9 June 2023

8 Reasons Why you Need to Join a Backpacking Tour

In this blog post we will be looking at whether organized backpacking tours are an option for those of us planning to travel; whether alone, with a partner or as a group of friends. I will explain exactly what a backpacking is and s someone who has taken part in backpacking tours I will give my independent opinion as to what I feel are the positives as well as the drawbacks.

If you speak to backpackers (especially those who travel alone) you will often hear them say, “It’S nOt ReAl bAckPaCkiNg” but my feeling on this is: 

  • What works for them may not work for you 
  • Their situation and circumstances may have been different to yours
  • Who cares what other people think. 

Don’t be the person who knocks and slights others just because they want to do something differently to you.

Spongebob doesn’t know best in this case

For the purposes of this post we will be focusing on younger persons who may wish to take part in an organized backpacking tour instead of those commonly associated with an older generation – although many of the reasons will still be sound. Throughout this post I will refer regularly to two backpacking tours that I have taken part in:

Thailand – 3 weeks

The Philippines – 3 weeks

These six weeks I spent on these two trips were some of the most exciting, interesting and fun times of my life and for those of you who are unsure what an actual organized backpacking tour looks like you can expect the following:

  • A defined trip duration (usually 1 – 6 weeks)
  • Led by tour guides (usually one experienced international backpacker and one local)
  • Paid for in advance and includes:
    • Accommodation
    • Travel (after arrival at starting location)
    • Activities 
    • A set cohort of travelers
    • An itinerary of what you will be doing on which days and where

Essentially imagine a backpacking tour as a paid upfront, action packed, guided tour in a location of your choosing. It will be similar to a genuine backpacking trip except you will have a set itinerary (plan) for each day and the organizing and booking will be done for you.

Initially we will look at all of the benefits of taking part in an organized backpacking tour and I believe some of the biggest are:

It’s EasyEspecially for a Solo Traveler

One of the biggest attractions of joining and taking part in an organized backpacking trip is simply that it makes your life easy by removing most of the planning and complications. You are able to choose a tour that matches your interests and needs and then book a flight to take you to the starting location. Simple.

Throughout both tours I took part in I spent no time worrying about upcoming travel, activities or experiences. We didn’t have to worry about booking an activity/experience with a dodgy person or company and as a group we knew that we could go out, party through the night and still have a bus/boat lined up the next morning to take us to meet locals or travel to the next beautiful island. 

Having somebody to book activities and resolve issues allows you to concentrate on relaxing and having fun

Great for those new to backpacking or lacking confidence

If you want to travel to somewhere new but aren’t sure whether you are ready to do it alone then a tour could be the perfect solution. It will give you the confidence to do it alone next time whilst also making sure that you also have the best time of your life. Expect to come back from your first tour feeling like you’re ready to take the world on.

The first time I ever travelled for a holiday alone was for my backpacking tour through Thailand and if I am honest, I am not sure I would have booked the trip if I had not had something like a tour already planned. It is a big deal to travel alone for the first time and like most people, I was worried about:

Day 1 of my first tour (Bangkok) – I was nervous and a little shy
  • Would I make new friends
  • Would I be able to use and understand local transport
  • Would I get lost 
  • Would I be safe alone

All of the above are pretty common concerns and regardless of how many people will tell you not to worry (me now being one of them), you won’t believe it until you finally get there and experience it for yourself.

By booking the tour I knew that I would immediately be surrounded by people in similar situations to myself therefore making friends would be simple, easy and fun. I booked the trip around 2 months before travelling and only really needed to focus on what I would take with me and how I would get there. 

By having a guide, I knew I would have a point of contact that I could use in an emergency as well as someone that I could bounce ideas and plans off. 

Perfect for those with limited time

Those of us willing to travel and backpack usually fall within one of the following two categories:

  • Limited time
  • Limited money
Depending on your situation time can be more important than money

If you are someone with limited time to spend on your adventure then taking part in a backpacking tour can be one of the optimal ways to squeeze as many activities, adventures and fun into a short period of time:

  • With an itinerary you can expect each and every day to be full interesting and exciting of things to do
  • Transport and accommodation is booked by your guides/travel company you do not need to spend time planning or worrying about this.
  • No research time is required to find activities
  • Procrastination due to hangovers does not occur as you need to travel and complete activities with the group

During my Thailand adventure I only had a three week break from my employment and therefore ensuring I maximised my enjoyment and experiences was of more importance than saving a few quid here and there.

