Tour Companies – Revealed!

We would love to say that all of our travels have been self-guided, self-organised and that we always did all of the leg work but in all honesty sometimes you just need a bit of help. There is no shame in it and sometimes it just takes the stress away and lets you enjoy places you never thought possible. We have used many companies in our years and wanted to share some with you.

STA Travel – A huge global travel conglomerate, STA can come in very useful especially when booking round the world flights. I personally have used them for both of our round the world adventures which have included over 30 different countries. Although mainly aimed at the younger backpacking market, STA can be used by anyone for virtually any travel requirement, be it tours, airfares, accommodation, transport and mainly ideas. I always found the majority of agents very knowledgeable (all depending if they have been where you want to go) with the options of the call centre or worldwide stores.  They organised everything for my first round the world trip and it went flawlessly. We have also since used them for Japanese rail tickets and a number of tour ideas.

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Imaginative Traveller – Slightly overshadowed by their competition, Imaginative Traveller has a selection of worldwide tours that concentrate on small group adventures. These were actually booked through STA as a partner; however the two tours I have experienced were beyond any of my expectations. China Experience & Vietnam Discovery were both exquisite examples. I got a real sense of the countries, with a vast amount of history, good tour guides and a group of like-minded people who I am still in touch with even today. Probably not really needed in Vietnam these days, but for China I would thoroughly recommend it.

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Intrepid Travel – The more dominating adventure tour company, Intrepid seems fight it out with Gap Adventures for worldwide market share. Intrepid house a global network of tours in virtually every tourist friendly country. We experienced the Central American Discovery (7 countries), and although enamoured by the countries and more lifelong friends – we were not especially thrilled with the tour guide on this one. However this could just be personal preference, and have a friend who still uses their services on a regular basis. Traveling Central America can be very dangerous esp. in countries such as Honduras and rural Mexico, therefore in my eyes a tour is just the safer easier option (especially if you don’t speak Spanish). Just felt this tour lacked a little charisma of previous companies, maybe because it’s so big now. We contacted them afterwards and were fobbed off! Central America itself was exquisite and very memorable!

  • COMPANY NOT RECOMMENDED – 2.5/5 Memories
  • Central American Explorer Tour – RECOMMENDED – 5/5 Memories
  • www.intrepidtravel.com/

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OZ Experience Bus Tours – A bit of a controversial option, as this is one of the more expensive options for travelling parts of Australia. However it is easy and there are so many options. Essentially it’s a hop on hop off bus that travels a vast majority of the tourist locations in Australia, including the east coast, the south and the centre.  Last time I used the service it didn’t have any operations in the west but that may have changed. What I found was that it was VERY easy to use and again appealed to a great group of travellers some who became lifelong friends.  It mainly caters to the backpacking community and has a bit of a reputation as a hook up option – but hey, it does the job it needs to do. Personally I would now drive some of the journeys I took, but as an easy, safe option this really did hit the mark. I’ll expand on my time on the OZ experience bus in a later blog.

  • COMPANY OK- 3/5 Memories
  • Tours – Sydney – Cairns, Sydney – Darwin via Melbourne/Melbourne – RECOMMENDED 5/5 Memories
  • https://www.ozexperience.com

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Kiwi Experience Bus – Pretty much a very similar experience as the Oz Experience bus but in all honesty in a country the size of New Zealand there is no reason to use this service! I did however meet a great group of travellers and had an amazing time exploring both islands.

  • COMPANY NOT RECOMMENDED – 2/5 Memories
  • Tour – Auckland – Wellington, Nelson – Christchurch via Queenstown – RECOMMENDED SELF DRIVE
  • www.kiwiexperience.com/

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Acacia Africa – We booked the Desert Tracker tour and it was worth its weight in gold being ridiculously well priced at the time of booking – under £600 each for 21 days and 4 countries. The only caveat was that since we were visiting such remote locations it was camping the whole way. It’s increased considerably since those days but still is probably the best value tour we have ever completed. The service was good, the booking was good and it opened up a number of countries we hadn’t previously experienced. That price includes camping accommodation, a number of camp meals and entrance to the Kruger, Chobe and Etosha national parks. The guide again wasn’t great but all in all the experience we had been arguably the best we have ever had!

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Nomad Africa – Interestingly upon returning to Africa we looked for local companies in which to conduct a guided tour, as Acacia’s prices had risen. We found Nomad Africa who are a South African company offering very similar itineraries to GAP, Intrepid and Acacia but at a better value. The tour we picked to discover Mozambique, included a tour of Swaziland and was fully accommodated, unlike its Acacia rival. The service was brilliant with constant communication and great value. The tour was also well organised and very enjoyable – always a benefit to find a local company.

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Trailfinders – We have attempted to use this company a number of times, however always found the staff a little lacking. It might be that we have travelled more than the majority of staff we spoke with, or we just had a few bad staff members which is unfortunate. Trailfinders did however offer a free of charge wedding gift service, which we utilised for our wedding. We booked an excursion to Komodo Island in Indonesia with them which we couldn’t find a local supplier for. This was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our honeymoon – so congratulations Trailfinders for winning us over.

