G Adventures or Intrepid Travel: Which One to Choose?

Tour Guides

Many times I have been asked which tour company is best to go to exotic destinations, G Adventures (formerly known as Gap Adventures) or Intrepid Travel?  Sometimes choosing between there two companies can be a challenge since both offer almost exactly the same tours for the same audience at a similar price range.

I have traveled with both tour companies, and even though both companies are focused on the same “off the beaten path adventure niche”, the travel experience can vary drastically depending on which tour you take with each company.  Here is a review and comparison between these two companies that could help you decide which one fits best for your travel plans.

Tour Travelers

But first, do you know if you can handle a tour?  Or are you more of an independent traveler?  If you’re not sure, check here first to see if a tour really suits you.

So, what makes G Adventures and Intrepid Travel so good?

  • They both are internationally renowned travel companies that specialize in adventure travel around the world.
  • Both companies have taken the lead in having sustainable trips by offsetting each tour carbon emission or by supporting local environmental causes.
  • They have a high safety standard –which I consider is a high priority.
  • Both companies have a similar tour classification, which go from budget to comfort.  Also, they have a well-developed classification according to cultural shock and level of activity.  Tours are family friendly as well as active backpacker friendly.
  • They really take you “off the beaten path” in most of their trips.  Local home stay and camping are common among their adventure trips.
  • The flexibility is priceless.  There are pockets of time throughout your tour that give you the flexibility to do whatever you want –walk through the city, visit a museum, revisit a temple, relax, you name it.
  • They offer great last minute savingsG Adventures offers 25% on travel deals as well as Intrepid, which gives a 25%.
  • Both companies have over 20 yrs of experience.
Volcan Pacaya, Guatemala

Photographer: Sally Johnson – www.dallystreetimages.com

Ok, both companies look great, but you still don’t know which one to take based on that info.  So, here is a breakdown of some pros and cons based on my experience.

G Adventures (Gap Adventures)

Pros

  • Very cheap – This is one of the main reasons why I travel with G Adventures.  The ratio of quality to price is superb!  Plus, they have a good selection of promotions and tours for under $1000.
  • More destinations – With over 1,200 trips, it is pretty sure that you will find a trip that suits your specific needs and wants.
  • More departure dates – Tours depart every day, couple times a week, or couple times a month, depending on its popularity.
  • Lifetime deposit – If for any reason you have to cancel your trip, your deposit is safe –for life.  What’s even better is that it is transferable to another person, or you can donate it to their eco-friendly foundation – Planeterra Foundation.
  • No single supplement – Traveling solo? No problem.  There is no additional charge unless you want a room on your own.  For me, as a solo traveler, this is a big plus.

Cons

  • Variable local operator quality control – This is probably what hurts them the most.  Many of their itineraries are subcontracted and operated by other local companies –even when their staff and vehicles are branded with the G Adventures logo.  Sometimes the quality of some of these companies is not at the level of G Adventures, therefore affecting your trip’s quality.
  • Guides are somewhat hit or miss – Following the previous point… Guides can easily make or break your trip.  The destination might be excellent, but if the guide is a slacker (has no knowledge, is not around, not enthusiastic, etc), it can affect your entire trip.  I just want to point that most G Adventures guides are well-trained guides that are totally fit for the job, but I’ve seen and heard about a couple inexperienced or lazy guides.   This is hit or miss depending on your tour.
  • Keep an eye on the “optional” – When selecting a tour, check the itinerary and look for optional activities.  When you have an optional activity the choice is yours to decide whether you want to do it or not, but doing it comes out of your pocket.  If there are many optional activities, try budgeting for them and keep track of how they add to your total tour cost.

Intrepid Travel Logo

Intrepid Travel

Pros

  • Very reliable and extremely good reputation – In general they tend to have a reputation in terms of customer satisfaction.  They have a better feedback among travelers.  Complains about Intrepid are minimal.
  • Highly qualified local operators – Compared to G Adventures, the chances of selecting a trip that is run by a high quality tour operator are higher – including the ones subcontracted to local companies.
  • Smaller average group – The average group has 10 travelers compared to an average of 15 on G Adventures.  It’s neither good nor bad having more or less travelers.  It just depends on your preferences.  But most people like smaller groups for a “better experience”.
  • Most tours are guaranteed – You have a wider selection of guaranteed tours.  You don’t have to worry if the tour is going to run or not depending on the number of travelers.
  • Great Deals on top tours – They always have a good selection of Latest Deals on several of their top tours.

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive – Compared to Gap, most Intrepid tours are heavier on your pocket.  Still, you need to evaluate and compare similar trips between both companies to see what is included and what not.  This will help you establish which one gives you the best value for your money.
  • Trip variety is smaller than Gap’s – Although Intrepid counts with over 1000 itineraries, G Adventures has over 1200 itineraries.
  • Less Departure Dates – Departure dates are more spread apart than G Adventures’.  This might reduce the flexibility of choosing a trip.
  • Single Supplement is compulsory in some trip styles – Although most trips don’t require single supplement, some of them do ask for a compulsory single supplement.  In most cases it is over $100.  If traveling solo, verify if the trip style you are choosing requires single supplement.

In the end, would I recommend G Adventures or Intrepid?

It depends… (mhmmm… how is that for an answer?!).  The fact is that it all depends on a combination of factors like price, schedule, quality, and destination.

Just some quick-fire recommendations:

Based on price: mostly G Adventures, but do your research.
Based on schedule: G Adventures, but again, do your research.
Based on quality: Intrepid
Based on destinations:
North America – Go on your own. If you want a tour, choose G Adventures.  For Canada do G Adventures (it’s their base).
South America – Intrepid.  Except for Peru, which you should do with G Adventures.
Latin America – G Adventures
Eastern Europe – Both are good.
Western Europe – Go on your own.
Middle East – Both are good.
Africa – Intrepid
Asia – G Adventures
Southeast Asia – Both are good.
Australasia – Intrepid (it’s their base)
Antarctica – Intrepid
Arctic – G Adventures

These were based on experience and reference, but feel free to differ.  I hope this helps you decide whether G Adventures or Intrepid Travel will give you the best travel experience.

Do you have additional recommendations? Share them…

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Comments

  1. says

    I did a ten day tour through Intrepid Travel a few years ago. It was in Egypt. Overall I was satisfied with the tour. I was able to do things that would have been difficult to do as a solo traveler. Luckily we were a small group. The biggest challenge was getting along with the different personalities. Would I take a tour again? Yes, if it meant getting to see things that I would miss out on as a solo traveler. However, I prefer independent travel.

    • says

      Thanks Nancie. That is my recommendation too. Take a tour if you want to do and see things you know will be difficult as a solo traveler. So far I’ve had the luck of having good companions on my tours. There are always one or two travelers who keep themselves away from others, but in general I’ve had good camaraderie with other travelers on the tour. But yes, I myself prefer independent travel too.

  2. says

    Perhaps another pro for Gap Adventures is their travellers forum-
    http://wateringhole.gapadventures.com/index.php
    This is a very good resource for any traveller wanting to ask any sort of question about their trips,or about travel in general.
    And it’s reassuring that you can ask about anything that may be worrying about your trip prior to taking off instead of arriving up and starting cold turkey.

    • says

      That’s right Jim, The Watering Hole Forum is another pro for Gap Adventures. There you can also have the chance to meet before hand other travelers that are going to be on your tour. A good way to break the ice even before you start the trip.

  3. says

    I’ve thought about going on one of the Gap adventure trips to kick off my RTW trip next year. Mainly because I’m traveling solo and I’m a new backpacker so I thought that would be a good way to get my feet wet (no pun intended) in a somewhat organized way.

    I’ve traveled with less adventurous tour companies that had a forum, it was definitely a plus. It allowed every one to get to know each other before the trip and a good way to get questions answered.

    Thanks for the info, I didn’t know about Intrepid, I’ll check them out.

    • says

      Yes, I think Gap and Intrepid (among others) are a good introduction and transition for any backpacker that wants to go on the road for a long time but has no idea where to start or what to expect. If you feel comfortable with the way things are run on those type of trips, then it’s pretty sure you’ll do fine traveling solo.

  4. says

    Hi Norbert,
    Really great article, because I’m sure you’re answering many questions that travellers have when trying to choose between Intrepid and GAP. I must confess up front to being biased, since I’ve been working and travelling with Intrepid for over 12 years, but I thought there might be a couple of other points to note:
    Actually Intrepid has never had compulsory single supplement on any of our small group adventures and we have over 8000 departures of around 1000 trip itineraries, most of which are guaranteed to depart.
    Plus one of the big pros for Intrepid, we are the only tour company to carbon offset our trips!
    Love the GloboTrek posts and how much you help people around the globe make travel an adventure. Great stuff,
    Sue, Intrepid Express editor.

    • says

      Thank you for sharing that information with us Sue. First of all, big kudos to Intrepid for the carbon offsetting. That is a great initiative and a big plus to travel with Intrepid. Sorry, it was my understanding that “urban adventure” style trips do require a single supplement for solo travelers, but I apologize if I’m misinforming. I’ll update the info to show a correct comparison. Thanks!