I’ve travelled alone, with friends and with a partner and I know that I definitely would not have seen and experienced so many unique things in the same time compared to my backpacking tour.

Thousands of Different Tours to Choose From

If you’re worried about finding a tour that suits you then there likely no need as there are so many choices available to you. Personally I found both of my tours through www.tourradar.com and even post Covid there are roughly 1000 tours running each month through 2022….. just in SE Asia

With such a variety of tours available you can easily filter it so that only those that match your interests appear. Some of the most common filters are:

  • Location (obviously)
  • Length
  • Cost
  • Operating language
  • Age range of members
  • Focus of tour (Adventure/active, discovery, explore, cultural, hiking/trekking, sailing etc.)
  • Guide type (fully or partially)
  • Child friendly
  • Maximum group size

Using these filters, you can narrow the potential choices down to a smaller range and then begin to look at provider and user ratings before reviewing the itinerary to ensure that it ticks all of your boxes.

This is what was important to me on my first trip

For both of my tours the most important factors for me were:

By filtering potential tours with the above it allowed me to find a list ones which would meet my needs. From here I could go on to checks reviews and the itinerary to make sure it had an emphasis on:

  • Parties (Included full moon, boat parties and various others)
  • Island hopping (both Thailand and The Philippines)
  • Interaction with locals (tribal islands, cooking course, elephant sanctuary)
  • Exploration of nature (mangrove forest, river rafting, coral reefs etc.)
  • Adventurous activities (Scuba diving, snorkelling, zip wires, canyoneering, hiking, climbing etc.)

By knowing the type of tour that I wanted I was able to book the perfect one. In case you’re interested the tour I booked for Thailand was https://lbwtravel.com/products/thaiventure. Unfortunately it seems that post Covid the Philippines tour is no longer available.

Find a Group to Travel Onwards With

For many people who book a backpacking tour it is simply the beginning of their adventure and therefore they plan on spending time backpacking (without a tour/guide) afterwards. For those who travel alone it is pretty normal to be actively looking to find and make friends with who you will then continue your travels with.

Because of this tours are fantastic to make those friendships early and make use of them to support each other in your continued travels. For many people it can be difficult to just get off a plane, turn up at a hostel and begin making friends so the nature of a group travelling together in an backpacking tour really makes this simple.

Trips like these I have found to be pretty unique in their ability to make solid and lasting friendships in what is only a relatively short amount of time. Personally I believe that when you have new and exciting experiences with somebody it brings you closer together – and these trips will be packed full of exactly that. I still talk to and plan to meet friends I met years ago on my first tour of SE Asia. One I even met years later in The Philippines to do it all over again.

During my first tour I knew I had to return home at the end of the trip and I was absolutely gutted when the day finally came. I was lucky enough to meet and befriend a great group of people and four of them were planning to continue travelling together afterwards through Vietnam, Cambodia and all over SE Asia.

I even remember now being in Koh Tao, 4am, walking home and having my bosses number open on my phone as my new friends drunkenly encouraged me to call and give some terrible excuse for not coming back as planned. Luckily (or maybe not… who knows) I ended up ignoring them and took my planned flight back. 

Cue months of envious stalking on Snapchat and Instagram.

Explore Hidden Gems

Most highly rated tours operate by using both a local and an international guide and this is hugely beneficial for those taking part in the tour.

  • International guide: understands concerns of group, experienced in travelling and living in different countries, understands what backpackers/tourists want to see and often find it easier to complete initial ice-breakers with the group.
  • Local Guide: Speak the local language (so many benefits when interacting with locals), able to explain the culture, resolves issues, breaks down boundaries and preconceived notions whilst adding authenticity to the tour.

By having both of these guides you are often able to explore sites and areas that may not be noticed by other tourists who do not have the luxury of an experienced and engaged guide. These people will organise transport to difficult to reach places that are further from the beaten path. 

Expect a local guide to make a trip to a temple, village and cultural site much more interesting, engaging and worthwhile. 

