Intrepid Travel & G Adventures Review

sahara_desert_camel_trekTours. There’s a word that gets sneers from backpackers around the world. I never considered going on a “tour” vacation until I started planning for my around the world trip last year. Traveling as a group always conjured up images of bus loads of senior citizens, having to follow someone waving a flag or wearing matching yellow hats. However, there a few companies out there that offer small group adventure travel on a budget. Over the last year I’ve went on a half dozen “organized” trips. So here’s a breakdown of what I liked and disliked about traveling with G Adventures (formerly GAP Adventures) and Intrepid Travel.

 

The Good – Pros of Traveling With a Group:

  • Built-in travel companions who are starting/ending the same place. One of the fun parts of traveling solo is meeting new people and traveling together, but sometimes–lets face it–you meet really cool people who just came from where you’re going etc.  It’s a total crapshoot on meeting people in hostels. Sometimes you meet someone the first day that you click with, other times you’ll be somewhere a week, and you don’t always find people who want to go the same places. Organized trips like GAP are great for this aspect. First, a lot of the people who travel on these trips are either young professionals, like myself, who like to mix it up with small group adventure travel or really interesting older couples, who you would rarely meet at a hostel and are truly unique individuals. You’ll often find like-minded travelers as well, so you can skip the “Oh, uhhh I don’t really like to read, except for magazines” conversations. Typical Intrepid/GAP travelers like to have a good time, but not so good of a time that they wake up at noon and drag their butts to the bus station having missed out on experiencing anything other than the local bar. It also changes the group dynamic to have a mix of ages. After the hostelling “scene” it’s a nice break.
  • Safety. As a solo female travel, safety is definitely high on my priority list. Although I use some common sense for things like dressing more conservatively, not wandering around at night alone, always knowing how to get back to my hotel etc; mixing it up with small group adventure travel is like a vacation from your vacation.  It’s great to not have to think about things as much. I did a three week Morocco trip through Intrepid Travel and then stayed on in Marrakech for several days afterward.  The difference of being in a group vs solo was HUGE! Having blond hair and blue eyes is going to make you stand out in many countries around the world, but when you’re alone, you get talked to way more (sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing), and followed and in some places — it can be less than relaxing, especially if you’re planning on traveling within the country. A city break is so much different than arriving alone into town on a 11pm train.
  • Get off the beaten track. This is one of my main reasons for joining up with an adventure travel company. I wanted to go to Eastern Europe and not just take the train from Budapest to Bucharest to Sofia. When you want to get out of the cities, without recruiting a fellow traveler, small group adventure travel on a budget is brilliant. I really don’t see myself hiking around in the mountains of Bulgaria alone or taking the overnight train to Istanbul solo.  Although I love seeing new cities, give me a week and I’ll be headed back out into nature. Getting out into rural areas and the outdoors gives you a different perspective on countries and people.
  • Budget Options. When you typically think of group travel, you think of seniors piling off of a coach and lining up for the bathrooms or cruise ship goers who pay 20 times the price to take a bus somewhere a public bus already goes. What’s great about GAP and Intrepid is that they have different pricing and comfort levels. Basic is like bottom of the line accommodations (but still nicer than a lot of hostels), Original is a step up with more included items and they even have Comfort trips, for the very hard to please.  I love how when I’m on a GAP trip we’re traveling just how I would if I was solo by taking the public buses, cheap trains and accommodation etc.
  • Sustainable travel has become somewhat of a buzzword recently, but GAP and Intrepid are big on helping the local communities and supporting local business. Sometimes when you stay at hostels it feels like you’re just getting recommendations for a lot of expat businesses, relying on the Lonely Planet guidebook, and occasionally stumbling upon something truly unique all by yourself. I really enjoyed the local aspect of my trips. Whether it’s hiking with a local guide and having tea with a Berber family in Morocco, a home-stay in rural Romania or meeting people who grew up during the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, it’s experiences you would rarely happen up on your own.  It doesn’t feel forced either, because most of these people are genuinely interested in sharing with you what’s going on in their lives, so it’s not all Hallmark momenty, but definitely a good time. Helps you think about humanity instead of just hitting the beach and the bar.
  • I only have to share this room with one other person? Not 24? I even lucked out and got my own room once! Let’s face it, hosteling for months at a time can get really old: locking up your bag, carrying your toiletries to the shower, hopping around on one foot trying to change in the showers, being assigned to a smelly 12 bed dorm and being the only female, exchanging your ‘travel intro’ a gazillion times. I loved the break from hosteling and having my own room.
  • It’s like your own personal Amazing Race and Survivor combined. I guess this could be a con, but who hasn’t thought it would be fun to be on the Amazing Race? I find it quite good fun to watch a group dynamic. Although all of my trips have been fairly drama free, there have always been a few hilarious “OMG” moments. ;)
  • Do what you want. As I’ve said, it’s your holiday, so you can do as much or as little as you like. I’m one of those people who needs space and solo time, so some days I would wake up early and go wander around town, other days I would hang out with a few people from my group.
  • Discounts. Did someone say discounts? You know when you’re standing in line to buy tickets for something and you see the prices for groups vs solo and wish you could wrangle up a group of 10 and cash in on that discount? Group trips often include a few big attractions, like the Aya Sophia in Istanbul for my Turkey trip.
  • Diversity. We travel to see new things and experience new cultures and meet new people. You’ll meet all kinds of people on your trips. You’ll usually find more Canadians on GAP trips since they’re a Canadian company and likewise with Intrepid and Australians.  On my trips there have always been a few Americans, Brits, Kiwis, or Germans too.
  • No planning required. As mentioned, it’s like taking a vacation from your vacation. Although I love planning and logistics, sometimes lining up transport and hostels and figuring out schedules can be frustrating. This is especially true in countries where everything is on “when it gets here” time.  For example, when the road was closed due to flooding in Morocco and we had to backtrack several hours I wasn’t too bugged. If I’d been alone I would have been second guessing the driver’s motives and wondering where I was going to stay.

The Bad/Ugly – Cons of Traveling With a Group:

  • You don’t get to pick your roommate (unless you’re traveling with them). On one trip I was the only single girl so I got my own room.  As luck would have it, on another trip there were 4 of girls in our late 20’s and 30’s and 1 lady in her 60’s. I’m by no means an ageist, but it happens that none of us really hit it off with this lady, so we took turns rotating rooms. It wasn’t a catastrophe, but there was a lot of internal rolling of the eyes on my part.
  • You don’t get to pick your tour guide. My guide in China was a nightmare. She was unprofessional, unorganized and even talked about how much work it was and how she didn’t make enough money. I ended up having a great time on my trip, but it was in spite of her.
  • Tours cost more. Generally, organized tours cost more than if you were to do it solo. However, if you watch the last minute sale sections of G Adventures and Intrepid, you can get 20 – 25% off a “last minute departure” trip. When I was in Romania, I bought a sale Intrepid trip leaving out of Istanbul for 3 weeks later, because I knew I would be going to Istanbul. I also saved money by calling with my Skype phone to a local Intrepid office in Melbourne and paying in Australian Dollars which saved me a few hundred dollars, since they were charging more in USD and the 3% exchange rate fee on my credit card was well worth it.
  • Watch those extras. When you’re traveling with a group, sometimes you can get caught up in “group think” about activities and restaurants. When you’re on your own, it’s easier to say “No, that’s not something I’m interested in.” However, when you’re with a group and you’re the only person who doesn’t want to do something you can feel like “UGGGH!” But it’s your vacation so speak up. Many times other people are just going along to be agreeable. Since I was on a budget, this was never really a problem for me (and I’m super frugal to start with). Several times everyone was going to an expensive restaurant for dinner and I just wasn’t up for dropping $20 on a meal and just wanted grab some street food. So I would just said, “Hey, I think I’m just going to grab something quick and cheap for dinner, so don’t worry about waiting around for me” and most of the time there were others who felt the same way and voilà I still had dinner companions. It just takes one to be the first to speak up!
  • Set itineraries. Sometimes you arrive in a new town and find it charming and perfect and you want to stay for a week, while other times you arrive and want to leave on the next train.  When you’re on a tour, it’s not a hop on hop off bus, so you can’t really change up your itinerary unless you want to pay for your hotel and transport and leave the group. So that part can be frustrating on occasion, but really it just makes you want to go back to some places someday. They get a lot of feedback on what people like and dislike about the trip, so the time is usually allotted quite well.
  • Nobody expects the wild card. Not only do you not get to pick your roommate, but you might just have a nutter on your trip. These things do happen, rarely, but they do.
  • Optional Activities. It all depends on the tour leader, but I had one that was quite pushy on doing certain add-on activities, which made me wonder what their motivation was, maybe a kickback. Most leaders also get a free dinner, when they join the group at restaurants. I don’t like dining in groups of 8-12 anyway, so I had more fun splitting up into smaller groups with a few people that I really clicked with. Also, I was quite vocal on what my budget was. If the tour leader mentioned a “really good restaurant” I would do a little research on my own by asking what the price range was or even stopping by to check it out. Splitting dinner bills is another thing I was careful with, because often times everyone will say, well let’s just divide it by 6 and it will all even out. Call me cheap, but I’ve always said “No thanks,” and explained that it will never “even out” for me since I’m a vegetarian, don’t order starters, and didn’t have 5 beers. It’s fine to get slighted every once in a while when you go out back home, but when you’re on the road for a year, this can really add up. Thankfully, everyone has always been extremely cool about this!

