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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

4.7 out of 5

100%

recommend

459 Reviews

Excellent 322 Great 126 Average 3 Disappointing 1 Terrible 1

Rating Details

Value
4.7 Guide
4.7 Activities
4.7 Lodging
4.7 Transportation
4.7 Meals
4.7

I had a great time volunteering at Baphumelele with their day care center.

Township Community Center – Volunteering in South Africa

4.0 January 2017 Give A Day Global Recommend: Yes The children were amazing and it was easy to get there and get involved. I would highly recommend checking them out if you have some time during your travels in Cape Town.

One of the more meaningful things I did!

Teach, Read, Learn – Volunteering in South Africa

5.0 January 2017 Give A Day Global Recommend: Yes Spending a day with Masicorp was one of the more meaningful things I did during my stay in Cape Town. They gave us a safe, exciting experience into the culture and provided us with the opportunity to give back to the community. It was wonderful having lunch with one of the businesses they support and seeing the beautiful coast of Cape Town. Read more

A great and interesting trip

Camino de Santiago Self-Guided Ride

4.0 August 2016 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes Very enjoyable trip, although tough cycling in places (the climbs on the first 2 days).
There is a good atmosphere on the camino and, although there aren't many cyclists compared to walkers, it is always very friendly.
All the hotels are comfortable, clean and basic, but also friendly.
I enjoyed the descent into Molinesca to find out we were staying in the hotel/hostel by the river as you come in, and enjoying a beer in the garden outside.

N/A as it was a self guided trip

Buy a few things in the morning for a packed lunch to eat when you want to. Some of the cafes are very basic and had run out of food by 1pm, plus it's better to pick your own lunch spot.
For the first 2 days you are high up and one of the day's was very cold and windy, come dressed accordingly.

Bikes are new and well maintained but heavy. Would be good to have lighter mountain bikes.

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Self guided Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago Self-Guided Ride

4.0 August 2016 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes Overall our trip was really good. I have some comments on a few things that were less than good, but only provide them in order to help improve the experience.
There were many enjoyable moments, but if pushed to provide just one it would be arriving at the Cross of Iron. Didn't hurt that there was long downhill section after that.
No group leader, but do want to comment on the travel guide. Several times the directions were simply wrong! No serious problems, except for a few extra kilometers when we would follow directions at a round about only to discover it wasn't the right exit.
We found the daily distances too short. It was as advertised, but I guess we expected that the biking would be more challenging or there would be more interesting places to stop enroute. We often found ourselves finished early in the afternoon, and since several locations were very rural there wasn't much to do in the area. We especially were unhappy to not finish at O'Ceirbro. It meant we had to start the next morning (right after breakfast with full stomach) to do 7km grind up to O'C. would have much preferred to have done that the afternoon before since we were at the Inn by 2pm.
The rental bikes were excellent and the system for transporting bags was great. Hotel and staff in Palas de Rei excellent, but there is very little to see or do in the town and this is one of the days we finished very early, would have preferred to ride on to the next city which had a interesting old sector and lots more opportunities to explore.
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Everything was so well planned. Eventho we had a lot of spear time, the guide took us for a trip to show us around in the Amazon. Highlight of my trip!

G Lodge Amazon & Camping - 4 Day Independent Adventure

5.0 December 2015 G Adventures Recommend: Yes Over my expectations!
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