Self- guide vs guided tour
HERE’S no doubt that travel is always exciting for anyone who decides to step out of his or her comfort zone. Travel does not only bring us to new places, but it also broadens our minds and expands our horizons because we learn from the traditions of other cultures. Travel allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the amazingly diverse world around us and the beautiful people who live in it. Travel is also humbling because we realize we are a mere speck in this vast universe.
Thanks to the world wide web, there are many free DIY (do it yourself) travel itineraries for various destinations with corresponding budgets, routes, transportation expenses, entrance fees, and the like available in just one click. The good thing about DIY travel is that it gives you the flexibility to explore a new place with you at the helm.
Those who love being spontaneous, controlling their schedules, getting a rush from being “lost”, and going on a little adventure in an unfamiliar place will find it more pleasurable to DIY. Being able to come and go wherever you please without a tour group also makes it possible for you to encounter new people and explore new areas that are typically not in a tour package.
However, there are some instances that call for guided travel. Paying for the convenience of having a tour guide on standby diminishes the stress of finding a scenic spot, especially in a country where no one speaks English. Sometimes situations call for forking a little extra dough to save on time and energy. Other packages even come with the whole caboodle—airfare, room&board, meals, and all the set itineraries. All you literally do is pay and show up.
In our recent trip to Taiwan over the break, we combined both. We had 5 days of DIY, which were a breeze in the city proper because of their efficient and easy to understand train system. We also had two days where we hired a vehicle with a tour guide to bring us to the famous tourist spots further away from the city.
Actually, the primary consideration for that decision were the 3 young kids and 2 senior citizens who were no longer keen on walking long distances to the train stations and bus stops. It made more sense to hire the cars and be brought to the “doorstep” (so to speak) for those days we were traveling more miles.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon “Leo sun Taiwan tour team for Filipinos (only one team, no other)” on Facebook. It’s a pretty lengthy name, but one that you should remember if you are heading to Taipei. He came with great recommendations in the travel group I belong to, so I did not hesitate booking his team to help us explore Northern Taiwan.
They brought us to the old towns of Juifen, Shifen, and Yeliuh, which we wouldn’t have managed to squeeze in one day if they had not assisted us. These towns were a pretty long drive from the city proper. The next day, they brought us to Beitou Hot Springs, Longshan Temple, Tamsui Fort, Danshui Old Road, and the wharf in Xinbei City.
Our driver for one car was Vincent and the other one was Chang. We also met Leo, the head, who gave us souvenirs. Both drivers were cheerful and happy to tell us about the scenic spots they brought us to. They also served as our photographers, telling us where to go and what angles give the best shot. Our itineraries for the day were flexible and they gave us great tips like which places to visit, where to eat, and where to find cheap pasalubong.
Private tour highlights: free wifi on-board, comfy seats, clean car, free souvenirs, free bottled water, free raincoats/umbrellas, informative background of tourist spots provided, nice music playlist, and a TV with movie player for the kids. We are very satisfied with the service and they are worth the money (4,000 NTD for 8 hours for 6 people).
Having it all planned out for you—the car service, the route, the tolls—basically saves you most of the stress associated with planning your own trip. Whichever path you choose, DIY or guided, it all boils down to the kind of experience you seek to have.
Before you make your decision, take the time to check the rates of the travel packages, versus, the average DIY budget for the places you intend to visit. Again, travel blogs flood the net and you can easily research before you fly. In the end, what every single one of us wants is a happy trip so we can make precious memories.*
Leo, Vincent, and me (the writer). Chang was in the yellow van behind us.