 

G Adventures Reviews - MoroccoBottom line: Would I recommend a GAP Adventure or Intrepid Travel trip?

That depends. How’s that for an MBA answer? ;)   But it really does depend on several things:  who you are, where you’re going, your travel style, how much time you have, if you’re traveling with someone, etc.

  • If you’re traveling solo and female I would check out any of their cheap trips to parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
  • If you’re traveling solo (male or female), I would recommend GAP for some third-world countries like Morocco and Cambodia. It gives you the chance to really experience the countries at a deeper level, especially if you’re limited on time.
  • If you’re going to Eastern Europe and you’re traveling as a couple I would say do it on your own. Some of the rural areas are pretty spendy solo, but 2 – 4 people to split costs would be ideal.
  • If you’re going to Paris or Berlin or Barcelona definitely skip the GAP trip. My first visit to Europe was in 2006, I was admittedly a little nervous along with my excitement, but going on a trip would have been a waste. Most European cities are more fun to experience solo or as a pair. Unless you get a smokin’ deal or are doing something really specific like a culinary trip or something, I’d say go it on your own.
  • If you’re traveling with a friend, you might enjoy a group trip more than if you’re traveling as a couple. I would suggest couples try out a short (4 – 8 days) trip and then do a week or so on your own.
  • If you have two weeks vacation time and you want to see the highlights of an unpredictable (read 3rd world) country, then I’d recommend a GAP trip.
  • If you think Muslims are terrorists or that traveling is dangerous, I would encourage you to reevaluate your bias, check out some crime statistics, “simmer down” and book a trip to Morocco.
  • Do the math. I have a travel spreadsheet that I use to calculate the trip price + local payment + food + activities/shopping = total price / days = Price per day.  Now, if this price per day is less than you could do solo, go for it. For example: I found a 3 week Intrepid trip to Morocco on sale for $580 + 475 local payment.  It included a camel trek in the Sahara, some guided hikes and a few breakfasts.  So excluding food and shopping, that’s $50/day.  Lonely Planet says you can get by on $40 if you’re really slumming it.  So going with Intrepid in this instance was a no brainer!  It would have been difficult to find all the transport and lodging for less than that as a solo traveler.

I hope you’ve found this travel info useful.  While I’ve only traveled with G Adventures and Intrepid Travel (and yes, they used to be sister companies), I’ve met people who’ve traveled with Gecko, Exodus, and Dragoman, but after a quick price check, I think I’ll stick to G Adventures and Intrepid.

Any thoughts on group travel?  Do you have any Intrepid or G Adventures reviews? Do share!

96 Comments

  • I agree with the comments that it all depends. Even with the same company, you can have a great time on one tour, and a terrible time on another. Case in point, I traveled with Intrepid twice–my trip to Africa was great, while the Cambodia trip was nasty (giant roaches, bad guide, cranky group.) At the same time I went with the cheaper Gecko’s to Nepal and they were awesome (great activities, great guide, fun group.) You never can tell.

    I would recommend doing your research and seeing what others think of a company by a certain location.

    Finally, for many countries, you really don’t need to take the tour, unless you want company, less hassle planning, or are on a fixed time limit.

    For me, I would never go on a tour to many parts of Asia (China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, South Korea, Vietnam, etc.) These places are perfectly doable on your own, even to places where limited English is spoken, like China. I kick myself for going on a tour to Cambodia, as I could have easily done that one my own.

    I feel the same way towards South America. I went to Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Argentina on my own and it was fine. The prices of these tours are quite high compared to the costs of doing it yourself. Plus, they sometimes place you in dive-y/out-of-the-way hotels, which defeats the purpose of being in that location at all.

    I would only take tours again for special experiences (long-term camping trips in Africa, for instance), or when you are traveling to a country with a high-hassle factor, and it is hard to go their alone (Egypt and India, for instance.) Otherwise, forget it.

  • I am interested in a tour in the Balkans – Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia – in the spring of 2014. I am a “senior” and I will be traveling solo. I have traveled extensively and am interested in a tour that includes major cultural and historic sites, that has a relaxed pace, and good folks to travel with. Suggestions?

  • Had to chime in and say that I took a GAP or (G Adventures) Peru on a Shoestring tour end of 2012. It was my first trip overseas. The trip included the Inca Trail and that leg of the tour was handled by a different group of G Adventures people.

    I also ran into lots of Peregrine (?) and Intrepid groups during my own trip. My thoughts:

    G Adventures is BIG business in Peru. They are the most prominent small tour operator that I came across and we did run into lots of other G Adventures staff and tours. My trip was about $1000 less than the equivalent tour offered by Intrepid, say what you will about inclusions, they were fairly comparable.

    The group was small. There were 5 of us in the group – all girls, all single, aged 25-35, mostly highly educated and wanting to see all the amazing places around the world. Everyone else in the group was much more travelled than me and had visited several countries already. The group was absolutely fantastic and I learned so much from my travelling companions – was very sorry to say goodbye to them.

    Our tour guide was… mediocre. He spoke excellent English, was enthusiastic about learning more, but mostly was herding us onto the right bus at the right time. He didn’t provide any real information about the sights or places we were visiting, which I think is a real shame since he was a local. I didn’t expect a history lesson, but I would have liked to hear his thoughts and opinions a lot more than I did.

    The accommodation was fine, no troubles there. The places our guide too us to eat were not as adventurous as I would have liked, but I didn’t realise until near the end of the trip that we kept ending up in pizza/pasta places (yes – in Peru). This may be for safety… not sure. Food wasn’t cheap. And towards the end the group starting looking for “fine” dining restaurants which i think for not much more money was much more authentic and delish.

    Would I recommend G Adventures for Latin America & Peru – absolutely. However do your reading if you’re interested in culture and history before you go – your guide will not help you.

    I would go with G Adventures again if I’m visiting a non-english speaking nation or 3rd world country.

    The itinerary was pretty well balanced, I didn’t feel swamped by other tourists and in fact our guide often suggested that we leave/arrive at certain times to avoid other groups (until we reached Macchu Picchu when you couldn’t avoid the swarms) and there was plenty of free time to select our own day trips and activities.

    The Intrepid tours I met in Peru were smaller again and I was really glad I didn’t go with them – 5 people was small enough! I also didn’t think the Intrepid outfit looked as organised or professional in Peru – esp on the Inca Trail when the Intrepid porters look like they received half the pay of the G Adventurers crew – which was saddening.

  • Hey fellow travellers!
    A friend and I (23 yrs) are planning a 32 day trip Cancun to San Jose this May. I am really torn between Intrepid and GAP. Any suggestions? Also, has anyone been on this kind of trip? I’ve never done a group tour and although I do not expect luxury, I could see myself losing sleep over a room crawling in roaches..
    I appreciate your input!

    • Do it. It is a great tour. I did it from Mexico city to Antigua Guatemala. I loved it

  • I have recently done the Road to Zanzibar trip(Nairobi, Serengeti, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar etc) with Intrepid. Awesome group, helpful guides and overall was a fantastic experience.

    I was looking at doing a G Adventures (GAP) holiday to Thailand next year. Possibly the Hike, Bike and Kayak – has anyone been on this trip before?

  • Our family has taken one group adventure through China. Traveling with kids, it helped to travel in a pack and not be responsible for all the decision making. I could “follow the leader” and focus my brain energy on my kids. Now that we’re more accustomed to international travel, we tend to make our own itinerary, but if I ever venture someplace remote, I’ll probably go back to the pack. At least the first time!

  • There’s a lot of differing opinions out there.. Let me add mine.

    My wife and I just finished a G Adventures (formerly Gap Adventures) 9-day tour from Johannesburg, South Africa to Victoria Falls, Zambia. We couldn’t have had a better time! A few thoughts:

    – So much depends on the tour guide. Our guide, Vladia Bajerovska, was fantastic. She was both a great organizer and a great cheerleader, making sure everybody was included and knew what was going on. She had a lot of knowledge, both natural (describing animals) and practical (navigating border crossings). She answered all of our questions, no matter how many times we asked. I can’t say enough good things about her. Our driver, Stefan, was also fantastic.

    – A lot also depends on your group. We had 20 people, mixed group from US/UK/Canada/Australia, aged from mid-20s to mid-40s. By the end of the trip we were all great friends. Our tour involved a lot of “participatory camping”, meaning everybody had to pitch in to load/unload the truck, chop veggies for dinner, etc. Everybody pitched in without even having to ask, which was great. Obviously this is one of those things where one bad apple can spoil the bunch… There was a little bit of drinking at the campsites (some had bars, others were BYOB), but everybody was pretty much in bed by 10.

