Disclosure: Geckos Adventures hosted my Discover Bangkok to Singapore trip. As always, all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.
This past September, I took my first group trip ever. I’ve been traveling on and off since I was fourteen, but somehow I’d never gone on a group tour. I’ve pretty much experienced the gamut of travel partners, although now I (mostly) travel solo.
When Geckos Adventures invited me on their Discover Bangkok to Singapore trip, I admit that I was a teeny bit nervous. I can be a little Type A when it comes to planning a trip, and I was worried that I’d be shuffled in a giant group from place to place, following a guide carrying some sort of flag or stuffed animal on a stick. You all know what I’m talking about :p.
Luckily, this was not the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The “Gecko Squad” as we called ourselves formed such a tight-knit group that we half-jokingly promised to get matching Geckos tattoos. Not me, though because I don’t do needles or voluntary pain, thank you very much. But I digress.
Although I’m still an independent solo traveler at heart, I will definitely be signing up for more Geckos Adventures tours in the future. Keep reading to learn who would be a good fit for Geckos (and who wouldn’t be) as well as all the things I loved (and didn’t) on my tour.
Why Geckos Adventures?
For those of you who are loyal followers of this blog (or just know me personally), you know that I don’t drink. I’m always down for a fun night out, but my idea of a good time is not partying my way through every country I visit. Luckily for me, Geckos Adventures has the same travel philosophy. They may be a travel company for 18 to 29-year-olds, but they’re for the travelers who “don’t want to spend their whole trip crammed into a bus with 40 hungover backpackers.” Win!
Geckos prides itself on slow(ish) travel, connecting with locals, eating local food and being led by local guides. See below for just a few reasons I love Geckos Adventures.
1. Small Groups
Want to know a secret? I’m actually a shy introvert. Surprise! Don’t get me wrong – I love hanging out with people (especially one to one) and will talk your ear off if you give me the chance. But with a big group of people I don’t know? Forget about it. Fortunately, it didn’t take our group of nine long to become good friends. The maximum group size for Geckos Adventures trips is 16 (22 in Africa), so you’re guaranteed to make a bunch of BFFs. Geckos tattoos are optional.
2. Local Guides
Since I’m a noob when it comes to group tours, I didn’t realize that most tour companies don’t use local guides. Most companies hire one guide to take you on all of your adventures, and that guide is rarely a local. While we did have one main tour guide who made sure we didn’t get stuck at a border somewhere (shoutout to Alif!), we also had local guides in every city we went to. Not only does Geckos Adventures do its part in supporting the local economy this way, but this also means that we, as travelers, learn about each place from a local who lives there. There’s no better way to learn about hidden gems and cool experiences!
3. Responsible Tourism
So, what is responsible tourism, anyway? To me, it means making a difference while traveling – whether it be supporting and respecting the local economy, reducing my carbon footprint, or boycotting cruel tourism practices. Side note: I rode an elephant once back in the day before knowing it’s terrible for their well-being. NEVER AGAIN. Anyway, Geckos Adventures has an entire section about responsible travel, including things NOT to do like volunteer in orphanages, give money to beggars or *ahem* ride elephants. If you’d like to hear my rant on why I’m anti-voluntourism, feel free to contact me. Be careful what you wish for…I do write for a living, after all.
4. Unique Experiences
I remember the first time I saw a photo of an overwater bungalow: a wooden hut against a backdrop of crystal clear water in the Maldives. Since then, the Maldives has been on my bucket list. Little did I know, there are overwater bungalows at Khao Sok National Park in Thailand! I was beyond excited to see that our group would be staying in one during the trip. I’ve visited Thailand before and never knew about them. It’s not like they’re on booking.com ;). I would have never known how to book one (let alone, charter a boat to get me to one) despite my self-proclaimed resourcefulness. This is just one example of cool experiences that you can only get when you have a local leading the way.
