March 23, 2000
- Real Estate
Getting the best our of a tour
A conducted tour can be fun or absolute misery, depending on whether or not you know what to expect from your tour operator. Here is a checklist for you to ensure that you do get your money's worth at the end of it.
When you opt for the tour, it is taken for granted that you have to observe the same schedule that the entire group is following. There is not going to be a change in the itinerary. If you hate being restricted in your plans, then a conducted tour is the wrong choice. A better option would be to ask the tour operator to plan an individual itinerary for you with the option to change plans. This, of course, would cost you much more.
- Free time
Okay, that's that. You have no hassles about being part of the pack and following it all over the place. But some tour operators throw in more free time than others. To get an idea, read the itinerary carefully to see how much time is allocated to 'move around on your own'. Make careful note of this. This implies that tours that take you all over the country within a couple of days will obviously not accord much free time to you.
The pace of the tour could be maddening. So, if you are on the lookout for a peaceful and relaxed holiday, then select your operator wisely. Here again, a look at the itinerary should speak volumes. What time do they expect you to wake up each day? When does the day end, leaving you free to pursue your own sightseeing, etcetera? How many spots do they cover in a single day? Just as mentioned above, touring all over the country within a few days will leave you exhausted.
The location of the hotels is important. The more centrally located they are the better. It will give you a chance to wander around in the evening and even check out the night life. If you are residing at the outskirts of the city, this could be a major hindrance.
Check out the cost of the tour. It should include the cost of the ticket, hotel accommodation, most meals (exact number will be specified in the itinerary) and sightseeing. Generally, breakfast and dinner is provided, with lunch being your own lookout. All the visa costs are your lookout, too. Check out if the airport tax is included in the airfare or not. Tips to hotel staff, too, are to be budgeted for.
Additional sightseeing tours will have to be paid for by you. Usually, the optional tours are mentioned in the itinerary with the cost. Ensure that the operator takes care of all intra-city travel. Also ask if entry fees to museums and art galleries are included in the tour cost.
Look to see if all the sights are covered. You can even do a comparison between tours to see which ones are offering the most coverage. But then, also check out the time spent at each. Can they tell you approximately how much time they plan to spend at the site or if they just want you to catch a glimpse and move on? So, when they say Statue of Liberty, are they actually going to take you on a boat to have a look at it? Obviously, you would say. But once there, will you be given time to walk right to the top of the statue or be ushered back? And will you also be taken to Staten Island and given some time to wander around at the museum.
- Foreign managed tours
Trafalgar and Cosmos are two famous tours marketed by travel outfits like Thomas Cook, and Cox & Kings. And no, they are not very expensive. In fact, a lot of them are on par with Indian organised-tours and some even cost lesser.
There is a distinct advantage, in that the foreign tours tend to have a more relaxed itinerary, with more free time. Also, you tend to meet a mix of international tourists. But please note that the international crowd that opts for conducted tours is generally middle aged. The younger generation is much more adventurous.
The food, however, could work to your benefit. Indian tours all provide Indian cuisine and some even take their own cook along. If you are keen on experimenting with the local cuisine at each place you visit, then you may have to go out to eat and foot the bill. On an international tour, you can experiment with different cuisine. But you can't start on an international tour from India. You will have to fly to Britain or some other country. Thus, when you look at the cost of that tour, remember that you are paying for your flight in and out of India.
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