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Travel beyond Europe - Good tour companies?

We've traveled in Europe with RS, independently, and with a small company. We're looking beyond Europe and are wondering what companies best replicate the RS experience. We're looking for small groups of less than 25 people, not being overscheduled, especially with captive "shopping opportunities", and local guides. We're looking for comfortable accommodations and local restaurants, not luxury hotels and touristy buffets.

We've traveled with a small company in the Galapagos and liked it, and went to Oaxaca with GAdventures and enjoyed that, too.

I've heard of Overseas Adventure Travel, National Geographic, and Gate One Travel. I'm looking for info on companies that offer good value and experience. Please share any insight into tour companies you like and their strengths and weaknesses, such as cost, group size, and experience.

I know good travel is subjective, and one person's preferences and budget are different from another's. With feedback I'll still need to research my options. Your insights are appreciated.

Happy travels,

Posted by
5156 posts

Hi, Scott.

One caveat about Overseas Adventure Travel (commonly called OAT) is that I have not yet taken a trip with them yet, but have heard so many good things about them here that I signed up for a tour to Egypt and Jordan with them in early 2025. So far everything has been great.

Some of the comments I've heard here is that their guides are really good. The Egypt/Jordan tour attracted me because it's a very small group (from 8-16 people total). I also liked that they were touring on the Nile with the small Egyptian dahabeya boats, rather than the larger cruise ships. You can have them take care of the flight arrangements if you want. And they do not charge a single supplement fee for many cruises (although this may not apply to you). I'm also including a few other posts that discuss them.

Lastly, here is an article I read that seems to really give a decent viewpoint of various tour companies. It's limited to ones who travel to Egypt, but I thought it had some good information it it.

Posted by
14150 posts

Odysseys Unlimited.

Small group, native tour directors, better hotels than RS, bellman service so you can bring any size bag you want, excellent meals mostly with wine or beer included, no shopping stops. Local guides.

The prices qouted on their webpage include airfare but you can call them for land only prices.

Excellent customer service. I've traveled with them four times.

Posted by
7203 posts

We have had a great experience with Gate 1 Travel.
Also, for a safari in Kenya and/or Tanzania we loved Good Earth Tours ( a firm in Tanzania).
In the past, we have enjoyed Trafalgar (New Zealand), that was excellent, but a bit pricey.
We had an excellent tour of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, Peru with Peru Agency Tours.

We did some great travel tours in Russia and China with a firm that is out of business.

For a great four day Canadian Rockies tour from Vancouver, Key West Tours was super and the price was great.

Posted by
2085 posts

Not me, but two different friends of mine swear by Natural Habitat Adventures, depending upon where you might want to travel.

Posted by
84 posts

Thanks, everyone for your input. It's very useful. There are a lot of companies out there and a lot of ways to travel. This gives me a head start when evaluating future trips.

Posted by
5156 posts

Scott, there are a few tour companies that have been started by former Rick Steves guides, and all have gotten good reviews here. Sarah Murdoch is one - she now runs Adventures with Sarah and has tours all over the world. Another one is Imprint Travel started by Reid Coen. Seymour Tours with Mark Seymour is another one of these - his tours are mainly in the UK and France, but several members here have taken them and rave about them.

All three are smaller tour companies and use the same type of tour philosophy as Rick Steves, with small groups, lots of physical activity, you carry your own luggage and so on.

Posted by
429 posts

Gate 1 is a good company. However, the only tours they run that are guaranteed to be a “small group” (max of 22) are their “Discovery” tours. Their other tours can run to as many as 40 people.

Posted by
2552 posts

I've done 3 small group trips with Road Scholar and like their offerings. They have larger groups as well so make sure you sort by group size if you search their site. They have tons of small group tours. I like Road Scholar's pacing. They tend to spend more nights in most cities vs. other tour groups.

Hi Scott! If you're considering a trip to South America, I would recommend Chile, it offers a wealth of diverse landscapes, cultural experiences, and delicious food and drink. I highly recommend checking out They offer a range of itineraries that cover different regions of Chile, such as Patagonia, the Atacama Desert, and Santiago.

And for the restaurant, you can review this link Boragó has consistently been rated as one of the top restaurants not just in Chile, but in all of South America. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
2117 posts

I haven't traveled with them, but just correcting the link to Imprint Tours cited above:

I've also traveled with Gate1 and GAdventures - not the RS experience, but I primarily wanted them for logistics/transport and they served that purpose. I had very good local guides on the GAdventures tour in Ecuador and Peru, the company has a pretty big presence in S. America. There was good communication from the company ahead of and during the trip, and things that went awry (like canceled flights) were outside their control. We had 20ish people in the group, which I think was probably unusually low. GAdventures uses a module system for tours, so your group size fluctuates depending on which tour you pick and how long you're gone. So for my Ecuador part of the tour we had 20 ish people, but only 10 of us continued on to the Peru portion. Pros and cons to that if you're wanting a cohesive group. One pro was we shed some of the difficult personalities after the first part (but con, we picked up new ones). Hotels were decent quality and well located for the most part. For solo travelers their single supplement was high compared to trip cost.