    – We had the “basic” accommodation level, and believe me, it was BASIC. We spent nearly every night in tents, though there was an option to upgrade to a cabin at some sites. If you enjoy camping for multiple days, you’ll be fine. But if you’re the type to whine because there’s no hot water in the shower, or there’s a bug in your tent, or your sleeping bag smells funny after a week, you won’t have fun.

    – There was a lot of driving, sometimes 4-5 hours per day. The overland truck was pretty sweet, though spartan. Personally, I didn’t mind the long drives; I had a well-stocked Kindle, great scenery to look at, and a truck-full of people to get to know. But this might get tiresome for some people. Read the itinerary carefully.

    – A lot of the activities billed as “optional” were pretty much required, if you wanted to have fun. The focus of our tour was African game drives, and except for one, they were all “optional”, and cost between US$30-50 dollars each. My wife and I had decided ahead of time to do all of the optionals (spent approximately $250 total for each of us) and I’m glad we did, but if you’re a penny-pincher, I could see it getting annoying. Again, read the itinerary carefully.

    All in all, I feel that by taking G Adventures, we were able to see a lot more of southern Africa than if we had just gone on our own. I suppose it depends on your comfort level in the third world, but there were some situations (choosing safe markets to shop at, bribing corrupt SA police (really!), and navigating the crazy Botswana-Zambia border crossing) that I know I wouldn’t have been able to do by myself, and least not without great stress. The lodging and travel is definitely not luxury, but I think it was more fun that way. All we had to do was spend a few nights roughing it and helping around the campsite, and we had the trip of a lifetime.

  • Thanks for all this great information. I’m thinking if doing a 67day tour with intrepid quito to buenos aires so I can cover more in my time in Sth America as a solo traveller. Has anyone been on intrepid tours in south America in 2012?

  • Great Review!

    We did Roam Cambodia and Vietnam with GAP and it was the most amazing experience! Our tour guide, Vicky, was fantastic. Although she was Australian, she spoke Thai and Cambodian therefore she was able to help us all when it came to sorting anything out (splitting bills etc). She even managed to sort out one of our party who wasn’t being allowed into Vietnam – we’d have been lost without her knowledge and expertise. The tour had a huge emphasis on helping the local communities, which meant we got to have a deeper insight into the state of the country and what they were doing to help themselves. I can’t speak highly enough of this tour!

  • I did “Peru Encompassed” with GECKOS Adventures. They were AMAZING. Elvis Vargas and Belji were the two most awesome guides ever! If you want adventure, to feel like you’re going to crash on a flight over the Nazca lines, screaming downhill in sand dune buggies, eating “mystery food”, history, tradition, death-defying bus rides over canyons and welcome hospitality at a homestay on Lake Titicaca, this is who you should go through.
    Our group of 16 were varied between ages 23 and 72 with only 2 of us under the age of 30 (I was 28 at the time).
    I’m off to Japan in March with INTREPID. Really looking forward to it.

    I can’t stress enough: BOOK YOUR OWN FLIGHTS.
    I work in logistics so it makes sense for me to book the flights I want with the providers I want and only use the travel companies for the tours/accommodation/transfers. I have had no problems yet. I have a friend who had a bad experience with a budget South American Airline so I prefer to stick to known “OneWorld” partners…

    I had no problem with my transfer in Lima. The dude was very professional and friendly; he found me wandering around completely lost outside the terminal LOL

    GECKOS is a British company so it might end up being a bit more expensive and having different requirements to the Aussie-owned INTREPID…
    I haven’t used GAP but a friend of mine did and she had no complaints.

  • If you are considering using the services of GECKO Trail Adventures:

    Here is my experience, so traveler beware.

    They insist that you pay in advance by credit card and they issue a voucher. For example travel is $40 per person from San Jose to Puerto Viejo.

    My flight was delayed and I called to move the shared shuttle to the next day and they refused to honor the voucher. They claim when you call them that its because they have independent contractors providing the shuttle service, but I think that’s a poor excuse.

    This company works with Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo. I strongly recommend avoiding them. Of course the best way to not get ripped off is to not pay companies in advance, but to pay cash for services rendered. This was a special circumstance, my brother’s honeymoon, so I wanted to make it hassle free for him and pay everything in advance. I have learned my lesson with Gecko. I hope you will choose not to use them and go with a more reputable provider.

    Good luck!

  • My husband and I are planning a trip to Kenya and Tanzania for February 2012. We are deliberating between GAP or Intrepid. Can anyone share feedback about their experience using either of these tour companies? We are also open to other tour companies. I tried looking up Nomad Adventures, which someone suggested above but their itinerary didn’t seem as extensive as Gap or Intrepid.
    Thank you kindly.

  • I have been a frequent traveller on GAP and Intrepids. One thing I did not like about GAP on the AAfrican route is the heavy presence of Western Tour Guides at the expense of Local read African Guides. I would be very comfortable doing trips with the indegenous people to learn their history and cultures afterall this is what is considered Sustainable tourism which benefits locals! The rest is just exotic version that has impoverished the host communities leaving them worse than they found them! The Southern African leg was more of an Afrikaan experience. Undeniably this is part of the South African History but this leaves out a huge swath of land namely Zambia, Namibia ,Botswana etc… Gap should make their African Trips be uniquely African

  • I have experiences both tour groups. Years ago I booked a GAP tour of South America due to time constraints. It was a horrible experience. The arrival transfer in Rio did not show up. I made my way to the originating hotel and they claimed that I was not on the itinerary so I would have to re-book. In fact I had booked four months earlier. I had to fight for a spot despite having my confirmation in hand. There was a lot of unnecessary phone calls and hassle on my end as the tour guide had no idea how to handle it. It ended up that seventeen people had to be in the group due to an I.T. error. The group almost consistently comprised of young drinkers and the tour was compromised to accommodate them (majority rules) so most places of cultural interest were disregarded. One tour member was abusive to all of the tour participants and when brought to the tour guides attention (who was the brunt of most of the harrassment) said that we would just have to put up with it. The tour guide hated Chile so all we heard was his whining through that part of the tour. Once the tour was over GAP was virtually unresponsive to my complaints.

    Years later I decided to give Intrepid a go. It was wonderful (Rajhastan Adventure). I could not recommend them enough. It was the complete opposite to my GAP experience and I have done two more tours since then with Intrepid. Time restraints sometime make independent travel (which is my preference) problematic but Intrepid has made travelling with a group a great experience.

  • has anyone travelled with Geckos? how were they? I am having a hard time finding reviews of them. what is the general age range they attract? I was looking at an Ecuador trip.

    to continue with this thread, I have taken 3 GAP trips. (I am now 40, nyc, traveled extensively). these are the only times I have ever done group travel. The Egypt trip was amazing..best guide, I went with a friend, and we had a great group. I did Turkey…great iteniery…an older group (3 of us under 40). The guide I did actually complain about afterwards. He was nice and tried hard, but it was his first time doing a GAP trip, gave us very little free time and his ENglish was not very good. He was very knowledgable though. I did a short Croatia trip. was overall good..but the group was less compatible, (some older couples who kept to themselves), the guide was great, but something was missing from that trip I think.
    Like many have said, I think a lot has to do with the guide and mix of people, and just some luck. I did talk to a few people on these trips who took other GAP trips..some were so-so reviewed (Central america-had young american guides who didnt speak Spanish), and a couple positive reviews from Africa. I think it has a lot to do who the subcontact the tour to, and also, if it a more in-demand trip which they do frequently and have the kinks worked out well.

  • Hi Tofu, thanks for posting your review of these two businesses, we’re looking to book a trip to Central America and needed some indication of quality/affordability of each. Better get crackin on your list!

    Cheers,
    TK

  • I see several people saying they are going to India and I really want to hear/read how their experience was with Intrepid vs. Gap. I am planning to go winter 2012 and need to decide between these two companies. I would be traveling solo, age 37, and have done quite of bit of traveling previously with Contiki (pre age 35). How was India with Gap or Intrepid? Which tour(s) did you do? Thanks!

  • Hi,
    I looked at this site a few months ago because I had booked a trip in Africa with GAP. Honestly, it made me very concerned that I may have made a big mistake. Well it turned out to be the best trip I have ever taken in my life. It was 40 days of pure pleasure.
    Your comments are absolutely correct, the trip really depends on the quality of the guides. We had the very best: Retief, Vernon and GP. They made the trip. They were outstanding. I also was very impressed that GAP delivered exactly what they promised and that the quality was excellent. I really felt that I got tremendous value for my money. There is no way I could have ever done this trip on my own. Africa is incredible and the GAP trip Capetown to Nairobi is superb.
    I was so impressed that I have booked two more trips with GAP, one in Nepal and one in India the Fall.
    One last comment. The people on my trip were from a dozen different countries, ranged in age from 18 to 77 (most 25-35) and had diverse backgrounds. Most of the travelers were singles. Just a few couples. The people make a big difference and GAP seems to attract a good group. Everyone had fun.

  • Looking at Kenya/Tanzania for August. I’d do Intrepid but 2 of the 3 week in Tanzania are Dragoman which I’ve heard not so great things about. I’m also a little worried about “participatory camping” and wondering if by the time I buy everything I need I could just upgrade to a lodge for marginally more.

