When you decide you want to go travelling, you’ll start to see package tours everywhere. No doubt you’ll be wondering are they really worth it? They sound a lot, but then when you read the itinerary and what’s involved, you start to realise it’s actually not that bad of a price. They appeal to those who are either first time travellers, or people that want to see the world, but perhaps don’t want to quit their job at home. Some are most definitely worth it, others not so much.
When I started travelling last year, I started off by doing tour. There were many reasons behind it, and although I now realise I could have done the same stuff a lot cheaper, I don’t regret it at all. Those were the best 3 weeks, and I met people that I’ll be friends with for life. It gave me the confidence I needed to go out and do it on my own. Introduced me to the life of backpacking and what was involved, what to watch out for, what to do etc. And because of those things I learnt during those 3 weeks, I’ve seen and done some incredible things since.
The main reason I chose to do the tour was safety. I’d heard how unsafe Thailand was, and that it would have been stupid of me to go travelling out there alone. Wrong. Thailand is just as safe as England. If anything I felt a little bit safer out there. I’ve been out there travelling alone since, and I never once felt in danger. Don’t do anything you won’t do at home, and you’ll be sweet. A lot of the girls I spoke to on tour said a similar thing. They did the tour because they thought Thailand was unsafe to travel alone. We all soon realised that, that wasn’t the case at all. However, I’d of sooner learnt this on a tour, where I was safe anyway, with people knowing what they were doing. Than taking that risk and doing it the first time alone, clueless. Also, it gave my parents some peace of mind. They had never been Thailand, and knew I had never been that far away from home before, especially on my own. So it kinda built their confidence up in me. Although they still do a worry a little bit when I head out alone, they know I can be trusted, and they know I know what I’m doing.
Another reason I chose to do the tour was because I was a little bit clueless when it came to backpacking. I had been on holiday abroad before, but please be aware they are two very different things, and are in no way similar. There’s a big difference between backpacking in Thailand, and taking a holiday in Thailand. I didn’t really know any friends that had been proper backpacking, especially in Thailand, so reading blogs alone, I was still a bit hesitant. The tour introduced me to what backpacking was all about, what was involved, the highs, the lows etc. In those 3 weeks I learnt so much, and it gave me the confidence to go back out there again alone. Like I said before, I’ve seen and done some incredible things since, which I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to do, had I not been on that tour.
And lastly, I was just nervous to go it alone. Most of my friends are either settled down, or just have no desire to rough it in Thailand. I thought if I went out there alone, I’d be lonely, I’d get homesick etc. I met friends on the plane going over to Thailand, that’s how easy it is. Hostels are the most social places ever, and everyone is in the same boat as you, so it’s really easy to get talking to people. It’s not like being sat in a bar on your own back home. I never once felt lonely, or wanted to go home. But as I said before, I’m glad my first experience, I had the safety net of the tour, to let me figure those things out and see it for myself. Not just taking it from a blogger I’ve never met!
So yeah, the tour I went on I’d recommend, especially if you’re a first time backpacker. If you’re thinking the above, then it most definitely is worth the extra pennies. People will stand there and say it’s not proper backpacking if you do a tour, ignore them. It was no different between the tour, and when I was backpacking alone. If anything I got to know the people a little better that I met on the tour, than the ones I’ve met backpacking alone. I don’t really see that as a bad thing?!
Personally, I don’t think I’d do a tour again in Asia. I know now I’ve got the confidence to do it alone and I’ve already proved that to myself. However, there are package tours, similar to the one I did in Thailand, all over the world. And in some parts of the world, I think package tours can actually work out cheaper than doing it alone. For example, I’ve booked a tour in Australia. So the first week I get there, they’ve sorted out my hostel, transfers, all my activities for the week. Then as a little bonus, they sort out my WHV, my bank account, medicare, help me find a job etc, and they can be a base for me, for the whole year I’m in Australia. I could do these things myself, it is really easy. But that wasn’t the reason I booked onto the tour. It was more because the first week of activities really appealed to me. When I worked out how much it would cost for me to do those things myself, it actually worked out a lot more than what the tour were charging. Plus they were chucking in the hassle of sorting all the paper work for me, for pretty much free. Go figure. It was a no brainer!
Granted, some tours do rip you off. I’ve found tours in Australia that were charging £500 alone, just to sort out your WHV. That’s more than £200 to fill in some paperwork for you. And it’s really not that hard guys! A quick google search, just go to the website, fill the form in, and usually within a few days you’ll hear back from them. The company I’ve used have charged me around an extra £10, which to be honest, I’m not going to grumble at. They’ve got to pay their staff, I understand that. And like I say, they’re sorting out all the other things for me too, which technically, they’re not charging me for. Getting your tax number and medicare card etc, is FREE. So if a company offers to sort these for you, and are charging you for doing so, DO NOT USE THEM! You’re just wasting money.
The whole point of a tour is to introduce you to a new country, show you the different cultures, introduce you to new things and meet new people. Not rip you off. Do your research, look what other companies are offering. They’re all usually pretty similar, but ones usually a little cheaper than the rest. And if they’re offering the same things, and they’re reputable, it’s a no brainer, go with the cheaper option!
The company I used for Thailand are called Backpacking Through Thailand. I believe the tour has changed a little bit now, and has slightly gone up in price. Although looking at the extra things you get to do, I’d still say it’s worth it. Go follow them on facebook, and every so often they do a cashback offer, so you can get a few extra pennies for your trip! They’ve also started a similar tour in Vietnam which looks really good too. So if Thailand isn’t for you, their Vietnam trip might be.
The company I’ve booked with for Australia are called Oz Intro. I know a few friends that have used these, so they come recommended. They’ve got years of experience, and the price is really good for what you get. Wanderlands is also a company that are similar, and offer a similar package. The only reason I chose Oz Intro over Wanderlands is because friends have used them, so I know they’re decent. Plus Oz Intro were slightly cheaper, and offer to be a base for a year. They’ll be a mail address for you to forward any mail you get, which is obviously ideal if you’re on the move all the time. Which I will be, hopefully. I believe Wanderlands don’t offer that, but I could be wrong! Wanderlands do seem to have a good rep however, so I would definitely look into them as well.
One company I wouldn’t recommend for Australia, but I know are really popular is Bunac. I got recommended this company years ago by a few friends. And years ago I would have probably used them. But I think with the growth of similar package tours, they’ve lost their strengths a little bit, and for what they offer, they’re a huge rip off. For a group flight option with a stopover in Hong Kong, they wanted to charge £900. My flights, with a stopover in Hong Kong have cost me £400. Even with accommodation and the activities in Hong Kong they were offering, it still comes to under £500. Plus I’m spending a few extra nights in Hong Kong, than what they do on their package. That’s £400 I’ve saved straight away. I believe they also used to charge around £500 to sort out the WHV for you, for Oz. I’m not sure if they still get away with this, but it’s around £260 for the WHV if you do it yourself. And the paperwork is so simple to fill out. Thats around £240 profit they’re getting for doing it for you, and it would take a member of their staff 10 minutes or so, to fill it all out. Oz Intro are charging me £10. It’s up to you to make the judgement call, but I think you’d all agree, that’s a rip off!
So there are good things and bad things to package tours, probably more good than bad. But it is down to who you use, and who you go with. Do your research, look for recommendations, and most importantly, ignore the haters!