Traveling through Africa is the stuff of dreams. The very idea of it conjures images of long winding dirt roads, golden sunsets in far-flung wildernesses, and untamed wildlife roaming vast tracts of land in their thousands.
Fortunately, dreams do come true and the trip of a lifetime can be just a click away. And, while it is important to have some things figured out, such as what to pack and which highlights you want to see, the travel company you choose is the thing that either makes or breaks the experience.
Of course, I have a personal bias for African Overland Tours. I strongly believe in the quality of our team. The passion we have for this continent is felt by every single traveler who chooses to hit the African road with us. Feelings aside, having traveled on 99% of the routes in Africa, offering 24/7 emergency support on the ground, we cover all aspects of your trip. Few companies can say that, but I’m also aware that we’re one of many tour companies.
With an abundance of overland travel companies out there, choosing the right one is not always easy. So, we’ve put together a few questions to consider to help you choose the best African overland tour company to plan your once in a lifetime adventure.
1. Is the Travel Company bonded/insured?
We’re not talking about how close-knit the team is. Bonded tour companies provide financial protection for travelers who purchase package holidays, should they cease trading.
So, to make sure that your hard earned travel money is well protected, be sure to work with companies that are bonded to ensure that they are putting you first.
At African Overland Tours, we protect our customers by bonding through SATSA and are SATIB insured. Thereby providing financial protection with all monies paid for your security and peace of mind.
But, you can also look out for associations such as:
- African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA)
- Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA)
- Africa Travel Association (ATA)
- Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO)
- Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA)
- Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO)
- Tours and Safari Association of Namibia (TASA)
2. Do they specialise in the destination you want to travel to?
The Internet makes it possible to research, plan, and book a trip to almost every single destination possible and from anywhere in the world. In fact, even if you never stepped foot in Africa, you’d be able to book a trip here.
In theory, it may sound easy, but the reality is that Africa is a complex continent. Making your own vacation arrangements in a destination that is similar to your home city, in terms of infrastructure, culture, and development, does make sense. However traveling through Africa can be tricky and even more so if you plan on overlanding.
It’s not an easy place to get around; you may have a complicated itinerary with numerous border crossings and several visa requirements. So to get the best possible experience it’s worth considering a reputable tour company that has consultants who have traveled Africa in-depth.
Aladdin may be able to show you the world, but we can show you Africa unlike anyone else because it’s all we do. We were all born and raised in South Africa and work closely with our trusted network of operators within the Africa Overland industry. Most of our consultants are former Africa Overland guides who have traveled 99% of Africa’s overlanding routes. Their invaluable experience will ensure you know exactly what you’re getting into – overlanding in Africa is not for everyone.
Be careful to take direction and advice from your local travel corner-shop if they don’t have any travel experience in Africa. The truth is they will not set realistic expectations, while leaving you ill-prepared for the journey. Trust us, you will want to get the valuable inside scoop that only an African local could provide.
3. How easy is it to communicate with them?
This is a big deal – not just for logistics but also for being aware of what you’re getting into. Let’s get real, the last thing you want is to be disappointed. So it’s important to find an overland tour company that’s excellent at communicating, and more than happy to answer any questions which you may have.
You will also want to know who the tour operator is as this shows the transparency of the travel agent. Many tour agents will avoid telling you who will operate the tour on the ground, in the fear that you may book direct. African Overland Tours believes wholeheartedly that honesty is of utmost importance. Naturally, we will always be open with you about the tour operator you will be traveling with. We know our consulting and support will far outweigh your desire to simply book a random tour, especially since we will always offer you the best deal to boot.
Overlanding is an adventure and not necessarily a holiday. At African Overland Tours, we tell it like it is and make it super easy for you to get in touch with us no matter where in the world you are. You could email, call or whatsap anytime. Our goal is to help you have an experience that lives up to your expectations. So, on top of having local numbers to make it easier for you to get in touch, we’re also happy to FaceTime, LiveChat, or Skype.
4. Do they offer support while you’re on tour?
Even if things go off without a hitch, you’ll want peace of mind knowing that there is a number to call if you need the help of a travel professional. Make sure there is a 24/7 emergency support line which you can make use of if needed. There’s nothing better than knowing someone has your back!
5. Do they offer a personal touch?
Travelers are as diverse as the African overlanding routes themselves. There are intrepid adventurers who revel in rugged travel. They want to get their boots dirty, camp out in the wild and experience that untamed story-book African adventre. Then there are the travelers who want a taste of the wild combined with the comforts of a hot shower and a king-sized bed.
Overland tours vary considerably. Some options range between rugged camping excursions that require plenty of participation to private, comfort tours with cozy lodge accommodations. Both styles of travel are awesome, but knowing what you want will help determine which agency is best equipped to help you.
Instead of choosing a company that sells a one-size-fits-all overland tour, you’ll want a travel company with varied and flexible options. This will allow you to book an overland tour that is exactly what you’re looking for.
At African Overland Tours, we want you to experience this extraordinary continent with it’s breathtaking scenery, colorful cultures, local cuisine, and amazing wildlife. We also know that the only way you’ll really enjoy it, is if the style of travel suits your personality. Which is why we offer all types of overland tours; from special interest charter tours to family trips and everything in between.