    I had a good time on Intrepid for India/Nepal and Vietnam/Cambodia. I did GAP for Argentina/Uruguay/Brazil and it was good. I did get really annoyed at GAP for refusing to be reasonable (and keeping a lot of my $ when I got sick for Central Amer. trip and had to cancel. I liked our S. America guide but got annoyed that she sneaked her boyfriend on to the tour and cut off our time at the fall (probably to spend time with him), discouraged the bird park (which is amazing) and at one point put us 4 in a room. At age 34 I feel like the GAP groups are too young for me – we had a lot of college age kids. Intrepid seems to have more of an age range.

  • Hi
    Any more advice on ‘moose adventure travel’ in canada. One good comment on it. my friend and i were thinking of doing the inclusive tour on the east coast. any thoughts?

  • Hi,

    I am a 26 year old female looking to do a trip solo this year around Thailand or Argentina.

    I’m seeing mixed reviews for both Intrepid and GAP (as well as Contiki). Which would be the best company to go with if you’re looking for a good balance between culture and fun? I’ve never traveled with a tour company before, but since I’m thinking about traveling alone I thought it might be good.

  • My friend and I are looking for a trip in mexico for May. We were thinking about going with GAP… But looking at the comments people had on them I’m not sure anymore if I should book with them… Any suggestions??

  • Thanks for you tips. I am thinking of doing a solo Greece trip spring/summer and cant decide which one is better. Any recommendation??

  • HI Guys,
    Don’t know if Im too late with this tread but…about to book a two week trip round vietnam/cambodia with either GAP or Intrepid tomo!Which one should I go for?Both sound similar
    Any last minute advice?Thanks!

  • I have to say that I agree with many of the comments here. I first travelled with Gecko in SE Asia in 2009 – it was OK – the guides were good, a little disorganised at times but mostly good, the group was a bit of a mixed bag and the tour was a mish-mash of several different tours of varying lengths and varying starting and finishing points. I would definitely recommend checking on this aspect if you are travelling alone and hoping to connect with people for the duration of your trip. On the other hand, having some people come and go may be a blessing…. This year I travelled to Morocco with Intrepid. Undoubtedly the best trip of my life. It’s unfortunate Anna that you had such a bad experience but really just goes to show that group travel can be a bit hit and miss. I am looking to go to Central America next year. Like many here I am considering Intrepid and Gap. Gap seem to have more choice of itineraries and departure dates but like so many others here I too am now having reservations. I am in my mid-30s and looking to travel with likeminded people. Anyone been to Central America recently and have any advice regarding tour operators, guides, age-groups on these trips?

  • Thank you for your post and hope that GAP is much better than Intrepid. I just got off a 15 day tour through Morocco with them and it was horrible. The hotels were not researched and were filthy and full of cockroaches. The guides were not trustworthy and didn’t have full education on the sites we saw. I would ask if they been here before and there answer was always “Yes, why do you ask?”. I wanted to answer “Because you don’t seem to know anything about this place?” The whole group got parasites at the end of the trip from the included trip. Find another group other than Intrepid.

  • Hi, I will be doing the indochina discovery tour with gap the end of December, I choose them as I will be a solo female traveller and heard that they are better for a younger age group, I am in my mid 20’s. I would love to hear anyones experiences of this trip, good or bad and if anyone could give me any useful advice on do’s and donts and things to watch out for?

  • I have tavelled with both GAP and Intepid. I did a basic Intepid tour of Jordan and Egypt, it was great so was the leader and the other tavellers that ranged in ages from early 20’s to late 60’s. I also did a basic Intrepid tour of Ecudor/Peru/Bolivia, again no complaints, loved the leader who usually would have only done the Ecuador portion but due to some issue with the other leader who was supposed to take over at the boder he continued on and despite never having lead a group in that area before he did a great job. That being said for part of the trip our itinary was very similar to that of the Original style Intepid group and I would have lost my mind if I had their leader, I found her rude and bossy and treated the group as little school children.
    I went with GAP for the shoestring Galapagos trip, it was great, however I am not sure how much credit can be given to GAP for that, as it all was subcontracted out to another operator on the islands. Also as a single female taveller who dosent speak spanish and where I didnt land in Quito till 2 in the morning I had arranged with GAP for a hotel tansfer, there was a guy there witha GAP sign but my name wasnt on his list, luckly there just happened to be others doing the same thing, luckly I had my voucher so he took me to my hotel.
    Now looking at going to Ethoipa and am torn which to go with.

  • ‘Anonymous’ I think that comment is ridiculous – the comments are fake???

    I have just happened to come across this site as I am considering a group tour with either Intrepid or GAP and I think that without exception that all of the posts above are just as genuine as mine.

    I have travelled with Intrepid before and had an amazing time but I can accept that other people may not have had such a good experience as me.

    So there you go, I don’t doubt you had bad experiences with Intrepid, no company can get it right 100% of the time, but I do feel quite strongly that instead of that stupid comment you should have shared the bad experiences you have had.

    I have found the honest comments particularly helpful and whilst I haven’t dismissed GAP entirely I will definately be doing more research into the reviews about their trips. I mean, who knows maybe all the comments are from Intrepid staff here spouting negative reviews about GAP to boost their income?

    On a separate issue:

    Some people mentioned overland trips so I just wanted to give a recommendation – in 2008 I did an overland trip from Kenya to South Africa with a company called Oasis Overland. It was excellent value for money and an amazing experience both with the company and my fellow travellers.

    Happy travels

  • Hi everyone,
    Fantastic site! Love all the feedback by knowledgeable travellers. My two cents: did Peru with GAP in 2007 – great trip, amazing amazing guide (José Valdivia) who, being Peruvian, spoke the language and knew how to get things done down there. Nothing negative to say about it – brilliant. Took GAP again this year for our honeymoon in the Galapagos, and I wish I could be as positive. GAP did a good job, the crew on the boat was very good (very good guides, brilliant chef), but the problem was the boat itself. It had a lot of mechanical problems (diesel fumes in rooms, deficient plumbing, flooding in our room, etc). It was due for maintenance right after our trip, and it should have gone before. Given that I had paid extra for a “comfort” boat, and extra again for a “suite” room instead of a cabin, I felt that I did not get what I paid extra for. The condition of the boat turned what could have been a slam-dunk trip into a “great, but…” It makes me rethink using GAP for Antarctica, but I would consider them again for other trips.
    We also did Egypt and Jordan with Gecko’s and found it ok, but not as great as GAP Peru. The Egypt guide was friendly and helped us whenever needed, but I would have liked a bit more “local colour” than the fast-food restaurants we often went to (not always much time to wander around to find your own meal). The guide in Jordan was very knowledgeable, but often stayed at other hotels than us, and once in the next town, and was not always well organized. The guide on a group trip makes or breaks the experience, I think. I am now interested in trying Intrepid, given all the good reviews I have read here.
    Another thing about small group travel: people are usually like-minded, flexible and friendly. The group in the Galapagos was especially great – 20s to 50s, all interesting and willing to help each other.

  • I recently booked a tour with Gap Adventures with several other friends and family. I usually don’t do tours as I prefer to have more flexibility.

    If you book with Gap, make sure you are fully committed, as you will not be able to get any of your money back if you cancel for any circumstances AND they will lot let you transfer your tour to another person. This situation came up with one of our friends.

    Also, do not expect much in the line of customer service. They were great when I booked the trip, but since then, when I have called with questions the travel agents have ranged between surly and condescending. I could compare the experience to dealing with US Airways agents at best.

    I haven’t taken the tour yet, but based on my experiences so far, I am not getting my hopes up!

  • The feedback is awesome. A couple of friends and I in our mid 20’s are looking at doing the tour from South East Asia (Bangkok to Singapore). The same tour is offered by Geckos (Intrepid) and GAP. GAPs tour is a little bit cheaper but have heard mixed reports on the company, espcially in Asia. I have done a Geckos tour before and it was awesome. Any suggestions??

  • Planning a trip to Thailand next Spring and have been looking over the GAP trips however having read reviews online am now reconsidering, I know from the very helpful posts on this site that the success of the trips seems to rely on the quality of the guide but if anyone has been on the northern thailand trip with Gap or intrepid i’d appreciate some advice.

    Thanks

  • These are all great posts. I have taken three GAP trips (Peru, Brazil/Argentina, Galapagos) and one Intrepid (Egypt). On all three GAP trips, the guides couldn’t really be bothered with the travelers. After taking the first trip (to Peru, which was so amazing and hard not to enjoy in spite of roommate, GAP guide not being much of a guide), I booked two others back-to-back (probably wouldn’t have done the third one if I’d known how rotten the tour guide on the second one would be). Intrepid, however, was amazing. The other travelers were amazing (which seems a common theme), the tour guide was outstanding, and all but the Cairo hotel were fine or very nice. Take Intrepid if the dates work. If GAP offers a better itinerary or dates, take it but don’t expect greatness.