    • says

      Yes they do, though I think in different ways. Gap gives you the opportunity to offset your international flight (I should ask Gap more about this, considering I’m taking one of their tours in less than two months), and you can also contribute with reforestation and other foundations. I’m not sure if Gap offsets the carbon emission of the tour itself. On the other hand, Intrepid automatically offsets your carbon emissions from your tour. They purchase carbon offset credit per each kg of CO2 each traveler emits.

  5. says

    Throughout this discussion, possibly important for all travellers, that we not place one company as better than the other.It’s not in our long term interest .We travellers need companies competing against each other so we get the benefits of increased services, and competitive pricing.
    Good to see what Norbert has done in listing each companies strengths and weaknesses, so they can take note of those and improve we it is needed.
    We have travelled with Intrepid twice, Gap Adventures once, and will be with Gap Adventures again for 2 weeks in Ethiopia.I’ll be blogging on that so if they aren’t up to scratch, it’ll get around.
    Incidentally the comment that Gap Adventures uses local contracted operators does have it’s benefits.Part of Gap Adventures philosophy is in maximising it’s beneficial impacts at a local level, and using local contractors ensures more money is spent with grassroots local companies.And that’s good.
    Anyway, let’s hope both companies are competing, and around for us all in the future.Spreading your business between two(rather than saying one is better than the other,) I feel is better for we travellers long term.But let’s encourage that competion on price and value.

    • says

      I’m not sure about that, this Idea of carbon offsetting is “barely new” among companies (in general). I only know that Intrepid (for example) already includes the cost for the carbon offset in your trip’s total cost. The actual number comes out to how many people really understand the concept and are willing to contribute with the environment.

  6. says

    We did a GAP tour in Peru. Our guides were great (Inca Trail, Amazon Rainforest, etc) but our tour leader was terrible. She was there to “facilitate”, but she really just sat in the car (although, to give her credit, she was on her last week with the company).

    We enjoyed it – especially the Inca Trail. GAP is without a doubt the most sustainable operator in the region and they take care of their porters (nice backpacks, jackets, etc).
    We took the tour because we thought Peru would be too dangerous on our own. In hindsight, travel throughout the country was easy and we probably would do it on our own if we did it again.

    • says

      I’m doing the Inca Trail with Gap in September. I’ve heard they are one of the best to choose from to do the Inca Trail. So I guess you recommend taking the tour with them, but pray to get a different tour leader. lol

    • theresa says

      Did Peru in 2009 – awesome!

      However, the guide was a big disaster – Miserable, complaining, disorganized person.

      But I can’t blame GAP for that, I have done 3 trips with GAP and they are fine.

      • says

        Hey Theresa, so great you had an awesome time in Peru. Wow, it’s bad that specific guide was bad, but I see you’ve done more tours with them so you know good they can be, as well as how important it is to have a good guide. :)

        • theresa says

          The Lares Trek is beautiful compared to Inca Trail (my two cents worth comment). The reason I say this is because, Inca Trail is steps,steps and more steps whereas the Lares Trek takes you higher, the view is spectacular with green gem coloured lakes and heady path ways one shares with the Lamas.

          Loved the 3 day trek!

          Next, must head off to Southeast Venezuela :-)

          Happy travels.
          Theresa.

          • says

            I personally want to experience the Lares Trek in the future. I have a couple friends who’ve done it and they highly recommend it too. They’ve given similar comments on the terrain conditions and altitude.

            I look forward to it!
            Southeast Venezuela… that sounds interesting!

            Happy Travels to you too, Theresa! :)

  7. says

    “The actual number comes out to how many people really understand the concept and are willing to contribute with the environment.”
    And of course the other question is, does it?
    You ever followed the trail of companies that your carbon offset dollars passes through, and how much each rakes off before you ever get to see your money plant a tree in Brazil or Niger?
    Personally, we donate equivalent to conservation organisations working with communities or wildlife in Africa, knowing every dollar is effective at the coalface.

    • says

      well, there I really don’t have an answer. Or my best answer would be “I just have faith that my contribution is going to the real cause”. But I will never know for sure if it really ends up there. Can you recommend of any organization that has a “transparent” donation process? Be it environmental or wildlife conservation. I will be good if more people get to know these types of organizations.

  8. Sally says

    Hi there
    Great article. Thanks.
    You have used an image of mine – the volcano one. I am happy for it to be used in the promotion of Intrepid as it was taken on one of their trips. But I am wondering where you got it from as I’m not that keen on it being readily available for use.
    If you could let me know, thanks
    Sally

  9. Marla Fisher says

    I appreciated your blog post. I am looking for a budget trip with my two kids. In the past I have hated tours and always travel on my own, but my kids enjoy having others to play with, so I’m considering this mode of travel in a small group. Might be nice also to have someone else organizing things instead of always having to be in charge myself.

  10. Jackie says

    I went on a tour in Peru with GAP in November 2008. The local tour guides were excellent, especially in the rainforest, and lodging was fine. I loved the country and had a great time for the most part.

    The only bad part of the tour, really, was our horrible tour leader. He refused to translate vegetarians’ requests for vegetarian meals, insulted various members of my group in Spanish to the driver (not knowing I’m almost fluent in Spanish), rolled the van’s windows down in 45 degree weather and refused to close them despite many of us asking him to, pointed out dead dogs once he figured out that seeing them upset some of us, and was generally lazy, unpleasant, and helpful. I complained to GAP about him both while I was on the tour and after the tour (including several e-mails and filling out a survey about the trip) and never got a response from them. Needless to say, I won’t be travelling with GAP again.

    • says

      Oh wow. I’m really sorry to hear that Jackie. Tour leaders are very influential in the experience you have at your destination. It’s sad your tour leader acted that way and for the poor response on GAP’s part. I personally have traveled with them on various occasions and haven’t had any issue, in fact, they have been amazing, but who knows if in the future I have a tour leader like yours that makes a negative impact on my trip experience.

      Thanks for sharing with us your experience. It’s good to have both perspectives in order to make better informed decisions. :)

    • rachel says

      Jackie was your tour guide called David, he was peruvian and he was sexist and an awful tour guide – he made 3 people in our group cry!

  11. rachel says

    ——————————————————————————–
    GAp, are not worth the money. They make you eat at expensive restaurants so the guides get free meals, and change your accomodtion then belittle you in front of the group for questioning it. We were on a tight budget and were made to feel like scroungers for complaining that the indivated m,eals were not included, and the hotels changed to camping. Our tour guide had 3 ppl crying, and almost everyone vowing to complain upon return. Will I hear from GAP at all after complaining? it reamins to be seen. Here is my letter-

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am writing in regard to a recent ‘South America Overland – La Paz to Rio’ trip that my girlfriend Rachel Mullaney and I took part in dating from the 8th of June till the 6th July 2009. We feel that various aspects of the trip did not live up to the itineray as sold by Gap Adventure and as such would like to make a complaint concerning the areas we felt we were miss sold, and request a refund for the unsatisfactory aspects of the tour. The areas we are concerned with include transportation, provision for meals and accomodation, all of which at points along the journey did not live up to what was advertised.

    Firstly the tour is advertised as an ‘overland tour’ in an overland truck. However we were actually given two 4×4 vehicles. Every other gap tour group we met had been given a different story as to why an overland truck was not available and the reason we were given that the truck could not get a permit to leave peru is not believable, as if this is the case why advertise this form of transport?
    The 4×4’s broke down constantly (to the point where their road safety was questionable), allowed in copious amounts of dust, and more importantly one car actually only had space for four people, not five. This meant that if you were at either side you were sitting on both heightened plastic ledge and the lower seat. Given also that the suspension on this 4×4 went halfway through the trip, it was terribly uncomfortable. The journeys were often 10-16 hours long and to be barely able to walk for the next day after such a journey is entirely unacceptable. When booking a tour such as this you expect to be very comfortable, when in fact public transport would have been far more comfortable and a lot cheaper.

    The constant theme of the tour appeared to be that whilst the itinary never changed, GAP(or our tour guide, it was uncertain as to which) had cut a lot of costs. The accomodation was an issue here, where in Iguassu falls we were made to camp instead of being in a hotel room for three nights. Our tour leader told us that the hotel we were meant to stay in was 90 reais a night, whereas our camping was only 15. Therefore I would like to be refunded the difference for those 3 nights for myself and Rachel as we had in fact paid for those nights in the cost of the trip. What was also massively hypotrical was the tour guides response to our questioning as to why the accomodation had been changed. He was very rude and abrupt and upset my girlfriend. He also declared that if he had it his way the whole trip would be camping, and then upon arrival at Foz de Iguassu he promptly upgraded himself into a room and left us to camp. The fact that we were offered an upgrade to a room for a fee was even more insulting, as it was clear there were plenty of rooms for everyone that GAP just did not want to pay for.

    Another issue throughout the trip was the lack of included meals. We did not recieve half of them, particularly in Brazil. The GAP website advises to bring $400 for food, and we easily spent double that. When we would question our tour guide as to why the meals that were indicated as being included on the itinary were not included he was again very rude, stating that GAP do not give him a budget that would cover all the meals meant to be included in Brazil. If we were travelling for a whole day and arrived at the campsite at night he would also say it was simply too late to cook, again getting out of giving us the food we paid for. In Bolivia on a long journey we were once given a packed lunch, this would have been a satisfactory solution in Brazil also, however the guide said that there simply was not a budget for a packed lunch in Brazil.

