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Private Tours vs Group Tours: Which is best?

Chris Choi
Wearing Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) during a tour in Seoul)

When planning your vacation to a new and exciting place, you want to make the most of it and ensure you get what you signed up for. But just like any foreign, exotic location, it can be daunting. Where to go? What to do? How do I get answers to all my questions?

That’s why most travellers book a tour to get their bearings and visit the top local spots. And, just like the rest of the world, when booking your tour in South Korea, you are confronted with 2 main options. Should I book a group tour or a private tour?

This post compares the pros and cons of booking a group vs a private tour when visiting Korea.

Private tour pros

Complete Freedom and flexibility

Personalised private tours give you total freedom and flexibility. The tour itinerary and schedule is entirely focused and planned around you. Everything is catered around your tastes, including places to visit, things to do, types of activities you’ll enjoy and even the menu.

With a personal tour, there are no rigid pre-planned itineraries that you need to accommodate, although we do offer a suggested course to get you started if you don’t already have something in mind.

Explore at your own pace

Have you ever found yourself on a group tour, enjoying a particular spot, but then times up, and you have to move on before you’re ready to accommodate the group’s itinerary? One of the benefits of private tours is that you can go at your own pace.

If you’re not enjoying a particular location or activity, you can skip it and move on to something else. But, on the other hand, if you are thoroughly enjoying a particular place or experience, you don’t need to worry about time limits and getting back to the bus.

In short, if time is important to you, then a private tour is probably what you’re looking for.   

More exclusivity

While group tours rely on buses filled with other travellers, private tours allow you to choose who will accompany you on your trip. Whether travelling alone, with family or friends you can enjoy more privacy and comfort.

In addition, this makes private tours ideal for special occasions like honeymoons, wedding anniversaries, birthdays, or just travelling with friends and family on vacation.

Special care and assistance

Having your own personal guide and transportation provides you with that extra special care and attention. This is especially helpful if you are travelling with young children, elderly relatives, disabled travellers, those with medical conditions, special needs or mobility issues.

Your guide will be able to accommodate your dietary needs better and plan around you, while your driver will transport you door to door to make you as comfortable as possible. 

Without other travellers to take care of, your guide will solely focus on you and your travel companions’ needs.

Your own personal tap of local knowledge

Having your own personal guide means there is no competing with other travellers to get the attention of your guide or to have your questions answered. Instead, you’ll have access to a tap of local culture and knowledge.

Find out everything you want to know, get recommendations on foods to try, things to do and places to visit. In addition, you can get to know a real Korean local who can introduce you to places off the beaten track. 

Private tour cons

Cost (sometimes)

Private tours are usually considered much more expensive due to the luxury, convenience and personal attention they offer. While there is some truth in this, as personal tours can often be more expensive than group tours, this isn’t always the case.

When travelling within a group of family or friends, booking a private tour can be more economical than the per-seat cost of individually booking everyone on a group tour.

Therefore, it is worth comparing the entire cost of a group tour and private tour over the per seat or individual cost of booking one person.  

Not a good option for meeting new people

If you are travelling alone and looking to meet fellow travellers for companionship, this option is probably not a good idea. 

On the other hand, a group tour would offer you more opportunities to meet others while exploring Korea. 

Group tour pros

Best for those on a tight budget

As one would expect, group tours usually offer the cheapest option for those on a tight budget. Economies of scale are the main factor at play here, where travellers can benefit from the savings associated with sharing resources.

One thing to bear in mind is that this does depend on the number of people in your party. For example, those travelling in a group of friends or family may find that the cost of a private tour can work out the same or even cheaper when compared with the per-person cost of a group tour.

You can meet new people along the way

It’s not always easy to make friends and meet new people while travelling alone. For this reason, group tours can offer you an opportunity to connect with fellow travellers. 

Since group tours are not restricted to specific people, they usually comprise a mix of travellers from all over the world who can speak the same language as you. It can also be an excellent way to break the ice and give you a common topic of conversation.

If you are looking to make acquaintances and potentially new friends during your stay, then group tours are probably the better option for you.

