This is the other half of my post about the benefits and drawbacks of going on an organised tour. I’ve already written about the five pros for going on an organised tour, and this time I’m looking at the flip side of the coin and examining the top 5 cons of choosing an organised tour. While I’ve already said that going on a group tour can be a great option, you do have to be willing to compromise on a few things.
1. Your tour mates are ‘luck of the draw’
Now, this could be either a pro or a con depending on who happens to join you. The first Oasis Overland tour I did in Egypt, I made friends for life who I have stayed in contact with over the last six years. On the other hand, I wrote this blog post about encountering an almighty personality clash with those on an Oasis tour in Africa. While you can read reviews and the tour’s website to get a feel for it’s ‘style’, at the end of the day it is luck of the draw. Be prepared to grit your teeth and make the most of it, even if your fellow travellers aren’t people you’d usually hang out with.
2. You sacrifice flexibility
Probably one of the biggest drawbacks for most people is that an organised tour means significantly cutting down on flexibility. If you travel alone, then it is easy to make last minute changes to your itinerary. On an organised tour, this is near on impossible – unless you’re willing to leave the tour at least temporarily (which I have done so is possible). This may mean missing out on something you think is fascinating but doesn’t really excite the masses (i.e. my desperation to see the criminal courts in Tanzania), or being stuck for days somewhere you don’t really love.
3. It can be more expensive
I say “can be”, because the opposite can be true: an all-expenses paid trip (even a fairly expensive one) may work out cheaper if you are a bit of a spender. Likewise, tours do mean sharing transport costs which can reduce costs overall. However, as a spendthrift, I find that even budget tours are generally more expensive then I could do things on my own – especially if there is the dreaded ‘single supplement’.
4. Large tours can be BYO Crowd
While it’s pretty much unavoidable that you will have large crowds at big tourist destinations, if you travel alone, you can easily find quieter spots. Not so much on a large organised tour, since you are the crowds. Again, unless you are willing and able to separate from the tour at least temporarily, certain experiences (think wine tastings at an intimate cellar door) may either be off limits entirely, or not exactly the ‘intimate’ experience you planned
5. Many tours focus on tourist attractions
I have written ad nauseum about how much I dislike the assumption that popular = bad, however I think it is true that many tours (especially budget ones by big companies) tend to emphasise tourist attractions and look over the smaller experiences. I have noticed with many tour itineraries that they are trying to have broad appeal, so tend to prioritise big, touristy bucket list items over more humble experiences. There are exceptions, of course, but if your idea of travel is really immersing yourself in a place, then you may find many tour itineraries jarring.
Bonus… #6: Tours pose extra challenges for introverts
So this may not apply to everyone, but one of my favourite things about travelling is ‘disconnecting’. My day to day life is very people-focussed, so as an introvert, my idea of a dream trip involves a lot of me time. Now, it is not impossible to break away on a tour and find a quiet corner to recharge those introvert batteries, but it can be challenging, especially if you find yourself on a party tour.
If you are not sure whether an organised tour is for you, I would highly recommend picking a short 4 or 5 day trip to get an idea of how you find it. Another option which I will explore in a blog post soon, is a private tour (likely to be much more affordable than you think!)
Plus, don’t forget, if worst comes to worst – you can always bail on the our!