Private tours are ideal for travelers who want to experience their destination at a more personal level outside of large group tour environments. These kinds of travelers don’t mind buying a pre-established itinerary or tour package -- as long as it's a more personalized offering. Groups on this kind of tour are kept small, usually with under 10 people, allowing for a more intimate and differentiated tour experience.
Travelers may also choose this type of tour when visiting a country or a region that’s easier to access with the help of local experts, or if they're seeking the less-trodden path in a much-visited country.
For travelers looking for that perfect trip that mixes wildlife adventures with cultural immersion, Kenya is the right destination. Seeing the “Big Five” animals in the wild, spending time at a Maasai Village and learning more about their culture, and taking a tour of the capital city, Nairobi, top the list of must-do activities.
Although it’s not a particularly tricky destination to get to as an independent traveler, the Czech Republic has become quite popular in recent years as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. Many travelers are looking for ways to visit in smaller groups and have a more local experience, so private tours in the country also known as Czechia are a way to get a unique perspective on a well-trodden destination.
Stories of ancient Egypt have spurred decades of mystery and fascination in popular culture, literature, and cinema. For many travelers, the North African country is both a destination to tick off your bucket list and a living history lesson. That said, it’s not a difficult country to reach these days, but the tendency is to stick to the highlights of Cairo that include the pyramids of Giza and the Sphynx. Private tours in this destination offer the opportunity to see a much lesser-explored side of the country.
Watching animals in the wild is a popular activity on private tours as tour-goers benefit from having a knowledgeable guide with them. Groups are intentionally small to minimize the impact on the wild animals' daily routine and natural habitat, which only makes the experience that much more rewarding. Top experiences may include safaris, visiting endangered species sanctuaries, and whale watching expeditions.
Most food tours are not only about food, but about the traditions connected to a particular meal and the local culture. This type of activity is often included in private tours for a more intimate experience or, for example, to accommodate travelers with dietary restrictions. While some tours are all about hopping between local restaurants, there are a growing number of activities that start with a market tour to source local ingredients and end with a cooking class.
These types of private tours can include guided walking tours of a city’s historic center, a private viewing of a specific collection at an art museum, or a fully immersive experience with a local community. The travelers who are looking to get in closer touch with the local culture usually opt for this type of tour. History and cultural activities often mix entertainment and learning in a laid-back atmosphere, so you don't lose that sense of being on vacation.
Urban Art Tours
This kind of activity is frequent in destinations where urban art is a well-established form of expression. Typically, the tour will be led by someone who is a street artist or who has a strong personal connection with the artists' community. Urban art is often seen as a way of depicting social justice issues or political events, so these tours can paint a much broader picture of the destination, well beyond the art pieces themselves.
Planning Your Trip
On a private tour, most of the planning part is usually taken care of on your behalf, but there are still some things to consider before you travel.
What to Look for in a Private Tour
The terms custom and private are often used interchangeably when referring to this type of travel, but they are not the same. A custom tour allows you to put together your own itinerary or mix and match portions of different ones, whereas tour itineraries are fixed on private tours. In the case that a tour provider offers both options, make sure the operator makes the distinction clear since costs vary based on the customization being offered.
On a private tour, you will most likely be traveling in a group and sharing the tour with like-minded people. However, for many travelers, groups of more than four people feel crowded, so you may want to look for private tour operators that specify the minimum and a maximum number of people per group before booking.
Benefits of Private Tours
Private tours are the best option for travelers who prefer smaller groups than on large group tours, but who don’t want to spend time creating a fully-customized itinerary. This could mean, for example, parents traveling with children or groups of friends celebrating a special occasion. By booking these tours, travelers also benefit from the knowledge of local experts or travel agents with strong ties with the local communities.
Typical Tour Cost
A private 15-day tour for two people by a specialist tour operator in Kenya, for example, can cost a total of $5,000 per person. Usually, this type of tour will include wildlife observation expeditions and immersive cultural experiences with the local community.
Similar cultural and historical tours for groups of up to four people in a European city can cost between $50 and $400 per person, depending on the area of expertise. Be aware that some tour operators show prices for the total of the tour, not the price per person. In these cases, if a tour costs $500 in total and you're traveling with four friends, the cost per person will be $100.
Other Tips for Private Tours
Even if you’re going on a pre-set itinerary, a private tour still allows you to tap into the local knowledge of your guide. Nevertheless, look at your itinerary details and research your destination beforehand to avoid culture-sensitive mishaps. You can also use the extra information to enrich your trip beyond the tour.