Whether you’re backpacking across Europe or you’re planning your own luxury visit to South America, you’re always presented with the possibility do everything on your own or book a guided tour.
The question that commonly arises is:
Are guided tours worth it?
The short answer is that it really depends on what you’re looking to see when you’re traveling abroad, what your budget is and how comfortable you are planning your own trip.
There are definitely some benefits to taking advantage of the services offered by a guided tour but it’s also fun to do your own thing and explore on your own.
In this post I’m going to discuss the benefits and drawbacks when it comes to guided tours versus independent travel and which one is a good choice for you to consider!
Are Guided Tours Worth It?
- 1 Are Guided Tours Worth It?
- 2 Benefits
- 3 The Drawbacks
- 4 Traveling On Your Own
- 5 The Benefits of Traveling Solo
- 6 The Drawbacks of Traveling Independently
- 7 Guided Tours vs Solo Travel: Which is Better?
- 8 Choosing the Right Tour Company
Here are some of the main benefits of going on a guided tour.
No Difficult Planning
One of the biggest benefits of booking a tour, whether you’re booking one for your entire trip or you just want a guided tour through one of the cities you’re visiting, is that there is very little planning required on your part.
You simply have to search online for some tours that interest you, maybe send a few emails, input your credit card info and you’re good to go!
Some tours will have everything included from flights and airport transfers down to hotels, daily itineraries and even meals.
If you’re not comfortable planning your own trip you’ll definitely want to consider a guided tour and you can go with one that offers the best services and activities and you’re interested in having taken care of for you.
Meeting New People
On guided tours you’re likely going to be traveling in a bus or van with a group of other people that are just as interested in traveling as you are.
You’ll all be spending a lot of time together getting from destination to destination as well as eating meals together, spending night at the hotel together and walking around exploring new places together as well.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo traveller or you’re traveling with a friend or significant other, you’re still going to meet the different people on your tour and if meeting people is something that you’re interested in doing then you have better chances of doing that compared to if you were just traveling on your own.
It’s Very Safe
There is safety in numbers and on a guided tour it will typically be traveling with other small, medium or large sized groups of people.
If you want, you never have to be alone and especially when you visit all of the main tourist attractions and popular sights you’re bound to be with at least a few other people and you don’t have to worry so much about getting pickpocketed or something bad happening to you since there is always someone around to to watch your back.
When you’re traveling solo you never really know what’s going to happen on the day today but on a guided tour will always be with the tour guide and anyone else that’s coming on the tour with you so there’s the element of safety that will make you feel better if you’re apprehensive about something happening while you’re abroad.
A Range of Tours Available
There are so many different guided tours available that you can actually be hard to pick a specific one with all the options you have to choose from.
When you’re traveling by yourself it can be hard to know which areas to check out, where to stay and what places are worth visiting but when you’re on a tour you can check out an itinerary beforehand and get a better look at where you’re going to go.
You can also choose a specific to or related to your personal interests whether you want to learn more about history, local culture or you want to even go on a party/adventure based excursion.
Great For Infrequent Travelers
For people that only travel once or twice a year it can be quite daunting having to plan everything and guided tours remove the element of surprise and make it a lot easier for you to travel abroad.
It’s also so much easier to be able to check out all of the info online in advance and choose a tour that you’re most interested that takes you to a destination you actually want to explore rather than hoping for the best and picking somewhere random.
Lots of Information
With a dedicated tour guide you’ll learn a lot more about the places and destinations you’re visiting including more about the history and culture than you would if you were travelling on your own.
The guides tend to be very knowledgeable and will be able to give you more information about the various aspects of your trip without you having to scroll through your phone or travel around with a guide book.
You’re Able to See More
Finally, another one of the main benefits of going on a guided tour is that you’re able to see a lot more in a shorter period time thanks to the detailed itineraries that these tours typically use.
You’ll have transportation already arranged between destinations, hotels already booked and with a tour you can just focus on the experience rather than having to worry about all of the small details.
Keep in mind that there are some drawbacks to guided tours as well that you should consider before booking one.
If you’re looking for something that’s completely set up and ready to go for you then you can expect to pay a lot more than you would if you booked and researched everything yourself.
With flights and all transportation included it’s not unreasonable for a week-long tour to run upwards of $1,000 to $2,000 and the longer you travel the more expensive it’s going to be.
Lack of Spontaneity
Since everything is going to be planned for you it’s not as easy to do something spontaneous or something random when you’re on a tour.
You’re pretty much going to be following a strict itinerary with a few options to choose from when it comes to additional excursions but otherwise it’s mostly a rigid experience that you’re going to have with little opportunity to do your own thing.
You Might Not Get Along With Everyone
On a guided tour that there are a lot of different people that you’re going to meet from the tour guide, the drivers and even the other travellers who you might share a room with if you’re traveling solo.
Even if you’re the most friendliest person in the world there’s the chance that you might not get along with everybody and any small argument could put a bad taste in your mouth when it comes to the overall experience of your trip.
Traveling On Your Own
Now that we’ve gone over guided tours let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of traveling on your own.
