More at home climbing mountains and exploring local culture in the quieter corners of the world, Andrew Morris of Silver Travel Advisor wouldn't normally choose to travel on an escorted tour. But a trip with Cosmos to Andalucia changed his mind.
In partnership with Silver Travel Advisor.
OK, so you can always hire a guide yourself but having someone waiting as you arrive, to show you around the magnificent Mezquita in Córdoba, for example, avoids all those frustrating queues and gives you a level of insight you just can’t glean from a guidebook.
You know all those niggling little challenges you face when you travel independently, like trying to find the most authentic local restaurant, or an adaptor for your phone? Well, your Tour Director is the font of all knowledge. And will entertain and educate you about the area you’re visiting, as you transfer between locations.
Sure, you can plug in your headphones and maintain your own space. But you can also get to know your fellow travellers on the coach transfers, over breakfast or a drink. I always love chatting to people about where else they’ve travelled to, and add places to my own bucket list based on recommendations.
As a solo traveller, an escorted tour allows you to ‘do your own thing’ for a large part of the holiday, but with support from a Tour Director for any help when needed, and social engagement with fellow travellers whenever that feels right for you.
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Our tour took us to some beautiful corners of Andalucia, covering quite a distance. Hiring a car is an easy option, public transport probably a more challenging alternative, but travelling in an air-conditioned luxury coach with an informative on-board commentary was definitely a more enjoyable and relaxing experience.
Between transfers and the structured part of a tour, there will also be plenty of free time. We filled in some of the gaps by immersing ourselves in a traditional Moorish hammam experience in Granada, and riding Andalucian horses through dusty olive groves near Seville.
I haven’t got the calculator out, but I’m pretty sure trying to replicate an escorted tour yourself would cost more. With my old Finance Director’s hat on, that makes sense and reflects the buying power a tour operator has, compared with an independent traveller. Just look at everything included in any escorted tour holiday to see what great value for money it is.
If you’re travelling to difficult locations - whether the challenge is political, natural or cultural - there is a measure of ‘safety in numbers’ in a tour group, and obvious advantages from the tour operator’s local knowledge and contacts.
These are just a few personal thoughts on how our trip around Andalucia exceeded my expectations, and some reasons why an escorted tour might be preferable to exploring somewhere independently. What other reasons can you come up with?