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Anyone travel with Discover Tours by Gate 1?

I'm a very satisfied Rick Steves tour customer, having been on 5 tours so far. But I'd like to expand my travel horizons to South America and Southeast Asia. I know that Gate 1 gets mixed reviews... on the upside, the tours provide good bang for the buck. On the downside, tour groups sizes are large and tipping is annoying. But it seems that they have an offshoot called Discovery Tours by Gate 1, which limits group size to 20 or so, making it more appealing to Rick Steves fan like me. Has anyone ever taken a Discovery Tour?

For context, I am a non-retired single female traveler, so I appreciate the safety, camaraderie, and convenience of guided tour travel, especially in countries where going solo would be more difficult.

Posted by
2087 posts

I haven't done the Discovery series, but I did travel with Gate 1 to SE Asia (Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam). I am a similarly situated traveler (solo, non-retired). I chose Gate 1 specifically because of the itinerary (was meeting a friend living in Northern Vietnam) and the reasonable cost. I essentially considered the tour my transportation/hotel infrastructure but was pleasantly surprised that tour guides were quite good. If there had been a Discovery option for what I needed, I would have picked it instead.

The one notable thing about the regular Gate 1 tours is they sometimes combine tours - for example, for my SE Asia tour, I was one of two on the Bangkok leg, one of five on the Cambodia leg, and one of about 30 on the Vietnam leg. I don't believe they do that on the Discovery tours, but you might want to ask. The largest segment of the tour was large because of a Groupon deal - and many who took advantage of the deal were not seasoned travelers. There were several days with free time, and a surprising number of people would not leave the hotel unless with the guide/group. I was one of the few who planned my own free time excursions (I thought the tour excursions were not cost/benefit worthy). The single supplement was reasonable, and I would definitely recommend you look into that as an option.

All-in-all it was a fine experience, but in no way comparable to a RS tour. I believe others on this site may recommend more Rick-like tour companies. I decided to use GAdventures for my next trip to Ecuador and Peru. I'm looking forward to comparing the two companies.

Posted by
333 posts

I took the Gate 1 Russian River Cruise- not a Discovery Tour. I was quite pleased. I recommend doing every "optional" excursion that you can- as those were some of our favorite things to do. Does it compare to a Rick Steves Tour? No. Rick sets himself apart with his smaller tours, no tipping and support of those quaint, quirky and fun local hotels. As mentioned, with Gate 1 you deal with tipping and larger crowds and sometimes sharing people on other tours. However, the tour experience itself was excellent, the guides were also excellent and my daughter and I had a fantastic time on our tour. We always felt safe, we made several lifelong friends from several different countries (our cruise was 5 years ago) and still chat on Facebook with our guide!


Posted by
1204 posts

We've never travelled by Gate 1 so can't comment on them but for the areas you want to visit I'd recommend you checked out Explore and if wanting slightly more adventurous trips, KE Adventure holidays. Both are British (actually not sure Explore are any more, as they sold out a few years ago) but they have US agents and I've been on trips with both where US citizens have been involved. Certainly the majority of the group's have been Brits, but f you can put up with us, it's a good option!

We travelled through Mexico - just the two of us - with Journeys Latin America ((I think!) and they were good too!

Posted by
4074 posts

Have not done a Discovery Tour with Gate 1, but we really enjoyed the regular Gate 1 tour we took this year and would travel with them again if we liked the itinerary.

Posted by
13187 posts

I've not done Gate 1 nor have I traveled to South America or Asia. However, I have traveled with Road Scholar on 5 international trips (4 in UK and 1 in France) and have been pleased. Their tours are comparable to Rick's tours in the no tipping/no shopping/excellent guides/smaller groups. Rick's tours are my default but I go with Road Scholar if they offer a tour itinerary he doesn't offer. There is slightly more hand-holding on the Road Scholar tours such as if you book airfare with them they will pick you up at the airport.

They do have a number of itineraries in South America and SE Asia.

If you have questions about a tour I encourage you to call Road Scholar instead of using their online chat. I've found the people online have sort of set answers to give and that I've gotten more thorough and accurate information on the phone.

Posted by
1540 posts

I have done tours with all 3 (RS, Gate1, Discovery) and liked them all.
For the price/coverage/hotels/guides........ I now prefer Gate1.
I am a single female traveler - but sometimes go with friends on these tours.
(we had a group of 11 friends that went on a trip to India/Nepal with Gate1)
All 3 of these companies have: conveniently located hotels, nice clean modern buses, wonderful guides, interesting sites (Gate 1/Discovery do sometimes offer optional add-on tours for a small fee)
When I go on tours as a single - I always make new friends and feel included in all the activities. Just finished 2 weeks in Japan with Gate 1.

Posted by
429 posts

I am leaving tomorrow on a tour of Myanmar and Laos with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). I have not travelled with them before, but friends have reported good things. Their groups are 16 or fewer (mine will be 14 people) and they attract many solo travelers because they have no single supplement (although spaces for solos might be limited in some cases.) It looks like my group has 3 couples, the rest singles like myself. I will try to remember to report back after the trip!

I have also heard good things about Gate 1, but never travelled with them.

Posted by
3551 posts

I too have taken RS tours and Gate 1, but not the Discovery Tour.
I did not find the tipping a prob. I just used the suggested amount and planned it aHead with envelopes.
Also while our group was somewhT bigger than RS, frankly it was not noticed by me. I still had plenty of xtra rm on the bus.
Also the hotels were nice and comfortable with vg breakfast.