Why Taking a Tour is a Great Way to Travel
You don’t know the language, or you’re incredibly rusty. The culture is enough of a mystery that you’re afraid you’ll step on social toes (or end up as lunch). Driving the unfamiliar roads and traffic patterns while translating signs gives you a panic attack.
But you still want to go. The unknown calls to you, and you know in your heart of hearts that if you could only have a trusted guide to help you understand the place, your fears would melt away.
The solution? Don’t go it alone. Sign on for a country or topic tour with a reputable company and you’ll find choice, inspiration and adventure, as much or as little as you want.
Missteps for the Unguided
Yes, we’ve done it ourselves, more than once and in countries where we didn’t speak the language. There’s nothing like practicing the courtesies over and over, confident you’ll be able to greet your driver in his or her home language only to be so exhausted from long flights that you can’t even remember your own name, much less how to say ‘hello’ in Czech! I felt bad, even if the driver thought it was a hoot.
Luckily, the first three days of that trip were in a country where it was polite to speak English as a second language, and other than a major faux pas at the grocery store (putting your basket on the conveyor belt is a big no-no, evidently), we didn’t offend anyone, at least not that we knew of, other than the old-school woman at that checkout counter. Once we joined the tour, traveling was a breeze.
You see, you don’t know what you don’t know. Ignorance is bliss and all that, but really, do you want to be that Ugly American? If you’ve traveled in the regular list of tourist countries, you’ve seen them, talking louder in English as if that will overcome the gap in their language capabilities, or complaining because being in (…fill in the country) isn’t like being at home.
Isn’t that the reason one travels in the first place?
What Tour Companies Give You
First and foremost, tour companies give you guidance and confidence that the experience you’re going to have will be a memorable one, and memorable for the right reasons. Often, they have tickets to sights that are long sold out to the public, like St. Peter’s or that special museum. They speak the language and know the customs, and they’ll keep you from buying that umbrella from the unlicensed vendor in Florence, which can result in a big fine for you as the buyer but oddly, no repercussions for the seller.
More to the point, tour companies allow you to immerse yourself in your travel experience while they take care of the details, like transportation from point A to point B. They make sure the rooms are ready, the tours are booked, and the education about what’s special in a place is provided to you. They plan, you play. Simple, really.
How We Do Touring
We have a big adventure to Costa Rica coming up and yes, we’re with the Trafalgar tour company (https://www.trafalgar.com/) for the first week of it. With them, we’re exploring the nature sites and staying at amazing resorts and eco-tourism spots I haven’t found in the popular guidebooks. We’re having an immersive experience.
For the second week, we have a rental car and a map and our sense of adventure to guide us. By then, speaking Spanish and learning the local culture for a week gives us confidence that we can navigate the roads and make ourselves understood, even in smaller towns. Second to access to adventures you wouldn’t know to plan yourself and guidance in the mores of local society, using a tour company brings you that confidence as a benefit.
We’re looking forward to our time with Trafalgar as much as we’re looking to self-driven exploration. A country of such amazing natural beauty and commitment to sustaining it will be a pleasure. Hopefully, I’ll capture some incredible wildlife and landscape images too.