The guide for Gate1 in Vietnam was great, but the group size and composition (close to 40 travelers, many newbies due to the Groupon offer for the tour) made it impossible for him to excel at his craft. Their hotels were business style and typically not located in center of town (though you know this ahead of time as they disclose the specifics before you book). Gate1 uses the same module aspect as GAdventures - in Bangkok we had two people, Cambodia five, and Vietnam 40. Their single supplement was more affordable.

Short story, I'd use either company again, but it would depend on a number of factors that would be trip-dependent and based on comparisons to other options available at the time.

Posted by
168 posts

I just returned from my third Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) tour, this one "Crossroads of the Adriatic" through countries of the former Yugoslavia, and I like them a lot. I think they offer what your message describes. Group size maximum 16 on most tours, free single supplement readily available also on most. Impressions of the others you mention, with caveat that I have not myself traveled with them:
Gate 1: I saw something of their operations as their groups were frequently in the same hotels as our OAT, and their guides (as ours did) posted daily itineraries on the bulletin board, which were fun to compare. As stated by other commenters, their groups are larger, often at least twice the size of OAT. Gate 1 groups tend to have more of a mix of travelers from different countries, for better or worse. OAT focuses on the U.S. market and virtually all OAT travelers are Americans. The equivalent Balkan Gate 1 tours seemed to be a bit faster paced (less time in each city) and have relatively more "optional" (i.e., extra charge) activities than OAT, compared to those included in the tour price (which of course you can skip if you want, but have paid for, so most don't). The guides seemed equivalent -- ours was great, but they are independent contractors who often work with different companies, so she had done Gate 1 tours also, and knew the ones doing the Gate 1 tours we encountered. But obviously you'll get more personalized attention from your guide in a group of 16 than in one of 40.
National Geographic: With "name brand" tours like these (or Smithsonian, college alumni affiliation, etc.) I think you pay a LOT for that brand name. I've seen the Nat Geo brochures for Egypt, for example, which I did with OAT, and it looked like they charge at least twice as much for what appears to be more or less the same thing in every important respect (accommodations, tour length, activities). These brand name tours seem often to have a U.S. expert (such as a college professor) accompanying the group in addition to local guide, but frankly, there has never been a time on any of my OAT tours that I felt that I would have needed or wanted to be guided by a U.S. professor instead of, or in addition to our incredibly knowledgeable in-country guides, or had any desire to pay extra for that.

Posted by
1495 posts

We don't usually do multi-day tours, but we did in Namibia. We did a private, custom safari with Tracking Namibia Safaris. This was recommended to us by someone on the Safari Talk forums who had done two trips with the owner.

It was absolutely wonderful, and wasn't any more expensive than doing a group trip. The owner, Francois, designed our itinerary based on the list I gave him, finding our accommodations for us, and finding savings for us in the process. The lovely thing about being on a private safari was that we could choose how long to spend at a sighting (within reason, of course), and sometimes choose our route, based on Francois' description (i.e. longer and more scenic, or shorter and also scenic but slightly less so).

Tracking Namibia also goes to Botswana, and, I think, the Victoria Falls area.

So, I guess I didn't exactly answer your question. It's not exactly a Rick Steve's style experience, but it's excellent.

Posted by
31563 posts

I don't want to knock anybody, and I have no personal experience, and if I have misremembered somebody will correct me; but with the new resurgence of the scourge of covid and stories in several of the forums here about people having to cancel or drop off tours because of catching covid; isn't OAT one of the companies which we read a lot about here on the Forums a couple of years ago because of their reluctance to refund in that case?

Posted by
168 posts

Our originally scheduled OAT Egypt tour was in 2020. We didn't ask for a refund, but rescheduled it for a year later, which worked out very well. Regarding those who get COVID (or have another medical problem) on the tour and have to drop out and/or incur additional expense, I think their policies are the same as most companies, which is that that's what travel insurance is for (which they sell as an add-on, or you can buy your policy separately). One person did get COVID on one of my OAT tours, and while I don't know the financial details, I do know the guide and their other staff worked very hard to make sure she was well taken care of in terms of medical treatment, accommodations and onward travel.

Posted by
5156 posts

Good to know, Slate! And Nigel, before I booked my tour, I scoured this forum for mention of OAT to check reviews and so on. I didn't see anything about what you were talking about.

Posted by
2552 posts

@Mardee - I do recall that there were stories about tough refunds from OAT. I also have seen tons of stories about poor airfare connections and routing if you let OAT book. But I think poor airfare choices are a problem when any tour company books your flight.

I am giving OAT a try later on this month for a Baltics tour. It's my first trip with them. I'll post a review at some point, I am sure:)