International Guided Tours

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    May 04, 2012 1:15 AM GMT
    Has anyone ever gone on a international guided tour? Looking at a few options for >20 day itineraries and was hoping to get some feedback or ideas. Seems like a low-cost way to get around and see a lot of the major sights if you can sacrifice a few creature comforts.

    Was looking at Expat Explore in particular. Also reviewed TopDeck and Contiki but their prices were higher.

    Any pros, cons, or alternative suggestions for getting around on the cheap are welcome!
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    May 04, 2012 4:37 AM GMT
    Man, for twenty days you'd have to really trust them and know what you're getting into.

    I haven't been on a lot of vacations, but when i went on a weeks charter trip where I didn't know any of the operations, I picked two different outfits, for a few days each. in case one of them sucked. Good thing too, because one of them truly did. suck. not in a good way.
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    May 04, 2012 5:51 AM GMT
    I have vacationed in Europe quite a bit and except for organized cycling tours where the benefit is getting to ride to the next town with someone else lugging your bags, I always make my own arrangements and stay away from tour companies. Here's why:

    1. You get to choose where to stay. Price, location, quality. It's up to you.
    2. You get to choose whom you are going with and with whom to share a room.
    3. You can be flexible. Want to sleep in one morning? No problem. Want to stay out late? Go ahead. Want to eat somewhere that serves the kind of food you like? Do it. Couldn't care less about seeing the tallest Gothic steeple in Europe or the largest stained glass window in northern England? Do something else instead.
    4. Hate the people you're traveling with? Go separate directions and meet up later.
    5. Want to really get to know an amazing city? Stay there longer than a day and a half. On organized tours, you're going to be shuttled around on buses to tourist sites and stay there long enough to take pictures until you're shuffled back on the bus to the next place you're only going to spend 30 minutes at.
    6. Want to meet and talk to locals? Good luck on a tour bus or in the middle of 30 other loud, obnoxious Americans.

    I could probably come up with other reasons, but that's why I always do my own thing. Before the interwebs, I used a travel agent to help out with hotels, but now with online travel sites and crowdsourced reviews, there's no mystery to what you're going to get or what is available for you.
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    May 04, 2012 6:25 AM GMT
    Contiki Tours are just booze fests. Avoid, unless that's you're thing.

    IMO you're better off doing your own traveling and taking walking tours/local tours in the countries you want to go to.
  • Suetonius

    Posts: 2181

    May 06, 2012 10:36 AM GMT
    YOu say "international," but does that mean europe, asia, africa or where? Never been on a guided tour, but tend to agree with Erik911. You are likely to end up with the "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium," experience. It can be more relaxing to spend a week or more in a single city (Paris? Rome?), and most tours allow only a day or 2 in any city - and you miss the countryside entirely. If you were by yourself in Paris, and wanted to visit the Champagne region, you could just hop on a train. On an organized tour, you would never see Vaux Le Vicomte or get to sample a gay restaurant. Unless one has a terminal illness, there would be many more years to come to visit other locations. Like Dash said, you can always get a local tour.

    When I was your age, I went to Europe for two months by myself and had a great time - ended up not seeping alone in most major cities and some smaller ones - that might not be as as likely or possible today. When I wanted to go to a new place, I just hopped on a train.

    I would not consider an organized tour (unless it were a gay one) in europe. Maybe other parts of the world, like asia or africa. In europe, it helps if you have a smattering of some major languages, but is not really necessary to travel today.

    Saving money - investigate the Rick Steves books - recommens inexpensive lodgings. In summer, in europe, it is possible in some places to overnight in monasteries or university dorms (the cheapest) . Also, there is thte "Let's Go" series of guidebooks, geared to the budget student traveller, If you insist on being on a tour (and don't want to be bored out of your mind by your companion travelers) try a gay tour. It is almost guaranteed that you will meet some interesting travel companions. These tours can be more expensive.

    You might try Out Adventures: (which has periodic ads on RJ), or Hanns Ebenstein Travel:

    The tour site at
    lists a number of gay tour companies.

    You might consider a bike tour in a limited area.

    I had a great time once on a Hanns Ebenstein river rafting trip in the Grand Canyon