    The meals that the tour guide did include were often questionable. For example one dinner in Chochis was a plate of horsemeat to be passed around and eaten, the next night a plate of beef. Whilst we were grateful to actually be getting a meal that we were entitled to, many of the group were not keen on just eating ‘finger food’ meat for every meal. Another example would be the one included meal in Paraty (out of 3 nights where all meals were meant to be included) when he asked us all to be back at 3pm for lunch, but did not cook it until 5pm therefore wasting our day and also avoiding cooking any dinner. It was at this point where everyone in our group had given up asking the guide why things were not included as doing so invited no useful response and generally illicted both rude and confrontational behaviour from the guide.

    Even more irritating was the fact that because we did not know which meals would or would not be included it meant that we would sometimes be left with no choice other than to miss meals and go to bed hungry. On journeys we would be left with no choice but to pay for food in expensive service stations/ roadside restaurants or wait until our destination where potentially no food would be offered. If David had been honest and said ‘there are no meals included in Brazil’ we could have purchased our own food from the supermarket as we would usually do when travelling instead of always eating out.

    Myself and Rachel were sold the trip as including a lot of meals, and the itinary indicated every camping meal included and many of the travelling days had meals included too. This is why paying £1150 and a $600 local payment each in total for the trip seemed worth it as we knew we could have a smaller budget as most food was included. However given that half the food was not included and we spent double the $400 estimated food cost, we would both like to be refunded for the food we had to buy.

    It is clear that we recieved a cut cost version of the trip that we paid full price for, and this is simply unacceptable.GAPs cost cutting measures for no other reason than to save the company money at the expense of the tour group
    ——————————————————————————–

    • says

      Hi Rachel – Wow, sorry to hear you had such a bad experience and I totally understand why you would never travel again with them. It’s too bad you had a guide that had such a negative effect in your trip. Hopefully the destinations lived to the expectations. :)

      What I can say (having traveled with them more than a few times with positive experiences) is that their tours are not focused on being “very comfortable”, unless they are labeled as “comfort” tours. From my experience, overland tours are not comfort. Gap (and Intrepid for that matter) focuses on providing and adventurous/off the beaten path experience where you will travel in local transportation ranging from pickup trucks, to overnight buses, to trains, and what not. Same thing goes for accommodations… most of their overland or off the beaten path tours do a combination of hotels, camping, sleeper trains, and others.

      Something I want to stress is that they don’t “make you” eat on expensive restaurants. You have the full right to eat wherever you want. They might suggest and in some cases push for one particular restaurant, but in the end you choose to eat wherever you want. If the meal is included, then that’s another story, but then, you’re not paying that meal.

      Now, I tried to find that exact same tour you mentioned on their site to give an informed response but I wasn’t able to find it under that name. The one I found is called “Brazil Crossing” and starts from La Paz all the way to Rio. I honestly don’t know if that’s the one you took (with a different name) or not, but it looks like the experience you had and described in your letter to Gap (in terms of destinations, accommodation, transportation, and included meals) is similar to what they are advertising on their site. But again, this is just an assumption since I wasn’t able to find it under the name given. (And I apologize in advance if I’m wrong).

      On the guide… yes, there I have to say that a guide can make or break your experience. There is no excuse for a guide having that type of behavior and you did right in informing it to Gap.

      Now, I’m not trying to defend them just for the sake, I’m just portraying my experiences and what I know about them. Thanks for sharing your experience since there always are possibilities of getting positive and negative experiences will every tour company. :)

      • rachel says

        Hi Norbert, thanks for your reply, I do see what you are saying, and with all of my complaints this was still an amazing and enjoyable trip because of the location and the friends we made. South america is so enjoyable, though it was a huge relief to get to the end of the trip an spend a few weekss in brazil without our tour guide!. the trip was la paz–> Rio.
        The whole point of why I was so annoyed was the false advertisement of the trip, things that were meant to be included (entrance fees, hotels, meals) were not.
        Having hitchicked and camped around various parts of the world comfort isn’t a must for me, but when you pay for something you then expect it.

        For example if the itinary said camping then that would be fine, but to watch the tourguide spend the budget on booze for himself then check himself into a hotel we were meant to be in while we have to camp in our tents with holes in being bitten by mossies, with no food after a 14 hour drive in a car where 4 people were squeezed into two bucket seats, with no seatbelts working (at one point our wheel fell off and we almost crashed so this was a consideration) it just ruins the day. If you have paid a local fare for this tranport you laugh it off and take a couple of painkillers for your aches but if you have worked over a year to save for the trip and dont get the things you are meant to then it is not on.

        I dont think people consider that they may need to spend a lot more, as costs are cut, and that if the tour guide is awful you are stuck with him! I mean especially for single women, this guy d to sleep with the one single girl on our trip, he later ranted at her for an hour about her being a christian making her cry, and she still had to spend the next few weeks in his company! The guide was so sexist he wouldnt even hand the keys to the rooms etc to me, he said ‘the man’ ie my boyfriend had to take the keys, similarly when I complained about the cuts to the trip he would only respond to my boyfriend.

        Our drivers hated the guide too, as he would not let them stop to eat and tried to force them to just keep driving, we will be good friends the driversfor year to come though as they even showed us around rio once the trip was over and were fun drinking partners!

        A friend of mine went on a similar trip with GAP and was in a spacious bus and looked to be having a great time with a great tour guide, and seemed to get all of the accomodation they were meant to (but not the meals) so on the other hand I am glad there are positive experiences out there!

        Anyhow I feel bad about my rant but I did want people who were in my position to not do th trip unless they have ‘back up money’ in case the same thing happens to them!

        • says

          Oh, definitely… I’m glad you expressed yourself and let us know about your experience since it happens, not everyone has a great experience with Gap (or any other tour company). But, I’m glad you had the chance to enjoy each destination.

          From what I see the experience was highly affected by your tour guide. It’s a shame it happened to you. I hope Gap took care of him, because I believe he should not be guiding tours anymore since he affects a lot the experience of travelers. Good thing the drivers were good drinking partners and showed you around! ;)

          I hope this doesn’t prevent you from taking other tours in the future, whether with Gap, Intrepid, or any other tour company.

  12. Deb says

    I booked a trip to Peru with GAP, “Amazon to the Andes,” on a total whim, by myself, without reading reviews… I have to say I am now extremely nervous…. I’m used to traveling alone and am fine with very rustic conditions… However, now I’m just worried about having all my stuff stolen etc… Norbert.. It’ll be fine.. right?!?!?!

    • says

      Hi Deb – Wow, so exciting you’re doing the “Amazon to the Andes” tour. I took the first part of that tour, which is basically the “Inca Trail” tour, so I can say by experience you’re going to have an amazing time! Actually, I wrote three posts about my Inca Trail trip here. (they are a series, so you can start with the first and continue). While on the tour, there’s nothing to worry about. I don’t think you should worry about getting your stuff stolen or anything. Remember, all the other travelers are in the same position as you, and no one is thinking about that since all they want is to enjoy their time. ;) The porters are the most humble and serviceable people you’ll ever see, and the guides are very knowledgeable and friendly.

      I’m sure you’re going to have an awesome time, as Gap has a very strong stand in Peru, and this is one of the most recommended Gap tours. You’re going to be fine, there’s nothing to be nervous about! Let me know how it goes or if you want to know more about this trip in particular. ;)

    • theresa says

      Hey Deb,
      I travel solo – and nothing was stolen – recently came back from Vietnam the guide was a great guy and looked after us (some might not think so but it all depends on what you demant on the trip).

      Did the Amazon thing too with GAP – be ready for fun (the night cruise in a tiny boat was awesome!) you get to check out caiman.

      Nothing was stolen – I will say this don’t wear expensive stuff (you call attention to yourself).

      enjoy the ride!

      Theresa.

      • says

        Wow Theresa! You’re really a globetrekker! I’m glad to read that. :D
        It’s cool you also had a positive experience and had no issue with getting things stolen or something similar.

        Happy Travels!

  13. says

    Great article Norbert – thanks for sharing information on Adventure Travel, and your thoughts.

    By-way-of-introduction, my name is Lyndon File, and I am part of the Gap Adventures team. I just wanted to add some clarification to the post by Rachel.

    Traveller feedback allows us to get better at what we do and that is positive energy that is created by something like this. As a company we really appreciated the opportunity. Our lead with service culture was all over this, and there were a lot of people in our organization who will learn because she gave us the opportunity, and that excites me. We pride ourselves on having the best possible customer experience and this was not for her and her fellow travelers, and I apologize.

    We received the feedback posted above on 10th August 2009. We sent the below reply on August 24th 2009. (I have removed any confidential information and posted our reply below for clarity).

