Let’s just get this out in the open: I’m a tour hater. I hate tours. The one time I took a tour, I ended up running away from the tour guide because he wouldn’t let me roast marshmallows on the volcano lava!!!!
WHO TAKES THAT JOY AWAY FROM A PERSON?!?
The tour guide was obviously a sadist dictator in disguise, posing as a democratic “tour leader.”
This tour was in Guatemala for the sole purpose of roasting marshmallows over some hot lava flowing out of a volcano.
(the lava wasn't super visible that day)
The tour leader then unexpectedly and randomly took a vote in the middle of the tour to ask who wanted to roast mallows, and who wanted to walk on the other side of the volcano for some random purpose that made no sense to me.
I thought I signed up for the marshmallow tour!
Unfortunately, I was outvoted because people are crazy these days, and I had to run away and escape when no one was looking.
I HAD to roast the marshmallows. It was a bucket list item and it was just begging me to check it off the list.
So whether or not I would get lost trying to navigate that volcano on my own and die a lonely death or not, I would go try to find the marshmallow lava-roasting spot.
It worked out for me in the end. Some other guides were nice enough to let me hang around their tours because I was “lost.”
I roasted those mallows, good, man.
Anyway, so that’s my mini-rant of one example of why I typically prefer to go at it on my own rather than take a tour.
I want to do what I want when I want. I can’t help it. It’s MY trip, after all.
A lot of times, it’s just a matter of being brave enough to step out into the unknown and go on the adventure on your own.
Sure, it takes a little extra time to plan (or not plan, depending on how you’re feeling that day).
But to me, it’s worth it…
…because I always save a LOT of money and I end up having fun adventures that I feel I wouldn’t have otherwise if I had to go on the schedule a group.
Sometimes I take a tour, but mostly I go on my own.
It really depends what country you’re in how you go about it.
So, let’s get to how to “get a tour” without paying high tour prices.
Let's start with Bali, for example, since I’m here right now.
I’ve driven to Ubud and spent a couple of days there doing all of the tourist things that people pay hundreds for. I saved money by spending about $4 for gas and maybe another $5 for various entrance fees.
Sometimes I don’t want to drive a motorbike, though. Or I want to go with several friends so we can go places together.
In Bali, it’s VERY easy to hire a private driver for the day or to get a grab. I recommend going with the driver unless you’re just getting dropped off and don’t need to be picked up again.
Grab (Asian Uber) is great and the most cost-effective, but it’s not allowed in some cities. So you can get a little stranded sometimes when you end up in places and unexpectedly can’t get back!
To find a private driver, all you have to do is creep around on facebook for a bit.
If you’re in Canggu, in one of the neighboring towns, your biggest source of information for anything you need is “Canggu Community.”
This group isn’t for the faint of heart, though. I will say, the community is so full of trolls that it makes reading posts more fun and popcorn-worthy than a Netflix movie on a Friday night.
Another source, if you’re a girl, is “Canggu Nomad Girls” group on FB.
If you use the search bar, you can find lots of drivers in Canggu Community who have previously offered their services and listed their rates.
If you make your own post…do NOT use the word “taxi mafia.”
Do NOT mention the taxi mafia.
Things get ugly.
Anyway, I’ve found 2 amazing go-to drivers through FB and it’s been one of the best things for touring around Bali without actually getting a tour.
The drivers are so used to taking people to tourist destinations, that they will literally help you create an itinerary if you don’t know what to do.
My driver ended up saying "HEY you can also go to the rice fields that you wanted to go to because they’re nearby each other. We can even squeeze in a visit to a local market!”
Ok, well sign me up, you fun driver, you (my driver is hilarious and makes poop jokes with us).
It’s the same price either way.
You can negotiate the price with them and if you go with a group of people, you can often easily get away with a day’s worth of travel (essentially guided by a local) for about $8-$10 per person.
So that’s how I “get a tour without a tour” in Bali.
How to get a “tour” In places like Central America, or any country really.
In Central America, there are so many buses that it’s easy to hop on yourself if you’re not too afraid of accidentally maybe taking a wrong bus (so far hasn’t happened to me).
If you befriend a local and bring them along, then hey, you kind of have a tour there as well.
I’ve also hired random locals off of the street to take me around for a day or go to markets and haggle for me/ Locals always get better deals! Even if your haggling skills are on point.
Usually, they end up more than paying for themselves with how much they save you along the way, plus you end up getting a new friend to hang out with and give you a local perspective! It’s such a better cultural experience that way, in my opinion.
Just make sure that whatever it is you want to do, it’s legal to do without a tour guide!!!
I wanted to go to Hong Soon cave in Vietnam on my own and thankfully researched it enough to find out that it was illegal to do on my own and I’d be in MAJOR major trouble if I’d attempted to do it.