  • Hello…Great reviews on here but now I am torn bwtween Gap or Intrepid…I am craving LOL to go to Asia…i would really like to do Vietnam and/or Cambodia….I am a single female 32 yo and have traveled on my own overseas to Europe and Africa & Tunisia but not on an organized tour to Asia for 2 weeks….any feedback would be helpful…..what can I expect as a single female traveler? Whats the age range on those tours?

    Thank You

  • Great Site. We travelled with Intrepid Family to Vietnam about 4 years ago and couldn’t recommend them highly enough. Very organised and really took the hassel out of travelling.

    We are doing a Gap trip to India at xmas time and am now a bit dubious over some of the reviews regarding hotels and guides used.

    Has anyone travelled with Gap thru India? Thanks

  • Enjoyed your impressions/pros/cons of group travel and have learned a lot from the comments.

    I’m in my late 50’s and if I may share a few of my experiences???

    Age has nothing to do with whether you are a good or poor travel companion nor does it have anything to do with how one views the travel itself, i.e. accommodations, travel modes etc. Unless a trip is totally screwed up–having a flexible mind and a “young-at-heart” attitude is the most important.

    In my mid-thirties I went on a nature of tour of Iceland. I was the youngest and the next youngest was the tour guide. Everyone else was 65 plus. I considered myself reasonably fit, but I had trouble keeping up with these “senior citizens” who hiked, joined in every activity possible and partied until the wee hours of the morning.

    Recently I was on an OAT (Overland Adventure Tour) which caters to an older group. At 57 I was the youngest (nice feeling). Again, these folks were fearless–all but four of us went on the zip line for instance–including an 85 year old (she had a someone with her from the zip line company).

    I have also done several Earthwatch.org trips which are volunteer vacations–including archaeology and two animal expeditions. Ages have ranged from early 20’s upwards of 85. Have had excellent experiences with Earthwatch–they provide on their websire 40 plus expedition guide briefings so you know exactly what you are getting into. Unfortunately free time away form the project is practically nil so if you want to see the area, you should either go in early or leave late and either travel solo or book a three-to-four day group if you don’t want to be on your own.

    My advice, in this rather long email, would include the following:

    a) Know what your goals are before you book. Do you want to hike a lot, be socially conscious, learn about wines, volunteer with animals etc. Then look for trips that will satisfy your goal(s).

    b) Talk to other travelers, read blogs etc., google the name of the tour/organization with words like “Intrepid reviews” and read them with a critical eye. I’ve noticed many times the most irate reviews are from travelers that didn’t read the “fine” print or do any research. But pay attention to the negative reviews that seem legit. Call and ask the company about them and be wary if the company glosses over some of the complaints that appear most frequently.

    c) Like Powered by Tofu–create some sort of spread sheet about costs so you know exactly what is covered and what is not. Also, make a spread sheet of the tour by day and put down the meals, hotels, rides, and activities–you might be surprised for instance once you mentally clock the travel time to find you have VERY LITTLE time in the next city. For instance, I went on a Christmas Market tour with Globus and was very disappointed in the amount of time spent in the Christmas markets vs. what seemed promised in the brochure. We had at the most 90 minutes in each market. If you have ever been to an European Christmas market (large ones that is)–you know 90 minutes only just gets you into the flavor of the event. Not the shopping as much as the other activities (sometimes little skits, plays, outdoor cafe type places while you sip hot apple cider etc.)

    d) Keep an open mind towards your other travelers–especially if they are older. They may not want to go out and party every night, but every senior I’ve traveled with has extensive travel experience and by knocking age misconceptions off your agenda, you can learn a lot. In one of the trips I had gone on, these mid-70 folks had done a walking tour of England–both a group and individual effort. The started as far south as they could and walked to the Scotland borders via the various trails and walk throughs. I got some great ideas from these folks to put on my travel “bucket” list. Another couple I know that is in their late 60’s and has money, but does adventure type tours has probably had the most exciting experiences of anyone I’ve traveled with.

    So I’ll shut up now. Just do as much research as you can by googling or binging or yahooing your trip. Don’t forget too to look at Google images, YouTube videos etc. of the places you want to go.

    Dani

  • This website is a real find for me. I am hoping to do a decent length tour of south America early 2011(3mths +) and am trying to figure out whether to go GAP or Inteprid! Has anybody done a long tour around south America with either of these companies?? I have travelled Asia with Gap and although it was great it was not without it’s ups and downs, but overall a great experience. People seem to be rating Inteprid for south America but because I am doing a long trip I don’t want to make the mistake of booking with the wrong tour group
    I know it’s a long time to go on a tour but I will be a solo female traveller trying to see South America and being safe at the same time.
    I would appreciate any advice.
    Thanks a million!

  • Extremely helpful reviews! Thanks a million!

    From what I’ve read, it seems that Intrepid is the choice for South East Asia travel. I plan on a 22 day “Trail of the Gecko” which embarks on a journey through Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

    At 22, and as a solo female traveler, I will definitely agree that going “off the beaten path” with a small group is much safer. If you read the “Trip Notes,” you will be able to find a complete itinerary which should certainly help in making your final decisions. Thanks again!

    Happy travels! :)

  • I’ve been to Peru(Inca Trail/Lake Titicaca) and China with GAP. I’ve also been to Jordan and Egypt with Gecko’s (similar to GAP and Intrepid).

    I think that the success of a tour is mostly(but not entirely) based on how good of a tour leader you end up with. Which, of course, is beyond your control.
    In Peru, my tour leader only had 6 months of experience and it showed. He was a bit disorganized, but he got us to where we needed to go! The local guide on the Inca Trail was stellar! Overall, it was a great trip.
    My tour leader in China was awesome. That was a fantastic trip.
    My tour leader in Egypt was ok. He was a tad bit disorganized. But still a good trip.
    My tour leader in Jordan was great! Wonderful trip, overall.
    I plan on using GAP for a future trip to Cambodia.

    Tours definitely take the hassle out of planning. And someone else (the tour leader) has the burden of figuring out what to do if things go wrong.

    I know there are some who don’t like group tours because of “all the other people”. But you know what? Tour group or no tour group…as a tourist/traveller…you will be amongst a lot of people anyway, because everyone and their mother will be going to the same places you’ll be going at some point during your travels.

  • Wow, fantastic reviews! Exactly what I needed/ wanted to see! I’m in the process of organising my 3 month trip through South America later this year. I have decided to take one pre-organised tour through Peru from Lima to La Paz 21 days (inc. Inca trail). As I have to book super soon I can still not decide on taking either GAP or Intrepid. Has anyone taken a tour with either of them through Peru recently??? Any suggestions?? I just want overall great experience/ memories and value for money (and one with a great reputation for good tour guides!) Thanks.

  • I’m 30 and I’ve done two trips with GAP- Patagonia and Inca Trail/Amazon/Galapagos. Overall both trips were amazing lifetime experiences and all the people on the trip were awesome, a lot of us have kept in touch since then. The local guides for Patagonia, the Inca Trail and the Amazon were top-notch. While service on the liveaboard boat in the Galapagos was great, my only complaint would be the guide and the chef. For lack of a better term he was a douche (although the guides from other tours we ran into on the islands were as well), and everyone on the boat got sick from the food/water. Also the vegetarian food on the boat was horrible, especially compared to the gourmet veggie food we got on the Inca Trail. The meals on the trail were healthy, garnished and on the last morning before the dawn climb to Machu Picchu the cook made us a cake- which was astonishing considering the porters had to carry all these ingredients there over 3 days on their backs. I should mention though the Galapagos crew wasn’t GAP staff, they were just chartered by GAP. So basically I would highly recommend GAP in South America, except in the Galapagos.

  • Hi! My husband and I went on a group tour through Egypt with GAP and it definately had its ups and not so ups for us. Our tour leader in Egypt was amazing…Not only did Simpson surprise us with presents on Christmas day, he even arranged a Christmas dinner for the group. We met some lovely people on the tour and visited places that we surely wouldn’t have on our own. Simpson even took us to his friend’s house in Luxor. The down side for us was the food and the fact that getting away from the group to do some exploring on our own was difficult. We weren’t interested in the visit to the high dam and so were left on the side of the road to wait and then came the “perfume shop tour” where we were essentially held captive for 2 hours while being hawked to by the proprietor. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but that ended up being 3 hours total of our trip that we could have spent cruising the bazaar or enjoying a cafe by the Nile. I have to say though that it was really well done for the most part and I’ve booked a trip this summer through Turkey for my sister and I through GAP. This time I will be wary of those side excursions and politely decline.

  • I’ve been to India, China, Vietnam and Thailand with Intrepid and always had amazing trips. My guides were always fantastic – organised, fun, friendly, knowledgable and above all, interested in the group and keen for us to have a good time.
    Now i’m planning a trip to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala – I want to go with Intrepid again but Gap’s dates suit me better. I can only hope that Gap is as good as Intrepid, as I feel that they have set the bar quite high for me, but the reviews aren’t looking as good. If I do go with Gap I’ll get back on here and give you all a comparison of the 2 companies. Happy travels everyone!