    24 August 2009
    Unfortunately, the overland truck that was scheduled for this departure experienced mechanical problems and at short notice, we had to provide an alternative mode of transportation. The 4X4 vehicles provided was the only viable alternative available to us as we could not secure a permit with a bus or another overland truck at such short notice. Due to the last minute nature of this change, we could not sent out a proper notification. We regret to learn of their disappointment with the alternative transportation provided, and apologize for any inconvenience they experienced.

    The service level of the SLLR is basic, and therefore the type of accommodation provided is either simple hotels or camping. As the group experienced, the accommodations in Iguassu Falls were changed from hotel to camping. Although our terms and conditions allow us the flexibility to make such changes, we regret to learn that a proper notification of the change was not sent. The trip details for the SLLR have since been updated and this change is reflected.

    We have addressed the concerns regarding the meals provided with his Tour Leader, David. David has advised that he informed the group during the briefing that there would be long travel days and meals included on these days would be replaced by others, which they were. David has also advised that at times when the group arrived at a destination late, he would ask the group if they were hungry. If they were, he would cook a meal, however at times the group was too tired to eat and he therefore didn”t. Please note, we have reviewed all the feedback received and this concern is not shared by all the participants. This is not mentioned to minimize the concerns, however trust puts matters into perspective.

    We appreciate the comments on David”s performance. We are very much aware that the performance of our Tour Leaders is the largest influence on the success (or otherwise) of our tours. We apologize for the lack of professionalism they may have experienced. We have also reviewed David”s evaluations from all of his recent tours and they have overall been positive. Although no other complaints were received on his performance, we forwarded these comments to our Operations Department who in turn will address them with David accordingly.

    We strive to provide our travellers with a positive and rewarding travel experience and we sincerely regret to learn that we failed to meet expectations. We thank you for taking the time to inform us of his concerns and allowing us the opportunity to improve our services for future travellers. As a gesture of goodwill, we have processed a refund in the amount of xxx per person. We sincerely hope to have the opportunity to welcome you aboard another worldwide adventure and can restore their trust in our company.

    • says

      Hi Lyndon – Thanks for sharing your response regarding Rachel’s feedback. To me it seems like a well rounded response and even generous in refunding whatever amount you felt was prudent. Like Feedback, good or bad, is always good to get since it helps improve and provide the best service and experience.

      Thank you so much for inputting your perspective to the discussion and for sharing this response, as it helps put things into perspective. :)

  14. Renee says

    I just signed up for my 7th GAP tour (now called G Adventures…) I had absolutely delightful trips with GAP in Ethiopia, South Africa to Tanzania, China, and India (twice-different parts of the country). I did not enjoy my tour in Japan although I loved the country. I left the tour early and just traveled on my own. I am now going to Ecuador with GAP. I did day trips with Intrepid in Southeast Asia (mostly Vietnam) and loved those too. The tour leader can make or break a trip. I have also done tours with other more traditional tour companies and absolutely love the GAP and Intrepid type tours. I will never do another tour with another company unless these companies suddenly become really bad for some reason that I cannot see. In some places where the language and culture is very different from what I am used to, these kinds of tours really help ease you into it. After my tours I have usually spent additional time on my own and felt much more prepared for navigating on my own than I would have otherwise. Even as much as I did not like my tour guide in Japan, for instance, I would have been worried about trying to go to Japan on my own. By being with the tour group for a couple of weeks (or maybe 10 days) I felt ready to tackle it on my own.

    • says

      Renee, It’s so good you’re sharing your experience here! I’m glad you’ve had good experiences with both Gap Adventures (G Adventures) and with Intrepid Travel. Like you said, the tour guide can make or break the trip, but it’s good that in most of your trips they have been positive. Like you, I also like to travel on my own after doing the tour. It help a lot in getting used to the country’s customs, language, and travel style. In many cases, it is better to do it that way than to do it all on your own from scratch.

      Hope you have a great time in Ecuador with G Adventures!! :)

    • Sarina says

      Hi Renee,
      I am about to book a tour to Japan and finding it very hard to decide between Intrepid and G adventures! I was just wondering why in particular you did not like your Japan tour with G adventures?

    • says

      Hi AJ –
      I haven’t traveled with Geckos, but I’ve heard they cater mostly to young/college-like travelers.
      On the other hand, I’ve heard good things about G Adventures and Intrepid for Africa.

      Sorry I couldn’t provide much more info there.

        • says

          You’re welcome AJ. I would still recommend checking out some travel forums and read the experiences of people who’ve actually traveled with them. Who knows, maybe they do have different age groups in their tours. :)

  15. Theo S. says

    This is a great comparison! Well done!

    I have traveled with both companies and have had amazing experiences with both.
    I have noticed a certain higher level of quality with intrepid, especially where the leaders are concerned. It’s hard to hate on one when they are both trying really hard to provide great experiences. I went to Peru and morocco and the US with Intrepid and India, ethiopia & Egypt with g adventures.

    Something that surprised me the most was the best trip by far that i have done with both companies was my Intrepid trip in the US. Our leader was absolutely phenomenal. So much passion and took us places that were not in any guidebook. He was really proud to be a tour leader for Intrepid and it showed. I might have to disagree that g adventures is the better option in North America. I didnt even know that gap has trips in north america.

    • says

      Thanks Theo! Like you mentioned, both companies are great, and from your own experience, you can say that the guides can make or break the travel experience. I truly believe in this. I’m glad you had great experiences with both companies, they truly are good companies, so you won’t fail when choosing between either of them.

  16. RD says

    Hi Norbert!

    Thank you for this comparison. I have been doing a lot of research. I was looking at both Intrepid and G Adventures.

    I would like to see as much of South America as possible. I am a 27 year old female travelling solo, so safety is HUGE for me. I decided to look at these two companies because, as you mentioned, they are known, have been around for a while and I feel they attract travelers like myself. I want to take advantage of travelling with a group and go “off the beaten path” as my version of backpacking. I have never done that before.

    So I found a couple of tours with these companies, I am looking at 60-80 day tours. G Adventures is winning because of the fact that one of their tours is ideal for my time off work. But I have read a lot of negative reviews about their customer service and tour leaders, where as I haven’t found much regarding Intrepid. So now I am debating which to go with.

    It’s a tough decision to make. If I had a friend to travel with then I would plan this without going through a company. I am going to be investing a lot of time into this trip so I want it to be a good one. It seems that Intrepid’s biggest con/difference than G is the money. I would fork out more money for a better experience.

    I guess my question is if you have heard anything about both companies’ long tours. Have you heard any good/bad things about them? Do you have any additional advice?

    Sorry I rambled on, but I am stuck!

    Thanks for your time! I posted in Tripadvisor to get some advice but got zero responses. I am hoping you can help!

    • says

      Hi RD –
      Sorry for my late reply, but I’m glad to see that a fellow traveler and Intrepid Editor gave you a few pointers there. I would say to take good consideration on both companies as they are of great quality. I personally travels with Gap or G Adventures to Peru and my experience couldn’t have been any better! I’ve heard and experienced good things with both companies, so my decision between one and the other would be between dates convenience, money, and sights visited. With regards to quality and experience, they are both great and highly professional. What I guarantee is that you won’t go wrong by choosing either of these companies.

      I definitely recommend traveling solo with both company as I’ve done it myself and I’ve met so many other travelers doing it that way too. You’ll see that by the end of your trip, you all will b very good friends. Still to this day I keep good friendships with my “Gap/Intrepid friends”.

      I personally haven’t done a long trip with either company, but I’m met many travelers who have done it. Their long trips are based on a combination of subsequent short trips, so your group of travelers will change every one or two weeks, unless the trip is originally scheduled and a whole from beginning to end.

      Like Deb said, you have to pick and choose which “bad” reviews to take into consideration. From my own experience, many of the people who give bad reviews they do so based on “unrealistic” expectations. For example… It’s like saying you saw a cockroach in your jungle hut in the middle of the Amazon… um, what where you expecting? You’re int he middle of the jungle, that is to be expected!!

      If you have any other questions, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to help (and not take as long to reply)… haha

  17. says

    Hi RD,
    It sounds like you are planning a fantastic trip in South America! Doing all the research and trying to choose the trip that’s best for you is a big deal. I won’t go into a big sales pitch about Intrepid (I’ve been working with them for nearly 14 years) but just a couple of points to note:
    Intrepid spends a great deal of time training and monitoring the performances all of our teams on the ground. In addition to extensive destination training, we also focus heavily on safety, first aid, local interaction and responsible travel. It’s vital that our team know how to interact appropriately in the communities that we visit, but are also able to understand the needs of international travellers.

    In South America we have a fantastic team of very experienced leaders who have been with Intrepid for many years and have a proven record of being able to cope extremely well in emergency situations. As well has having an unrivalled knowledge of the region they also have an excellent understanding of the expectations of Intrepid travellers.

    Travelling solo on our trips is no problem and certainly not unusual, as you’re likely to find others choosing to do the same. Plus you won’t have to pay any extra unless you wish to reserve your own room.

