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Suggestions for guided tours to Southeast Asia

Suggestions for guided tours to Southeast Asia

Old Dec 18th, 2019, 04:59 PM
  #1  
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Suggestions for guided tours to Southeast Asia

Iím interested in a trip to SE Asia and want to do it with an organized tour. My husband and I are experienced independent tourists to Europe (33 trips over the past two decades) and the US (too many to count) but for this trip to Asia I want a tour. Normally I hate tours (have done a few day tours when where I wanted to go was difficult by public transportation and didnít want to drive). The Rick Steves type tours would be the oneís Iíd likely take except I donít need/want a tour to Europe and he doesnít go to Asia.

From the research Iíve done so far Iím interested in Vietnam, Cambodia and maybe Thailand. Iíd actually like to see ALL of the region but I only want to be gone a month or less so thatís not gonna happen.

In terms of price, we are generally on the low side of Ďmoderateí travelers. Not bare bones budget but donít need or want luxury. For example I saw a Tauck tour that covers the places I want to go but at almost $9000 per person thatís about 3 times what many of the others Iíve seen are and I think thatís a waste. Iíve considered Roadís Scholar but I think there is too much time spent on lectures, etc. Iíll do extensive research about the places Iím going, I donít need a lecture and if Iím going that far I want to see stuff, not sit in a classroom. I also looked at an Overseas Adventures tour but can only find one for Vietnam only and Iíd really like to do at least two (preferably three) countries.

So Ė suggestions.
isabel is offline  
Old Dec 18th, 2019, 07:51 PM
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https://www.intrepidtravel.com/uk
crellston is offline  
Old Dec 19th, 2019, 04:37 AM
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Given all of your independent travel experience, I guarantee that you will hate a tour. SEA is so incredibly cheap by Western standards, that you can get a car and driver for much less than a group tour. Why don't you try copying the Tauck tour itinerary on your own? I personally have traveled in the region on my own with no problem. There are also many local tour agencies in Vietnam that other posters here have used, and they can help arrange local drivers for you.

Some of my best travel experiences in SEA have been when I have wondered around on my own, and met locals. You can never gain that experience on a tour, unless it is a fake set up where you go to someone's home.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Old Dec 19th, 2019, 07:24 AM
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DO NOT take a guided tour in SE Asia. There is absolutely no need to do. so, and by arranging your own travel, you will assure you get exactly what you want.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 04:23 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Now how did I know you guys would try to talk me out of a tour? Maybe I subconsciously wanted you to.

Anyway, now I'm immersed in research and have found several more tours (intrepid looks possible) but none quite what I think we want. But the more research I do the more it does look like I could probably do it independently (with a ton of help from this and other forums). Still, I would at least like to try a bit harder to find a tour. At a party the other night two different friends who have traveled extensively independently in Europe went on trips to Asia with tours and said they were glad they were on a tour (despite some negative aspects to the tours).

I'll be back with more questions after some more research.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 08:55 AM
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Let me chime in agreement with the others -- I think you can do Asia on your own and pick up tours or drivers where you need them. I was a bit apprehensive when we first went to Asia and did look into tours. What I could do on my own was much less $$ than what tours had. For VN we worked with a TA, Tonkin, and that worked out fine. I did it mainly because I was tired of the booking and she did it for me. They were very flexible and got hotel rates less than I could, sometimes by a little, but other times by a lot. This forum was, of course, very helpful. I might add I have not done a tour yet. My husband went with a friend to India on a Rhodes Scholar and he was ok with it, but still prefers travel on our own. I might add that over the years I have read your very helpful TRs which makes me really think you'll be fine & happier on your own.

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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 08:56 AM
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I've done it both ways. It really, truly is easy on your own! However, I initially went on tours. Do NOT use OAT, but do consider Intrepid. Although you might want their Comfort level. I haven't traveled with Imaginative Traveler or Adventures Abroad, but I would consider them. And perhaps Eldertreks.

This was my second trip to SEA, part independent, part Intrepid: Wilhelm's Words -- Travels Round Asia 2002
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 09:26 AM
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Realistic Asia

This company looks great also, and has good reviews.
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 10:17 AM
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The one Realistic Asia itinerary I looked at was terrible. Just one day in Siem Reap, and no sightseeing time at all in Hanoi. In-country Vietnamese agencies are usually better for independent travel after you have established the route, they want to cram in too much if you let them arrange itineraries.
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 10:57 AM
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Do enough research so you know what YOU want to do/see/experience. One day in Siem Reap? We spent a week and it was the right amount go time for us. No sightseeing time in Hanoi? We spent 5 full days of sight-seeing in Hanoi, plus a day trip outside the city. As you research abut Angkor, get a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A Guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples.

In my experience, none of the canned tours give me enough time in the places I'm really interested in. And the travel agencies try to cram in as many places as they can, apparently with the idea that you will think you are getting a better deal by going to so many places. In fact, you will have less time to see/do/experience with one of their itineraries.
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 11:05 AM
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"And the travel agencies try to cram in as many places as they can, apparently with the idea that you will think you are getting a better deal by going to so many places. In fact, you will have less time to see/do/experience with one of their itineraries."
That has not been my experience with a couple of travel agencies I have used, one in VN and the other in Myanmar. They made suggestions and I made the decisions, so our trips were exactly what we wanted for the amount of time we thought we might like.
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 12:14 PM
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We used a few guides during part our trip in SE Asia (Thailand + Luang Prabang + Siem Reap), but mostly traveled independently. It's very easy to travel and get around on your own, and, except for a few days in Chiang Rai and one day in Chiang May, we were on our own. We planned our trips and used guides in select places.

In Chiang Rai, we hired a guide, Jermsak, who was highly recommended by many people both on this board and on TA, because we wanted to visit a range of places and having a guide allowed us to see a range of places in a short period of time. He was wonderful - and great company, too.

As others have said, you really don't need (or want!) to do a group tour!
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Old Dec 24th, 2019, 01:53 PM
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yestravel, I should clarify that the cramming in too much is my experience of what they do if you don't give them clear guidance. I, too, have used local travel agencies in several places SE Asia (notably, Burma/Myanmar and Sri Lanka) and had good experiences. But if you aren't clear about what you want or if you just take a pre-arranged itinerary from their website, you are very likely to have way too many stops and not enough time in the places that most interest you.
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Old Dec 25th, 2019, 05:25 AM
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I'll join the chorus in saying that if you aren't finding a tour that provides what you want, this is not difficult to do this on your own. In some cases, we have just worked with our hotels (rather than travel agencies) to arrange exactly what we want in a particular location. For example, we spent a week in Hanoi some years back, and had the hotel book our overnight trip to Halong Bay as well as arrange a day trip out of the city. Good luck with your planning. It has been 4-5 years since we've been able to get back to Asia - hopefully next year!
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Old Mar 16th, 2020, 09:16 AM
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We took a tour of Thailand, Penang, Indonesia, with a stop in Singapore years ago. The tour company no longer exists. And the area has surely changed. But browsing through these pictures might give you some idea of what there was and perhaps is to see in those areas.

If you get up early in the morning:


Here's Malaysia:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpcYjmU
]
Here's Thailand:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpcX9zY

These are the Indonesia albums:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpcyUzQ
https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpcZEab
https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpcYQUy
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