  • Nice article and some very interesting comments.

    I’ve been doing these small group adventures since 1997 with a number of operators including GAP, Intrepid, Imaginative Traveller, Dragoman, Geckos and Tucan Travel and a few more.

    What has happened in the past 10 years is that this style of travel has boomed due to the less time we have in our lives to travel and the popularity of “off the beaten track” destinations. The pros as the original article states makes this a brilliant way to experience genuine travel.

    Increased popularity though has meant that these operators are now serious business and have either become large organisations or have been bought by huge coorporate companies such as TUI which brings up a few more pros and cons for the potential booker.

    Pros are that years of experience means they should understand your wants and needs as a traveller. Also you are better financially protected against unforseeable circumstances and the company has less chance of going under.

    Cons: Many itineraries advertised in the brochures are sub contracted and are operated by other companies even though the staff have branded shirts and vehicles. This can make it difficult to maintain quality and means if something goes wrong it can get a bit messy trying to find recourse.

    You can always ask if your tour is organised and run by the company you are booking through and make your choice.

    Some travel agencies have “preferred” operators which means they will only offer one or two operators that pay the highest commission and maybe not give you the choice you need.

    There are many great operators out there so worth researching and I would find out the following to help me decide

    How much experience they have in my chosen destination
    Do they operate their own tours in that destination
    Have they won any awards or accolades voted by past travellers
    What responsibilties the tour leader has to you. Some are just there to facilitate some are encouraged to learn and love their destination and pass that passion on. Tour leader quality really does vary and it’s a massive part of your experience.

    Apologies for the long post!

  • I have never ever been on any trips by myself before.. never ever!! Right now by 26 I really want to do something by myself and travel on my own. However, i want a more lay back trip… not looking for parting all night kind of trip. Just want to go explore a place with a group of people that want to travel with the same style.

    I really really really want to go do this once before i am too old or too tide down with my work and career… and is desperately for some recommendation from ppl who had been on these kindda trip.

    So what do you guys recommend? Really appreciate you guys’ help!

    Thanks!!!!!

  • Hi! I am actually looking to do the same Indo-China loop that Anna mentioned. I was trying to decide between GAP and Intrepid and feel like I’m leaning towards Intrepid after reading different comments. Has anyone else taken a trip like this and can recommend another tour company? I’m female and traveling solo, with a pretty set time frame, which is why I was looking for a tour to begin with.

  • Hi, i stumbled across your site whilst looking for unbiased comments on Intrepid Travel. I really found it very helpful. What would your advice be for me travelling solo to Eastern Europe, i’m 48 yo. but relatively fit i guess and young at heart.

  • thanks for the info and comments from other readers. i’ve been traveling around the world for the last few months and am now sitting in los angeles, trying to figure out what would be the easiest way to do mexico. so i may be flying out next week on one of the tours operated by gap. carol’s comments suggest it’s all a matter of getting a good tour guide which i agree since it was the tour guides that made my tours through africa awesome.

    @leela – i did a 40 day trip from capetown to nairobi with a group called nomad tours with most of its travelers from germany and other european countries. i did a short gorilla trek tour with africa tour company aka ATC with many travelers from the UK and Australia/New Zealand. i thought both nomad and ATC did great jobs on the tour. the tours that i saw on the road with a lot of partying tended to be operated by intrepid and oasis.

  • Hey everyone-

    I’ve enjoyed reading all your comments. I am looking to do an Egypt/Jordan tour this summer and from what I’ve researched on the internet, I’m leaning more toward Intrepid.

  • Hey! me and my girlfriend are looking to do a 20 day intrepid trip through china but have seen that the luggage recomended is only a backpack. we are travelling onto canada and south america for up to a year and are gonna be carrying a large suitcase each and backpacks… we dont mind carrying to hotels and off buses etc… but not if we are gonna be dragging all luggage while we are on daytrips and tours. anyone know how theses tours work and if its worth it with all the luggage???
    Thanks!!!

  • I did a Tour Of Egypt a couple of years ago with Geckos Adventures and it was terrible. All the Tour Guide did was go on about money and how we had to give him a large tip at the end. We were passed on from one guide to another while our guide caught up with friends. We went on a Camel ride in the Desert with a group of local boys. They were hitting the camels with sticks and the poor camels were exhausted as it was the end of the day. I nearly fell as did a few of the others. When I got back home and complained I received no response. So much for Grass Root Adventures. Travelling with Local Guides is great if you get a good one. After all you experience is dependent on the guide. These Tour companies need to monitor what is happening. I will never travel with Geckos Adventures in Australia again.

  • Update on our GAP experience:

    We emailed them about our concerns with the tour leader and they took it quite seriously – they sent an email apology, letting us know that the tour leader was suspended and put under review, as other travelers had complained as well. In addition to this, they offered us a rather substantial refund, and gave us travel credits for future trips.

    Very reassuring that they acted so quickly to rectify this!

  • Great article! I too am a single female traveler in my late 30’s. I am interested in a tour of the American Southwest. The tour sounds great but I have not read any reviews for GAP or Intrepid American tours. I’m also open to going with other companies. I’ve got 2 weeks to play with and I’m dying to see the Grand Canyon! Any ideas?

  • I would never risk booking with GAP again after my experiences and observations in the past months. I had a very similar experience to Gordon Laqmb above with my Antarctica tour. I was given 3 weeks notice of cancelation though so I should be thankful for that.

    EVERY GAP Antarctica cruise this season (from October onwards) has been canceled one after another 1-4 weeks before departure. A bit of research online will confirm this to be true.

    The MS Expedition’s “mechanical difficulties” may be out of GAP’s control but the time they gave their customers to make rearrangements was in their control. GAP could and should have warned passengers booked on these “100% Guaranteed Departure” trips of a problem AS SOON AS the problem was first identified (ie. early October). That would have been fair. Instead, they held off as long as possible before each and every departure date because it was in the the Company’s best interests to do so.

    Because of the short time frame given, available options were limited to say the least. My accommodation deposits and flights were non-refundable at that late stage and my travel insurance would not cover anything because they considered it GAP’s responsibility. GAP did not agree. The good news is that I was lucky and was able to hop aboard another ship with another operator (Quark) departing that day and, thankfully, I had a fantastic trip in the end :)

  • Great site. I’d agree with the few commenters who say that Interpid is better than GAP. I used Intrepid for Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand, and GAP for Chile/Argentina/Brazil. What a difference. Intrepid had decent hotels, great guides, and organization. GAP had the opposite, and I wouldn’t travel with them again.

  • Great website and your list is spot-on! Couldnt agree more with your pros and cons.

    I’ve never used GAP, but have used Intrepid last year on a 4 week tour through South East Asia (‘Great Indochina Loop’ – Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia). Overall I would say it was a great trip, extremely well organized and great value for money. I could have never ever managed to see as much in 4 weeks on my own. And most importantly, as female solo traveller I would have never dared to travel to certain regions on my own. What I didnt like about the trip had more to do with the pros/cons of group travel described so well on this website than with anything that was done ‘wrong’ by Intrepid. The only thing I might criticize was the slightly unbalanced amount of time we spent in some of the countries, compared to others. For instance Vietnam could have easily been cut short (spent almost half our time there), whereas Cambodia felt like we were rushing through. But that was my personal view, others may have perceived this differently. One point everyone disliked on my trip was the ‘homestay’ in a village in Laos. That was the only time I felt like a tourist. Although it is supposedly designed to meet the locals, the locals seemed utterly disinterested in even meeting their overnight guests. It just felt like an artificial and forced experience and the only time I felt like a typical tourist. One particularly positive thing I’d like to point out about Intrepid is the accomodaton used on this original trip. I expected some pretty basic lodgings throughout, but in actual fact basic guesthouses were intermixed with some really great hotels and all of them always very clean.

    One word about our leader travelling with us – she was fantastically organized, even though she wasnt an easy personality and her habit of bashing some of her former group members got on everyones nerves pretty quickly. But reading these posts it seems that so much really depends on the guides you end up with.

    I’m now planning a trip to either China or Japan and I’m undecided whether I should go with Intrepid again or try GAP. Has anyone been on any GAP trips in Japan?

  • We recently went to Mexico with gap – our first experience with them and ended up really disappointed in how consistently our tour leader misled us about details on our itinerary, failed to follow through with arranging day excursions and was unavailable and uninterested in helping us out.

    The tour leader did not accompany us on our excursions, disappeared during the day and was difficult to find during the evening. This made coordinating excursions through him very challenging. Oftentimes, we ended up investigating and booking excursions on our own, and we had to pay higher-than-anticipated rates because we weren’t in a large group and had to book individually.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that the itinerary has a lot of mentions of ‘we can’ or ‘optional activities may include’ rather than firm commitments of what is on offer. This is highly dependent on a motivated and organized tour leader. We lacked on, and many times during the trip, we were instructed that we had a specific departure time (usually an early-morning departure) only to find out that the tour leader had misled us about booking our tickets. In one case, in Oaxaca, the tour leader told us that we would be leaving at 9:00 am (noting specifically that tickets had already been purchased). The evening before we were set to leave, he left a note at the front desk of the hotel saying that all morning departures from Oaxaca had been sold out and that we had no other choice but to leave at 2:00 the next afternoon. We were shocked and confused by the change, and, since our tour leader wasn’t around to explain things, we decided to contact the bus company to see what had happened. We found out that there were more than 30 seats available for three earlier departure times but he decided not to book them. This proved very frustrating and disappointing, as we had been looking forward to visiting a temple near our next destination, but would not be able to see it because we were leaving too late in the day.