    Whatever you decide we’re sure you’ll have an amazing experience, as South America is extraordinary and absolutely brimming with fantastic real life experiences!
    Happy travels,
    Sue, Intrepid Express Editor

  18. Deb says

    This past August I went with GAP to Peru. It was amazing. My leader was awesome! He was fun, knew everything about everywhere we went, and it was one of the best trips I have taken. The people in the group were just as great as our leader… I was only on a 10 day trip, but we joined with others on 60 day trips and they said that their entire adventures were perfect. I definitely reccomend GAP, don’t listen to the bad reviews. They made me nervous, however they couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

  19. Deb says

    ps. im a 25 yo female solo traveler. I actually made a great friend on the trip and I’m going to visit her in Germany in may!

  20. says

    This is very helpful Norbert! I’m considering going to Peru this year so did a search and lo and behold, this article came up. :) Intrepid is having a 2-for-1 special so I’ve been leaning that way. Why did you say you prefer G Adventures for Peru? (I have never taken an organized tour before, so this will be a new experience for me. I’ve always planned my own adventures but figure Peru is a place that I need a tour in order to experience it best.)

    • says

      Hey Michael!
      Well, just like you, before heading to Peru I did a huge amount of research to find the best company I could go with to do the Inca Trail. At that time I found G Adventures to have “more ground” and “experience” in the Inca Trail. That was the main reason why I went with them. I can say that Intrepid also does good trips in Peru, as I ran across a few of the Intrepid travelers and they seemed to have a good experience there. But, I haven’t tried Peru with them, yet.

      In my case, I used G Adventures for the Inca Trail, but the rest of Peru I did on my own, like I usually do. I would recommend you to used any of the two tour operators for the Inca Trail (if you’re doing it… and even Peru Treks, a more local company that has a good reputation), and do the rest of Peru on your own if you don’t mind taking buses all around the country.

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with!

  21. SLP says

    Great blog Norbert! I’m glad I came across your list! What a great help! I have often wondered which one was better myself, and although I haven’t tried Intrepid yet, I was thinking about checking them out for Africa and China. I did one Gap Adventure tour to Patagonia back in 2004, but unfortunately it was also with David. His last name began with a C. It must be the same tour leader because he was lazy and offensive to the guests, loved to drink to the point of intoxication, and he spoke poorly about guests in Spanish to the locals (he really should have watched what he said. A lot of people understand Spanish!). I swore it would be my first and last tour with them, but then again, I know that everyone is different. Not all tour leaders are like David. I just can’t believe that he is still working there!

    • says

      Thanks SLP! Oh wow, sorry that you had the tour with David. It seems like he’s not the type of person that should be leading tours. He’s hurting Gap’s reputation and it is a shame, since Gap (or G Adventures) is a great company. Hopefully he’s still not working there. I do recommend you check both, G Adventures and Intrepid for Africa and China. I’m sure you wont go wrong by choosing any of them. Me personally, I’m doing another G Adventures tour in Kilimanjaro! So, I’ll let you all know how’s the experience with them.

      • theresa says

        Nice! I’m heading there in 3 months :-) Which route are you doint?

        Doing it with G Adventures – this will be my 4th tour with them.

        Happy Trails.
        Theresa

        • says

          Hi Theresa, I did the Marangu route. G Adventures was great all the way! So cool… 4th, eh, I see you’ve had good experiences with them!

  22. Jonathan says

    This is a great find, Norbert. Thanks for posting this! Like a lot of the recent commentators, I’ve been looking into going to Peru and hiking Machu Picchu and a lot of the comments here are very helpful. I’m taking a small sized group, around 6 – 7 of us and originally wanted to plan the trip ourselves, but since none of us have ever done extensive trips like this I figure an adventure group would be best for the Inca Trail portion.

    I’ll be honest, after reading the comments I’m leaning towards Intrepid rather than Gap. They have a good deal going on now (2 for 1) and all the negative comments seem to be geared towards Gap tour leaders. What did you recommend Gap specifically for Peru in your post?

    Any comments/suggestions/tips would be much appreciated. I’m currently looking to book one of the tours for the hike, and then spend a week or so exploring Peru ourselves.

    Thanks – Jonathan

    • says

      Hi Jonathan –

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, honestly, it is more common to find negative comments towards Gap than towards Intrepid. In the post, I recommend Gap for Peru because of the Inca Trail. I did the Inca Trail with them and they were beyond amazing. Not only that, but Gap has a good reputation there and they have good grounds with the amount of groups they lead there and their resources. Now, outside of the Inca Trail, either Gap or Intrepid will do fine, I think.

      If Intrepid is 2 for 1, I’s say go with them. You won’t go wrong choosing between Gap or Intrepid.

      As for your idea of going on your own after the Inca Trail, I say, go for it! That’s what I did, and Peru is very easy to travel on your own. They have a good bus system (Seyuz bus) that can take you to almost any part of the country.

      Please, let me know if you need any help with Peru. I’ll be glad to help!

  23. Evan says

    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.

    • says

      Hi Evan –

      Thank you so much for sharing your opinion and experience with us. It will definitely help a lot of people looking for first hand experience accounts.

  24. ninajane says

    Hello everyone on this blog, it was great to read your comments and to get feedback on all your trips.

    I travelled with Gap to India last summer and had an amazing time. Our guide was great. He was super helpful, very knowledgeable, extremely approachable and looked out for all of us. Several people got sick on the trip and he got a doctor when they needed one. To know, if you are expecting a real camel ride in the desert, this is not really what you are going to get; our guide said it used to be longer but people got too tired. I personally was hoping for something more adventuresome. In the 21 days we spent in Western India we saw more than I think I could have seen on my own. I am a single female travelling alone and that is why chose Gap. A couple of people on the trip had done other tours with Gap with more or less success. As people said above it really depends on the guide.

    That said, I am interested in travelling alone. You make some excellent points, Norbert, about the optional activities. I appreciated them in India but I would like to travel for a bit less and on my own schedule. It was great that our guide took us to restaurants because you need to be careful what you eat in India. It was more expensive though and it felt like you were compelled to eat at every meal.

    At the moment I am pretty conflicted about what I want to do. I want to go to Central America and Gap has a bunch of great trips. The one big difference I have noticed between Gap and Intrepid is that Gap does all their Central American tours in both directions, which gives you more choice, while Intrepid only goes south. This doesn’t work for me as I want to end in Mexico City and see the Day of the Dead festivities. Secondly, the trip I am looking at with Intrepid is new and there doesn’t seem to be any feedback about it. In fact, I have read more reviews (good and bad) about Gap, even on this blog, which I find odd. In response to a note in your article, Gap’s tours in Central America are actually one to two hundred dollars more expensive than Intrepid’s.

    I guess I am wondering if anyone has any feedback about travelling in Central America with Gap, Intrepid or just solo.

    Happy travelling to everyone!

    • says

      Hi Ninajane –

      thanks for sharing your experience with Gap in India. Regarding Central America, depending on how savvy you feel you are, I highly recommend doing it solo. I’ve done it solo, and I also traveled a little bit with Gap (in Belize). Both experiences were good, but I love my time as solo traveler since Central America has a really good backpacking trail and you will meet a lot of people there. Being on your own will allow you some flexibility that being on a group will not give you.

      Please, if you like more info on Central America travel, feel free to let me know.

      Cheers!

    • reves23 says

      Hi ninajane,

      Just wondering which trip did you do with G Adventures? I’m thinking of either doing the YOLO Roam India or the Essential India one. I’m a female traveling alone so just want to compare.

      Glad to hear it was a good experience.

  25. David S says

    Hi,

    I just finished both a 26 day Intrepid tour and a 10 day gap tour thru South East Asia, and I have to say I was much more impressed with the intrepid tour.

    This all came down to the Guide. The Gap guide was going thru the motions and sometimes we didn’t see him for 2 days at a time. Even in his home town, he provided very few details on what as good to do, then disappeared.

    The options offerred were very basic, basically a Tuk Tuk to the temple, whereas Intrepid arranged local guides and better local transport.

    I would think twice before travelling with Gap again, because of this experience.

  26. Liz says

    I booked a few trips with Intrepid during a 6 month travel adventure across north and south america.

    Personally, I found the level of service better with Intrepid than I did with Gap and I liked the idea of small groups purely from a practical perspective – herding a big group day in, day out would seem like time wasted to me! Most of their trips are guaranteed too so you don’t have to worry about any last minute cancellations which could mess up your plans

    I booked a trip in North America going through the national parks as it couldn’t be done without booking a car and was really affordable for that it packed in during 8 days. In south America, the tour guides were excellent and helped where there was a language barrier and to make the experience as good as it could be (recommending great places to eat, bars, day trips etc) plus I loved the bits that took you off the beaten track eg. visiting local communities, homestays etc.

    I would have no hesitation recommending Intrepid to anyone looking to book travel trips – they sure came up trumps for me!

  27. Madi says

    Hi! This is such a great page, thank you!

    I have been planning to do a trip in the US for ages now, and I am leaning towards G adventures. I am currently 17, but will be 18 by the time of the trip. I only just came across Intrepid today, and I found a very similar trip to the one I want to do from G adventures. They are both around 22 day tours, so I would want to choose my best option, as I will be there for 3 weeks!

    From experience on your tours, were there many solo travellers with either companies, or travellers around a similar age to me (18)?

