My wife and I are big fans of independent travel. We like to figure out how to navigate the local subway system, how to get around, how to order food. It is challenging but sometimes the challenge is part of the fun. A tour is easier and sometimes easier is just what we need.
I am more likely to take a tour:
- When it is my first time in a country
- When I don’t understand the language
- When there are safety issues
- When my wife won’t come with me and I don’t feel like traveling alone
A tour can be all-inclusive, everything is done for you, a day tour, or a tour with free time on your own. Here are some websites to help you find one for you:
Tour Search Engines
Stride Travel – I expect there are or will be more tour search engines in the future but Stride Travel provides a good one-stop shopping site to look for tours including bus tours, small group tours, small ship cruises, and safaris.
Some of the least expensive tours are the 40 person bus tour. This is not my favorite tour as you can only stop in restaurants that can hold 40 people and you tend to spend a lot of time looking at life through a bus window.
Globus – Globus provides escorted tours to over 70 countries on six continents. Globus also has religious and family tours. They have a number of brands including Globus, Cosmos, Monogram (independent travel), and Avalon Cruises (River Cruises).
Cosmos – The Amateur Traveler trip to Egypt was a Cosmos tout. Cosmos is the budget brand for Globus.
I strongly prefer small group tours to bus tours. These usually max out at 14-16 people. You can do a tour just for your family if you don’t want to be in a group of strangers. These tours use smaller vans or sometimes local transportation and can be a great stepping stone when you aren’t quite ready for independent travel to a particular country.
Intrepid Travel – I have taken an Intrepid travel trip in China and then we also used them for the Amateur Traveler trips to Morocco, Cambodia, and India with an upcoming trip planned for Africa. They are a low cost, connect with the culture option. I am a big fan of their great guides.
G Adventures – I have not personally taken G, but we have talked to a number of guests who have and have had great experiences with them. The brand is very similar to Intrepid and sometimes the local guides will work for both, see G Adventures vs Intrepid.
O.A.R.S. – Oars specializes in multi-day rafting trips. We have talked to their late founder about rafting the Grand Canyon and I personally took their Gates of Lahore trip in Dinosaur National Monument. I highly recommend them.
Context Travel – They advertise as “private guides and (very) small group tours for the intellectually curious traveler”. They and not the cheapest day trips but I love the ones I have taken, including a couple of recent walking tours in Berlin (24 Hours in Berlin, Germany).
Urban Adventures – This is the day tour brand for Intrepid Travel. If you book an extra extension for an Intrepid trip you are using Urban Adventures, but you can also add on a day trip or two to your independent trip.
Viator – I have enjoyed the various day tours that Viator offers, including a layover trip in Taiwan (Layover Tour in Taipei, Taiwan – Get Out of the Airport on Long Layovers) and a local food tour (San Francisco North Beach Food Tour – Viator My City).
Shoretips.com – A good alternative for cruise travelers to find shore trips independently of their cruise line. You can search by your particular cruise itinerary.
Make Your Own Tours
JayWay Travels – We have talked about JayWay as a sponsor on the show. While they don’t do guided tours per se, they can help set up something very much like that for your group or family. We used them to plan a trip to Bosnia and Croatia where they booked all the hotels, arranged transportation and provided a number of guided walking tours of the cities like Sarajevo, Split, and Dubrovnik. If you are wanting the ease of a tour but not looking to hang out with strangers than a company like Jay Way can be a good alternative.
There are a great many more tour companies than this. Which ones would you recommend? Which ones would you avoid?