A key part of travelling on your own involves arranging a lot of local tours and ground transportation. We have accumulated a fair amount of experience in this regard, and there are plenty of funny stories.
When you arrive at a town, you will generally find that all tour agents offer pretty much the same packages. I guess that’s because all tourists go to those places of interests. You will end up noticing that, wherever you book your tour, they are all just agents of a few bigger companies, that take on all customers. When the bus comes and picks you up, everyone on the bus book their tours from different agents and pay different prices. Whatever the mechanism is, it works with no transparency but always seamless.
I have tried to book tours to roads less travelled, and it is not very wise neither. Tours that has too few customers, may end up being cancelled if the company is a responsible one. For less responsible companies, like the one I experienced in Brazil, I ended up being passed along from one group to another and still ended up with a different tour. I don’t have a choice unless I wanted to be left alone in the Amazons.
Especially in developing countries where driving is not an option, you will have to just follow the trend. Having said all these, travelling on local tours aren’t all bad. Roads have been well pathed for you, and they have all been designed for your best benefits.
Joining local tours in Vietnam is so affordable:
A Half day tour to Cu Chi tunnel costs us HKD33 per person. This is a five hours trip, including tour guide (no tickets), we cannot even make it happen on our own with this amount of money.
We wanted to visit a waterfall in the country side of Da Lat. We chose to go with a tour, and the tour included tons of other activities which are really crappy, not even qualify as an act to rip off tourists…. But we get what we want for HKD 100 per person, that is good value for money.
For today, we have booked bus tickets to go to Nha Trang. Last night, while we were web surfing in our hotel, the guys from the tour agent turned up. The more senior guy brought along the young guy who booked our tickets. They said due to some accident with the bus that came yesterday, they need to cancel the morning bus and offer to change our tickets to the afternoon. Although a bit disappointed, we were truly thankful for what they did. They could totally choose to let us know this morning that the bus was cancelled but they came all the way. We found out that they actually called the hotel but the hotel said we did not answer the phone (while there is no phone in our room). We really appreciated that they come all the way to fix the arrangements for us.
When the bus comes, it is a 29 seater. All of the double seats except the last row were being occupied, many of them by one person. Some obviously are trying to prevent the other seat being taken by putting their feet up on the seat, laying down, etc. We took two seats on the last row and the bus continue to pick up other customers. Well, the bus ends up being full, those who thought they have taken the best advantage now has to sit with others and ends up with the worst seats.
I think unhelpful people exist in all nationalities.
Well, that is the fun bit about travelling –a lot of things are unexpected and you see all kinds of people! With a trip that does not have a time limit, that is even better!