    By the way, I am planning to do a tour from New York to San Fransisco, through chicago, south dakota and those sorts of places. If anyone has done a similar trip to this, please let me know how it was, and from what company. :)

    Thank you, and I look forward to your reply! :)

    • says

      Hi Madi –

      Great that you’re planning that trip through the US! In my experience, yes, most of the time there are solo travelers around your age, and whether they are solo or not, it is almost certain that there will be someone close to your age. On all the trips I’ve done (applies to both companies), most of the people range between 18 to 30. G Adventures and Intrepid appeal to young adventurous travelers.

      I personally haven’t done a trip like that, but I recommend you check out Amanda’s blog – http://www.dangerous-business.com/ – as I know she did a really cool road trip through the US, so she might be able to help you with that. :)

      Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions!

      • Madi says

        Okay, great, thank you! I just didn’t want to end up being the only solo traveller, in a group of older couples or anything :P
        Awesome, thanks for the blog! It looks really interesting :)
        Thank you!!

  28. Dave says

    Hmm, tough choice! I’ve been on three Intrepid trips now – South America, Indochina and Sri Lanka. The South American trip was code-shared with GAP, so I’ve had a little experience of both. Fantastic trips all round though – brilliant guides and great travel companions … the small group thing is really a great way to travel! It’s hard to say which company is better – I think the pros and cons you’ve described are pretty accurate. Will definitely be back for more! :)

    • says

      Thanks for sharing Dave! Yes, sometimes it is hard to choose between the two because they are both strong companies and they do deliver good tours. I would keep traveling with them because so far I’ve only had positive experiences.

  29. Heather says

    Hi Norbert! Thanks for such a great article! :) I’m planning on spending a couple of months in Central America next year. I will be there for a month on my own then my boyfriend is coming out to join me for the second month. I’ve been doing a lot of research but still have a few of questions I hope you could help me with (I’m a 26 year old girl by the way)…

    I’m thinking of doing one of the G Adventure trips from Costa Rica to Guatemala on my own (I chose G simply because they run their trips in the northerly direction which suits me better in this instance), but I’m unsure which trip style to choose – there is a “Classic” trip and a “YOLO” trip that I am interested in. Do you know how different the two styles are? The YOLO is a lot cheaper, and I don’t mind budget travel/accommodation, but I’m wondering if it will be a bunch of teenagers who want to do nothing but drink and party?? (I think I must be getting old!)

    After one of these trips, I am planning to meet my boyfriend in Guatemala and travel up through Belize and Mexico. Would you recommend we did this independently instead of with Intrepid/G? I have travelled S.E. Asia on my own before and loved it, but I’ve heard a lot more about safety issues in Central America. Is this just hype?? Is there a good backpacker scene through these countries? (i.e. is it easy enough to get around on local buses, trains etc? does travel/accommodation need to be pre-booked or can you just turn up as and when?)

    Also, how important is it to be fluent in Spanish? I know the bare essentials (i.e. hola and cerveza! ;D) and will definitely make an effort to learn more before I go, but languages aren’t my strong point :/

    Sorry for so many questions! Thanks so much for your help! :) Heather

    • says

      Hi Heather –

      Thanks! Glad to help! Sounds like you have a pretty good idea on what you want to do on your trip, so that is good. Regarding “classic” and “YOLO”, YOLO is a bit more bareback and designed for young travelers who want to travel cheaper. These use budget accommodations and public transportation, often.

      As per G Adventures, on the 4 trips I’ve done with them, there’s always been a mix of young and old, but thankfully, it’s been a good balance and all my groups have been amazing! For sure they will want to go out and drink, but remember, you’re not forced to do so if you don’t want to. Those are “extracurricular” activities where you participate as you wish.

      On Belize and Guatemala, I would say, do it on your own with your boyfriend. Why? By then, after traveling with G, you will have an idea of what Central America is and how to manage through it. If you think you will feel comfortable, do it on your own (plus, if you tackled Southeast Asia, Central America will be smoother.)

      On safety… The capitals tend to be a bit crazy and dangerous, but nothing extraordinary. I would recommend that if you don’t intend to see anything special in a capital city, skip it. The smaller cities are way much better (especially in Guatemala).

      It is quite easy to move around. Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico have a really good “chicken bus” network and even “luxury” buses. Check ADO buses in Mexico, they are good and affordable.

      On Spanish… It is not necessary, but it helps if you know a bit. Guatemala and Mexico have a big backpacker scene, so you will find people who speak english (or at least a bit) in every place. Belize speaks English by default, since it’s their main language.

      Hope this helps! Feel free to let me know if you have any question.

      Cheers!
      Norbert

  30. Robn says

    Hi!
    I am a single woman planning a trip – potentially in India
    I want to have a safe trip with good experience as well.
    Has anyone done G adventures tour in India? Or can recommend another company?
    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Robn –

      Apologies on the delayed response. I would recommend checking G Adventures Watering Hole forum to see if there are people around who have shared their experiences. Also, if you go to Intrepid, you can see their feedback right on the specific tour page. As for other companies, I personally don’t know of any other that I would feel comfortable to recommend, but maybe someone else knows. :)

  31. Yvette says

    Hi Norbert

    Thanks for your helpful article! I am planning a trip to Western Europe (August-September 2013). I noticed that you recommended traveling there alone, rather than on a tour. Why is that?

    Kind regards
    Yvette

    • says

      Hi Yvette –

      Sorry for the delayed response. I recommend doing Europe on your own due to the massive travel infrastructure that is available and the ease of traveling there; whether you’re a newbie traveler or an experienced one. Europe is one of the easiest continents to travel thanks to the extensive rail network, the Schengen agreement between countries, the wide range of accommodation, and more. Plus, Europe itself is not the cheapest traveling on you own or with a tour, but on your own you can have a better control of spendings and possibly travel cheaper.

      Please, if you have any other questions feel free to let me know.

      Norbert

  32. Alison says

    Hi! I am a 32-year-old woman with some solo travelling experience (in Europe back in college, and the Dominican Republic) and other travel experience with people (but still including time alone), in Thailand and India. I am somewhat confident in solo travel but also do think that it might be fun to have others around, and make the whole travel experience a lot less stressful, and also take a lot of the hard work of research and planning out of the details of travel, if I do one of these tours. I am dedicated to going to Vietnam and had looked at both G and Intrepid’s tours… It seems like Intrepid definitely has fewer complaints than G in general (from looking around the web), but I wondered if anyone had any experience with their Vietnam tours? And is it worth it for someone like myself? Or is Vietnam easy enough to get around that I should just go for it solo? I would really like to see scenic, more rural areas, which is also one reason to consider a tour rather than being on my own.
    Any advice would be appreciated!
    (And thanks for this very objective breakdown of the difference between the companies.)

    • says

      Hi Alison! Thanks for your comment. I haven’t traveled Vietnam, so I really don’t know about it (but hopefully another reader will!), but in the meantime I recommend you check either G Adventure’s Watering Hole (forum) to see if people have posted there their experience on this tour, or go to Intrepid’s site and look for the tour of your interest to read the feedback they display there. Sorry I couldn’t help much more there, but hope some else can. :)

      As a side note, I’ve heard Vietnam is “relatively easy” to travel given their wide range of bus routes and backpacking infrastructure. But it will all depend on how you feel traveling on your own and how comfortable you are dealing with everything on the road.

    • Heather says

      Hi Alison!

      I traveled Vietnam solo a couple of years ago when I was 24. This was my first solo travel experience and I absolutely loved it! I started off in Thailand then Cambodia and Laos, but actually found Vietnam to be the easiest to get around out of all these countries!

      I started in Hanoi, where I bought a jump-on-jump-off bus ticket to Saigon (these are available in all hostels and travel agents and you can choose how many stops you want along the way – I think I had 6 and it cost around $US50) The buses are excellent quality, many with completely reclinable seats for overnight journeys. I found absolutely no stress with the travel, i just winged it the whole way – you can just go to any travel agent at any time to book onto your next bus, the locals pretty much all speak English and are extremely friendly. And with regards having other people around, you can’t help but make friends in Vietnam! There is a huge backpacker trail both north- and south-bound. I actually found the buses the best place to meet people – especially after a long overnight journey, everyone wants some company to groggily find a hostel!

      I cant really speak too much about going off the beaten track because I seemed to pretty much follow the main trail, but there are lots of travel agents around offering plenty of different mini-tours. So I would say go and do it solo to keep flexibility, but look into short tours for the more rural excursions.

      Hope this is of some help! Have a great time! :)

  33. Evangeline says

    I’m curious as to why you say in Western Europe go on your own. I’m an American so I know that in Western Europe most people speak English but the reason I like group tours you can make friends that you travel with, I get lonely traveling by myself, and I can spend my time traveling not look for hotels, places to eat and listening to the guides instead of reading guidebooks.

    • Yvette says

      Hi Evangeline

      I actually asked Norbert the same question a few weeks ago, and this was his response:

      “I recommend doing Europe on your own due to the massive travel infrastructure that is available and the ease of traveling there; whether you’re a newbie traveler or an experienced one. Europe is one of the easiest continents to travel thanks to the extensive rail network, the Schengen agreement between countries, the wide range of accommodation, and more. Plus, Europe itself is not the cheapest traveling on you own or with a tour, but on your own you can have a better control of spendings and possibly travel cheaper.”

