Most people who are highly independent disdain organized tour companies. But in reality, every traveler has taken an organized tour at some point in their lives. Even if its just a simple day or overnight tour. The point i’m trying to make is that they are often unavoidable. This is because many different places are inaccessible unless you’re traveling with a registered tour company (Bhutan and the Galapagos islands come to mind) and so you must sign up with one to see these particular places.
Unfortunately tour companies have been given a bad rap over the years. When you think of group tours, the first thing that comes to mind is old people in Bermuda shorts and lots of cameras. But organized tours that are done correctly can actually be very fun. They are great for helping you adjust to traveling with a like minded group. If you are interested in taking a tour there’s a few things you should look out for.
How to choose the right tour company
Reputability – it’s always wise to research your tour company of choice on various forums and places like TripAdvisor.com. Look for any bad reviews, and try to avoid the bigger and more expensive companies, since oftentimes they have many bad reviews anyway. Generally, the smaller companies are a little better and are a great place to start your research.
Average price – make sure you ask the tour company where the money is going. Find out if there are any hidden fees you have to pay when you’re on location. Some companies will even ask for more money when you land at the tour location.
Tour guides – it’s best to choose a company that uses local tour guides. This is because a local guide will speak the language, and can help you with any merchant transactions. Some tour guides are really knowledgeable and can really add to the tour experience, while others are more like glorified timekeepers. But a good tour guide can really make a great trip, and a bad one can break it.
Be Safe – you should always choose an accredited tour company who is following all of the proper safety requirements.
Scheduling – if you’re paying a company for an experience you should look at how they are planning out your day. Are there many activities planned, or do they just leave you to roam around? Try to choose a tour that has many activities scheduled but is also a little bit balanced. Running around all day can be stressful, and there’s no reason to do that while you’re on holiday.
Group size – large groups require large accommodation and big ships and buses. Tour companies that focus on small groups make it much easier to meet people and forge new friendships within the group.
Where’s the money going – is the tour company you are booking you’re tour with using a local company or a large corporation? Are you being shuttled around a motel, or a big bus? Are you staying at only large corporate hotels? Or are you using small locally owned hostels and hotels and other services? Try asking your tour company where it puts most of its money, because a good tour company will always keep everything local.
Not all tour companies are bad!