You know how I mentioned above that I’m an independent (read: I do what I want) solo traveler? Well, here’s another awesome thing about Geckos. You get free time. A lot of it. On most days, we’d have about half a day’s worth of planned activities and a free afternoon with plenty of optional activities. There were even a couple of free days thrown in, too. Since I couldn’t get away with not working for two whole weeks (#DigitalNomadLife), I did end up at a café a couple of times while the Gecko Squad went out and did their thang. There was another time when I took a solo cooking class and had a beach day instead of going on a day cruise with the group. While our group stuck together for the most part, I never felt pressured to do what the group was doing, which made my trip that much more enjoyable. I need me time!
6. Budget Travel
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably reading this with a skeptical “yes this all sounds awesome but how much is it going to cost me?” As someone who frequently plans her own itineraries from A to Z, I can tell you that the tour prices are incredibly budget-friendly. I’ve compared trips across several competitor websites and the Geckos tours are very reasonably priced. Not only can you avoid the headache of travel logistics, but you also know you’re guaranteed an awesome adventure. Tip: check out the last-minute sales section to save even more money on your tour.
7. Solo(ish) Travel
I went on my first solo trip in the summer of 2015. My primary concern wasn’t my safety or my accommodation – it was how I was going to make friends. Well, that and eating alone, but that might just be me. Anyway, my point is that many people don’t take trips because they don’t have anyone to go with them and they’re scared to travel solo. Going on a group tour is the best way to remedy this. Not only are you guaranteed to meet some travel besties, but you also avoid paying a single supplement (unless of course, you want your own room – that’s an option you can do, too). Half of our group was comprised of solo travelers, so “I don’t have a travel buddy” isn’t a real excuse not to travel.
Why Not Geckos Adventures?
Just because this was a sponsored trip doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep it real. Travel isn’t all butterflies and rainbows, although I’m pretty sure it’s the closest thing to it. I totally get why group tours aren’t for everyone, at least not all the time. There were a few of things about my trip that I didn’t love.
1. Not so slow travel
Let me preface this by saying that I am fully aware that I can only complain about this because of my current lifestyle. Back when I worked at an office, I would try to squeeze in as many cities as I could on my vacations with the mentality of “I don’t know when I’m coming back here” and “my time is limited and I have to see ALL THE PLACES.” Fortunately, thanks to the fact that I work remotely, I no longer have to travel that way…so I don’t. Geckos is tailored to 18-to-29-year-olds, most of whom are limited in the amount of vacation time they can get. We visited eight cities over the span of two weeks. Most were small towns, yes, but the pace of travel was a little too fast for my liking.
2. Transportation time
In retrospect, this is actually directly due to my first point. Because we visited lots of different places, we naturally spent a lot of time on buses. Fortunately, most of the buses were private. Unfortunately, I felt like a fair amount of time was spent on the bus. I’ve looked at other trip itineraries and transportation method and time seem to vary a lot, but this is something I’ll consider carefully for my next trip. Side note: I really enjoyed the overnight train from Bangkok to Surathani and the fact that we used long tail boats to get to the overwater bungalows.
Lastly, if you’re someone who changes your travel itinerary frequently, then (all) group tours are not right for you. I can count the number of times I’ve spontaneously decided to make serious changes to a trip on one hand. So for me, having a schedule where I knew which place I’d be in on which day is actually how I normally travel. However, I’m adding this point in here because I know that many long-term travelers and backpackers do indeed travel spontaneously, booking whichever location strikes their fancy at a moment’s notice. Obviously, this is something that you can’t do on a group tour.
Overall, I had an amazing time on my Geckos Adventures tour and would definitely go on another one. After all the trips I’ve taken this year, it was so nice to be able to sit back, relax and let someone else take care of all the logistics for me. Stay tuned for the upcoming post on the highlights from my trip!
P.S. To all my American friends: I know how sucky it is to only be able to get two weeks off max. Been there, done that. Don’t worry though, Geckos Adventures has 30+ excursions that are 10 days or under. Just hit the search button and filter by duration.
>> Book the Discover Bangkok to Singapore trip HERE.
>> Check out all the Geckos Adventures trips HERE.
>> Join a last-minute discounted Geckos trip HERE.
NOTE: If you’re over 29 and still want to go on epic adventures, be sure to check out Geckos Adventures’ sister brand, Intrepid Travel.
Tell me: have you ever been on a group tour? What was your favorite part? Share in the comments below!
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