      • says

        Thanks Yvette for posting my reply! :)

        Evangeline, that’s pretty much the reason why I recommend going on your own, but, since I noticed your concern of time and effort spent in the planning, then I think these two companies are well worth trying. Why? They are internationally recognized, have good quality tours, and they cover most, if not all, of the countries in Europe, so you have the flexibility of doing multi country trips with ease.

        Please, feel free to let me know if I can help you with anything else. :)

  34. Evangeline says

    ..but if you COULD recommend a tour company for Western Europe, who could you recommend, would it be another company besides those two?

  35. maria budin says

    Your summery reviewing the two travel agencies is to the point. Here is our summery of the two trip we took with Intrepid:

    29 Days of Central America, QVRPC

    Just finished the Central American tour. Yes it was very basic, inferior transport and accommodations. The cost was the same than last year 29 days Indochina Loop (original) and which we most enjoyed, included most breakfasts, few lunches and dinners and excellent activities. Finally, Central American tour cost escalated with meals and activities. Some transportation was on local buses or packed mini buses and overloaded boats. Would not recommend this tour!

    Dollar for dollar the Indochina Loop tour was infinitely superior to the Central American Tour. However, since we enjoyed the Indochina tour immensely and there was no choice of ‘original’ Central America tour we opted for the ‘basic’ not expecting this would double the initial tour cost with the added minimum activities and food. We spent at least another $1000 per person after carefully and frugally picking activities. The choice of hotels and their location was so poor that one was forced to take tours and visit more interesting parts of the areas. The Intrepid agent: Intrepid Myadventure Store in Toronto collected $404 pp fee for hardly any service to us. This fee should be reduced and money applied to better transport and accommodations. Most of the transport was on local buses, few times was upgraded to mini buses, and the boats to islands were overloaded. In summary, the tour was not good value for money.

  36. Lindsay says

    This question has been on my mind as of late because I am about to spend a week in Cusco. I am looking for a day trip to Machu Picchu, but am unsure as to whether I should go with G or Intrepid (one big plus is that the Intrepid is about $300 cheaper because it doesn’t include lodging – it’s just the 16 hours of the day trip).

    So, I’m curious (and perhaps you’ve answered this in the comments and I missed it) – why do you say choose Intrepid everywhere else in South America except Peru?

    • says

      Hi Lindsey –

      Well, as for a day trip, I guess both companies would be equally good, but when I point to use G Adventures in Peru instead of Intrepid, I’m actually referring more to doing the Inca Trail with G. I did the Inca Trail with G myself, and I have to say the experience was superb. I’ve also recommended G for the Inca Trail to friends and readers and all of them have given great feedback from it too. G has great knowledge and a great team of locals on the Inca Trail, so they have a good grip on that area.

      But, if it is only a day trip to Machu Picchu, you wouldn’t go wrong with any of them. I would choose Intrepid since it seems to be cheaper.

      • Lindsay says

        Wonderful, thanks so much! I’m not much for organized tours and prefer to travel independently (my only other experience was actually a G tour of Costa Rica), but I’ve heard from multiple people that it’s best to have a guide to visit MP.

        Thanks for the quick reply :)

        • says

          True, I too also recommend having a guide on MP since they give you a lot of background history and facts you wouldn’t otherwise know (unless you inform yourself well enough of it before going). MP is a wonderful place, and it makes it even better when you know that you’re getting good information and can ask anything about it. So many interesting things you might want to ask about. :)

  37. says

    Hi,

    I traveled to Egypt with my two adult children last spring with G-Adventures, and must say the guide was FABULOUS! Not only did he know about the history of Egypt, knew the temples like the back of his hand, but was also willing to discuss the current political situation in Egypt. With ease he handled a last minute cancellation of an overnight train — having to arrange flights, transportation and last minute added hotel rooms. Kind, gracious and professional, he went above and beyond to make our trip memorable, and safe. You couldn’t have asked for more or better!

    I have also traveled with Explore, and although we had some good trips with them, after the last trip, years ago, a bike trip in South Africa, we never traveled with them again. A bike trip which started on day one with not enough bikes the correct size (even though that information was requested during booking process) there were not enough tall people bikes nor shorter people bikes (frustrating/dangerous). There was no briefing on the bikes, or use of disk brakes, and we had one woman go over the handle bars downhill into a cement bridge, ending up with a severe head injury in the middle of nowhere. She left the trip to go back home. The trip continued on it’s own nightmare course, with everyone on the trip grossly displeased, as the guides were useless, left the group to fend for themselves for Christmas lunch and dinner. They knew, or imparted, little about the region.They left a site without counting the number of clients in the van, and only realized there was someone missing an hour later, and didn’t know where the missing person was. Of course, there is more, but it just gets redundant.

    While Explore refunded a very small portion of our money, they apologized about nothing. If they were smart they would have done the right thing, they should have abjectly apologized to everyone, maybe even comped everyone’s fees, or maybe given a voucher for a free trip next time — the trip was that bad. Our group finally bonded when we all got to our homes and started the process of writing our letters to Explore. We won’t ever travel with them again — and we had been devoted Explore travelers.

    Our next trip is with Intrepid and I’m looking forward to traveling with them, it will be our first time. Loved G-adventures in Egypt!

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Jen! I’m really happy you had a great trip in Egypt with G Adventures and that you’re looking forward to having a great experience with Intrepid. I’m almost certain that you will! ;)

      Sorry to hear about your experience with Explore. I had not heard of them so I’ll check them out to see what they’re all about.

      Cheers!

  38. Saleema says

    Hi, love reading the reviews, some great info here! Myself and the other half are planning to do the Gorilla Express trip with Intrepid in mid-Oct. The plan was to a similar trip with G Adventures (I hadn’t heard of Inteprid untl recently) but the dates we want to go are fully booked so the travel agent suggested Intrepid. Has anyone gone Gorilla Trekking in Uganda with Intrepid, or gone to East Africa with them? Its a basix camping tour for 8 days to and from Kampala. Have to make a decision by tomorrow! Perhaps if G Adventures is ‘better’ than we should look at other dates? Any info is welcome!
    Cheers!

    • says

      Hi Saleema –

      Maybe someone could give their experience with either G Adventures or Intrepid on the Gorilla trip or East Africa. While I haven’t done either specifically, I did the Kilimanjaro hike with G Adventures and they were superb! Again, I do vouch for them. Lately I’ve heard many travel bloggers vouch for intrepid on trips across East Africa and possibly even with the Gorillas is Uganda. But, should you choose between either company, I’m sure you’ll be in good hands and will most probably have a great trip and a great time.

      Maybe someone can share their firsthand experience?

      Hoep this helps!

      Cheers!
      Norbert

      • says

        Great blog! I’m looking to do Kili and Serengeti this August and am torn between the two companies – I have done multiple trips with both in the past in Central America, South America and SE Asia. You mentioned Intrepid is better in Africa yet you went with G Adventures….any reason for your choice??

  39. DP Ludwig says

    I’d have to say your group has a big influence on your experience.

    I’ve done three tours with G. The groups from the first two tours were okay, but the last one was where most of the group (about twelve) were twenty somethings from one country and only three or four were my age (40s, 50s) from elsewhere.

    It didn’t take long for a kind of clique to form and not that there was any tension or anything it is a bit of a downer when you don’t have a good mix of people. The guide and itinerary were okay I guess but if I had known beforehand the makeup of the group and knowing what I know now I’m not sure if I would do it again.

    Just my 2c.

    • says

      Hi Debra,
      It’s great to hear that you’re planning a Thailand trip – certainly a country that’s very close to Intrepid’s heart, since our first trip there was 25 years ago, plus it’s a fantastic destination for sailing. When you are considering our trips remember that many departures are guaranteed and if you’re travelling solo you don’t need to pay a single supplement, also all our trips are carbon offset and responsible travel is always front of mind. The sailing trips are in modern yachts that take up to 8 people and you can get involved in the actual sailing as much as you want, or you can sit back and let the crew take care of all that. You can see that previous travellers have rated our sailing trips 4.62 and higher out of 5. If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact help@intrepidtravel.com.
      Best wishes,
      Sue – Intrepid Travel.

    • says

      Hi Debra – Sorry for the late reply, but I believe Sue of Intrepid gave you a pretty good look on their side. As for me, I traveled Thailand with G Adventures (formerly Gap Adventures), and I had a great experience with them. I visited Thailand for the first time doing their island hopping tour, and I fell in love with the country thanks to my experience there.

  40. Bruce says

    Very helpful to be able to read the reviews. My wife and I have traveled with G adventures to Cuba, Peru and Tanzania. Last year we did New Zealand with Active New Zealand. They are another active travel company, more expensive that came with better accommodation and all meals. We are now looking at hiking in Nepal and I will look at G adventures, Intrepid and Active to see what these three have to offer. Are there other established active travel companies operating in this area?

