I haven’t had much experience going on group tours. The first time was when I was 15 and I went on a 3-day tour in China, and another I went on a half-day bus tour in Japan. I shall reference both in my thoughts on the topic.
Group tours can be a great way to explore, learn about and go to local hot spots for great activities, food and views. It depends on whether you travel abroad or domestically and how long the tour is, but most include transportation, airfare, accommodation and activity costs into the fee. Group tours are like a ‘greatest hits album’, with all the favorites packed into one, and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. In general, if you go with more people, you can save money and have a good time with friends and family or make new friends with people on the tour. When all these factors are taken into consideration, group tours are a greater and cheaper option than traveling alone. I traveled to Gunma and Niigata on a bus tour and enjoyed picking fruit and mushrooms there, all for around 10,000yen. To me, I feel like the options here are good value!
Also if you don’t like certain activities on a tour or sticking to a schedule, there are an increasing number of ‘free plan’ tours or trips that allow you to do whatever you would like. This gives you a lot more freedom in the matter.
In most, if not all, cases, a group tour will involve bus travel. Traveling on a bus has its benefits. If you are by the window, you can take in some beautiful scenery as you are on your way to your destination and you don’t have to worry about driving. This gives people the opportunity to just sleep or have a conversation with the people around you. This was more the case when I was in China but not so much in Japan. However, the main issue with bus travel is space and comfort, and it is easy to become restless sitting for long periods of time. This is a big problem if you find it hard to sleep on moving vehicles, so you can end up feeling tired once you reach your destination. I feel the buses I used in Japan were more comfortable though, and there are more breaks at the rest stops, which let us stretch out our legs and get some fresh air away from the bus. There is a good system in place here.
I traveled with some cousins of mine in the countryside of Sichuan, which is notably known for its spicy food. While on the bus, you have the opportunity to talk with the other travelers and enjoy their company as well, while engaging in various activities. That being said, the more doesn’t necessarily mean the merrier, as there might be some people you don’t get along with. I did come across a rude person on the bus and it was awkward afterwards. Ultimately such negative encounters can mar the whole trip.
Overall these group tours turn out to be more positive than negative though, so don’t let it stop you from trying one out; they are worthwhile in my opinion.
notably (adv.) – especially; in particular
the more the merrier (idiom) – the more people or things there are, the better a situation will be
mar (v) – to spoil something, making it worse or less enjoyable
worthwhile (adj.) – useful, important, or good enough to warrant spending money, time or effort on
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