Smiling Albino has been lucky enough to host an amazing assortment of people from a huge variety of backgrounds and nationalities on our trips. Each guest brings their own unique angle to the experience, and that’s why we love hosting so much – no two trips are ever the same!
One issue that comes up every now and then – not just for us, but for any travel company out there – is the guided
experience vs. the DIY travel. Of course there are many types of people and no single type of travel experience will appeal to all of them, but we believe that guided experiences give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to exploring the world. I know what you might think – of course we’ll say that, it’s our business! But as world travelers ourselves, we always prefer to have a guide show us the lay of the land when we’re in a new place, be it an old acquaintance, a new friend or a professional business. Here are 5 quick reasons why we prefer to avoid DIY travel on our journeys.
1) The unpredictable
Making plans in a foreign country is often an exercise in frustration. Beyond the language barrier, there are plenty of other wrinkles that can pop up and ruin things. Everything from local festivals and political problems to fast-changing weather and poorly communicated schedules at local attractions can derail your well-laid plans and leave you out in the cold. It’s very hard to know about all of these things in advance, and having someone on your side who knows what might happen is a huge plus.
2) In case of emergency
Quick – what number do you call in an emergency in Thailand? Cambodia? Vietnam? It’s not something you think about often but every country has their own emergency telephone system. Knowledge of what to do in an emergency in a foreign country is of the highest importance, and a DIY traveler might not know how to react in a situation like this. A local guide will know the ins and outs of things like insurance, which hospitals to avoid, how to make a quick overseas call, and what to do if you get detained by the authorities. Not only can these questions be answered easily by a local, but you’re much less likely to run into problems when a guide is with you. Oh, by the way, the numbers are 191, 117 and 113, respectively.
3) The cost of convenience & safety
Let’s be honest – it’s not that hard to walk into a motorbike rental shop and rent a bike for a few days. What is hard is making sure that the bike is waiting for you – with a full tank of gas and insurance in order – when you get out of the kayak after riding down a river all morning. It might look easy, but it’s not, and this type of thing takes a great deal of planning. Things like ensuring your room’s air-con units are working; making sure your driver doesn’t show up hung over; choosing shops/vendors that won’t rip you off; avoiding tourist traps; and making sure your deadly allergy to peanuts doesn’t go ignored at dinner…these are the things that are easy to overlook but can often be the difference between a life-changing trip and disaster.
4) Making it Unique
It’s easy to assume that because you’re DIY-ing around (fill in continent or country here) that you’re getting the experience you really want. That can certainly be a part of it, but are you really making the most of it? Language barriers alone can prevent you from adding many unique angles to your trip, and extra touches can make a trip that much more unique. Things like having lunch and cold drinks ready for you when you come around the corner at that jungle temple, or arranging to have your hometown newspaper ready for breakfast at your hotel, or even chartering a private helicopter instead of flying on a regular ol’ airline…these aren’t things that you can simply decide to do while you’re on the road.
5) Taking the Beneficial Shortcuts
Every town and city and country and culture in the world has its shortcuts and pitfalls and if you’re not familiar with how things work you’ll likely end up taking none of the former and more of the latter. When you’re with an SA guide, they may look calm and collected, but in their minds they’re thinking five steps ahead – water stop, food stop, making sure the elephant is ready to ride when we arrive, do the bikes have gas, will it rain, and if so, do we have ponchos and shelter? Want to visit the Hall of Opium at the Golden Triangle? No problem, usually – but they close on Mondays, and royal holidays, and sometimes the schedules aren’t clear. These are things that are difficult to know, but important to learn and if you’re doing all the planning, keeping track of all of these things can keep you from doing what you’re here to do – enjoy yourself!