There are a few misconceptions about group tours, perhaps conjuring up images of throngs of people straining to hear a lone guide, miniature flag held high. Or triggering memories of herds of insensitive tourists blocking pavements to take photos and chatting loudly in serene locations. Then there’s the limitations – spending a holiday with your nose pressed to the glass of a coach window on a whistle-stop tour that barely scratches the surface.
But not all group tours are created equally, and we’ve known even the most sceptical travellers vow to abandon independent travel after their first Small Group Tour.
So keep an open mind! Here’s why taking a small group tour in Myanmar is not to be sniffed at.
1. New friends
This one seems self-explanatory, but worth pointing out all the same. As well as exploring a new destination, travelling with a group is an opportunity to broaden your mind. If you’re journeying around Burma together, the likelihood is that your neighbours are going to be open-minded folks that are interested in travel – you already have something in common.
Meet people from all walks of life, and share stories. You might even have a pen-pal at the end of it.
This doesn’t mean that you have to live in eachother’s pockets. It might seem like a paradox, but you will still have freedom to follow your nose. Most small group tours in Myanmar have the odd free day, spare afternoon, or evening set aside for you to make your own plans. That said, you may well find that you still want to hang out with your new friends, after all.
3. Tour leaders
The usefulness of a tour leader cannot be stressed enough. Of course, they have a mine of information about Burma and can lend a hand to help you choose the best spot for dinner. But they can also deal with any unforeseen circumstances, and make last-minute plans.
4. Time management
On all holidays, it can be difficult to plan your time effectively. It goes without saying that Burma is always going to be incredible, it’s also likely to be once in a lifetime. Sometimes, it’s just not worth risking precious time out of your day, or taking a punt on an area that you know nothing about. There can occasionally be hiccups with transport too…
A small group tour itinerary is well-researched, with help from those who actually live in the country and can offer some guarantees about places worth visiting, and the logistics to make it work.
There is a lot to be said for travelling alone. It’s an opportunity to look at the world differently and take confidence from finding your feet. But, and this is a big but, solo travel doesn’t necessarily mean eating every meal by yourself, or looking out over the plains of Bagan and having no-one else to exclaim the magnificence of it all with.
Small group tours and solo travel are not mutually exclusive. Meeting new people in a strange and wonderful country is just a little more fun!