I arrived in Bangkok incredibly tired and overwhelmed after 32 hours of flying from St. John’s. After meeting my friendly driver at the airport and getting dropped off at my hotel, I fell into a coma-like state until morning.
And then the adventure began.
Four out of my six weeks in Southeast Asia were with G Adventures. I did the Indochina Discovery tour for just over $3,000 CAD.
Frankly, I’m not sure I’ll ever do another G Adventures tour again. Because I’m not sure anything will ever top this experience.
(Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post, but I paid for this tour out of my own pocket and this review is completely honest.)
Let’s break it down!
Why I chose to do Southeast Asia on a group tour
Not gonna lie, I had lost my nerve for solo travel over the past few years of being settled in St. John’s. I was aching to go to Southeast Asia, but I didn’t have the energy (or time) to plan a whole trip. I was nervous about it, too. I knew full well that travelling in the region is super easy, but I just wanted a real vacation. I didn’t wanna have to think about, well, anything. I wanted to show up with my backpack and then get ushered around the continent like a perfectly content holidaymaker.
Some of my friends said I was nuts for shelling out that kind of cash on a tour through one of the most affordable travel destinations on the planet. In many ways, they’re right — but I have zero regrets about this.
Southeast Asia was intimidating to me as a first-time visitor. I really wanted a bit of hand-holding to ease me into it before I set off on my own for a few weeks after the trip.
Initially, I had planned on going with Intrepid, as that is the company my boss (Nomadic Matt) favours. But I couldn’t find an itinerary that matched all the highlights I wanted to see…until I came across the G Adventures tour. Plus they’re Canadian based.
I was also drawn to their efforts to give back to the communities they visit, which I’ll explain later.
How much did it cost, and what did it cover?
My entire four-week trip cost $3,294 CAD (including an airport transfer to my hotel when I landed in Bangkok).
Yup, that’s a lot of dough. The current price is at $3,069 CAD.
Here’s what that covered:
All accommodations – Almost everywhere we stayed was super comfortable and nice, with a few exceptions. Most of the time we shared a room with one other person, but sometimes we had a small hostel dorm for just the G crew (men and women separated). The accommodations were also always located in good locations close to all the action. G Adventures is SUPER careful to vet any new supplier before sending tours their way.
Some food – Almost all of our breakfasts were included, but this is pretty standard throughout Southeast Asia anyway when you stay in hostels or hotels. A handful of our meals were paid for, including a few G For Good experiences like a meal in Siem Reap and a cooking class in Hoi An. Organizations partner with G Adventures to give back to the community — the cooking class in Hoi An, for example, was held at a restaurant/school dedicated to training young people in the hospitality industry to help get them off the streets. It was an incredible experience and a wonderful way to interact with the locals.
All transportation – All of our buses, shuttles, night trains, and singular flight from Hanoi to Vientiane was paid for under this amount. I don’t have many complaints about transportation; the night train was horrific for me but no one else seemed particularly disturbed by it. (My first train was riddled with cockroaches and it was HELL. After that, things improved.) Overall, transportation was comfortable.
Most major activities – The really big, important activities are covered on tour, like homestays, the two-day trip down the Mekong River, and our Angkor Wat tour.
A dedicated CEO – Your tour leader is your CEO (Chief Experience Officer) and he/she is responsible for EVERYTHING. It takes a very special person to pull off this role, and our CEO (Sony) was the perfect match for us. He was enthusiastic, profoundly passionate about Indochina, and overall a solidly good human right to his core. He put up with all our shenanigans with a smile the entire time. I’m sure it was like trying to herd cat sometimes. I was sick for a day when we arrived in Nha Trang, and Sony helped arrange a private room for me so I could rest up alone. He stayed with me the WHOLE morning until I got it all figured out. It was so wonderful.
I mean, for me the $3k was worth it just to have met the 18 other folks I hung out with the entire time. We were quite a crew.
What didn’t my tour cover?
The cost of your tour doesn’t cover visas, border crossing fees, most meals or drinks, tipping, and any other extra activities.
Preparing the visas ahead of time was a pain, and I highly recommend getting starting on this process AS SOON AS YOU BOOK YOUR TRIP. Do not put it off! There was nothing very straightforward about the Vietnam or Cambodia visa process.
I also suggest bringing a few extra passport and visa photos with you. You might need them. If this is all a bit last minute or you find it all too confusing, I recommend hiring a company like iVisa to help get you sorted. Like I said, Vietnam and Cambodia were particularly a pain in the butt. It’s all part of that Southeast Asia charm.
The meals and drinks were okay. It’s so cheap to eat and drink in Asia, it’s not like it’ll destroy your budget.
Unless you drink a lot. Which we kind of did.
Your CEO will likely suggest starting a kitty to collect all the tip money ahead of each country. This was a great solution as we all just handed our money over to Sony and he divided everything up. I also tipped him 15% at the end of the tour because he deserved every penny of it.
