Why I decided to Travel on a Backpacking Tour Group:
The decision to travel through South East Asia was a difficult one. The idea of being a solo female traveller in South East Asia did not sit very well with my family. The age-old tale of “everyone does it”, was not working either. I stumbled into a local travel agent one day while I was in town. After explaining my situation, they recommended an organised backpacking tour group.
What is a Backpacking Tour Group:
A backpacking tour group is where you travel a set itinerary with an organised group of travellers. You will have a group tour guide. Tour guides should be local people who are experts in the area you are visiting. The size of the group travelling and the ages of the travellers will depend on the organisation and the tour you have booked, around ten travellers is usally what you should expect.
You will be given an itinerary once you have booked on, this will tell you the places you will be visiting and how long you will be there.
What are the differences in Backpacking Tour Groups:
There are hundreds of organisations that provide backpacking tour groups. Depending on the type of tour you want to do, they can differ in:
- Length of time
- Style of travel and accommodation
- Age range between travellers
The Length of Time:
There are tours available for only three nights all the way through to 50 nights. The range available is incredible, there is a suitable time for everyone.
The cost of tours varied depending on several factors. These include; the length of time, the area you are touring in, if you are sharing a room with someone, or if you would prefer a private room. How you travel to and from the different locations will also have an affect on the cost of the tour. Most tours (around South East Asia) use a combination of private minibuses and local trains to get around. The more expensive tours will opt to fly to different locations to add comfort and save time.
Style of Travel and Accommodation:
The style of travel and accommodation will mainly be determined by your budget. As money is usually a key factor in my trips, I always opt for the budget option. By travelling by road or train, you also get to see more of the country you are visiting. It also gives you new experiences that you wouldn’t get travelling by plane. One of my best experiences of this was travelling on a sleeper train through Vietnam. Up until that point, I had never been on a sleeper train; I had so many emotions running through me! I was both excited and nervous as I’ve read some really horrific stories about them.
Age Range of Travellers on Tours:
Again, depending on your personal circumstances you can find tours that are for the younger traveller (18-30-year-olds), and some for the older generation.
Where My Backpacking Tour Took Me:
I flew from Heathrow Airport London on my birthday (I was hoping to get an upgrade) to Ho Chi Minh Airport Vietnam. I met my tour group that evening over dinner and drinks. We spent around two weeks travelling through Vietnam, visiting Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay.
Next on the list was Laos, we spent around ten days travelling here. We visited Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, and Pak Beng. While travelling down the Mekong River we pulled over to a small village and stayed in a homestay – this was one of my highlight of Laos, and 100% recommend it.
The final country on the itinerary was Thailand. The tour group continued travelling to Bangkok, but I hopped off the tour at Chang Mai to spend a week in an elephant sanctuary.
Would I do a Backpacking Tour Again?
At first, I had mixed emotions about my tour. There were definitely places I would have like to stay longer such as Luang Prabang, Hoi An, and Hanoi. Equally, there were places that I did not enjoy as much and would have prefered to move on straight away.
From talking to friends that solo travelled without a tour group, I began to feel jealous that I did not have the same freedom and I swore my next trip would be just me and my plans. Once I was travelling solo, I missed the comforts of a backpacking tour group. I missed just waking up and not having to plan anything, not having to think about accommodation and transport, not having to research the top things to do in the area, or not having to read up on the history of an area. These luxury are all things that come as part of your package. I missed my tour guide telling me the history of the areas and finding me the right price for any excursions I was interested in. He knew the best places to get food and the best places to go out for a drink and a boogie.
I found myself spending more time planning my next steps than I did enjoying the area. There were times, of course, I was happy I was on my own relaxing on the beach with my trusted kindle.
After reflecting both trips, I would definitely consider a backpacking tour group again, especially if I had a limited time away. Although you initially pay a bit more you save that in time and ease of travelling.