve mostly travelled with G Adventures and I cannot rate them highly enough! They are always my go-to tour provider!
As soon as you’ve chosen which tour you’d like to go on, you’ve got 100% support from the provider (admittedly some companies are more supportive than others). All you have to do next is pay the money. You can pay in installments, or all at once. The company will then take care of everything for you (except for your Visa). So you don’t need to worry about researching as much, or have to remember where you’ve left all the details for your flights, accommodation, etc. With package tours, it’s all taken care of for you. All of your information will be together in one place, you’ll have email updates and someone at the end of a phone should you need to find any information again or want to get any advice. I still advise that you research the country you’re going to a little, but you don’t have to go into as much detail as you would if you were going alone.