    Similar incidents happened in other cities, which meant that it was very difficult for us to judge and juggle our itineraries. Because of these disruptive, unnecessary and unplanned itinerary changes, we frequently ended up having to abandon our travel plans and were left with entire mornings and afternoons with nothing to do but wait around at bus stations for 3 – 4 hours. It felt like entire days from our itinerary got erased because our tour leader didn’t follow through with early-enough departures, or let us know that we would have an extra morning to more thoroughly explore the city we were in.

    Don’t get me wrong – there was a lot to like about this trip. On the whole, our hotels were quiet, clean and comfortable. The buses we traveled in were impeccably clean and safe. The trip itinerary, as advertised, provided a fantastic mix of ruins, cultural activities, and outdoor excursions. But the follow-through required of our leader to make this itinerary come to life, was sorely missing.

    I sincerely want to believe that this problem was the failing of our specific tour guide, and not reflective of GAP itself. In some hotels we stayed at, other GAP tour leaders had left information for their travelers, like sign-up sheets for day excursions or details & highlights of the particular cities we were in. In one city, our tour intersected with another GAP tour (the same trip heading in the reverse direction) and we had the opportunity to have a day excursion with a different tour leader. She was great – organized, friendly and engaged. Our particular tour leader not only lacked a sufficient attention of detail and organization, but he didn’t seem interested in helping us out or keeping our group on track at all.

  • I’m desperate to do a tour of South East Asia, and the GAP itinerary is more suited to what I want to see, but I’ve heard some awful feedback (nights slept on floors, no bathrooms for days on end) so I’m leaning more towards Intrepid. However, I am a gap year student and would like to be around people of a similar age to me – how likely is it that I’ll be with people in my own age range?

  • My husband and I are looking at doing a volunteer excursion in Africa through GAP – has anyone heard anything about these tours? Any thoughts or suggestions regarding other tour companies that include volunteer and travel? Thanks

  • Can someone recommend a tour group for “Eastern Europe” (Hungary/Prague etc) for the summer?

    Anyone have any experience with “Exodus” or “Globus” for Eastern Europe?

    Sean

  • Hi Jessica,

    I just finished an Egypt tour with GAP and the trip was great. I have never done Intrepid or Gecko yet.

    Sean

  • I did a GAP trip to New Zealand in 2007. The “knowledgeable local guide” had never visited the country before, which did slightly spoil the experience. He normally guided in South East Asia and was too laid back for guiding in a “Western” country – he never seemed quite sure about where we were staying or what time the buses were.

    Also, this is going to sound a strange criticism, but the group size was too small! There were only four in my group, two guys who knew each other, myself, and another solo traveller. This meant that the group couldn’t split up to do different activities or to go to different restaurants, and on a couple of occasions I felt pressurised into doing what the guide wanted, rather that what I would have chosen. I’d definitely recommend checking how many people have already booked on the trip you are considering, and try to join a group of 6-8 if possible.

    I’ve also traveled with Moose Travel Network in Canada and found them to be brilliant. With Moose our guide really seemed to know the roads, e.g. when we hit roadworks he quickly changed the route and took us to a lovely village for coffee and a look at artists shops – even though this wasn’t on the schedule he seemed to know the area very well. This made a huge difference. The set up of the trip seemed much more flexible – I wasn’t insured to go canoeing, so when my companions decided to go, I said I’d stay behind at the youth hostel and go for a walk. At breakfast the guide appeared with a hand-drawn map and said “you like wildlife, don’t you? I’ve spoken to the warden; this is the route to a beaver dam”. It was so thoughtful, especially compared to my later experience with the less-flexible GAP.

    I’m going to try Intrepid next year!

  • Hi there, great web site.

    I am planning a career break next year, I am 30 and female. I want to travel in the comfort of a group in Africa and Asia. Has anyone had experience of travelling for 9-12 months on long overland trips and non-overland trips with Dragoman, Intrepid and G.A.P?

    Did the trip run smoothly?

    Intrepid have recently introduced overland Africa and Asia tours, anyone had experience of these? I am really confused as to which company to choose for which destination.

    Many thanks for your help.

  • Anyone done a tour of Egypt with gap, gecko or Intrepid? I’m looking to do an approx 12 day one, found one with Intrepid which looks good but am now wondering if another company would do it better? I want to see Alexandria, the pyramids, Valley of the Kings etc but want to have the best experience possible rather than just seeing things…

  • Thanks for all of your insight, and for these comments, as well! I went on a Contiki trip this summer and it was OK, but I have been scoping out an Intrepid trip to Russia and Mongolia that sounds like it would really suit me (I am a female and would be doing it solo, and those are two places I would rather not go alone, at least at first). It was great to hear all of these different thoughts and opinions about the various tour companies. It sounds like they all definitely have their pros and cons.

  • You mentioned that you took a GAP tour to Costa Rica…which one did you take? I’m looking at their budget tours.
    Thanks.

  • Everyone I have met who did both Intrepid and GAP says Intrepid is better. I never did intrepid but is on my third GAP tour – probably not going to do another one. Tour leaders are either unknowledgeable, unprofessional or ask for money not mentioned on the itinerary.

  • hi
    just looking to see if any one has been or is going on a trip through Jordan and Egypt with intrepid. I have read some pretty bad reviews and would like peace of mind.

  • Thanks for the information and the inspiration. I took your lead of 101 things in 1001 days and started my own list – it’s a great idea!

  • I would like to warn anyone who is thinking about joining a GAP trip in the near future. I booked on a GAP trip to Antarctica in October this year, paid all money up front. Waited and waited for the documents to arrive, 7 days before we were due to depart we still had not recieved the documents. I then rang the agent Chimu Tours in Sydney Australian and I was told that there were problems with the one of the engines on the boat taking us to Antarctica. I then told Chimu to change our tour immediately and we managed to book another passage. Which was really good. But GAP have a very bad history of tours going wrong in Antarctica. In 2007 a ship was sunk after it hit an iceberg, on our trip down to Antarctica one of the leaders was also a guide with GAP on the ship that sunk. He gave us a rather graphic story of what happened. For instance 3 out of 4 life boat engines would not start. They had to tow open lifeboats with inflatable Zodiacs to rescue all the people off the stricken ship. There were a lot of usanswered questions as to why the ship sunk in 2007. It was a major disaster. Our experience with GAP leaves a lot to desired and we were not the only people treated in this manner. Whilst in Antarctica we met another 4 people who had had their tour cancelled at the last minute by GAP. If anyone is considering travelling to Antarctica on a GAP tour in late 2009 or early 2010 be very careful and make sure you recieve your travel documents in plenty of time. We eventually travelled with Oceanwide Expeditions they were really first class. Another tour group would be Polar Quests they are also very good.

  • I have traveled with Intrepid (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos), Kiwi Experience and Contiki (Europe camping 23 countries in 35 days). I did the Contiki trip at 23 it was my first overseas trip and I had a great time. it was mostly a younger group (i was one of the older ones….) and while there was a good amount of drinking we still got ourselves out of bed early to go sightseeing. our tour guide and cook were phenomenal and many of us are friends to this day. great first time trip. I spent a year living/working in New Zealand. there i did the Kiwi experience hop on/hop off bus. it follows the regular tourist trails with occasional stops at parks for short hikes and other fun outdoorsy stuff. pretty dear price for what you get (really a bus and someone who can organize group activities if you like) but again met fun people on that trip. and it was nice to have the flexibility to stay as long as you wanted in a location. 3 years ago did Intrepid around SE Asia. 3/4 tour guides were amazing and helpful. for instance i wanted to change my train ticket back to bangkok and stay extra time in Koh Tao and they ladies at the train counter didn’t speak english so my guide helped me out. Cambodia was amazing. we had a guide who had lost family to the Khmer Rouge and was open about sharing his history. did a homestay and sat under a house helping 2 little girls with their english. visited small orphanages run by volunteers and hung out with the kids. visited the genocide memorial and killing fields. Vietnam our guide was useless one of the girls had her stuff stolen from the hotel by a guy who work there it was caught on camera and both Intrepid and our guide did NOTHING to help her. the police ended up interogating her alone.

    looking to do Africa overland this summer any advice on Gecko vs Intrepid vs GAP???

  • My husband and I did GAP Galapagos and then Absolute Peru earlier this year and had a great time on both. Neither trip was perfect and our neither were our guides. They outdid themselves with some things and were a bit lax on others so totally human. Overall, the positive far outweighed any negatives although a couple of times were annoying we were all over it in a very short time. We were the “oldies” in the Peru group & sometimes joined the others & sometimed not. Everyone was great and we all felt free to do what we each wanted. Hotels were fine, good mix of public & private transport, most breakfasts (surprise, surprise) turned out to be included – bonus. We’re off to South Africa in January with Drifter’s Tours – anybody ever travelled with them?

