The age old debate amongst travellers. The backpackers do it there way and believe they are the only true travellers. The tour company people just want the simple holiday and not waste time trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B.
I married a “tour girl”, my first trip on my own was backpacking so I can say I have seen both sides of this story. Both have their pros and cons and you have to ask yourself what you want to do. My first trip was, in my opinion, amazing. And when I look back as to why it was, backpacking was a big part of it. I had the flexibility to do a lot of stuff that you never would get to do on a tour. That being said, I also had 2 months to do it in and wasn’t overly rushed.
Remember, think about what your aptitude is and what the place is like where you are going. Backpacking isn’t cut out for everyone and you might not even enjoy it. Here are some pros and cons. I will just list the pros for each as the cons are intuitive from looking at the other option.
- Flexibility to change your plans.
- You can go places tours don’t go. This is what made my Asian trip so good. Some of my favorite places weren’t on any travel routes.
- You are not relying on the tour company to be good. If they aren’t, you are going to have a bad trip without much choice.
- You meet way more people.
- Usually cheaper, but not always.
- There is no wasted time, generally. Everything is scheduled and booked so you won’t have to wait around.
- Some things have capacity booking and a tour company will make sure you do what was on the itinerary.
- You can leave your brain at home. You are taken care of. Wake up calls in the morning, paperwork prepared for you, advice when you arrive to a destination, and the list goes on.
- If you tour with people for awhile you make good friends with a lot of people which is nice when you share activites with them.
- Safety. This is really important if you are in dangerous countries.
- Easier border crossings? This is generally true. I was recently in Africa and backpacking would have been annoying in more than a few circumstances.
I have to say I have enjoyed both. My tour holidays were very, very relaxing and my backpacking trip was an “adventure”. With backpacking though, you need to be disciplined and resourceful. It is more of a working holiday because you always need to be on your guard and planning ahead, because no one will be doing it for you. If you are a hands-on-kind of person then go for it.
You need to consider the region you are going to as well. After being to Africa, I was quite glad I was part of a tour. South-east Asia is geared towards the backpacker so I was glad with that choice (not that I put any thought into it as it was my first trip). I would have gone either way when I was in Peru and Ecuador. I did it more like a tour, but their transit systems and the activities I did didn’t require it. We actually tried a bit of a mix. We had a couple free days here and there where we did whatever we wanted. With the Amazon jungle tours, the Galapagos, and Machu Pichu it doesn’t matter. You have to go with a tour company anyways, so whether you booked it as part of an overall tour from home or found each one individually it won’t matter.