The thing about tours…
There are times where I feel that booking tours are for chumps. “Why book a tour where the guide will take you to places with all the other toursists.. ” blah blah blah. I’ve always had this mentality whenever I would plan out a trip and doing tours only to places where I absolutely need one (ie: glacier trekking, rafting etc.) otherwise, I’d rather plan it myself. In short, a DIY attitude.
In my defense though, I havent really had a good experience with tours — nor have I ever experienced a tour where its actually worthwhile. I’ve had my share with those bus tours that take you to Montreal & Quebec; cities in the US, etc and they’re fairly meh. We’ve even seen the large coach buses that clog up a beautiful waterfall in Iceland; tours coming in droves like clockwork. 30 minutes later, they’re gone until the next one arrives. Then, you hear stories about the $99 CAD trip to China bus tours all-in (accommodations and meals.) The catch? They bring you to factories at every stop and really do a hard sell for trinkets you really don’t need. Some items are not really all that affordable either! They can go as high as a couple of thousands for a jade bracelet or silk duvet set. In this case, I have not fully experienced this tour – only heard about it but the consistency of the story between different people… I’d be surprised If it isn’t true at all! I know China can / will be a very daunting place for us to visit outside of the cities so are these tours going to be the only way to see China’s interior? I really hope not! *crossing fingers*
For some thing we have experienced: Vicki and I travelled to Morocco and decided to hire a private tour / guide / driver for 4 days, 3 nights. On paper it seemed great: customizable itinerary; gas, guide and driver; a night in the sahara but a part of me was worried. “What can go wrong? Its private at least..” is what I’ve always told myself. Surely enough, the first place he did take us to was movie studio where tons of Hollywood movies were shot in. yay.
I think after a while, we did stress to him not to take us to anything like that. So for the rest of the days together, he didn’t end up taking us to those places or shops. On the plus side, he was a great person to talk to in the car (especially at times where driving for hours can get really boring) learned a lot about the Muslim religion and gave us insight on the places we visited. He even gave each of us a scarf taught us how to tie and use it before we headed off for the night in the desert! Stuff like these would be hard to know / accomplish on a DIY trip unless you really do your research. Also, the costs of the rental and driving through the madness of Marrakech (or any other places really!)
For the length of time Vicki and I will be travelling, it would be hard to sustain tours even for a couple of days. Happy medium? I don’t know yet. There are walking and bike tours which are great! But how do you see the remote areas? Is it be possible to interact with locals even with a language barrier? We’ve seen tours that can be booked locally since the cost of booking online can be doubled or tripled, but are they legit? I’ve met backpackers that book the tours on the spot from random tour hawkers but the community is really in-and-out so I’ve never heard a full report regarding the tour they’ve done. Can we see China without a tour?
Questions like these can drive a planner bonkers.