The best way to travel is really dependent upon the person who is going on holiday and the destination they have chosen.
The more independent, adventurous personality will, in all likelihood, opt for the flexibility of a self drive tour, whereas the individual who prefers to have everything cut and treated and taken care of on their behalf will probably choose either a guided or group tour, depending on how sociable they are.
'Flexi-drives' for the adventurous
In truth, self drive tours are really 'flexi-drives' where the intrepid journeyman can add, modify, adapt and exchange basically any aspect of their itinerary, including preferred routes, activities and even accommodation.
There is absolutely no rigidity to the sojourn but at the same time they will have tapped into the intensive knowledge and local know-how of dedicated tour operators who will have assisted them every step of the way, from planning the itinerary with the client's continuous feedback to the point of meeting and greeting them at the airport to hand over the hired car keys.
As long as the destination is a reliably safe one with suitable road networks and a reasonable infrastructure, the self drive tour option is arguably the best way to experience an African safari for some.
Advantages of self drive tours:
- Tailor-made itinerary
- Routes and departure times that suit the client, not the group
- Freedom to 'shop till you drop' en route, as there are no baggage constraints except for the size of the boot
- A safety net in place in case of emergencies or any other problems
- The ability to drive off the beaten track for unique sight-seeing; a big plus on a Big 5 safari
- No dodgy traveling companions
Disadvantages of self drive tours:
Undoubtedly the cost. Rental cars and petrol come at a premium these days and the tour operator will not have the benefit of 'volume' buying that generally keeps the costs of accommodation and transport much lower in the group scenario.
Escorted or guided tours are the best of both worlds
Escorted or guided tours are the best of both worlds. The client still has all the benefits of privacy and flexibility, yet at the same time can hand over the reins to the local guide, who will generally act as a driver too.
The one major drawback of an escaped tour is that it can prove to be rather expensive. The client and his party will not only have to fork out for the guide's expertise but all his or her meals, accommodation and entry fees to national parks or any other excursions too.
Group tours offer security, companionship and little effort
Group tours are possibly the ideal mode of travel for single people, females and senior citizens. The group offers security, companionship and comfort as well as the ideal opportunity to make new friends. It is also the cheapest way to travel purely because of volume purchasing.
Disadvantages of group tours are:
- Stuck with that group of people and an inflexible itinerary
- Often not enough time to enjoy any one place
- Can sometimes miss out on cultural experiences if too busy interacting with the group