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6. Are they realistic about their itineraries?
The best overland tour companies are very clear on what they offer. You’ll want them to provide detailed itineraries that allow you to make an informed decision, with honest insight into what it’s like to travel through Africa. Life on the road is unpredictable and you need to know that. If a company’s website contains vague descriptions and “100 percent smooth sailing” guarantees, it’s a warning sign.
It’s vital that you know what type of travel you are getting into. You’ll want to see comprehensive itineraries, with clear details. Consultants should be brutally honest about the things that can go wrong while on your adventure. It’s a sign that the team has experience, is reputable, and knows exactly what you should be able to expect while you’re there.
No one wants a nasty surprise of lacking travel insurance, visa documents or important items they wish they had brought from home. Our pre-departure information ensures you are well prepared for all eventualities while on tour. We guide you in booking flights that arrive with sufficient time before your tour departure, give you all the guidelines on what to pack and ensure you have a clear overview of what to expect.
7. Do they support responsible tourism?
Tourism in Africa is still very novel. Unchallenged stereotypes about the continent undermine the growth of the region. And, while the wildlife and humanitarian aspects of traveling in Africa can be noble reasons to explore the region, this ‘single story’ characterization of Africa barely scratches the surface.
Responsible travel is about more than being ‘green’. It’s about being aware of the impact your travel choices can have on the environment and local communities. Overland tour companies have a responsibility to respect the local communities and environment. Reputable companies take care to minimize their carbon footprint while contributing to the local communities in an ethical way.
Our tours buy supplies from local communities en-route and work with local guides in an effort to conserve the unique ecosystem of each destination. We aim to provide our travelers with authentic experiences while on tour. Ever heard of a zoo-safari? Well we definitely don’t approve of caged wildlife, and instead support national parks and private reserves who maintain and support the natural environment.
8. Who are the crew members who run the trip?
One of the most important things to consider is who will be leading your adventure. You’ll be traveling through many countries with various languages to navigate and complicated cultures to mingle with. So, it helps to have crew members who have extensively traveled the region or, better yet, are locals! This way, you’ll not only be better equipped with dealing with the nitty gritty but you’ll also get to learn about the continent from someone who is actually from it.
Most of our overland tours include two crew members (Driver and Tour Leader). Crew work as a team managing tour finances, planning activities, preparing meals and ensuring your safety in Africa. Our larger group overland tours include a third crew member (Camp Assistant or Cook or Translator – tour depending).
9. What type of equipment will be available on tour?
This is another biggie to consider. Some of Africa’s roads are long, winding, and bumpy. And, while break downs do happen, you want to be sure that you’ll be traveling in a vehicle that is easily repaid but sturdy.
Our vehicles are custom built, comfortable, safe and made to withstand the rugged African terrain. Onboard, you’ll also have a passenger safe to store money, passports, flight tickets, and credit cards safely.
When it comes to equipment, we’ve got your back too! All tours will include; tents, chairs, table, cutlery, pots, pans, etc. If you’re on a camping tour then you’ll sleep in large 2-man dome canvas tents, with built-in mosquito nets. They are super quick and easy to put up and take down. The comfort tours combine adventure with bedded accommodation, making use of twin and single rooms in hotels, hostels, lodge-style bungalows, chalets, and permanent tented safari camps.
In short, if there is any specialized equipment you need to bring, we will let you know well in advance.
10. What do others say about the companies and their trips?
As with any other product or service you buy, the opinions of people you know and trust are often the most helpful. If you have friends or family that have traveled on an overlanding trip, ask them about their experience.
And, if all else fails…GOOGLE. There’s a lot of info out there, have a look at travel blogs, and travel guides online. Scan the comments section and tour reviews to get a feel for previous travelers experiences. Reviews are a great barometer of other’s experiences on tour or booking with a travel company. This feedback will give you a clear overview of who you will be dealing with.
Don’t be afraid to post a question and have other travelers give you some advice. You’ll want to find a company that has a solid track record of providing well planned and executed overland tours. Previous travelers stories can be a good indicator of this.
11. Are they clear about the costs?
Comparing tours is not an apples vs. apples scenario. Many companies will sell you a tour which is not inclusive. You will have to gauge or be taken by surprise by the hidden costs, no undoubtedly putting a dampener on both your tour and your bank balance.
Park fees, meals, gorilla permits, local payments, drinking water, etc can add up real quick. Which is why it’s so important to know whats included and whats not. We explain money matters to the finest detail, so that you know the difference between an all-inclusive price versus a tour which is not inclusive. Finding the best deal is not as clear as it may seem, which is why our experienced consultants are best positioned to help you cut through the noise and find the real winner in terms of price.
No hidden costs and expensive surprises will ensure you have your budget in check while being able to navigate the various costs before and while on tour.
Ready to go on an adventure?
Choosing an African overland tour company is one of the most important decisions that you will make when planning your overlanding adventure. The right company will be experienced, knowledgeable, and professional.
Our passion is twofold; we love the African continent, and we give brutally honest advice to help you plan the most amazing adventure tour to Africa. We believe that traveling on the road in Africa changes you, forever. So, we’re here to help you plan your journey every step of the way!
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