8 Reasons to Travel in a Tour Group

For many of you, just like me, the first go-to after deciding to plan a 'gap year' or 'sabbatical' is to head to STA Travel to map out a logical route. Their travel agents are all wanderlust enthusiasts and they try to pair you with someone who has visited the same part of the world you want to explore. Questions regarding weather, visas, immunisations and accommodation can all be answered along with the planes, trains or automobiles part of the session. Several visits and annotated maps later, we had planned our entire six month 'travel-moon' around the Americas with the help of STA Travel. In our jam-packed itinerary, Ryan and I had booked onto a couple of G Adventures tours  - a subsidiary company of STA - starting with Peru's Andean Discovery from Lima to La Paz and a round trip in Central America with the Costa Rica Adventure. Here are some of my thoughts on why you should sign up to an organised tour:

1. PERFECT INTRODUCTION TO AN UNKNOWN CULTURE. 
A dedicated tour guide will give you tips to adjust and feel and be safe in an unfamiliar territory. As much as we don't like to think it, we stand out like sore thumbs with our English rose complexions (a tan doesn't make you blend in with the South American locals!). Poor attempts at 'Spanglish' and with a backpack in tow really drives it home - you're a foreigner in a foreign land and if you're not careful it could mean you get taken advantage. Advice from your tour guide is a great starting point.
2. TAKE YOUR FOOT OFF THE GAS.
Let someone else manage the logistics for a change. No need to spend hours battling dodgy WiFi connections to book flights or hunting out a bus station to buy tickets to your next destination. Just wait to be handed your room key and told where to be and at what time to get from A to B. It was a welcome relief for us to have this kind of service in Peru after the miles accumulated and logistical effort required in North America and Ecuador. 
 
3. STANDARDS (you will sleep like a baby)
G Adventures have long-standing relationships with local businesses and, for the sake of their own reputation, have to ensure the hotels, B&Bs and hostels are up to scratch. Cue matrimonial rooms arranged for us honeymooners, private bathrooms and even a swimming pool or two along the way. There was never a bad experience, though manage your expectations according to the trip and budget you are working with. Even though they weren't 5* they were really decent.

4. MEALS ARE INCLUDED (*Well, some are) 
Meals are built into the schedule when accessibility to restaurants or shops is pretty limited, i.e. an overnight bus serves a dinner and breakfast snack and its included in a particularly isolated hotel/hostel stay in the middle of nowhere. Again, manage your expectations here, Peruvian breakfast frequently consists of two bread rolls with butter and jam. If you're gluten intolerant it might be worth stocking up on extra snacks, although some do provide fresh fruit. And the bread, whilst I'm sure it is fresh, could do the same damage as the young Nicholas Hoult did to a duck in About A Boy. 
5. OUT OF THIS WORLD EXPERIENCES.
A huge draw to the Andean Discovery was the inclusion of the Inca Trail or Lares Trek culminating in sunrise at Maccu Picchu. You're paired up with fabulous local guides who tell the story of the local land from their heart. A chance to 'live like a local' is through a homestay in Puno and Costa Rica’s Sarapiqui, the latter of which was only accessible by tractor. Now that's a great start to a dinner party story...

6. TRIPLE 'A': ADVENTURE, ACTIVITIES & ACTION.
Arriving to a new destination every day or two with an array of options for how to spend your time is a brilliant position to be in, and again this all gets downloaded to you from your tour guide so put down the guidebook and grab a beer whilst you listen. From cooking classes to white water rafting and visiting Inca sites to hikes in the wilderness, the opportunities keep flowing and cater for all budgets. Simply raise your hand upon request and your CEO makes all the arrangements. Easy peasy.
 
7. MAKING FRIENDS.
Particularly good for solo travellers but also anyone looking for companionship and a few laughs along the way. On our Peruvian trip in a group of 20 there was plenty of entertainment, stories to be told and interesting dinner time chats (that I won't be repeating). In our case 8 Aussies, 7 Brits, 2 Austrians, 2 Suisse and 1 Kiwi ranging from 19 to 37 years old. In Costa Rica we were one of four couples and one of two pairs who were taking the trip as part of wider travel. Whereas the rest of the group were holidaying and you always count on four crazy Canadian ladies to make it real interesting. Especially when they too are also nurses with some interesting stories. In total, 4 Brits, 4 Canadians, 2 Americans, 2 Germans, 2 Danish and 1 Russian.
8. GET TIPS FOR YOUR ONWARD TRIP. 
What's so interesting about travellers is that no two trips are the same. Everyone works to different timelines with varying countries on their passport hit-list and budgets to splash. Get talking to your travel buddies and get recommendations for places to stay and eat and activities to do from those who know it and know you. Nothing better than word of mouth for all those upcoming places. 

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Whilst an organised tour won't be for everyone (if you can't stand being in a big group or being forced into a pretty packed agenda, it's best you give it a miss....) but these are the positives as I see it. A newly married couple on their honeymoon isn’t your stereotypical group members I assure you but young-minded people with a love of travelling certainly are. 

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