Escorted tours are a very popular form of holiday. They provide a way of getting a taster of a large area (“If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium”) or getting an in-depth introduction to a single country, region or locality.
Probably in the majority of cases, they are coach tours, but they need not be. It is possible to find escorted tours that go by train, by four-wheel drive, by bike (motor or pedal), by foot, even by camel, or a combination of several of them. A cruise can be regarded as an escorted tour, at least if you go on several of the shore excursions, albeit a very relaxing one. This is even more so of river cruises.
Why go on an Escorted Tour?
Whilst one can organise a trip round a region oneself, escorted tours have the following advantages:
- Convenience and time: everything is organised for you, you are taken from place to place, and your accommodation is ready and waiting. If you are working, your holidays are likely to be too short to enable you to cover meaningful distances, particularly in remote areas.
- Local knowledge: Your guide will know much more about the locality’s attractions and customs than any guide-book. This can include things like knowing where the best restaurants are, where hidden gems are found to how much to tip.
- Companionship and security: you are travelling with a group of like-minded people, so you have a head start in making friends. The tour manager and guide are there to warn you of any potential pitfalls, and if anything does go wrong, you have the tour operator to fall back on. Even if you would be happy to travel independently nearer to home, this can enable you to think of branching out to more remote areas.
Who goes on Escorted Tours?
Some people regard them as just being holidays for older people. This is true. However, there are many tour operators who aim for young people. These include some adventure travel companies, and companies such as Kontiki who restrict themselves to under 35s. The common factor is a lack of children. However, for those who have kids, there is at least one company (Explore), who does tours for families, with different trips for different age groups.
What kind of company should I go with?
There are many different tour companies. Some are mainstream, where as others are specialists. Mainstream does not mean run of the mill however. They take you to where you want to go, where as, it might be said, the more specialist take you to places you didn’t know you wanted to go. Frequently, for a certain touring area, several tour operators will follow a very similar route, with the major differentiation being on the quality of the hotels and what is included, from meals to entrance fees, and even limousines to and from your local airport. At the value end there are firms such as Newmarket, and at the more luxurious firms such as Titan and Collette.
Of particular interest to are the various adventure tour companies. My favourite of these is Explore, who I have had several very good holidays with, mostly in the Middle East. They tend to attract an eclectic mix of travellers, from students to high court judges. They do the more interesting coach tours, over-landers, trekking and cycling holidays.
Christopher R Bell is married to the owner of and is responsible for the website for Citrine Travel His dream holiday (this week) is to travel the Silk Road to Samarkand.