    • Rk says

      Check out Babu’s Homestay in the Kathmandu Valley. You stay at his guesthouse in a Newari village, meet his family but he has western style facilities so it’s fairly comfortable. Also he can organise tour guides for you or help you independently travel in Nepal. He also leads hikes in the mountains as he used to be a hiking guide for many years. We’re still friends with him and his family since our trip. If you google Babu’s Homestay he’ll come up. Also check out the reviews on Trip Adviser. A more interesting option than a big tour company.

      We did Intrepid thru Jordan and Egypt and had a fabulous time. Feisel was our guide in Jordan and he was brilliant. Ahmed Badr was our Egyptian guide and he was truly wonderful – he may be with G now, I’m not sure. The hotels were basic and the transport options sometimes uncomfortable and long but the guides were incredibly helpful and made our trip easier. We had a few whingers on the trip complaining about bad food or lack of hot water but it’s the Middle East, not Europe! All part of the experience.

      We’re looking to do Peru and Bolivia with G or Intrepid (still deciding) this year. Hopefully we avoid this dodgy David guy ppl have complained about on this thread if we choose G who seem to have a depth of experience in Peru.

  41. Emily says

    Hi
    Great to read all these reviews, but unfortunately it still hasn’t helped me to decide whether to use G Adventures or Intrepid for a trip to East Africa.
    I am looking at the trips from Nairobi to Zanzibar (22-24 days) with the gorilla trek or looking at the trips that start and end from Nairobi (14 or 16 days) also with gorillas and then doing independent travel to Zanzibar after this.
    I have done a lot of independent travel in the past in Europe and Asia (Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka), and have also done an South west Africa tour with Kumuka back in 2007 which I really enjoyed but I was a lot younger (33 now), had a fantastic group and guide. It wasn’t alcohol focused and was full of like minded independent down to earth camping types..
    My concerns are whether there will be ‘independent time’(being quite independent), the tour guide (from reading the past reviews), and value for money.
    Any suggestions or experiences would be great
    Many thanks
    Emily

    • says

      Hi Emily –

      Sorry for the late reply. I did Kilimanjaro with G Adventures in 2012 and I had a really good experience with them. From my experience, traveling with both companies, I don’t think you’ll get as much independent time as it seems you will like. They do give you some free time, but it is mostly a morning, an afternoon, or a day in between in a place or two. I would recommend you take the tour that takes you to the Gorillas and or take you to other places that do require a guide, like Kilimanjaro and Serengeti, and do the rest on your own. I traveled Kenya, Tanzania, and a few more countries on my own and while it might be a bit of a hassle some times, it is totally possible and worth it, in my opinion. Do Zanzibar on your own, for sure! That’s one place where you will want to have free time to relax.

      Hope this helps!
      If you have any other questions, feel free to let me know.

      Cheers!
      Norbert

  42. Lisa Lowe says

    I’m interested in taking an Intrepid Vietnam tour this summer. I’m a single, 52 year old woman. Will there be others in my age group?

    • says

      Hi Lisa –

      While I can’t say whether there will be travelers of your age or not, from my experience, there is usually a couple, an independent traveler, or a family that ranges around your age. I do have to say that most travelers thens to be between early 20s and mid 30s, but there is always some variety.

      So far I’ve been lucky to have groups where almost everyone, if not everyone, gets along well… all ages included. (and to this day I’m still friends with many of them).

      This is a personal opinion, though… Vietnam is easy to backpack, so I believe most young backpackers will take the independent road to save money. I have a feeling that Intrepid’s Vietnam tour will have more 30+ travelers looking for a nice yet affordable vacation.

      If you want, email Intrepid and ask them the age range of the current travelers listed on the tour you want. I’m sure they’ll be happy to share that information. :)

    • says

      Hi Lisa,
      How exciting that you’re planning a trip to Vietnam. I work for Intrepid Travel and I just wanted to let you know that the majority of people on our trips travel solo and your age won’t make feel out of place. One of the things we hear most in feedback from travellers is that people loved the mix of ages and there’s a like-mindedness in Intrepid travellers that creates common ground. As a very broad guide, our Comfort style trips tend to appeal to more mature travellers, while Basix attract younger travellers due to the greater free time and lower price, and Intrepid Original falls in between, often with a great range of ages and nationalities.
      I hope this helps a little with your travel planning and don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like any more information.
      Best wishes,
      Sue

  43. Mike Wigal says

    Just last week I finished an Intrepid Indochina Loop. I’m 64, male, travelling alone. It was great! There was a nice mix of ages, from 19 to me. Last November I did a 30 day G Adventures trek in Southern Africa, I was double the age of almost everyone else, except my friend, who was with me. It was a wonderful trip. To my mind age difference doesn’t matter. It all depends upon your personality and willingness to meet new people. I’m not one for luxury travel, so G and Intrepid appeal to me most. Price wise the differences are marginal. Loved all the guides on each trip, although I will say the Intrepid guides seemed more in tune to responsible travel. That’s not to take anything away from the G guides, who were in their own ways great.

    Bottom line: Both companies are highly reputable and I would have no problem travelling with each.

  44. Sarah says

    I have spent many hours of research over the last week trying to narrow down from both of their websites my next trip. I traveled with Gap several years ago to Panama and I like the indigenous in with the local culture experience a lot. I hate big tours that segregate you from the locals. I’m interested in either a Mayan (including Mexico, Belize and Guatemala CGME) 11 day trip and I’m also looking at Thailand Island Hopping (ATTW) including Bankok. Both Interpid and G-Adventures have the comparable trips. Both companies have been good at answering my questions via email.

    I like both the social aspect of a small group that has mainly non-couples or a good mix of solos and pairs (I’m a single middle age fit traveler) as well has being independent and having time to myself. I looked into a singles trip operator but they can too big (30-50 singles) and just not my cup of tea.

    Has anyone been on one of those 2 tours with either Gap or Interpid?

    • says

      Hi Sarah –

      I actually did the Thailand Island Hopping tour back in 2010 with G Adventures. I’ll honestly say that I had a great experience with them and personally, one of the best things I got from the tour, besides visiting beautiful beaches and islands, was making very good friends out of some of the other travelers. I guess that tour might have changed a bit since I did it, but based on my experience, I recommend it.

      Coincidentally, while I didn’t do the whole Mayan tour with Intrepid, I managed to travel a bit with them in Belize with a tour group that was doing the whole Mayan tour. I can only speak about my experience in Belize, which again, was very good and would recommend it.

      On both tours, the average age of the group was in the lower 20’s, though there were 30 and 40+ singles and couples (a minority, though). The average size of groups was around 14, I believe,so its not too small nor too big.

      Again, both companies are very good in what they do, so you will not go wrong with them. In the end, the choice will come from what you prioritize the most – whether it is the route they offer, the cost, the type of experience, or other.

      Hope this helps! If you have any other question, let me know.

      Norbert

  45. Angela says

    Great topic, Norbert. Thanks for the post.
    I’ve done 3 trips with G Adventures and had wonderful experiences each time: the Inca Trail, Kilimanjaro, and a gorilla trek in Uganda. Everything that needed to be taken care of was taken care of by the “guides” or CEOs, though one of them ended up completely drunk during a post-tour celebration. None of the trips were absolutely perfect, but I had a fantastic time each trip and have recommended them to many friends. I’d have no hesitation with booking a G tour again, until I read all the comments. Hmm… perhaps it’s time to try Intrepid?

    I’m looking to do some trekking in Nepal. Any suggestions on who has the better track record here? I’ve also heard before that G Adventures contracts their Nepal tours or Everest treks to Intrepid. Is this true? Would certainly help my decision making if it were.

    • says

      Thanks, Angela!

      I still think G Adventures is really good (based on my experience), but its also good to try Intrepid since I think they are on the same level of quality. Again, the reviews you read here are all based on personal experiences, which is good and it is something I like, but it can vary drastically for you if you take the same tour.

      On Nepal, unfortunately I can’t say anything about G Adventures contracting Intrepid for their tours. I don’t know anything about that. But, I do know (based on stories from friends who have done it) that Intrepid is really good for Nepal, especially Everest Base Camp.

    • Mike says

      Angela, I can tell you for a fact that G does not sub-contract with Intrepid for Nepal (or any tours so far as I know)

  46. Nikki says

    Hi Norbert!
    This is a great review, and the comments of all are extremely helpful! I am currently trying to book a trip around Argentina/Chile to explore Patagonia. GAdventures offers quite an extensive option with their Patagonia Dreaming active tour. I also have been considering Intrepids Patagonia Wilderness tour. GAdventure’s active offers a little more, but I’m a little concerned by the reviews above about tour guides and having a negative experience.. Also, have you participated in on of their ‘active’ tours? Any thoughts of feedback?
    Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Nikki –

      I haven’t done a Patagonia tour so far (still on my bucket list), but I have done G Adventures’ “active” tours. What they mean with active is that you should be capable of doing some mild “exercise,” like hiking, or go through some activities like camping, sailing, or outdoor sports. It depends on the trip, but in general it is not just a leisure trip, it requires some activity from you. But, they are never extreme, so people from all physical conditions are fine doing them. It’s more about what you want to do on your vacation; relax and “do nothing” or spend it actively.

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