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Guided Tour vs Independent Travel

15th June 2017

Preferred styles of traveling are just as varied as the people who travel; no two individuals do it the same way. There are many different ways to travel, whether it be with friends and family or if you choose to embark on an independent journey. There's no right or wrong way to do things, it all depends on your personal tastes and what you like to do. However there are undoubtedly some big differences if you choose to partake in a guided tour vs independent travel. Let's look at some differences between the two forms of travel.

Guided Tours

Whether it's joining a group for a day tour, or partaking in a 25 day tour of the Silk Road, guided tours can be a really fun way to travel. From social to cultural benefits, there are many different reasons why signing up for a guided tour makes more sense than trying to go it alone. Let's look at some of the primary benefits of a guided tour for traveling.

1) It’s a Great Way to Meet Others

Loneliness is one of the most difficult parts of traveling independently. Signing up with a group is a quick and easy way to make friends.

For many people it's often difficult to meet new people under normal circumstances. Now put yourself in the confusing situation of being in a foreign country and it can make it even harder. Travelers are often on different schedules and depending on the part of the world you intend to travel, they might even speak a completely different language. Traveling with a tour group helps break the ice, make friends quickly and create memories with someone else. As nice as it is to look back at old travel photos from a solo trip, sharing a beer with a friend you met on a group trip to some exotic part of the world and reminiscing on the great times you had is one of the best post travel experiences you can have.

2) You Have Access to More Destinations and Activities

There are many travel destinations that are very difficult and safety could be a concern without a guided tour. Participating in a group tour opens up the world for more travel opportunities.

Whether it's traveling to a country where there are regions in political turmoil, or participating in organized activities such as horse trekking through Mongolia, without a guide you are at much higher risk of running into problems. Going on a group tour opens up the world a bit more and allows you the freedom to safely travel to places you might not consider going without one. Trying to go it alone in a place where you don't speak the language, don't understand the local customs, and don't have a plan setup beforehand can not only be stressful, but potentially dangerous depending on where you want to travel. This is one of the biggest benefits for many travelers who decide to choose a guided tour over independent travel.

3) Leave the Planning to Someone Else

Joining a guided tour means there’s no hassle of planning.

Taking time out of your routine to explore the world shouldn't feel like more work. There an are endless number of destinations to go to, and even if you are able to choose where you want to go, what to see is a whole other headache. Group tours arrange the itinerary, activities, and schedules for you way ahead of time. They also give a definitive structure and plan for each day and allow you to see more than if you were figuring everything out on your own. If you’re pressed for time and won’t have too long to see all of the major sights, a tour can help you check off all the boxes quickly. Finally, an experienced and knowledgeable guide can make your trip more enjoyable by helping you understand more about a particular site, and can often bring history to life. Many people who choose a guided tour over independent travel find they learn much more about the place than if they went it alone.

4) More Safety: There’s Always Someone Watching You Back

While solo, independent travel can be rewarding, it can also be stressful and generate feelings of discomfort in terms of safety.

Exploring a new area or taking part in an activity with a guided tour can be a refreshing approach when it comes to travel. Aside from the obvious risks of traveling solo, it may also be difficult to communicate with the locals due to language or cultural barriers. Traveling with a guide often means that you get your own translator, which facilitates communication and helps prevent cultural faux pas. Fear of the unknown is a major reason why many people don’t get out and see the world, but when you travel with a group, you have peace of mind knowing everything that will be planned for you. You’re under the care of people who know what they’re doing which let’s you really enjoy what you’re doing, rather than worry about your safety.

Independent Travel

Now that we've covered some of the benefits of guided tours, let's look at the reasons why an independent journey might appeal to some travelers.

1) Total Freedom

Nobody knows you better than yourself and traveling independently allows you to pick and choose exactly what you want to do.

While it might be more work, it allows you more flexibility in your schedule as well as changing things up during a journey. The freedom to make your own decisions on how to spend your time is the most common reason people choose to travel independently over a group tour.

2) Budget Flexibility and Cost

While it depends on where you go and what you are doing, sometimes traveling independently can be a bit more friendly on your wallet.

Rather than purchasing a group tour all at once, you can break up your expenses. You have more flexibilty with how much you spend during your trip. Perhaps you start to spend more than you expected in a certain location, you can choose not to do the next acitivity to try and save yourself some money.

3) Go at Your Own Speed

Independent travel not only allows you the freedom to choose what to do, but also how long you what to spend doing it.

Everyone is different with how much time they like to spend doing certain activities. Some like to spend hours during their meals trying every little thing each country has to offer, whereas others like to maximize their time seeing as much as they can. Rather than having to deal with more of a group mentality, independent travel gives you completely control over your time and schedule.

So to summarise, there are pro's and con's to both group and independent travel - which one is for you will depend on your personality and character, as well as the particular destination you are visiting.

Michael Pullman

Michael became interested in travel at a young age, when his father would come home with souvenirs and tales from work trips to exotic sounding destin…

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