You’re browsing online for your next tour and some of them look absolutely fantastic and so inexpensive! But wait, there are a couple of words that I’m not sure of recently: hosted tours and independent tours. You know what they mean in general conversation, but what do they mean where travel is concerned?
Good question, with a simple answer, but knowing the difference will make a significant impact on your travel decision.
“Independent” means you are on your own. The travel company will book your hotels and, if you’re traveling to various cities, perhaps they’ll also book your train seat. When your plane lands you’ll make your way to the hotel and, if you want to see the sights, and well, that’s why you’re traveling, isn’t it? You will, for the most part, have to make your arrangements. You’ll get to each place by any method you choose…car, cab or bus. Carry a good guidebook or perhaps hire a local at the sight.
Why book this type of package if you are on your own for the majority of the time? Well, tour companies have buying power, so you may save a little money by purchasing a hotel stay from them, but that’s not always the case. Check with your travel agent who will be happy to price it both ways for you to ensure you receive the best value.
“Hosted” involves a little more hand-holding. You may be met at the airport and transported to your hotel, which is pre-booked for you as well, and you’ll have breakfast daily. Your “host” is a local tour professional (usually) who represents the tour company with whom you booked. This person is available to you at certain hours of each day, to advise you on sightseeing, restaurants, and shopping in the area.
They will also have available optional tours you can book through them and travel. You will have plenty of time to do your own thing but have the security of being able to consult someone throughout your stay. If you are visiting multiple cities, then transportation is also arranged for you in advance including train, bus, or flights.
Escorted is the best choice if the language of the country you are visiting is very foreign (In most European countries you will find many locals who speak English fluently). Your guide will meet you, greet you, and introduce you to others in your group…because escorted tours are almost always of a group of 24 to 40 people. (The exception is luxury tours in which your group consists of only you and your travel companions with a private guide.)
All of your hotels and transportation are included. The guide checks you into each hotel and hands you the keys. Your luggage is taken to each room and then picked up and placed back on the bus so that you can relax.
The guide and driver will accompany you on all sightseeing tours, smooth your admission to museums and monuments, entertain you (hopefully) on the bus ride to the next town and, all in all, act as your “big brother” or “sister.” You will be well taken care of and probably get the most out of your journey.
Knowledgeable guides make a career of sharing their inspiring insights and are well-versed in local customs and must-see hidden treasures. Most travelers agree that the tour guide is the key to a good vacation due to their wealth of information, warmth, and efficiency.
In conclusion, “independent travel” is best suited for the very savvy traveler who knows what he wants to see and do, but is happy to have someone book his hotels and train seats. A “hosted” trip is good for those who are capable of budgeting their time, are up and out to see all there is to see, and have done their homework.
The traveler may need or want some assistance in choosing from the many sights the city or a specific venue has to offer. “Escorted tours” are the most comprehensive way to visit another country. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy…just time-conscious and maybe not too well-versed in the history and lore of your chosen destination. Better to have a professional show you all there is to see.