The Benefits of Traveling Solo
Create Your Own Itinerary
One of the biggest benefits when it comes to traveling solo is that you’re able to create your own itinerary without having to worry about what anybody else wants you to do.
By creating your own itinerary you can explore where you want, check out all of the places that you want to see, eat at restaurants that you want to try out and just spend time doing your own thing.
Well-Suited for Budget Travelers
If you’re traveling on a budget then solo or independent travel is the best way to save money and travel for a lot longer than you would be able to if you were on a guided tour .
You can basically travel on nearly any budget and most people would be able to get by with between $30 and $50 per day including food, accommodation and entertainment.
When you’re traveling on your own you’re free to do as you please and this opens up a lot more possibilities when it comes to how you can experience your travels.
You’re able to be a lot more spontaneous and you can make a lot more random choices without having to stick to a rigid itinerary.
Learn More About Yourself
Finally, one of the best things of traveling solo is that it enables you to learn a lot more about yourself and it encourages you to confront stressful situations and work your way through them without any support.
Without a tour guide or an itinerary you’re on your own when it comes to planning your trip, looking for things to do and dealing with any of the stressful situations that arise.
You’ll be forced out of your comfort zone and once you solve any of the problems that you’re confronted with you’ll end up a stronger person and any issues you encounter in the future you’ll be better able to deal with and they might not seem like such a big deal.
The Drawbacks of Traveling Independently
Planning Your Own Trip
When you’re traveling solo it’s up to you to plan your own trip and create your own itinerary.
If you’re not that internet savvy or you don’t have much experience booking flights. finding accommodation, or looking up the best things to do in the city you’re visiting then it might be stressful and quite hard at first to figure out what to do.
It does get easier with practice but those first few trips that you plan can be quite stressful and you’ll never know until the trip is over whether or not you accomplished everything you wanted to without any hiccups along the way.
Harder to Meet People
For very sociable and personable people meeting other travelers when you’re traveling solo probably isn’t a big deal but if you’re someone that has a little bit of anxiety or you’re not that good at meeting people then traveling alone might not actually be a good idea.
On your own you’ll be forced to go out of your way to interact with other travellers and depending on where you’re travelling you might not even need that many other people traveling on the road so you’ll be stuck as a third wheel.
There are ways to meet other people when you’re traveling such as going on walking tours or pub crawls and staying at hostels is a good way to meet like-minded travelers but it’s still something to keep in mind as a drawback to solo travel.
Guided Tours vs Solo Travel: Which is Better?
Ultimately, it’s based on your personal preferences, budget and what you’re looking to get out of the time you spend abroad when it comes to whether or not solo travel or guided tours are better.
To decide you’re going to have to spend some time thinking about what you’re looking for with any trip if you’re interested in going on, how much you’re willing to spend and if you want everything to be planned for you or if you just want to explore and do everything on your own.
Keep in mind that while guided tours are going to be much more expensive they’re going to offer an incredible experience without you having to do much planning or organization on your own.
On the other hand, solo travel is very rewarding and you’ll have the opportunity to explore and check out anything that you want without any restrictions and for a much more reasonable price.
Choosing the Right Tour Company
If you’re interested in going on a guided tour on your own here are some tips on how to find a suitable company.
Do Some Research and Read Reviews
It’s a good idea to do a little bit of research online to see what the two companies have to offer you and compare the budgets of any of the specific tours are interested in before you go ahead and book something.
You’ll also want to read reviews and maybe check out other blog posts just to get a better idea of what people have to say about the guided tour that you are that you’re interested in and whether or not it’s a good one that you should go on or something that you should avoid.
Choose One for Your Age Group
You might not be aware but there are a variety of tours that are designed for people of various ages.
For example, Contiki is one that’s very popular and their tours are catered towards younger people between 18 and 35 years old who are looking to party and go on a memorable adventure.
If you’re a more mature individual and then you’ll want to consider something like G Adventures, which offer tours that focus more on local history and culture and are better suited for those that aren’t as interested in partying but more on an in-depth travel experience .
For the older crowd you’ll definitely want to consider something like a European river cruise. These will have everything taken care of for you including all meals and accommodation. You’ll be able to check out of a variety of different cities as well as enjoy the scenery as you cruise along a popular European waterway.
As always, don’t forget to take a look at the costs associated with any tour and check to see if it’s something that’s within a reasonable budget that’s suitable for you.
It’s much better to spend what you’re comfortable with and maybe not go abroad for as long rather than overspending and have to worry about your finances throughout the duration of your trip.
Regardless of your budget you’re bound to find a guided tour that will cater to your needs and will offer you plenty of value for what you’re able to spend.
Apart from reading reviews about the tour itself you should also look into any reviews or ask about more information about the tour guides that you’ll be paired with.
You’re going to want to travel with someone that’s knowledgeable about the place you’re going, experienced with giving tours and will hopefully ensure that you have a good time abroad.
Any reputable guided tour company will have no problem providing you with some more details about your specific guide and if they raise any concerns about why you’re asking then you should probably go ahead and look for a different company that’s more willing to work with your needs.