First, today is my eight-month anniversary of flying out of Boston to travel the world!
Second, I am essentially living a lie. On April sixth, 2010, I arrived in Spain and have been here ever since… yet everyone thinks I am still in Portugal because I’ve had such a backlog of blog articles and photos about that fine country!
Anyhoo, here is the last Portugal-based tidbit, and from now until mid-May it will be Spain, Spain, Spain! Plus a little leftover Ghana thrown in. Plus Morocco if I can get there. Ahem. And now onto the meat of this article.
Here is the Question: When is it worth it to splurge on a package day tour when visiting a foreign country?
My Answer: It is very worth it to do such a tour at least once per country — and more if it’s cheap!
Here are examples of stupendous day tour packages from around the world.
1. In Thailand, one of the most amazing days in history was accomplished by buying the $20 day tour from my hostel that included: petting giant live tigers at the Tiger Temple, running on the Bridge Over the River Kwai, riding elephants, and floating down a river in a raft.
Looking back, I can’t believe I hemmed and hawed about whether the price was worth it. It so fully was!
2. Vietnam was full of exceptional $6-$10 day tours, from Nha Trang’s island-hopping boat, to a motorcycle tour of the farms around hilly Dalat, to a journey around Mui Ne’s sand dunes, to (of course!) kayaking and boating around magical and world-famous Ha Long Bay. One hundred percent worth the price, all.
3. Our hostel in Lisbon, Portugal offered a 25 Euro ($33) tour through the most famous sites of the country: Sintra’s castles (pictured here… aren’t they gorgeous?!), Sintra’s gardens, the Western-most point of Europe, and the beach town of Cascais.
“Should we really spend all that money?” my brother and I wondered, but by the end of ten hours, we knew we had fully gotten our money’s worth.
Here’s why these package day tours are worth the occasional splurge:
We could have saved about ten to twelve Euros by hitting Sintra and Cascais via train on our own, BUT how luxurious it was to be driven in a spiffy van right to the most famous sites! Eliminating the hassle of waiting for connecting buses, trains, and shuttles, is sometimes worth the price of a few dollars. Plus it’s nice (and sometimes much-needed) to grab a nap on the cushy seats between attractions!
B) Navigation and Explanations.
Package tour guides have led a million day tours like the one you are on. They know how to whisk you right to the heart of what’s prettiest and most famous, and know just the way to whisper the background secrets directly into your ear. Sometimes it’s nice to unearth all these things yourself, but sometimes you want that goodness spoon-fed!
There is no way you can be squished on a van or boat or bus with a pack of other tourists for ten hours and NOT bond. You may say, “That’s dumb– I’m not in X or Y country to meet tourists!” but on all of these tours I always have seen a mix of locals and foreigners– and the folks are always fascinating… if not totally sane.
In short: It may seem dorky or costly to splurge on a package day tour during travel, but it’s absolutely worth it at least once in every new country!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!