So, you look at a new area of the world, somewhere you’ve never gone before. You want to travel there, but you’d rather not take a tour with its big groups, forced shopping stops, lock-step schedules.
For many travelers who have traveled, say, Europe, independently, the idea of traveling to an Asian country independently seems too complicated or scary. But if you can travel Europe independently, you can travel Asian countries independently as well.
Let’s look at the problems with group travel. When you travel with a group you have to adapt to the tour company’s schedule. If you want to sleep late but the bus leaves at 7 am or the flight they’ve booked you on leaves at 8 and you have to be at the airport by 6:30, you get up early. Wasn’t this supposed to be a vacation?
The hotel the tour company uses is not conveniently located. So even if you have a spare hour or two, there is no close shopping or sightseeing.
Group meals are geared to the lowest common denominator: bland or western buffets… no opportunity to taste the real cuisine of the country.
Hotels touted as “luxury” are worn, the service is poor, and you are herded around like cattle.
The tour company tells you what a great deal you are getting, but when you check into the hotel, you find that others paid $50 a night for this hotel while bundled into your package, you paid at least 50% more.
If you add up what you would pay for most tours, you will find that you could have gone to the same places and stayed at the same hotels for considerably less had you booked it all yourself. Or, for the same money, you could have stayed at nicer and better located hotels, eaten interesting food, spent more time at the places that really interested you and shopped at places that weren’t tourist traps. Did you know that places the tour company takes you to shop give kickbacks to the tour operator? Tour companies have to make money, and they do so by adding a mark-up to the services they provide.
If you enjoy group travel, then by all means, book with a tour company, but don’t book with a tour company if you want to travel independently but are afraid to do so. Instead, tackle your fears and learn how you can travel independently.
What are your fears?
Coordinating flights, ground transportation and hotels seem so complicated from half way around the world.
I remember traveling independently in Europe back in the days when booking a hotel in advance meant getting a foreign bank draft and mailing it to the hotel, then waiting to get a written confirmation in the mail.
With the internet, booking a flight or a hotel almost anywhere in the world is as simple as a few clicks of your mouse. Yes, you will need to decide where you want to stay, but making this choice should be a pleasure. And you’ll want to know which online booking sites are reliable. But these are matters easily addressed.
I don’t speak the language – how will I ever manage?
As English-speakers, we are privileged that English has become the language of tourism. Especially in Asia, you’ll find that many people you have contact with – in hotels, shops and airports – speak English. There will be times when you need to communicate something to a person with whom you have no common language, but you’ll find that with some patience and good will, the language barrier can be overcome.
Where should I go? What should I see? I don’t know anything about this country!
For me, one of the great joys of travel is learning about another culture, another country. There are so many resources! I always start by browsing a few guidebooks and buying one or two to start. From there, I look for information about particular aspects of the destination that especially interest me. I always develop a reading list of books – guides, history, photography books, and novels – as I am preparing for a trip.
Some people look for movies and television programs about the destination or that were filmed on location in that country. Of course, with the internet the information available about places halfway around the world seems endless in its variety… Travel boards where travelers offer information to other travelers, You Tube videos of places you may want to visit, even information from tour companies about their offerings can be useful.
This is just a brief preview of the kind of information we plan to offer on this site so that you can plan the travel of your dreams.