What to consider when choosing your trip

What to consider when choosing your overland trip

There are a number of things to consider when deciding which trip, or company is right for you.  Below I’ve listed some of the considerations.

Trip Cost

The section on ‘How much does an overland trip cost?  goes into greater detail about establishing the cost so I won’t do it here, but suffice to say, it’s important to establish what is included and what is excluded from your trip.

Duration and Location

How much time do you have to travel and where do you want to go – and to what level of depth?  Some overland trips can only give you a taste of a country.  You can’t expect to go through 4 countries in 3 weeks and come away with an in-depth understanding of those countries.  You need to be realistic at what can be covered.

Company running the trip

It’s worthing establishing if the company owns their own vehicles or if they subcontract their trips. I’ve been on a trip that did this, I wouldn’t say it caused an issue, but I went with a well-known company because I thought they’d have the finances to manage their trucks well and keep them in good repair.  The truck was fine, but I wasn’t overwhelmed.  Find out where the company is based.  This could reflect on what protection you are entitled to if they fall into financial difficulties.

Hop on/Hop Off

Overland_truck_china_camping_yaks

Overland truck in China, with friendly yaks!

Some trips you travel with the same group for the whole duration, whereas others are different legs and you can have people join or leave at intervals throughout the trip.  There are good and bad points, but it’s something to consider.

Season

If you’re on a reasonably long overland trip, say more than 3 months, you may find that it is impossible to get the best season in every country you travel through. So if there is one country in particular that you are aching to see and enjoy and it’s out of season, bear this in mind.

Vehicle

Does the vehicle have seatbelts and windows?  Yes, not all truck have glass windows, some have plastic sheets.  Though I think these have now been barred from driving in South Africa.  The company you’re booking with should supply information about the truck on their website, read it and take a good look at the photos.  The cost of the trip can reflect the age, quality and comfort of the vehicle.

Comfort Rating

You’re travelling in a truck.  A truck.  Converted into a vehicle to carry people.  I’ve yet to come across an overland truck with air-conditioning.  I’m not saying they don’t exist but in hot countries you’ll have the windows open and it’s often very dusty too, so expect to end the day bathed in a fine coating of dust!

It’s worth considering how well you’ll cope sitting down for many hours and on bumpy roads.  When I ‘overlanded’ through Central Asia I was recovering from fairly major surgery.  I can’t say the bumpy roads through Uzbekistan were the greatest days of my life, but I was able to sit at the front of the truck where it was considerably less bouncy.  As a group, we rotated seats every few days.

How will you cope with long drive days? They are inescapable and you may find some days of nothing more than 12 -14 hours of driving.  Most trucks don’t travel in the dark due to poor road conditions and safety, so this means many early starts – particularly so in Africa.  It is possible to stand on the truck so you don’t have to sit all day, and there will be stops for ‘comfort breaks’ and food.

Group Size and Age

Some companies specify age, nearly all will specify group size.  It’s worth noting the minimum sized group they’ll travel with and finding out how likely this is.  I travelled in Iran on a group trip (not by overland truck) and the minimum number needed for the trip to take place was 1!  It could have been a very lonely trip. As it turned out, there were only 5 of us in total, which was ok, but no room to escape any fellow travellers you didn’t gel with.  

Also, worth noting when the trip gets confirmed, some have a cut off point around 56 days before departure. Make sure it still leaves you with enough time to get any vaccinations you need.

Camping vs Hotels

Check out the ratio of camping to hotel accommodation, and whether it all takes place in certain countries or is over by a specific part of the trip.  For example, you might be on a 4 month trip with 50% camping, but that camping might take place all within the first 6 weeks. This can also impact on the cost as you will, most likely, be responsible for meals when you’re not camping.

Type of camping

If you are camping, is it mainly ‘bush camping’ i.e.; off the beaten track with no facilities or is it in organised campsites with facilities?  Each has its merits and whilst a warm shower is always a welcome change when bush camping, you can’t beat being out in the wild with no one around. That’s what it’s all about! Well, for me it is.

Involvement in day to day duties

What are you expected to do on the trip? In the section ‘truck life’, the types of chores undertaken are covered, and you need to consider how involved you want to be.  I’ve done overland travel where, for not a lot more money, the crew put up our tents, took them down, did all the cooking and washing up.  This was bliss as I was working full time and only able to go away for several weeks. So it made it a relaxing trip.  However, on many trips the level of involvement can vary.  Will you be expected to do food shopping?  Are you willing to do this?  Most trips you’d be expected to work as part of a group preparing and cooking food on a rota, it’s all part of the overland experience.

Political Stability

This is all very much a personal choice.  Of course, I’m going to suggest you look at your government’s travel advice but it’s up to you to make a judgement.  It’s also worth looking at what the advice is for your own country and seeing if it’s much different from where you’re going.  Contact your travel insurance company as well.  For a long time, Iran was ‘all but essential travel’ for UK citizens but I spoke to True Traveller, the insurance company I was using at the time, and they were happy to insure me so long as I didn’t go near the borders.

Heath & Fitness

I’ve travelled with a variety of people, or all age ranges.  I was humbled (and embarrassed ) to be beaten to the top of a sand dune in Namibia by a lady who had 35  years on me! She was a very sporty 72-year-old.   So age isn’t necessarily an indication of fitness!

It’s up to you to decide what you want to do and what pace you want to do it at. After all, it’s your trip but the type of activities and pace of the trip can also give you an indication of the age group.  If you have specific medical conditions that mean you’d need treatment in an emergency it’s worth considering this, not just for you, but also for your fellow travel companions.

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PLEASE NOTE

Much of the information and advice expressed on this website is the personal opinion of the writer. If you choose to follow any advice you do so at your own risk with no recourse to the writer or Adventures in Overland.

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