You also need travel insurance and you need to prove to G Adventures that you have it ahead of time. Plus this is just plain smart to have. Mine cost about $250 CAD (including my extra two weeks in Thailand) and I NEVER go anywhere without travel insurance. Here’s a quote:
What really destroyed my budget was all the extra activities. Basically, when you arrive in each new destination you’re given a few options for tours or activities you can do while there. A lot of them I really felt should be covered under the tour price — like seeing the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh. And most of the offerings were SO good that you’d get a major case of FOMO if you didn’t participate. Almost everyone on my tour took part in ALL the activities. There were very few we left behind.
What I’m trying to say is: bring a lot more cash then you intended (double), or else you’re gonna miss out. See below.
What I didn’t love about travelling with G Adventures
I really do feel like the company could have better prepared me for just how much WASN’T covered on this trip. (I’m not the only one who thought this — literally, everyone on my trip did.)
G Adventures sends out so much material before your trip to help you prepare, and it’s all very straightforward and wonderful. But I definitely did not get enough warning about how much all the extra activities were going to cost me. A rough cost breakdown for each optional activity would be beneficial — on the other hand, the itinerary is 33 pages long (no joke), so I’m not sure how useful that’d be anyway.
Maybe an email titled only “THINK YOU HAVE ENOUGH BUDGETED? THINK AGAIN!!” might do the trick.
Also to be fair: our group was a wild one. We spent a lot on eating out and drinking. We partied. We denied ourselves nothing.
The only other thing I didn’t love: G Adventures stayed true to its small group policy (18 people or less), but only kinda sorta. On our very first day, we learned that there were two G Adventures groups leaving for the exact same tour at the exact same time. While we were technically travelling as two separate groups, we ended up in nearly all the same places at the same time. Our group essentially ended up being 36 people. It wasn’t a huge deal — the other group was lovely too — but it definitely detracted from the “small group” feel. Really, I wouldn’t call it a small group at all.
If you come off-season or shoulder season the groups are significantly smaller.
What I LOVED about travelling with G Adventures
Having gotten the negatives out of the way, I’d like to point out I’d definitely do another G Adventures tour and am considering doing so for my next bucket list item: Japan.
First up: we were all incredibly well taken care of on this tour. If anything went wrong (which was rare), the CEOs swooped in to help us.
I never felt like I was having an “inauthentic” experience because I was on a group tour. I slept in a Lao hut under mosquito nets next to a local family; I survived a night train riddled with cockroaches. We ate street food, met the locals, kayaked, hiked, partied, and lounged on beaches just like we would if we were doing this on our own.
The trip was very fast-paced, but I never felt deprived of time in any place. I would have loved to stay longer in most destinations (especially Hoi An!), but we always made the most of our visit, and we covered a TON of activities while there. Now that I have the highlights out of the way, I’d like to go back and work through some of these areas at my own pace.
My group was exceptional. I was definitely the oldest person on the tour (the youngest was 18), but it didn’t matter in the slightest. We were a group of mostly Brits, Aussies, Germans, one Austrian, and one Canadian — we bonded so well. Our WhatsApp conversation is still on fire and we have enough inside jokes to carry us through to the next century (like Earth Wind & Fire’s September on repeat until we die). We took over night clubs, danced around beach fires, suffered illnesses together, and shared the same sense of awe with every new destination and landscape we encountered.
The best parts of the Indochina Discovery tour
As you can imagine, four weeks to cover four countries is a LOT to take in. My whole theory was that I’d get a nice intro to Asia before setting out on my own, which is pretty well exactly what happened.
Here are some highlights from my Indochina Discovery tour:
Surviving the whole damn tour without making a drunken arse out of myself, until the night in the Lao village when I drank too much rice wine with the chief and had to be put to bed by a nine-year-old.
Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Bonding with my fellow tour members on our slow boat cruise down the Mekong River.
Getting tailored clothes made for me in Hoi An (including a jumpsuit!). Everything about Hoi An — easily my favourite place on the tour.
Our bicycle tour through the countryside where I met a 95-year-old farmer made famous in local photographs. Hilariously, I had bought a photo of him earlier in the market — so I had to take a picture with him.
The night we all dressed up in matching fruit outfits and took on Hanoi (and later, Khao San Road in Bangkok).
Kayaking down the river in Vang Vieng against a backdrop of limestone mountains and jungle-covered hills.
Watching the sunset from the top of a mountain in Vang Vieng.
A full day of beach relaxation on Koh Rong, Cambodia.
Wandering the endless alleyways in Hanoi’s Old Town, and taking in all the vignettes of life there. (The elderly woman serving her husband dinner from a rice cooker as they watched TV together — right there on the street.)
My first real Pad Thai.
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