There are three main ways to travel: With a tour group, with just you and a guide, or, independently. Here we’ll explain the differences between the three options and the pros and cons of each form of travel.

Travelling With A Tour Group.

For some, going on a guided tour is perfect. With this type of travel, there’s little to no planning on your part, everything is set up for you and all you need to do is show up. You can meet some nice foreign travellers and make some new friendships along the way. Simple and easy.

Going on a guided tour usually means that there will be many other travellers with you and you’ll all go from sight to sight together.  Lunch is usually at a predetermined restaurant and the menu items will probably be chosen already.

Your tour cost will include the private transport, the guide’s fee and lunch. All of which will be at an inflated cost. The guide will expect a nice tip and if you have a driver, typically he will expect some extra cash as well.

travel independently
A very easy way to travel! A Chinese tour group “hiking” up to the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in Guilin, China

For us, going on a tour is a last resort. When you arrive at a sight or a village as a big group of foreign faces, you’re more likely to scare off the local people rather than have them come and speak with you.

Also, with so many people, it’s difficult to have any one-on-one time with your guide to learn about his/her life and culture. We find that travellers always end up talking amongst one another about their personal lives, previous countries they’ve been to and where they’re going next.

It’s great to meet like-minded people and chat about travelling, but we prefer to do that around a hostel dinner table, not when we’re out exploring a new country, we’d rather talk to the locals!

Going on a tour and having a guide are two different things…

Having A Guide Can Be An Excellent Experience.

Some of our best moments have been with just the two of us and our guide. We rode through the deserts of India on a camel, enjoyed the serenity of the White Desert in Egypt, visited an orphanage and church in Mozambique and went on village walks in Indonesia. All of those experiences were had with just the two of us and a guide.

Yes, we still had to pay the guide fee and a tip at the end, but it was worth it. By having someone to show us around without the “tour group”, we were able to not only learn about the sights and area, but we were also able to talk to them about their personal lives, their culture and about what life is like for us in Canada.

travel independent
Me with our guide and the kids at an orphanage in Vilanculos, Mozambique

Having 3 or 4 people show up at a village, rather than a big group, is much less intimidating to the local people. We’ve been invited in to homes for tea and snacks on many occasions. The experiences had with us and a guide were much more intimate and informative than if we had gone with other foreigners.

The Most Ideal Way To Travel Is Independently!

Our number one choice is independent travel. We really prefer to venture out by ourselves and try to find our own way. Not only is it usually cheaper, but we always have some amazing, totally unexpected experiences and meet great people.

If there’s a lot of history to know about a particular site or if local knowledge is needed to sail a boat or help us with camels, then we will hire a guide.

In those cases it makes sense to have someone else with us. Other times, trips can be done independently… which makes us two very happy Goats!

If you think you’re too “old” for independent travel and need to go with a tour group, think again. We’ve met people from all walks of life and of all ages who are still toting a backpack around the world. You just need to be young at heart!

travel independently
Local girls we met when we travelled independently to Harran, Turkey

Our next travels will take us to Mongolia and Central Asia. It’ll be basically just the two of us and we’ll be going quite off the beaten path. We plan to trek, hike, camp and fish by way of GPS and compass. We’ll be hiring a guide to help us out when we go trekking with horses, but apart from that, it’ll be an independent adventure and possibly our most epic trip yet!

What’s your travel style? Which way do you prefer to see the world? Leave a comment below!

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Should You Travel With A Tour Group, A Guide, or Neither?

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Written by

Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift are the owners and founders of Goats On The Road. Together they have been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and have more than 20 years of combined experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Their expert advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and they also spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging.

Learn more about Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift on their respective author archives on this site and on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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4 thoughts on “Should You Travel With A Tour Group, A Guide, or Neither?

  1. I’m really enjoying your articles and can’t wait to be “on the road” again soon. Most of my travel has been in groups
    or independent but I have not hired a private guide before. How do you find a good one and determine the price? Have you used them for multiple days in a row while traveling and if so do you pay for all their meals, lodging, etc? You upcoming trip sounds quite adventurous even for you two. Looking forward to following along…

  2. Hello Joanne,
    We’re glad you enjoy reading our articles and we also can’t wait to be on the road!
    Private guides are an excellent alternative to group / independent travel. Many popular guesthouses / hostels will be able to arrange a reputable guide for you and they are also occasionally listed in the Lonely Planet. Some reputable travel agencies can also arrange multi-day guides and all guides will usually include the cost of their room and board in their fees. If you’re talking about hiring a car and driver to take you around a country, then petrol may be an extra cost on top of the guides regular fees. If you’re planning on getting a guide for a specific country than just ask us, we may have some information on it.
    Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip!

  3. Hey Patricia,

    Anywhere in the world is possible to travel alone as a female, but you’ll just have to be a bit more mindful when in Central Asia. For one thing, they’ll find it weird that you’re not with your husband! We met some females in Central Asia, but none of them were solo to be honest. Although, I’m certain it’s possible to travel as a solo female. In the cities you’ll be fine, but if you’re going to do the Pamir Highway or any independent trekking, I might suggest grouping up, as the tour guides are predominantly male. You’ll have some fantastic experiences with the local women! Bring a Russian phrasebook so you can communicate 🙂


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