Following on from my previous post that compared guided tours with free-and-easy style of traveling, in this post, I will run through my considerations and highlight the main key take-aways of joining a guided tour for our recent trip to Morocco. Despite previously stately that going free-and-easy was our preferred way of travelling, my husband and I still ended up signing up for a tour package to Morocco. So why the change? Did we want to do things differently? Have we figured out something that makes one style of traveling more superior than the other? Well, as in all my other posts, we believe that the key to making a trip enjoyable is to select a choice that is most suited for that particular trip. In this case, we have decided that joining a guided tour was the best option. The two deciding factors that pushed us to sign up for the tour package were time and safety. Other considerations that further fueled this decision included ease of traveling within Morocco, presence of a local guide / experience driver and presence of group mates with common travel interest.
We decided to head to Morocco towards the end of our Europe tour - which translated to lots of packing of our stuff to be shipped back to our home country. This indirectly resulted in us not having as much time to research on the places that we would want to visit in Morocco or to plan our route accordingly. There were many places in Morocco that we desperately wanted to visit and as we did not want to give any of those destinations up owing to time constraint, a tour package that can provide a succinct overview of Morocco in a condensed amount of time sounded ideal.
Safety is always a priority when it comes to traveling for both my husband and I. Although many have mentioned that Morocco is a relatively safe place for free-and-easy travellers, we were still not confident of traveling on our own in this foreign land as we had came across quite a few horror accounts of travelers who had just returned from Morocco. Furthermore, it would be our first time traveling to the African continent and we were not sure what to expect and questions as follows started to pop up in our heads:
- Would the language barrier be a huge problem for us?
- How reliable are the public transport system there since there is a need to cover mountainous paths and long distances between places?
- Are things done differently in general, i.e. what are the dos and don’ts for each region?
In view of these concerns, joining a guided tour with a well-thought travel route and experienced guide knowing how to deal with unexpected situations on the ground seemed like a better bet!
In Morocco, there is a need to travel long distances to get from one town to another and travel routes have to be planned carefully so that accommodation options are within reach when night falls. Joining a guided tour would take away all the worries on route planning and we would enjoy the ease of traveling from one town to another. I realized the importance of this when I fell sick on the trip and had wanted nothing more than to rest on the van during the long road journeys. If we had been traveling on our own, we would not have the luxury to do that and we might even have to fret over getting onto the correct public transportation to get to our destinations. Furthermore, in every country, there are just some places that are only known to the locals and apart from taking care of all our transportation for the trip, our local guide would, at times and if time permits, lead us to photogenic and off beaten places that only the locals know. Through this, we could easily see another side of Morocco without the need to wander about or getting lost trying to find unique places to explore.
Joining a guided tour would mean the presence of a tour guide who will provide information and history of the places of visit. In the case of our Morocco trip, a local guide was assigned to us and not only did we get to know more in depth about the place of visit, we got to know it from a local’s point of view! In addition, the presence of a local guide also fulfilled our desire to interact with the locals and to know more about the culture and way of life through these interactions. Apart from our local guide, we were also assigned an experienced local driver for whom we were grateful for many a times when we had to navigate through the treacherous mountain roads. I certainly cannot imagine entrusting my life to any other random drivers if my husband and I had decided to tour Morocco on our own! Owing to the presence of our guide and driver, my husband and I need not bother about doing any in depth research for this trip or fumble about liaising with the hotel or making advance booking for tickets to the various tourist attraction spots and could literally just sit back and enjoy the trip where everything is taken care of!
Other than the fact that there was safety in numbers, it was also quite fun to travel in a group. Apart from having someone to help my husband and I to take photo (we seldom have couple photos when traveling on our own), we are basically grouped together with people with the same travel interest. It was especially enjoyable when we take turns to share our travel experiences with the group whenever we sat down together for a meal or for a break. There was also strength in number, especially when we want to negotiate with our guide on alternative places to explore!
Draw backs of joining a guided tour for our Morocco trip
Even though we decided to join a guided tour, there are inevitably some drawbacks to it as well. For one, there is less flexibility be it in terms of places to visit, the amount of time given to visit a particular site or the choice of restaurants for our meals. The best example of such inflexibility was during our trip to Fes. As listed on the day’s itinerary, we were scheduled to visit the shops selling local products even though most of us were not interested in purchasing any and would rather spend the time exploring more of the other parts of Fes or to proceed on to Chefchaouen. The need to cover all the places stated in the itinerary within the short seven days tour often also resulted in a rather rushed trip. On certain days, there were so many places packed into a day’s itinerary that it literally felt like we were rushing from one place to another, with just a touch-and-go approach to the visits. Thankfully, there were other days where the pace was slower and we could make use of the time to ask our local guide about the places that we visited in a hurry.
A cooperative spirit among members is important for the proper functioning of a tour group. Another draw back of a guided tour is that there might be the presence of some “black sheeps” who will spoil all plans for the whole group. A good example of this would be some of our tour mates wandering off by themselves during the first two days of our tour which resulted in our guide having to spend time to relocate them and hence having lesser time to guide us through the place of visit. Fortunately, this “phenomenon” only lasted for the first two days of the trip and everyone started to be cooperative for the good of the whole group thereafter!
Lastly, the price attached to a package tour can be a huge drawback as well. If we were to be calculative, it would be quite evident that the cost of joining a package tour would be higher than the total amount of money we would have spent if we had traveled on our own. However, in this case, we figured out that that extra cost had saved us quite a bit of trouble and was definitely money well spent!
|The precious memories are for us to keep...|
In conclusion, given the variety of traveling style, there is a need to weigh the pros and and cons of each traveling mode to identify the style that best fit a particular trip. For our trip to Morocco, the perks of joining a guided tour definitely outweighs its drawbacks and my husband and I were glad that we made the decision to join the package tour which enabled us to have such an enjoyable and unforgettable trip. Would we continue to stick to guided tours for our future trips? Well, we will definitely go through the mentioned considerations again and who knows, we might even try other styles of traveling.....
Guided tours or free-and-easy style of travelling?