Self- guide vs guided tour

Sun Star Bacolod - - ‘Yuhom! - HAN­NAH VIC­TO­RIA WABE TIME OUT CORNER


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.

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