Some example of when this really added value to my tours:

  • Sam (local guide) was planning to spend time as a Buddhist monk in a couple of years and therefore was extremely knowledgeable about Buddhist sites (of which there are many in Thailand)
  • Kayaked through a mangrove forest in Thailand. One of the highlights of my trip and not something anyone else I’ve met has done.
  • Taraw Cliff (El Nido – Philippines) – One of the dodgiest hikes/climbs I’ve done but so worth the effort.
  • Tribal Island (Palawan – Philippines) – We took a boat to an island still ran by a Filipino tribe. Spent time learning their culture, planted a coconut plant and then partied with the locals.
  • Island hopping (The Philippines) – Took a boat tour island hopping and after reaching the first island and beach found it pretty crowded. Asked our guides to take us to areas less known and had a wonderful day at deserted beaches and islands of paradise.

Interact With Locals

Often when you travel alone or with friends it can be difficult to actually meet and interact with locals whilst immersing yourself in their culture. If this isn’t something that you often do then it is likely that you are missing out on some brilliant experiences. 

Expect the majority of tours to include visits to meet locals and usually give you the chance to give back a little. If you visit a country for a long time and come away knowing know more about their culture then personally I feel like something has been missed. 

My two tours included:

  • Elephant sanctuary (donated, cleaned and played with the amazing animals) – No Riding!
  • Beach clean – Spent time one day helping to clean a beautiful Thai beach
  • Cooking class – In rural Thailand a number of Thai families helped teach us to make a variety of tasty dishes
  • Manila districts – We visited some of the poorer family areas of Manila to meet locals and give gifts to children
  • Philippine prison – Somehow (and I’m still not quite sure why) we visited a prison (non dangerous criminals) where they showed us merchandise they were making… and taught us a local dance. We then lost badly to them at basketball.

Commitment to go on your First Trip 

If you’re anything like me it’s likely that you will have the idea of going on your first backpacking trip in your head for a long time before you finally book and commit. For me this was over a year as the first year I was let down by friends not having money or holiday hours. The second year in a row this happened I promised myself that I would go alone and not waste it.

Book your backpacking tour and commit

Although I made this decision I still found it extremely hard to go ahead and book. Instead of doing this I read reviews, itineraries and blog posts. Finally I convinced myself by booking a group tour and telling friends, family and colleagues that I was going on the trip.

This forced me to then organise flights, house/pet sitter and the gear I would actually need. I’m still unsure if I would have gone had I not decided to just book it – and the only reason I did was because it was a backpacking tour and I knew things would be made easy for me.

If you want to go but you can’t seem to commit then just book, pay the deposit and tell everyone you know about it. Make it as difficult as possible to talk yourself out of it.


Like almost everything of note there are negatives related to travelling as part of a backpacking tour that must be considered and understood before booking. I will list what I feel are those you should contemplate.


You can expect an backpacking tour to be more expensive than if you to travel alone and try to replicate the trip. The main and obvious reasons for this are:

  • Tour guides need to be paid
  • Tour company needs to earn at least a small profit
  • Accommodation and transport standards may be higher than you would be willing to experience (when I travel alone I generally stay in hostels whereas tours usually book cheap hotels/apartments).

The counter to this costs can be reasonable if you consider:

Personally I think they are worth the price – and great deals can be found
  • Unpaid hours you spend researching – Is not required if you take part in a tour
  • Guarantees – If transport is missed, experiences cancelled or accommodation is no longer available the tour guide will sort this at no additional cost to you (assuming you were not responsible).
  • Activities/experiences outside of the agreed itinerary will often be cheaper than if you were alone. This is because you can expect the guides to negotiate cheaper deals with locals for large groups.

If price and saving money is more important to you then the ability to cram fun and experiences into a short period of time then possibly a backpacking tour is not your best bet.

Stuck with Group

One of the biggest benefits of a tour is that you are almost forced into making friends immediately and because everyone is in the same boat as you this is extremely easy. During both of my tours I have made great and genuine friends extremely quickly although I am sure there are occasions when this has not been the case for others.

You will be stuck with the same group for the duration of the tour and therefore if you do not get along this could have a hugely detrimental effect on your backpacking experience. Personally I believe this is unlikely if you choose a trip that best suits you as it will likely attract similar people to you.

During my trip to Thailand there was one girl who struggled a little to fit in with the rest of us and I believe she enjoyed the tour the least out of all of us. Personally I think the reasons were:

Try to find a tour that will appeal to people like you
  • Didn’t want to go out for drinks in the evening
  • Wasn’t interested in clubs and parties
  • Wanted to do activities like yoga early in the morning
  • Too nervous to take part in activities like snorkelling, diving and climbing/swimming in waterfalls.

