Introduction to Overland Tours
A History of Overland Tours
If you're considering an overland adventure, you'll be taking part in a time honoured tradition dating back as far as Marco Polo. The idea of overlanding started in the spirit in exploration and discovery. It was founded by adventurous people that wanted to push their understanding of the world to new boundaries and see what lay beyond their own backyard.
As a form of travel, overland tours took off in popularity in the 60s and 70s with the creation of the hippie trail from Europe to the exotic east. Air travel was still prohibitively expensive, so young people took to the road in droves, in brightly-coloured combi vans, buses, cars and motorbikes to explore the enigmatic cultures of Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and India. This lead to the founding of the first overland tour companies, running coach services for the adventurous. The era of the hippie trail came to a close with the coming of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, but the yearning for discovery of the world's cultures remained in many travellers and new routes began to open up.
Overland in Africa has grown in popularity and continues to be one of the most cost-effective and convenient ways of travelling around the African continent. Some choose to take months or years out of their life and travel independently in modified Land Rover Defenders, but for the vast majority, booking some sort of Africa trip with an overland tour operator is the preferred option. Overland travel has taken off in other parts of the world as well, especially those with large open spaces to cover by vehicle like South America.
Overland Tours today – what's it really like?
A far cry from the early days of overland travel where there was no internet, no guide books and very little in the way of organised tours, travellers can now travel in the relative luxury of custom-built overland trucks with tour companies pre-arranging the logistics for their trip. While you are no longer required to 'rough it' like back in the day, overland tours still require an adventurous mind-set and a willingness to involve yourself, both with the local people and your fellow travellers.
Overland tours require participation. As a member of a small overland group, you help with cooking and buying supplies when necessary and put up and take down your own tent. Most tours include a mixture of camping interspersed with hotels or you may have the option to upgrade locally if you want a night or two sleeping in a proper bed. Food is often bought at local markets and cooked at the camp site. Fresh, local produce including fresh fruit, vegetables and meat is readily available and there's generally plenty of it.
Travelling with an Overland Group
The advantage to overland travel is that it tends to attract people from varying backgrounds with a similar mind-set. You'll likely find the people on your trip to be open, interested in the culture and lifestyle of your destination, and keen to share a travel story or two around the camp fire. There are a variety of ages coming along on overland tours – adventure is a mind-set not reserved exclusively for the young, only the young at heart! Those travelling on an overland tour tend to be in their twenties and thirties, with some in their forties and fifties and above. Most travellers are from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Solo travellers will often book on an overland tour as it is a cost-effective way of travelling alone and for the security and social scene provided by travelling in a group.
The Overland Truck
While it may not seem that important from the comfort of your home, your overland vehicle is an essential consideration when choosing an overland tour. A high-quality, well-maintained overland truck built by a reputable transport company will ensure a smooth ride when you're on the road. New vehicles cut down on travel times, carbon emissions and have modern suspension and air brakes making your journey more comfortable. You'll be grateful for all the mechanical bells and whistles on those big travel days through Africa! Our vehicles are designed by us and custom-built by Mercedes Benz and we have one of the newest fleets on the road in Africa at present. For more information on our Overland Trucks visit our Expedition Vehicles page.
Choosing your Overland Tour
Choosing an itinerary can be a bit like trying to choose your favourite ice cream flavour – they all look so good!! If you're limited by how much time off you can take for your overland tour, or if you're working with a tight budget, there are overland trips as short as 10 days. Alternatively, if you're planning a long trip, the longest overland itinerary is six months and completely circumnavigates the South American continent. A good place to start is to think about a highlight you really want to see – the Inca Trail, Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, or taking a safari in the Serengeti National Park for example. Then look at how much time you have and what tour fits with your plans. Another consideration is time of year. If you can only take time off work during certain months, look at what's happening during those months – for instance November to February is perfect for visiting Patagonia, August and September are typically when the wildebeest herds return to the Masai Mara from the Great Migration. If you need help, contact our travel experts and talk your plans over with one of our brilliant staff!
Travel Styles – Overland Expeditions vs Budget Expeditions
We have two tour styles that travel on our overland vehicles – Overland Expeditions in Africa and South America and Budget Expeditions (South America only). Both include a mix of camping and hotels (and hostels on Budget Expeditions) and include all your food whilst camping. Both are adventurous and require travellers to participate in the shopping, cooking and setting up of camp. The main differences are Budget Expeditions is 18 to 35, there are no included excursions and there is a local fund to pay in to on day one of the tour. Overland Expeditions is open age, includes excursions (see individual tour dossiers for details of included excursions) and there is no local fund to pay. Both tour styles are designed to offer best value for money depending on what type of traveller you are. Which overland tour style suits you will depend on where you are travelling, whether you want to travel with young people only or a mix of ages, and what sort of budget you're working with. Click on the buttons below to see all our Overland and Budget Expedition tours.
See our Overland Tours page for the full list of tours.