Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Burma cycling holiday
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a cycling trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints (or tyre tracks!) although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants, use markets to purchase traditional gifts and crafts and get a real impression of Myanmar.
Water: Water is a really important issue with cycling trips and, especially as Burma can reach temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees in the Spring months, it is vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. We provide treated water on cycling and walking trips for clients in minimum 10ltr containers and find that this not only reduces our waste but helps us keep the water cool. Guides are also aware of where to top these bottles up e.g. Bagan, Yar Kin Thar hotel.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Community: We are conscious of the economic welfare of local communities and take as much opportunity as possible to buy local crafts and produce (on at least 6 days of the tour). One of our clients’ favourite locations to do this is the famous floating market on Inle Lake where locals gather with their colourful boats to sell fresh produce and traditional wares. There is a five day cycle for the floating market that literally circles the lake; here people come to sell their traditional wares early in the morning and return to their village for the afternoon. Depending on its current location we will be able to visit it, but if not, there are plenty other places to support cottage industries along the way e.g. purchasing silk products from Inpawkhone village, woven from the stem of the lotus flower.
Act Local: On this trip we ensure all hotels used are non-regime and we spend each evening in a small restaurant. The advantage of paying locally for a meal is that you ensure the money goes directly to those who are working hard to make our visits welcome. We use local leaders who receive regular training on responsible tourism issues so they can help preserve the way of life in their area. By using local leaders, we also hope they educate their own communities to help them maximise from our visit.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.
Reviews of Burma cycling holiday
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 03 Aug 2015 by Justine henwood
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The best part for me was the rides around Inle Lake; really peaceful and interesting riding and the lake a source of life for so much. Great bikes and great group all added to the experience.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Go with the flow; if you choose Monsoon season be prepared to get very very wet; that said it was part of the experience and part of life in Myanmar so it didn't really detract. Just take quick dry clothes and several pairs of shoes/rubber ones help.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Yes - very little carbon emissions but I do wish hotels would adopt the no change sheets and towels policy. Only a few were up to world standards on this.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Great; for my first ride it was probably a few days too long as the last days had no riding which was kind of boring after such a great trip.