  • i did an intrepid trip to vietnam and cambodia as well as a thailand one. im heading off to peru with them next week. the only one which (so far) was even vaugely disappointing was having a kiwi guide in cambodia so no local that spoke the language. he got angry with the locals easily which is a no no in cambodia. and really wasnt all that helpful (more than i coulda been with a written itinerary etc) but the thai guide and the vietnam one were awesome (and i oddly enough ran into my thai guide in hanoi about a year later). got to enjoy local markets, ask what things were etc and i even got my stuff back when it was stolen at the hotel in saigon (checked it at the front desk like they say to, then it was gone, oddly they found it in the drawer they looked in 30 times.. yeah right). friend of the guide flew it up to hanoi, met us on the highway to hand it over and woulndt take any money. i coulda kissed it goodbye if i was on my own.

  • Any one take a Intrepid trip to Vietnam Cambodia or Laos recently? Trying to decide between Gap or Intrepid.

  • I have traveled with Intrepid in one trip Called The best of North and South. to Marrakesh. I was surprised about your ideas about Intrepid especially. So let’s do the simple the math : you pay a room in casa :
    tranfer to hotel with Intrepid : moe 30 Euros.
    Train by yourself = taxi = 6 Euros
    Book a hotel throught the company : 70 Euros.
    Book by yourself : 38 Euros
    No breakfats in all the places we stayed in all north and it means you have to put more and more along the trip. You need to put at least 4 Euros a day. No lunch and no dinner included. I’d prefer to deal with the hotels myself if I knew. It would be cheaper than the trip with Intrepid.
    Only 2 or 3 guides are included in their trips. You need to put more.
    Hotels most of them are filty and dirty. I can add unsafe especially in Casablanca.
    Responsible travel you said? I am laughing you should ask those people how much they are paid to lodge and feed people. It’s a question of going for less and save money for the company.
    I can always add more!

  • Wow – tx so much for this clear and enlightening review. I agree with almost everything you’ve said.

    And since I’m here, I’ll share my experiences. I’ve been on 2 GAP trips. Roam Mexico was the first and I had an amazing time, despite the group leader who was unorganised and just not made for the job. The itinerary and the group itself was just brilliant though, with mainly a lot of like-minded 20/30 somethings.

    My second GAP trip was Roam Egypt. Again, I had a blast, but I have to say the tour leader here was even poorer, trying to push people into day trips and eventually just vanishing from the group 2 days from the end!

    So you might ask why I’m considering another tour with GAP now (thinking about Roam Cabodja and Vietnam in November)… I think the people I’ve travelled with have been great and the itineraries have been spot on each time, enabling us to see a lot in a relatively short period of time (even though a lot of traveling was involved).

    So my main motivation for traveling with a group is that it enables me to see more in less time and I enjoyed the company of the group members on both my trips.

    Happy travels!

  • My daughter and I went to Peru on a 9 day trip with GAP. Overall I was pleased with the organization and hotels. Our guide, Mary Lu was amazing!!! She was so informative. I appreciated that she knew all the ins and outs of the tickets and line ups for Machu Picchu and getting a number for Wayna Picchu. My only complaint was that we had too many different handlers with GAP. It was always a different person dropping us off or picking us up.

  • I am a solo female traveler, i was looking at a GAP called Roam Cambodia. It starts in Bangkok goes through Cambodia and ends in Ho Chi Mihn City. I noticed that Intrepid has almost the same itinerary for about $300 more, but it sounds like people prefer Intrepid over Gap… any advice?

  • Great review! I’ve traveled on my own and with both GAP and Intrepid and I agree with your pros and cons 100%.

    I went to Peru with GAP, and after that experience would recommend hiking the Inca Trail with no one but GAP; I also did an Antarctica trip with GAP that was excellent.

    So far I’ve only been to Greece with Intrepid. I don’t think at guided tour was needed for that trip, but my friend and I wanted others to travel with and were really just too lazy to make all the arrangements. Our tour guide was just ok, but the trip itself was great. I’m off to Africa with Intrepid in a few months!

    Thanks again for the great review. I’ll be sending others over to read it the next time they ask me about travel with GAP and Intrepid. :)

  • I’ve traveled with Gap once (around Peru) and it was OK – mediocre guide but an excellent and small group (only 7 of us). I tend to organize most trips myself but this helped with access to the Inca Trail among other things. I ended up arranging to stay longer in the Amazon (before traveling) and missed the end of the trip. Apart from the guide, I thought Gap did everything well – hotels were fine, pre-trip was good (enough info etc), itinerary and activities were varied and matched everything they promoted plus a few extra places that weren’t included in the original itinerary making for full days. I’d have taken much longer to see all this under my own steam as they’d sorted out the transport part (even though much was using local public transport) cleverly. Food was flexible and excellent for a small group as we had an adventurous group that balanced good eating with quick eats and explore the town type dinners (we tended to organize ourselves as the guide was on the take from all the places so we primarily cut him out and did our own eating arrangements – easy enough in Peru). I’ve never tried Intrepid but I suspect all companies with good names remain at the mercy of the group you end up with, the actual guide, a bit of luck (weather, things being open, etc) etc..

  • I am back from my second trip with gap. my husband and I enjoid the first trip (Mexico) better, than Egypt, Jordan, but the tour leader from Jordan made at wright, at was still value for Money, Garanty. also as we were old, we can only say, they made us feel very welcom, keep up the good work, we are looking forward for the next one.

  • I have just come back from a family safari trip with GAP in Tanzania. We had a great time, great driver, stayed in lodges as well as camping one night and it’s a trip my daughters (age 13 and 15) and my dad (age 75) will remember forever. No complaints at all.

  • We were with GAP in South America, and it was terrible. The places were great, but we had a good time despite GAP and out tour leader, not because. They cut out all your promised meals, changed hotels to camping (so anyone fancy 11 nights in a row being bitten by mossies and finding sticks to pic the black widows off your tent?) It was just dismaying not to have a hotel inbetween camping as promised. Also they did not give us a overland truc but two 4x4s with bucet seats designed for 4 ppl but made 5 squeeze in, given that the suspension went halfway through the trip you had one cheek on raised plastic and one on lower seat, and some journeys are 10-16 hours long, you could barely walk the next day. And watch out for the Peruvian guides, ours was discriminatory to women, had thre out of the 4 girls in our group in tears at diff points!

    Our group was older couples and we were looking for late night fun in bars etc, wheras we met another group who were all under 22 and pissed everynight excpet for one 40yr old swedish woman who was very isolated.

    • @rachel, thanks for sharing your experience! That’s the 2nd South America complaint I’ve heard. I did one of their Costa Rica trips, which was great — so it seems their SA trips might be a little hit-or-miss… I have a friend who did their Peru/Bolivia trip and they had a great time.

  • Do you recommend using GAP or Intrepid for a 2 week trip with my daughter? I’m 55 and she’s almost 17. We want a “travel” trip not just a vacation-looking at Central or South America, or possibly India. While not on a strict budget, I don’t need luxury level either.

    • @Nancy I think both companies have family trips that allow teens (& younger kids too). While I don’t have kids, I think it would be an ideal type of trip for “off the beaten path” destinations since you wouldn’t have to plan the logistics or worry about safety etc. I imagine their family trips would be reasonably affordable as well. Anyone else been on a family trip?

  • Great advice. Travelled w/ Gap twice. It was great in Antarctica but extremely disappointing in Mali. I guess it depends on who they subcontract out to. Friends who have gone with both Gap and Intrepid say they much prefer the latter – better bang for the buck. Even though they seem cheaper, unexpected payments on the Gap trips added up so you end up paying more without the added experiences, benefits etc.

  • I just stumbled on your blog while looking for info on group tours vs. independent travels. Did you do a trip around SE Asia? You mentioned that tours might be safer for solo female travellers heading to Cambodia..any other tips?

    • Hi there! Yes, I did an Intrepid trip in Cambodia/Vietnam. SE Asia is very do-able on your own or with a friend, but I had a great time on the trip. I had a round trip flight that I was planning around, so it was reassuring that I would definitely be in a given city by a certain date. On the other hand, it’s definitely not slow travel, which can be frustrating. If you’re looking at it more for the safety in numbers approach, check out the Basic/Roam style cheaper trips. Cheers!

  • Thanks for this writeup – I’m actually on a Intrepid trip booked for Morocco this fall and its good to know that it was a wise decision.

  • I travelled with GAP to South America and thought the were dreadful. The guide on the trek was lazy, rude and frankly it ruined the entire experience. I for one won’t ever be using them again.

  • I really enjoyed your website! I was looking up Gap Adventures on google and found your site. I also have a life list too! Glad to find people that love to travel as much as I do. I enjoyed reading your Eastern Europe stuff too since I am going next week!

    Good luck in completing your life list!

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