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Top Self-Guided & Independent Experiences

  • Sampling culinary delicacies across Tuscany
  • Ascending the terraced hillsides to reach upper Ghandruk that offers a fine view of Annapurna mountain range
  • Strolling through the cobblestone streets of Trinidad and enjoying the sight of colorful houses
  • Walking at your own pace
  • Enjoying the hospitality of a local host
  • Having a local guide that shows you around town
  • Volunteering at a rehabilitation and conservation center of wild animals
  • Exploring the Amazon jungles with local guides 
  • Hitching a lift on a cargo boat to Timbuktu. 
  • Relying on strangers to help find our way around in Mongolia, and winding up meeting some of the nicest people on earth.
  • Struggling to get just about anywhere in China, but feeling accomplished when we finally managed it.
  • Road tripping through western Europe, and Inter-railing through the east.
  • Learning some of the local language when staying with a family in Nepal.
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Self-Guided & Independent Attractions And Landmarks Guide

You can travel independently but still make good use of a tour operator. For instance, many tour operators will put together a pre-organized itinerary for you; just follow their thorough instructions and maps rather than a guide, and not have to worry about where you'll sleep at night or where you'll be each day. Tour operators can also put together self-guided vacation packages and holiday packages for you. All you need to do is ask, tell them where you want to go and how you like to travel, and they'll do the rest.

Independent travel comes with plenty of upsides and downsides, and it's worth factoring both in when making your decision to travel independently.

Upsides:

Freedom

One of the main reasons people choose to travel independently is to have the freedom to put together their perfect travel plan. Independent travel puts you firmly in the drivers seat. When you wake up each morning, you get to decide where to go and what to do that day (though be warned, it also means you're in charge of making it happen).

Price

Traveling independently generally works out cheaper than traveling as part of a tour. You don't have to factor in the cost of a guide, or tour company fees. However, be aware that certain things may actually work out more expensive, for example, in places where you need to rent a car and driver, it makes financial sense to join up with a group to split the costs. Also, keep an emergency stash handy, as, when you're traveling independently, there may be times when you can't find accommodation or transport within your budget. If you're trying to keep costs down when traveling, check out our tips for budget travel.

Adventure

Setting of with nothing but a map and a backpack to travel independently can be one of life's most adventurous experiences. Even struggling to figure out a new country can feel like a victory when you finally succeed in making your way from one place to another. While independent travel does create some obstacles, try to see these obstacles as a fun challenge, and remember to look on the positive side.

Immersion

When traveling independently, you'll become immersed in the community you visit. Without a guide to rely on, you'll likely have to learn some of the local language to get by in day to day interactions. Also, when trying to find your way around, you'll likely be relying on help from strangers, which can lead to all kinds of wonderful encounters.

Downsides:

Planning

Some people love planning, but, for those who don't, organizing a trip can be a nightmare. Even if you're planning to just hop on a plane and see where the wind takes you, there are still flights to book, travel insurance to sort out, and accommodation to arrange (for the first few nights, at least). It's also a good idea to read up about your destination in advance, particularly when it comes to places to visit, sights to see, and things to do. If this doesn't sound like your thing, have a look at a guided tour to see if that's a better option for your trip. Alternatively there are several tour companies that can help you craft an indepentent itinerary.

Logistics

When traveling independently, the planning doesn't stop once you've arrived at your destination. Throughout your trip, you must deal with the logistics of finding your way around, sorting out necessities, and bargaining or hunting for the best price. And all while possibly dealing with a language barrier and an infrastructure far different from what you're used to. To some, dealing with logistics is all part of the adventure, but for others, it's a hassle that takes away from their experience of travel (and wastes a lot of their valuable holiday time).

Loneliness

If you're traveling alone, then joining a tour can be a great way to meet other people. If you decide to travel independently, your trip can be a great experience in many ways, but it can also be lonely. To meet other travelers when on an independent trip, try finding hostels with a lively sociable bar, meeting other travelers through travel forums, or going on a few short group trips. To meet locals, try taking part in fun lessons, or arranging some home stays.

Feasibility

Even if you prefer traveling independently, it can sometimes be unfeasible or even impossible to do so in certain places. Research your destination to find out whether traveling independently is possible and practical. Here's a list of some places where having a tour guide is essential.

Self-Guided & Independent Tour Reviews - Summary

4.6 out of 5

99%

recommend

615 Reviews

Excellent 316 Great 128 Average 3 Disappointing 1 Terrible 0

Rating Details

Value
4.6 Guide
4.6 Activities
4.6 Lodging
4.6 Transportation
4.6 Meals
4.6

Great Until London

European Dream Summer 2017

4.0 July 2017 Trafalgar Recommend: Yes We just returned from the European Dream vacation. My wife and I had a wonderful time, except for London. The website advertises this trip as 10 days, but we felt abandoned on day 8 when we were delivered to Hotel Kensington in London. We no longer had our excellent tour director, and we were left on our own for the remainder of the trip. The tour director spun this by saying we purchased an extension to London, but that is not how it was advertised on Trafalgar's website. She also said that another tour director would be taking over for her in London and all would be great. It was not. There was no tour director, but a Trafalgar concierge at the hotel who was only there for 3 hours a day to give out maps of London. I should have known that something was up when we had to fill out our final survey for the trip on day 8 before we arrived in London. If we would have been given the option of trying to explore London on our own or end the trip in Paris, we would have left on day 8.
Overall, the trip was great. However, we did not receive the "Trafalgar Experience" on the last part of the trip which left us frustrated and disappointed.
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Gozo go slow

Calypso's Isle: Self-Guided Walking in Gozo - Premium

4.0 February 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes An ideal escape, even in the winter months when the sun is not so reliable.
I'm really pleased to look at the map of Gozo and know that I have walked virtually all of it. The walk booklet led me across the island in all directions but knowing that it was very hard to get lost gave me more freedom to explore 'off piste'.

Not applicable

The Ta Cenc hotel was very welcoming and the rooms comfortable and heated! The spa was a bit tired but the heated pool a must. Staff were lovely. Winter in Gozo was okay but it would have been even nicer in the spring. As a single female traveller I felt very safe.

Remember - you can't get lost on Gozo!

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We thought it was wonderful. Its not for everyone though.

G Lodge Amazon & Camping - 4 Day Independent Adventure

4.0 January 2017 G Adventures Recommend: Yes It was exactly what we expected in terms of accommodation, meals and the actual jungle but we had a much greater appreciation for the area having personally been there.

I liked everything about it.

Iguassu Falls Independent Adventure - Upgraded

5.0 January 2017 G Adventures Recommend: Yes The hotel was very good. I liked the tours and how long it was both days.

I would recommend it to everyone!

Teach Arts and Crafts – Volunteering in Costa Rica

4.0 January 2017 Give A Day Global Recommend: Yes We volunteered on our Honeymoon in Costa Rica and I would recommend it to everyone! There is no better way to truly learn about a country and its people than to volunteer and give back to the community. Read more
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