CHOOSING A TOUR OPERATOR

Choosing a tour operator: Travelling to new places is one of the most enriching life experiences one can have. Getting to encounter the culture, food, natural resources and people is a moving experience. Africa is one of the top travel destinations for the curious traveller who seeks authentic wildlife, culture and scenery.

To undertake an African Safari – especially when you haven’t been to Africa before is very daunting. however, many people still go on safari and confess that they wouldn’t change the experience for anything else. Now the question becomes, how do you go about it?

The focus of this article is helping you choose a tour operator to handle your travel planning. First, we shall look at why it is a good idea to use a tour operator, and then we shall dive into those things to look out for. Given that we work in East Africa and specifically in Uganda and Rwanda, some examples might point there but we trust that you can use this information even beyond East Africa.

Let us start by looking at why you should decide to GO with a tour operator.

SHOULD YOU USE A TOUR OPERATOR?

 

Most people don’t like using tour operators because they are trying to keep the costs low. This is a very understandable concern. We think that there are better ways to save money without compromising the quality of your safari. We have a whole article about saving your costs on a Ugandan Safari that you can read for some great insights.

We believe that using a tour operator (such as ourselves) could actually save you money, time and restless nights. The knowledge and experience of a tour operator are what you pay for. The tour/safari operator you to plan and stay within budget by doing any/all of the following;

  • Picking you at the airport and dropping you off when you are done with your safari.
  • Transportation to various places and activities of your choosing.
  • Booking your accommodation and meals.
  • Booking of permits and passes to the various activities/places.
  • providing you with driver/guides who know so much about what you have come to see.
  • And, General advice about other things.

All (/any) of these services are handled by the tour company, and all you have to do as you plan is specify your personal preferences as well as the schedule and budget. Because it is the business of tour operators to do all these things on a daily basis, they are very efficient at it. More efficient than if you did it yourself. And that is why we think it is more valuable for you to have all of this handled by the experts. It is like plumbing – it is better done by the people who do it each and every day.

Now that we have briefly looked at why you should use a tour operator, let’s move to what you should look out for as you choose one.

CHOOSING A TOUR OPERATOR

We have already seen why it is a good idea to use a tour operator to plan your travels. Whether you are coming to East Africa or any other places, this section should give you a better insight into what to look for in a tour operator. We hope to help you easily sift through the various options and make a good choice.

This is not to make you choose us over our other Ugandan tour operators. It is an honest insight that should help you pick a tour operator (even if it is not us) that will deliver for your an incredible travel experience.

We know that there are lots of companies out there all promising you great value. The ultimate choice is up to you – to choose whom you will trust.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Experienced and very informed.

Every job requires some experience in the same or related field, so is the tourism industry. When travelling miles from home, you need to know that you are putting your trust and life in the hands of someone that knows exactly what they are doing.

The experience comes in handy when you meet unexpected situations and the way he/she handles them and gets you through without wasting time. The correspondences you have prior to your travel should give you a sense of how informed your tour operator is about the business. They should also inform you of the state of affairs in the country and the best places that will enrich and meet your expectations.

You will learn of this through your interaction with the company. You should feel free to ask any questions you might have. Like we mentioned above, the advice is part of the work you are paying for.

2. Do a little research.

Look up the tour agencies in the place you are planning to visit. Take the time to learn a little bit about them. This can be through public reviews, social media or their website. Review and booking websites like TripAdvisor and Safari bookings are commonly used by African tour operators.

Checking the websites of the tour company can also be a good way to see if they will ‘do it’ for you. You can also ask your friends and online community (quora, social media, Reddit, forums) for personal recommendations.

By taking the time to do this little bit of research, you will appreciate the power of the internet and the people on it. Your little research should give you some good options or at least narrow down the sea of tour operators to a couple of handful of companies.

Your final decision is really up to you. We recommend that you do some decent research and then follow your gut. Research and gut feeling usually work better than rushed decisions. Someone trying to rush my decision is usually a bad sign.

3. Passion and drive.

It is very easy for people (and companies) to say how passionate and driven they are. You have to look past one’s words.

While you are doing your ‘little research’ mentioned above, be on the lookout for passion. Not the word passion. As you learn about a company, you will know by instinct that these people really care about the work they do.

When you get in touch with a company, then you can be able to feel this even more. In your email exchanges, you should be able to gauge this ‘passion and drive’.

Yes, it is very hard to know how passionate and driven someone is. It is more about your gut feeling than your logical deduction.

You should ensure to look out for someone more interested in meeting your needs rather than in how they’ll benefit from your visit. Someone who is professional and willing to provide all the necessary information for you to make an informed decision. They should make you feel welcome even before you set off, this will make you feel comfortable and at ease.

