I was following a debate online the other day on whether it is best to organise your own trek or go on an organised walking tour with an established travel company. Some people seemed entrenched in one camp, but for me there are pros and cons for each. Here are my thoughts;

Walking independently

Pros

  • You get to set your own itinerary so you can include as much or as little climbing as you want, choose the sights you intend to see, the distances you are going to walk each day and so on. In other words, you have complete control over your trek. If you take a walking tour then your itinerary is already set by the company.
  •  You can walk at your own pace. I have been on a walking tour where a few members of the group were obviously much fitter than the rest of us and were at the front the whole week, trying to increase the pace. Although the tour leader tried to keep them in check I heard some of the slower walkers complain about feeling rushed, and I’ll bet that the faster ones were becoming frustrated by the cumbersome pace of the rest of the group.
  •  It is often cheaper. You can book space in a hostel, use public transport or even camp to keep costs down. Many tour companies will use better quality hotels, specially hired coaches and will hire tour guides, which can push up the cost of your holiday.
  •  Increased satisfaction. Knowing you organised the whole trek yourself and achieved what you set out to do without the help of anyone else can give you a huge boost.

 Cons

  • If you fall and break your leg or come down with a serious illness, you need to get yourself to safety somehow. This could be a problem if you are on your own and you have no phone signal. Even if there are a few of you it can be a massive undertaking to evacuate someone.
  •  There is a possibility of falling foul of a country’s laws or regulations without even being aware of it which could land you in hot water.
  •  If you get really, really lost, nobody’s going to come and look for you in a hurry unless you have given someone exact instructions as to your intended whereabouts and checking in time.
  •  Trekking alone can be very lonely!

 Using an established travel company

Pros

  • You have back up if anything goes wrong. Get injured or ill on the mountain and there are people to look after you and get you to safety.
  •  Planning the route and navigating is somebody else’s responsibility, not yours, which means you can relax, take photos and enjoy the scenery.
  •  Company. This is a huge plus if you are a solo trekker, like me. I have met some great people on all of the treks I have done, many of whom I am still in contact with today.
  •  Tour companies usually use local trek leaders, who are a great source of knowledge about the area you are walking through. You will get to know things you won’t ever read in a guide book.
  •  Some popular trekking trails, such as the Inca Trail in Peru, now require a permit which needs to be purchased in advance. Although you can do this yourself, knowing that this will be arranged for you by the trekking company can be a relief.

 Cons

  •  You may find yourself walking all day every day with people you don’t like and with whom you have nothing in common. I must say though that this hasn’t happened to me yet but I know people who have experienced it.
  •  As I said earlier an organised trek is usually more expensive than going it alone.
  •  The itinerary is set by the company, so if you want to spend longer somewhere or feel you need a rest day, tough. Tours usually have to keep to a specific schedule to meet pre-arranged accommodation or transport requirements.
  •  It can be frustrating if planned itineraries can’t be met due to weaker members of the group slowing the pace or struggling to keep up, especially if you are a strong, fast walker.

I must admit that the treks I have done abroad have been with tour companies, mainly because I tend to trek alone and so prefer the camaraderie of a group, plus there’s back up in case anything goes wrong. I have had some great experiences and met some fantastic people this way.

I certainly wouldn’t rule out walking independently abroad however, and intend to do this at some point.

What do you think?

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