Locally run vacations travel guide


For most travelers, vacations fall into two neat definitions: a package bought from a vacation company who organises all the logistics for you, or independent travel, where you book nothing more than a place to sleep.

But there is a third way: a locally run vacation. Your guides will likely have grown up in the places they’re showing you around, they’ll take you to their favourite restaurants, drinking spots and live music venues, and you may even have the opportunity to spend a night in a homestay – or enjoy a home cooked meal.

We describe locally run vacations as any vacation run by a company based in that destination. They may be in Europe – or much further afield. They may be little guesthouses that also organise guided tours in the surrounding region – or larger companies that run epic overland adventures across multiple countries. They may be run by local people – or by British expats who have decided to head off in pursuit of sunnier climes and a more outdoorsy lifestyle. But all have a deep passion for the area they are based in, and by the end of your vacation, you’ll feel less like you’ve travelled to an exotic destination – and more like you’ve been to visit a welcoming friend.

Pros & cons of locally run vacations



Some trips can only be booked with a local operator. For example, a UK-based company can organise a full two-week vacation to Australia, but it wouldn’t be worth their while to tailor make a three day trip along the Great Ocean Road. This is a great option if you want to include a short, organised trip as part of your independent vacation in Australia.

By using a locally run vacation the trip may be cheaper as they won’t have the overheads associated with many Western countries.

It can be difficult and costly to make payments overseas. For this reason, some locally owned tour companies may request payment of the balance on arrival, and ask for only a small deposit – which means minimal risk for you, and even longer to save up for your vacation.

Local tour operators really know their stuff. Living in the destination year-round, they see the changing seasons, the patterns of the wildlife, and know the best spots for budget street food or an indulgent three-course meal.


Not all countries have a scheme which allows tour operators to be bonded in the event that they go bust. Vietnam and Montenegro do, for example, but many others don’t. However, when you book with an EU based company there is the package directive which means they should, legally, have bonding.

When planning your vacation, you may find communication more difficult if booking through a local operator due to them being in different time zones - and not always available at the end of a phone. However, they should still be easily reachable should you need to contact them while on vacation.

Why Responsible Travel?


Why book a local tour through Responsible Travel?

Responsible Travel is unique in that it offers local tour operators a level playing field to promote their trips. All of the vacations we feature, regardless of who runs them, are screened in exactly the same way to ensure they meet our responsible tourism criteria – and vacations run by large, multinational companies sit side by side with those designed by small, local operators. What’s more, you don’t pay extra for booking through Responsible Travel – the cost is exactly the same as if you booked direct.

Many of the smaller, local companies we work with have been on the site for years – and receive a large percentage of their business through Responsible Travel. But don’t take it from us; here is what our local tour operators have to say for themselves about why they choose to be a member of Responsible Travel.
Jayne Harley, from our South African supplier, Sunway Safaris. They have been running overland tours across Southern Africa since 1994, and a Responsible Travel member since 2010:

“What I find particularly good about Responsible Travel is that the people that come on the trips are the right type of people. We work with agents around the world, and you’ve got to invest a lot of time and training and making sure that they understand our tours, and that the right person is coming onto them. The only time we ever get complaints is when you’ve got the wrong kind of traveler on the trip, and they weren’t expecting that style of travel. What I find with all the Responsible Travel clients is that they know what they’re booking. So for me, it’s a really good client that comes out of Responsible Travel.”
Eskinder Hailu founded Highway Tours, our leading Ethiopian tour operator, in 2007. He joined Responsible Travel the following year:

“There have been a lot of benefits of working with Responsible Travel. Had it not been for them, business would be difficult. I get 20-25 percent of my bookings through Responsible Travel, some years 30 percent. Another thing is that if travelers find me through Responsible Travel they have more confidence, I sense, than from a Google search or advertisement. They know Responsible Travel – they don’t know us. The other thing that they have helped me to become more familiar with responsible tourism ideas. So in many ways working with Responsible Travel is the best thing that happened for my business. I’m very grateful for it. It’s multidimensional – it supports everyone. It supports us, the companies; it helps the travelers as you are very well known in UK and abroad, you promote the company in a very smart way. And at the same time the ideas you promote – the responsible tourism ideas – this helps the local people, the local economy, the environment and everything.”
Ivana Grzetic, founded our supplier Adria Adventure in 2004 in her home country of Croatia. They joined Responsible Travel in the same year:

“We get some direct bookings, but we get many more through Responsible Travel because people feel that they want a local provider but they also want somebody on a higher level like Responsible Travel. There are many local companies, but with Responsible Travel you are guaranteed a certain standard of service, and when you see the reviews – they are different to TripAdvisor, for example. TripAdvisor has many fake reviews, but Responsible Travel has real clients and very authentic reviews, so people feel more comfortable when they book through Responsible Travel. You can only leave a review if you go on the trip. And these reviews are very realistic. The clients really write their own experience; it’s not that they are exaggerating.”
Photo credits: [Top image - Kasbah du Toubkal in Morocco: Kasbah du Toubkal] [Desert stop: Sunway Safaris] [Kayaks in croatia: Adria Adventure] [Help desk box: Ninara]
Written by Vicki Brown
Traditional Dahabiya Nile cruise, Egypt

Traditional Dahabiya Nile cruise, Egypt

Explore the Nile's cultural gems in classic comfort

From 950 5 Days ex flights
Photography vacation in the Spanish Pyrenees

Photography vacation in the Spanish Pyrenees

Nature photography vacation in the breathtaking Spanish Pyrenees

From 1695 8 Days ex flights
Kayaking in the Keralan Backwaters

Kayaking in the Keralan Backwaters

Experience local life kayaking through Kerala backwaters .

From US $670 5 Days ex flights
Ten day wildlife safari, South Africa

Ten day wildlife safari, South Africa

Award winning wildlife safaris in South Africa

From £2695 10 Days ex flights
Sailing vacation in the Aegean Sea

Sailing vacation in the Aegean Sea

Uninhabited islands in a 6 person boat

From £572 7 Days ex flights
Wildlife and cultural tour to Ethiopia

Wildlife and cultural tour to Ethiopia

See wildlife in the Omo valley

From £2455 14 Days ex flights
Gorilla and game safari in Uganda

Gorilla and game safari in Uganda

The great Silver back Gorilla & wildlife all in one package!

From US $4500 10 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: She Paused 4 Thought]