Being able to travel is a privilege not a right … in fact, it’s like a power for a select few. And we all know that with power comes responsibility! So I like to keep that in mind when I travel and make responsible and sustainable travel choices wherever I can.
It can be a minefield out there and often you just don’t know the consequences of your actions – all you can do is try your best.
When I mention tours, you might not immediately think of responsible travel. But I’m not talking about large coach tours where tourists converge en mass and take over tourist attractions. These days there are a lot of options for travellers young and old to explore the world in a style suited to them. I particularly like the rise of small group touring as there are a lot of companies that support the principles of responsible travel. I’ve listed what I see as five advantages of small group tours below.
1. Safety and security
This is a biggie for solo travellers, female travellers, or anyone who is feeling unsure about the language barrier, managing public transport in an unknown country. If you are new to travelling or planning to go somewhere that makes you a bit nervous, I would recommend looking into some organised tours. There are so many to choose from, you are sure to find something to suit you. It’s also great for the family and friends back home – you will have your itinerary in advance and can leave that with them along with the details of the tour company, which makes it super easy for anyone to get into contact with you if the need arises.
2. Ease and simplicity
Tours are hugely attractive to those of us who work full-time and want to make the most of our limited annual leave allowances – it’s better to book on a tour that suits your needs than to head off on an unplanned adventure. You will end up seeing a lot more, feeling a lot less stressed (before and during your travels), and you’ll probably even meet some great people! This can extend to anyone who needs a break from planning. Doing a round the world trip? Mix in some organised tours to give yourself a break.
Tour companies will take care of all the boring but important stuff like your travel from A to B within the country (sometimes they will include your flights from home too), and where you will stay each night. Activities may be included in the price, or optional extras which your tour guide will organise for you or help you with when you are at the destination. If you want to travel for a couple of weeks, that’s an awful lot of planning. You will save all that time researching before you go, or while you are on the road, meaning you can sit back and enjoy some relaxation, which, let’s face it, is pretty important when you are on holiday.
Chances are you will be travelling to a place you have never been before. So wouldn’t it be nice to go with someone who knows the ropes? Your tour guide may be a local, or at least someone who has knowledge of the area. They will be a great source of knowledge on local customs, great places to eat, and often local history. You will get an insider’s tips on where to go and what to do, all without having to open even one book or webpage. You will often get access to insider-only experiences – I went on a tour in China once, and the local guide took us back to her family home in a village outside of town where we had a home cooked meal. It was amazing to meet her family and visit a village that I otherwise would not have even known existed.
As an added bonus, you know the itinerary will be realistic with long travel days running as smoothly as possible or avoided altogether. There will be no awful nights sleeping in bus stations because you didn’t realise that the connecting bus doesn’t run on [insert local holiday that you had no idea existed].
4. Built in travel companions
You will have to do a little research to find a travel company that suits the style of travel you want to do and is likely to attract like-minded travellers. A lot of companies have information on their pages to guide you, or you can just do an internet search. Into photography? Find a photography tour. Into partying and nightclubs? There are tours for that too. Into walking, cycling, sailing, general adventure sports, cooking, luxurious accommodation, wildlife spotting, volunteering, budget travel … there is something out there for everyone. Of course you never know who will be in your group, and you might not make lifelong friends, but I have never found myself in a group with nobody I can find common ground with. Instead I have garnered a bunch of friends and contacts from right across the globe.
5. Cost effective
This one may be controversial, but I think there are some really good value for money tours out there. The initial cost may seem high if you are a budget traveller – but remember you are getting all your accommodation, travel from one place to the next, sometimes meals and activities, AND a guide included. I think it also makes it easier to budget too, because once you’ve paid for your tour and flights, you won’t need to fork out for any other big costs.
One part of the attraction for me, as a solo traveller, is the option to share a room. This means I don’t have to stay in hostels, and yes I’m sharing my room with a stranger but … they won’t stay a stranger for long.
Some of my favourite companies
These are the tour companies I have experience with, not in any way an exhaustive list, and not in any order.*
Intrepid have a strong focus on responsible travel with many of their tours including experience with local charities, although this is more incidental than a focus of the trip. They have a range of trip styles and lengths, but I like them because they take care of the boring stuff like travel and accommodation, while leaving plenty of flexibility if you want to head off on your own for particular activities. Their tours are limited to roughly 15 people, and they use local transport as much as possible, which reduces the environmental and social impact of tourism. Based in Australia they have particular expertise in the South-East Asian region, although they also run trips with partners across the globe.
G Adventures G Adventures are very similar to Intrepid, but based from Canada and therefore have a slightly different sphere of expertise.
Dragoman Like the above, Dragoman focuses on responsible travel and authentic local experiences in small group travel. The main difference is that they have trucks and focus on longer-term travel. Many of their trips involve camping, and as such they are able to take you further off the beaten track.
*This is not a sponsored post, these are genuinely my own thoughts and recommendations.
Well I hope I’ve given you something to think about and encouraged you to try all styles of travel to find something that works for you.