The group had absolutely no issue with the fact that she had different interests but eventually became frustrated when she:

  • Wouldn’t take part in activities after encouragement from the guide and group
  • Felt like her interests were more important than everyone else’s

This eventually led to people in the group giving up with trying to get her involved after getting fed up of hearing ‘no’ every time they tried to get her to to join in. It was unfortunate but the only other option was to sacrifice the happiness of everyone else for one person.

Choose the Right Tour

This ties in extremely closely with the above point as choosing the right tour will make it much more likely that you will find adventurers similar to yourself who you can befriend. Consider the following:

  • Age range of the tour – If it is 18-30’s or similar then expect it to be geared towards or at least include parties. You should expect people who want to party.
  • Location of the tour – this should go without saying but make sure the climate and culture at least fits with what you want and enjoy.
  • Itinerary highlights – If the main selling points of the tour do not align with your interests do not expect the rest to
  • Number taking part – Before you book you may want to contact the company and ask for the minimum and maximum numbers. Ideally I think I would want to travel with between 8-15 people.  More than this and expect it to be difficult to make decisions and the group to splinter into smaller subsets.
  • Willingness to take part – If you want to bond then you have to take part. Relationships build so much faster when you achieve or fail together – don’t take part and expect to be left behind.

Be honest with yourself and what you actually enjoy and want from your trip. If you are a similar age to I was when I took part in my tours (early to mid-20s) then nightlife should be a key consideration for you. If you like it then make sure you book a tour that clearly involves this; if you don’t, then ensure the opposite. The person of my tour who didn’t like to party booked a trip which involved a full moon party, boat parties and various other similar experiences… in party central SE Thailand.

My first backpacking tour through Thailand – https://lbwtravel.com/products/thaiventure#highlights

Have to Maintain Pace of Tour with Minimal Diversions

A common reason I hear from many people regarding tours is that it does not give them as much freedom due to needing to keep-up with the group and stick to the itinerary. The issue with this is that:

  • You may love a location and want to stay longer
  • You may not like a location and want to leave
  • You may learn of something nearby which is not part of the itinerary

All of the above are completely fair and valid points which you should consider before booking. If you are somebody who hates to have a plan and just wants to explore as you please then being tied to an itinerary may be a bad idea.

Personally I never found this a huge issue because:

  • It ensures that you don’t get stuck in one place. I could easily have set up camp on the first beautiful Filipino Island and not seen more of the amazing country.
  • Having a packed itinerary forces you to experience so much more than you would if you planned it yourself
  • Those who take part in tours review it afterwards and unpopular locations and activities are removed.
  • You don’t have to follow the full itinerary – but a lot of it you have paid for already

In my opinion tours are like a turbo charged blast through a country as you try to see and experience as many different phenomena as possible. You will always have a chance to return and slow travel in the future if you desire.

It’s not easy to pack so much into a short period of time…


Although I may be inclined to be slightly biased due to the incredible memories I have from backpacking tours I hope that this post has given you some food for thought and the idea that you should at least contemplate taking part in one.

Personally I cannot think of a more fun 6 weeks of my life than that I spent in both Thailand and The Philippines.

I believe that everybody can benefit from a similar experience and it will be maximised if you choose to join it alone without friends, family or a partner. Because everybody on my tour knew nothing about me it gave me complete freedom to be the person I wanted to be without worrying about those who have known you for years judging you and this made it so much easier to be myself and find people who loved me for being me.

Go on a tour if you:

  • Are afraid of booking your first backpacking trip and being stuck somewhere alone
  • Want to make new and wonderful friendships
  • Value your time more than the cost
  • Want it to be as simple and easy as possible
  • Want the ability to focus just on having fun instead of the hassles of backpacking
  • Value an action packed and vibrant experience

Take a minute to ask yourself “what benefits would I get from a backpacking tour?” Answers in the comment section below please.

Best of luck to each and every one of you 🙂

The Philippines – El Nido


A 28 year old project engineer with a passion for travelling, financial literacy and learning new skills. I'm hoping that by running this blog I can track my path from corporate worker to backpacking adventurer.

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