Once again, this is very hard to gauge but you will just feel it.

4. Locally raised.

Here you are looking for a company that has more on-ground experience in providing all the services you want. A local company will know so much about the activities you intend to take part in, and how best you can enjoy your time.

A local tour operator also knows and abides by the local laws and regulations – which means they will guide you in following such laws of society. This even includes respecting of cultures, beliefs and other unspoken rules. And if they are in wrong, you can hold them accountable by going to the authorities.

Using a local tour operator can also save you some money. Using a middle man will increase your costs slightly because you are employing the operating services of two companies.

5. First Impressions and feedback.

Remember you are digitally communicating with the tour agency before you even make up your mind. Kind of scouring to see what best fits your needs and budget.

First impressions matter a lot, how the person responds in the initial communications says so much about them. When you reach out and the tour operator’s response is less, not friendly, there is no telling how the rest of your communication will go – and what it will lead to. On that same note, delayed or ‘half-baked’ responses are a bad sign on poor time management.

While a quick response is great for putting your mind at ease, the right response is the important piece of the puzzle. Make sure your tour operator of choice gives you the information you want.

6. Business License.

You don’t want to get coned out of your hard-earned money by some ‘fake’ company. We also don’t that to happen to you. Companies operating with a business licence are also bound by the laws that protect the money and trust of their prospective customers.

In Uganda, the tourism sector is guided by the Tourist Agents (Licensing) Act 1968, The Government of Uganda Tourist Agents (Licensing) Act 1972 and the Hotel Act 1964. They set regulations to be adhered to by the tour operators in the country.

Every tour agency is required to apply for an investment License which is awarded by the Tourism Licensing Committee after thorough analysis. When planning to pick out a tour guide, be sure to request them to send you a scanned copy of their Tour Operators License before you make any financial payments. This is to build credibility and avoid cases of being scammed.

In Uganda (and any place really), you can go to the government websites for the company and business registration. There should be a form for you to verify this on your own. If you find any trouble, just contact them and ask for assistance in the matter. For Uganda, visit the website for the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and search for the business by name.

7. Tour packages and pricing.

Keenly look at the itinerary forwarded to you and the prices attached to ensure you are not being cheated. On the other hand, you can compare with the rates of the other tour companies for similar packages.

Most tour agencies have standard already made safari packages that you can look at and choose. If these standard packages don’t suit your wishes, just ask for a package which will match you to your desired activities and attractions.

Be sure to discuss in detail with the guide on the best way to attain both your goals and still be able to stay within reasonable price ranges.

8. Group size.

This is something to always put in consideration from your part. With the many tour agencies out there, you will need to end up with one that can handle the group size of your tour companions.

Some are not capable of travelling and handling big numbers of people and are more effective with a couple or a small family. If you are travelling with 20 people, ensure that the tour agency you are selecting specializes in this kind of groups.

Bigger groups might necessitate bigger modes of transportation, extensive accommodation arrangements as well as more than one companion driver/guide.

You do not want to be in the wild with someone who isn’t good at handling big numbers. This could lead to subpar experiences.

CONCLUSION.

Some of the points we have shared are very straight forward and easy to determine. Some other points, such as passion and drive are very hard to determine when you don’t face to face with someone, but they are not impossible. Overall, you will have to follow a combination of logic and gut instinct.

In the event that you are planning to go on safari with a group of family or friends, you should involve them and ask for their input. Their friends’ friends might provide some helpful insight.

As we only handle Safaris in Uganda and Rwanda, we would be thrilled if you choose to tour with us. Be that as it may, we want you to make the right decision for you.

Whether you are coming to East African or going to the other parts of Africa, we trust that this information can help you along with your planning process. If you have extra queries, just reach out and we shall try to help however we can. Even if you want us to recommend a tour operator in areas we don’t work, we can connect you with one of our many trusted partners.

Finally, two favours to ask. You don’t really have to do them but it would be nice. First, you can share this article on social media such that your friends and community can also find it easily. Lastly, you can recommend us to your friends and family members who are looking to visit Uganda.

Thank you very much for taking the time, and we hope this information was of great value. Cheers.

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Who We Are

Exclusive African Safaris Ltd is a Uganda-based company with 15+ years of experience creating great holidays in Uganda and Rwanda.We know what it takes to meet and exceed your expectations.

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Exclusive African Safaris Ltd

Imani Complex, First Floor,
Suite L2L, Plot 6522.
Mulawa – Kira, Wakiso – Uganda

+256 772 887 484
info@exclusiveafricansafaris.com

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