  • COMPANY RECOMMENDED – 4/5 Memories
  • Our trip was bespoke for this part but was one of the best Wandering Memory holidays of all time! The wedding list also made it very convenient.
  • www.trailfinders.com

Angel Eco – Travelling to Angel Falls in Venezuela is undoubtedly a trip of a lifetime. The Falls are so remote that they prove a challenge to get to. We found a local company who are based out of the USA who offered a great price and an itinerary we were pleased with. In hindsight we were very naïve as Venezuela is not the safest country to be wandering around in, especially if you do not speak Spanish! The trip was extremely poorly planned, and we were on numerous occasions either lost, in the back of someone’s car or feeling a little unsafe. We were also subjected the worst coach ride of our lives in freezing conditions, a very unsafe flight that actually crashed weeks later killing everyone and not to forget the bribe we had to pay to get on a plane! I realise the country is pretty corrupt but expected more from the agency… even a warning could have helped. The experience once at the falls and in Canaima was INCREDIBLE but the road getting there was the worst we have ever experienced.

  • COMPANY NOT RECOMMENDED – 0/5 Memories
  • Tour itself was astonishing 5/5 Memories but the transfers were atrocious and the service was appalling!
  • http://angel-ecotours.com/

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Seyexclusive – Specialised agency who deal with trips to the paradise islands of Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius and the Maldives.  We used them for our trip to the Seychelles and it was perfect. The hotel in Mahe was the best we have ever stayed in, the transfers were all on time and everything was incredibly well planned. They are definitely specialists in the field, and know which hotels are worthwhile and what trips to take. What  also really helped us here was that we could pay in instalments which really helped our budgeting.

  • COMPANY – RECOMMENDED 5/5 Memories
  • Tour – Bespoke combination of 2 islands – HIGHLY  RECOMMENDED
  • www.seyexclusive.com/

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Eskimos – We used this local Icelandic company to organise a number of tours (blue lagoon, Golden circle and southern glacier explorer) on a long weekend to Reykjavik. Iceland is renowned as being an expensive destination to visit, however this company had a lot of good options at competitive rates. They were efficient with their emails and extremely efficient whilst we were in country, leaving itineraries at our hotel and calling us when there was a weather cancellation. We really did find a good tour agency here and would recommend them.

  • COMPANY RECOMMENDED – 5/5 Memories
  • Tours – Southern discovery, Blue Lagoon & Golden Circle – RECOMMENDED – 4/5 Memories
  • www.iceland.eskimos.is/

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SBP Tours – This company is Russian based and offers excursions for many Eastern European cities. Granted a number of the cities have a good tourism infrastructure already, however it is sometimes good to take away the stress when travelling. We utilised their services while on a cruise of the Baltic, mainly due to the visa requirements for Russia being so expensive it made financial sense. Interestingly whilst in a tour group from a cruise ship in Russia, the visa is included in the tour – essentially making the tour free of charge! We also used a combination saver they offered for a short trip to berlin, where we needed to cram a lot in a very short space of time. The tours were very efficient and enjoyable.

  • COMPANY RECOMMENDED – 4/5 Memories
  • Tours – 2 days in St Petersburg, whistle stop tour of Berlin – 4/5 Memories
  • https://spb-tours.com/

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All in all we have had some incredible adventures from all of our travels and are grateful that we have had the opportunities we have had.

If I was to recommend the best tour company we have ever used it’s probably Imaginative Traveller, closely followed by Seyexclusive and Eskimos.

The best tour is SO hard, however would be between Acacia’s Desert Tracker and our Bespoke Tour of Indonesia supplied by Trailfinders.

If you have any questions please let us know.


11 thoughts on “Tour Companies – Revealed!

  1. I’m so glad to see this – people seem to like to pretend that tour companies don’t exist, that they just magically discover and get to amazing places all by themselves. And travelling on your own is great and getting to spend as much or as little time as you want in a place is great but sometimes you just need the knowledge or experience or even just the bus that the tour company can provide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Juliet – I just wanted to share that some of our adventues have been very much supported by some incredible organisation and not always alone. Always good to have some support even for us experienced travellers. Have you travelled much?

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      1. Not as much as you. Eight years this week, as much as I could squeeze into my holiday time from work which means staying relatively close to home – only around Europe so far, with very regular trips to Iceland because I love it a lot

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You lucky things, seeing the Northern Lights on your first attempt! I have a record currently of something like two sightings out of ten or eleven attempts!

        I worked (very!) briefly in holiday lettings in the UK but I’ve made a lot of use of tour companies, particularly for adventurous activities in the snow and my earlier Iceland trips.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Juliet. Yes very lucky indeed, our first time was actually unsuccessful but the next day worked out well! Was incredible! I’d love to return and go further east we only got down to the glaciers in the south and the black sand beach… food was so expensive!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very extensive post with lots of useful info. It’s been a long time since I’ve used a tour company but as a young single woman in Europe it was definitely the way to go. Nowadays we’re very much independent travellers but there’s definitely merit in using tour guides:companies for insider knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Miriam. Yes agreed we only used them for comfort and ease than anything else. Nowadays we used online booking portals such as kayak and sky scanner for flights and Expedia for hotels. Travel wise we usually drive ourselves so are very independent. It’s only when travelling to the countries where we have limited language skills where they really help. USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are so easy to do on your own 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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