What are the best adventure tour companies and overland tour groups for backpackers, expedition tours, adventures tours, small group tours and family tours?
Highly recommended tour companies
Overland tour companies
Here is a directory of tour companies worth checking out.
Absolute Africa (UK) A reputable and affordable overland company offering East and Southern African tours.
Acacia African tour specialist including diving tours and short trips.
Contiki Adventure tours all around the world, from quick breaks to epic journeys, just for 18-35 year olds.
Dragoman Overland tour specialist with good quality trucks and trips all over the world.
Exodus High profile adventure tour operator offering high quality tours, cycling tours and expeditions.
G Adventures Great budget tours for backpackers and gap year trips. Good special offers and discounts.
Peregrine Small group adventure tours and holidays worldwide.
Responsible Travel Help support local communities and protect the enviroment by booking your tour through Responsible Travel.
Also see backpacking bus passes for hop-off/hop-off trips around Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
How much do Overland Tours costs?
The thing that puts most budget travellers off about overland tours is the price as trips usually cost well into the hundreds and sometimes even thousands - and then there is the kitty! It often just doesn't seem good value. However...
Overland tours and adventure tours are actually good value as everything is included.
Break the tour cost down per day
Remember the 'kitty' - cash paid directly to your tour leader to cover food and other bills.
If you are unsure about spending so much money on your adventure tour divide the total cost of the trip (including the kitty) by the number of days away and then check what the trip includes.
Most overland tours will include:
All of your travel (and sometimes even your flights there)
All of your accommodation
Most of your meals
Most of your National and Game Park entry fees
You should find that you would be hard pushed to do the same tour itinerary cheaper by yourself - and quite often not even be able to (for example, in Tibet or Bhutan where limited numbers of visitors are allowed).
Bottom line - overland tours are great value and fun. Go on one!
Find out what is included in the tour price
When you are checking value for money you must first make sure that the tour company will include entry to certain National Parks and Game Reserves.
Even though it may say in the brochure, for example, that at the start of week 2 you will reach the Okavango Delta in Botswana - are they including a trip into the Delta or have you just booked yourself onto an incredibly cheap tour only to find that you are paying a fortune when you reach every site of interest along the way! Be wise!!
What meals are included?
It is also important to check what meals are included.
Ideally they should all be included and should all come out of one big kitty (paid at the start of the trip to your driver). This way they will certainly work out cheaper for you in the long run as you they are bought in bulk for the whole group as you go along.
Cooking duties will normally be shared amongst the group while someone else will be on the roster to clean up after you. This actually works out very well and surprisingly, the occasional gourmet banquet is created from the strangest of food combinations.
Some overland companies now include a local cook to help out with the meals on some of the shorter trips allowing you to rest in bed for that extra half an hour in the morning as you hear the sizzle of breakfast through the tent canvas! Hmmmmmm.
One of the most important points to check is back-up.
Travelling vast distances over such hostile terrain will inevitably take its toll on the trucks so adequate back-up is essential.
This means that the driver (and co-driver) are fully trained and able to fix most minor problems en-route, but more importantly, spare parts should not be too far away - which either means other trucks racing out to you or else getting the injured truck to the nearest town where help is at hand.
Most of the major tour companies also have emergency radio contact with their headquarters in the UK or elsewhere.
How many drivers / guides?
It is also good to check how many drivers are on your trip. The better trips operate two - a driver and a co-driver - to alternate the driving and also in case one of them becomes ill (Yes, even the leaders can get Malaria!).
Can I get a discount?
Possibly. Most adventure tour companies offer discounts and special offers for tours departing within a few weeks that still have spaces left.
I would not recommend waiting to see though because the cost of your flights would almost certainly increase to cancel any discount you would get from the tour.
How to choose your tour company
Consider the following when choosing an adventure tour company:
Value for money
Inclusions and Exclusions
Safety and Backup
How many drivers
Type of person the company aims at
What kind of people go on overland tours?
Overland tours attract all kinds of travellers from couples to the seasoned backpacker - a sense of adventure is important.
Ages of travellers usually range from gap year / university leavers to adventurous retired empty-nesters, but the typical overland tour traveller is in their 20s or 30s.
Will I get on with people on my tour?
Yes - very likely, as groups are formed of like-minded people. I am still in regular contact with people from my trips many years on!
How long do overland tours last?
It used to be that overlanding trips where epic expeditions, lasting months, through Africa, South America or Asia, but overland tour companies have realised that travellers often get only a couple of weeks or so holiday off work so have created exciting, shorter travel itineraries.
Where are the best places to go Overlanding?
Overlanding is especially good in Africa for going on safari.
Overland adventure tours are becoming an increasingly popular way to travel in certain areas of the world - namely South and Central America, Africa and most parts of Asia, but also across Europe, the Middle East, Australia and North America.
Some of these small group expeditions can take you to far flung places that you would really struggle to get to independently.