I was contacted recently by a company called Pure Adventures that offers self-guided cycling tours around the world and when I looked into the detail I realised they are exactly the type of cycling tour I’d like to do myself.
Self-guided touring offers almost all the conveniences of a guided trip with more flexibility and personalised style and the cost is closer to doing it yourself. In short, Pure Adventures organises the itinerary for you, books the hotels, arranges luggage transfers, hands over the maps and instructions and off you go. Sounds like an ideal to way to tour on a bike to me.
Durations can be modified to meet your needs, hotels are available for many budgets and there is no minimum participation, eliminating the threat of cancellation by the operator.
Prices are more affordable by comparison to the group guided option, yet worth the extra it might cost over doing it all yourself in a self-contained concept. That goes for luxury hotel options as well as budget hotel options; it isn’t necessary to give up comfort and gastronomy to be self-guided.
Most operators offering self-guided programs also provide baggage transfers, emergency support, orientations, transfers, and add on services. Often, these support services are extremely beneficial because they are founded on expert knowledge of the region, and therefore a very reliable source for finding and offering unique properties, routes, and visits.
The differences between group travel and self-guided travel are quite vast. The most obvious is that with group travel there is a fixed date you must fit into their schedule, versus being able to choose departure dates and trip duration for a self-guided trip. In addition, group travel tosses guests into a pool of fellow travellers.
But before you decide if a self-guided cycling tour is right for you, you need to establish if you are fit enough to accomplish the requirements of the trip they are contemplating. Cycling tours always require some minimum level of fitness; be sure to know what the recommendations are prior to booking so you don’t get on something you can’t physically handle. Most self-guided offers include Emergency Support where you can call to get assistance, but it isn’t instantaneous sag support offered in a guided trip.
Secondly, you need to be comfortable travelling in countries where English is not the first language. This doesn’t mean you need to speak French or German,but you need to be able to get by. For example, will phrase-book pronunciations and charades be enough? If this panics you, self-guided touring may not be an ideal fit. On the other hand, many good experiences result from these types of cultural encounters and experienced travellers as well as open minded first timers can have equal success.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to be able to read a map and follow road signs. This is generally an easy task, but if you aren’t comfortable with the interpretations, again this may not be an ideal holiday for you. Nearly all self-guided trips include the “adventure” of route reading; you should count on it.
Self-guided trips work really well for travellers to Europe. The tourism industry is well developed in many languages, with English always the 2nd option. The infrastructure is second to none, with a seemingly infinite number of small country roads to explore. Standards among hotels, transportation, and other critical components of travel are common throughout Europe, so it is easy to know what one can expect from one country to the next. For travellers considering self-guided travel outside of Europe, these can be important points to consider before booking.
Read more about Pure Adventures tours at pure-adventures.com
I haven’t done one of their tours but they sounds awesome to me and I’m sure there are other companies that offer similar tours.