Although backpacking, interailing, touring and other guided journeys involve travelling over land, the concept of 'overlanding' differs by its method of travel. A purpose-built vehicle is used, looking like a truck externally, but a train internally. It has the power and all-terrain capability of a military truck, yet posseses the spaciousness and large windows found in a train carriage. On board facilities generally include a fridge, music system and storage space. Lockers surround the exterior, used for storing tents, cooking equipment and luggage. The idea is to be pretty self-sufficient, a bit like when touring by campervan, only this time it's on a grand scale and involves a group of people travelling together.
With overlanding, it's all about the journey, not the destination. It's about getting off the beaten track, going on an adventure, experiencing amazing scenery and culture, and meeting interesting people. The destination is simply one of many points along the way and just happens to be the last one. It can be a very rewarding experience, as it can be quite 'hands on' with the passengers being given tasks and possibly taking it in turns to cook for the group. But if this doesn't sound relaxing enough, there are plenty of overland tours with additional staff to relieve you of some of the chores, notably the cooking! You may have a guide and a driver, or a guide who is also the driver. More staff means a more expensive tour, so consider what's more important to you.
Overlanding generally involves some amount of camping, since the idea is to go where the hotels and other tourists aren't. However, city stops will nearly always be in hotels so you get the best of both worlds. Several consecutive nights camping could mean several days without a proper shower - some overland trips really do rough it in order to undertake incredible journeys. If this might be an issue for you then do investigate how much camping there is.
So it's not quite the comfort of a coach tour, but how many coaches head off-road to explore? There are pros and cons, below, and whether or not overlanding is for you tends to depend on the type of person you are and the type of experience you're looking for.
- A key feature of overlanding is the opportunities for camping, which allows you to really experience a country's wild side.
- Travelling with a group of like-minded adventurers for a reasonable length of time means that you will undoubtedly form friendships and even relationships that might last well beyond the end of the trip.
- Having a group vehicle means that, subject to concensus of opinion, you can adapt the itinerary to suit, just as when you go backpacking.
- The style of trip allows you to immerse yourself more in the culture of the nation and interact with the locals more.
- It's a unique way to travel, a compromise between a coach tour and backpacking, with the best of both, and something you cannot do on your own or with friends.
- Conflicts within the group could tarnish your holiday - this is an unavoidable risk with overlanding, but in a large enough group you will find someone you do get on with and can avoid those you don't
- Diverging from the itinerary is only possible with everyone's agreement and in a large group that isn't always going to happen.
- You may discover along the way that doing it independently as a backpacker would have been much cheaper - this is the case where the tour follows public transport routes, but elsewhere you cannot compare since you probably wouldn't be backpacking in the middle of nowhere.
- Overland trips tend to be quite long, anything between 2 and 30 weeks - the longer tours are quite a commitment; be sure you want to do it before signing up to it.
All things considered, overlanding offers a fantastic way to see a country or continent and can be excellent value for money (particularly if you have fewer staff and participate more). There are not that many companies that offer overlanding tours, at least not ones that you can trust. The best and most reputable are Kumuka, Dragoman and Exodus. Your own research might reveal some budget overland companies not listed here - there's a reason we don't list them. Overland Club, for example, have had much negative feedback from past customers who warn others not to use them. Some budget operators, such as Oasis, are generally decent and reliable, so just because they're a small player in the overland market doesn't mean you should rule them out. The following list is all of the overlanding operators that we know and trust - if you have travelled with another company and have good things to say, then please let us know, thanks.
|Kumuka Worldwide||Quality small group overland adventures on their big blue trucks, covering Africa, South America and the Middle East.|
|Dragoman Overland||Forty years of overlanding expertise, covering Africa, Asia, North and South America|
|Exodus||"The different holiday" - small group walks, treks, cycle rides, wildlife, cultural trips, overland journeys, multi-activity, snow and family holidays worldwide|
|Guerba||Adventure & discovery holidays - Africa, Europe, Himalayas, Asia, South America, Antarctica|
|GAP Adventures||Small group adventures, safaris and expeditions - Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, Antarctica|
|Tucan Travel||Tucan have a great fleet of overland vehicles and are aimed at younger travellers.|
|Budget Expeditions||Tucan"s sister company for budget 18-35s, using the same vehicles but with a greater proportion of camping and no activities included.|
|Oasis Overland||"If you"re hankering after a group overseas adventure travel experience with excitement and adventure, where you"ll get stuck in and work as part of a team as you explore and experience different cultures and regions, Oasis Overland has the trip for you."|
|African Trails||"At African Trails we have been running camping safaris/overland expeditions in Africa since 1980. We currently run 18 different trips regularly; covering 15 countries with a departure for most trips every month."|
|Acacia Africa||From 6 to 58 days, Acacia offers overland journeys across 17 African countries.|
|On the Go Tours||A small number of overland adventures in Africa, including 22 weeks UK to Cape Town.|
|Trek America||"The specialists in "off the beaten path" adventure travel across the Americas". Trek America offer overland style trips but do not use traditional overlanding trucks.|
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