A couple of posts ago I glossed over reasons people choose to take organised tours: they’re easier, time efficient, social and occasionally things even do work out to be a little cheaper (but these are few and far between). For people new to trekking, for example, an organised trek is a perfect introduction to what a 5-day hike entails.
Of course, 99 percent of the time the tour companies are after their cut – and why wouldn’t they be? It is a business after all. If you’re on a hardline budget like me, or you are simply fed up of paying what feels over the odds for something you can achieve yourself, you can often enjoy fulfilling tours of your own. With a little haggling, some important questions and your own resourcefulness you can often circumvent pricey tour costs and build you own adventure.
A great place to start would be to ask the tour companies a few important questions:
- How much? (Duh)
- What’s included? (Food, accommodation and transport are the absolute basics)
- Does the tour cover add-on fees like National Park entries? (These can often prove to be added hidden costs)
- What are our transport options? Will I spend seven hours cooped up on a bus?
- Where am I sleeping?
- Where/what are we eating?
- Who is on my tour? Do we have English-speaking guides?
Once you have this information jotted down you’re free to go away and consult your Lonely Planets, Rough Guides, Wikitravel and of course your knowledgeable (and hopefully friendly) hostel staff. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do local buses run to the area I am planning to explore? They are often a fraction of the cost.
- Can I budget to eat food in the area I am visiting? The answer is usually yes.
- How much is accommodation in the area? Are there hostels/campgrounds?
- Is there anyone willing to come with me and split some costs?
- Am I willing to be resourceful and have a go at this myself?
I can honestly say that the treks, day trips and solo gringo bus rides I have decided to take the plunge on an embark upon myself have given me the biggest senses of self satisfaction. Coming in at the end of a self-sufficient 5 day tour of my own under budget is always an added bonus too!
On a side note, I have been overwhelmed recently with the sharp increase in traffic to the website and personal correspondence from other travellers and would-be-travellers via email. Although I get a bit caught up sometimes, I answer all emails and comments. If I have missed anything above or you have any questions please don’t hesitate to drop me a line in the comments or via my contact page.