Latin America

The Pros and Cons of Group Travel

August 24, 2018

In recent years, group travel has completely modernized to satiate the desires of this generation. No longer do you have to sit in giant tour buses  or wade through crowds at touristy attractions. Now, certain travel companies will bring together a small group of like-minded travelers and curate itineraries that will guarantee authentic, immersive experiences.

I’ve done a couple of group tours myself. I went to Cuba with Coast to Costa (see above) and Colombia (Cartagena and Medellín) with El Camino (see below). As someone who’s introverted and likes to plan to things out myself, I was unsure about group travel initially, but overall, both turned out to be fantastic experiences.

Comuna 13, Medellín, Colombia

Are you considering group travel? Let’s talk about tradeoffs.

Pros

All logistics are taken care of

No longer will you have to spend countless hours researching the things to do or places to eat at. It’s all taken care of! If you’re generally busy or don’t like planning things, then group travel could be a good option for you.

I personally liked that I didn’t have to figure out how to get a visa to Cuba, especially with unpredictable political policies and a limited set of authorized travel types.

You’ll experience the best thanks to insider connections

The travel companies’ insider connections allowed for more intimate experiences that I couldn’t have planned myself. Some of my favorite memories include eating a pig roast at a Cuban family’s home in Trinidad and walking through Comuna 13 in Medellín with the brother of Chota, a renowned graffiti artist. These unique experiences are all thanks to travel companies’ connections to the locals themselves.

You’ll make new travel buddies

It can be lonely if you travel solo. Some things (like learning salsa and champeta!) are more fun with other people. While I traveled to Cuba and Colombia with a friend, I enjoyed connecting with the other people in my travel groups. I actually became friends with my roommate in Cuba — in fact, I even visited her a few months ago!

Of course, traveling with other people also means safety in numbers, especially for women who want to be out at night.

Cons

It’s expensive

At least for Latin America, expect to shell out close to $2500-$3000 (including the flight). Most of the trips I’ve planned myself have costed about half of that amount. This type of travel isn’t really an option for budget travelers. However, these travel companies work really hard to give you the best experience. I personally also like supporting small businesses.

You may not click with everyone

To be honest, I felt out of place during one of my first nights in Havana. After dinner, a large group of people started smoking, which later became chain smoking. I was the only who didn’t smoke, and it made me feel pretty uncomfortable. Later on, I realized that no one really cared that I didn’t smoke or drink. Eventually, I was able to enjoy the others’ company and have fun while staying clean.

Because the travel groups consist of at least a dozen people, the reality is that you won’t be friends with everyone, but that’s okay. At the very least, put yourself out there and be accepting of each other’s differences.

It’s easy to become passive

Because group travel companies take care of all the logistics, it’s puts less onus on the traveler to know where they’re at or to learn the local language. To be honest, it’s hard for me to put together travel tips for Cartagena and Medellín since I didn’t have to plan anything!

I encourage you to stay engaged. Soak in the history. Learn a few basic greetings. You are not simply on vacation — you are experiencing a different way of life among the people themselves.

Summary

I’ve only traveled with Coast to Costa and El Camino, but I’m sure there are plenty of other small group travel companies. If you can afford it, group travel can be a worthwhile experience. However, I don’t think you completely lose out if you plan things out yourself; you’ll just need time to research and will have a different type of experience navigating the country.

If you have any questions or want to hear more about my experiences, feel free to contact me!

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