Overland tours guide

The quintessential form of ‘road trip’, an overland tour offers you a chance to explore multiple countries across a continent or region in one epic itinerary. Overlanding can use rail, bike or public transport, but in many cases it involves traveling in a durable but very comfortable and well kitted out truck, one that has been purpose built to deal with all manner of road conditions and cover very long distances.
Routes, duration and modes of transport may differ but one thing all overland tours have in common is that adventure comes as standard.
With this guide to overland tours we’ll take a closer look at some of the iconic routes such as the Silk Road, the Trans Siberian Express and Cairo to Cape Town, as well as several others across Asia, South America and Africa that are growing in popularity among travelers with a pioneer spirit.

What does an overland vacation entail?

Overland tours are popular for many reasons, not least they are the perfect way to explore very different, but equally remarkable countries that can be quite simple to combine. Organised travel by road or railway is a chance to cross borders and boundaries, and really get a thorough immersion in the landscapes and civilisations that most independent trips miss.

An overland tour will usually take in at least two countries, over at least two weeks and in some cases several months. Naturally the very long trips can be quite arduous, especially in regions where the terrain is challenging. With some you have the option to upgrade to more luxurious accommodations, or fly between destinations, which lets you cover more ground.

Some overland tours follow classic journeys, such as the Trans Siberian or Cape Town to Cairo. There are also routes through continents such as Indochina or Central America that are not so established but can yield an even greater sense of discovery. Trip packages can feature a full roster of activities, or be stripped to the bone, with optional activities at each stop available for a supplement.
Group sizes

Group Sizes

While there are tailor made options, the great majority of overland tours are made up of small groups. Typical group sizes range from four to 20 people. Anyone that has taken this kind of vacation will know that people of all ages and backgrounds tend to form strong bonds very quickly, which greatly adds to your enjoyment. It’s worth noting that some longer overland tours can be broken up into stages, so the make-up of the group often fluctuates as people join and depart along the way.
Family trips

Family trips

The barriers to taking an overland trip are very low. Pretty much anyone with a case of wanderlust and prepared to cope with life on the road for a while can find a tour right for them. Some operators offer trips that are specifically designed for families (Africa is very good for this) with a minimum age of seven – daily driving times are reduced, with regular stops and activities. It’s a great opportunity not only for quality family time, but for kids to make new friends and learn in a unique environment.
Transport

Transport

Most overland tours use a spacious, self sufficient expedition truck, purpose built to carry everything you need and be really comfortable, too. Typical on board equipment will include water tanks, cooking equipment and fridge-freezers, with space to stow luggage. Reclining seats are set high to allow for great views, with plenty of leg room.
You won’t be on the move all day every day, but on travel days you will usually be in the vehicle for between four and ten hours. Other trips use public transport, including local buses or ferries, and even the odd flight to cut down on some of the longer driving stints. And of course there are some superb rail routes too which don’t use overland vehicles at all.

Our top Overland Vacation

Indochina tours

Indochina tours

An awesome adventure Cambodia Laos Thailand & Vietnam

From US $3860 to US $4615 30 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2018: 3 Oct, 10 Oct, 17 Oct, 24 Oct, 3 Nov, 7 Nov, 10 Nov, 17 Nov, 24 Nov, 1 Dec, 19 Dec, 22 Dec, 26 Dec, 29 Dec
2019: 2 Jan, 5 Jan, 9 Jan, 12 Jan, 16 Jan, 23 Jan, 30 Jan, 2 Feb, 6 Feb, 9 Feb, 16 Feb, 20 Feb, 27 Feb, 6 Mar, 13 Mar, 27 Mar, 30 Mar, 3 Apr, 10 Apr, 17 Apr, 20 Apr, 24 Apr, 1 May, 8 May, 22 May, 5 Jun, 19 Jun, 26 Jun, 3 Jul, 10 Jul, 17 Jul, 24 Jul, 7 Aug, 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 11 Sep, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 2 Oct, 9 Oct ...
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Overland or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Accommodation

Accommodations

Overland tours are all about getting into the thick of the action, so you may find yourself camping out in the wild across Africa or South America, or staying in a combination of locally owned hotels, wilderness lodges and dormitories. The Trans Siberian route usually involves disembarking from the train at various locations and staying with local people, sometimes in traditional yurts, as well as nights in your sleeper carriage.
Some trips are more participatory – with travelers taking it in turns to cook and shop for provisions – while others let you flop while the crew takes care of your meals and the washing up. A huge emphasis on any overland vacation is to do as the locals do, so the ingredients used and the dishes will vary from country to country, something which is particularly noticeable on trips which border-hop frequently.
Tour leaders & guides

Tour leaders & guides

Most trips are run by a minimum of two professional and passionate tour leaders, who ensure every aspect of the trip runs as smoothly as possible. In addition, local guides will join you at sites of interest en route. When you’re traveling Cape Town to Cairo, for instance, your itinerary is going to feature major highlights – national parks, the Great Pyramids and so on. But very often travelers find that the real magic is found in the gaps between these places, and that’s where local guides add so much value. By working with them, vacation companies also inject money directly into the economy, and help deter educated people from leaving rural communities.
Patience

Patience

On trips of three weeks and upwards, covering a lot of distance over varying terrain, the first thing on your packing list should be patience. Schedules can be unpredictable – the truck might need maintenance, or the train wheels may need to be adjusted at a border crossing – of course, it’s just as likely that nothing will happen and your itinerary will run like clockwork. But the nature of overland travel dictates that not everything can be planned and mapped out by the minute.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Phil Whitehouse] [What does it entail?: Dan Gold] [Group Sizes: Ryan Dunn] [Family trips: Tim Williamson] [Transport 1: bibliojojo] [Transport 2: Ryan Dunn] [Accommodations 1: Dragoman] [Accommodations 2: Ryan Dunn] [Tour leaders & guides: Phil Whitehouse] [Patience is a virtue: hans wakataitea]
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