Group tour cons

You will have to follow a rigid schedule

While group tours operated by quality travel agencies are usually well designed and encompass the experience international visitors seek, they still come with a rigid itinerary that needs to be followed.

This is to ensure the group’s satisfaction is met overall rather than the satisfaction of the individual. Therefore group tours include fixed dates, times, itineraries and stop durations to ensure every activity advertised is ticked off.

Forced shopping or other activities

Unlike our group DMZ tours with no forced shopping, group tours often include a mandatory shopping stop. This is included to offset the tour cost and bring down the cost of the tour participation fee. 

While this isn’t an issue for most people as it usually just involves a quick stop on the way to or from an experience, bargain bucket tour companies can take this to another level. 

Therefore, you should be aware of group tours that offer considerably lower prices than their competition as you may spend a lot more time shopping, or even worse be subject to hard selling.     

You will have to share transportation with other travellers

Group tours usually start by going around and picking up other fellow travellers before the tour starts and then include numerous stops on the way back. In addition, waiting for others to return to the bus at the agreed meeting time can be frustrating for some when you are ready to move on.

If you find yourself frustrated by these small inefficiencies, then a group tour is not for you. It is also one of the significant advantages of booking a private tour, so you may wish to consider that option.

Pros and Cons Checklist Summary

Choose a Group Tour if

You’re on a tight budget

Want to meet new people

Are travelling alone or with a friend

Have few or no special requirements

Comes with a fixed itinerary

Includes forced shopping stops

Need to share transport and resources

Choose a Private Tour if

Want more flexibility or a custom itinerary

You’re short on time

Need special care and attention

Travelling with the elderly or infants

Travelling with family or friends

Looking for the most comfort/luxury

Are more expensive (sometimes)

Not a good choice for meeting new people

How to make the most out of a private tour

After booking your private tour on your preferred tour dates, think about what you want to get out of your experience. The more information you can provide us with, the better we can tailor your tour and experiences to your needs and tastes. 

Try to answer some of these questions and write down your answers. Then let us know, and discuss them with your private tour guide at the start of your tour:

  • Do you already have a few ideas of things you would like to see/do during your trip?
  • What kind of experience would you like to have (active, historic, palaces, scenic, food, markets, shopping, city tour, children’s activities)?
  • Do you have any specific requirements?
  • Are you travelling with the elderly, disabled or any young children?
  • Do you wish to attend a specific event?
  • The more information you can provide, the better we can tailor your tour around you.

If you have difficulty answering any of the above, do not fret. Your guide can make plenty of suggestions for you. In addition, apart from any pre-made bookings for experiences, your guide can be quite flexible and, in discussion with you, can alter your itinerary on the day based on the weather and what you feel like at the moment.

Frequntly Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the most common questions about group tours vs private tours. If you still have any unanswered questions, please drop us a comment below.

What does a private tour mean?

A private tour means that the tour’s itinerary is completely tailored around you and that the resources included are for your use only. A private tour usually consists of a personal tour guide, choice of private vehicle and chauffeur driver.

What does a group tour mean?

Group tours are open tours that allow anyone to sign up and participate in a local experience with others. These tours usually comprise of travellers visiting from various countries who can all speak a common language. Through sharing resources, they take advantage of economies of scale to reduce the cost of participation and are a great way to meet new people while travelling.

Are group tours cheaper?

Group tours are usually cheaper than private tours but often cost a little more than independent travel, although they can sometimes still work out cheaper. However, you should also consider that tours save you a lot of time in research, organisation and booking your trip and activities.

How do private tours work?

Private tours are designed around your desires, tastes and schedule. If you already have a list of things you want to do, the tour agency can organise an itinerary and manage the details. Alternatively, tour agencies can provide a pre-made itinerary as a starting point which can then be revised based on your feedback.

Should I travel solo or with a group?

Group travel offers many benefits such as saving time, providing opportunities to meet fellow travellers, learn about the culture and local points of interest. In addition, while group tours may initially appear more expensive, they can actually work out cheaper when adding up all the individual expenses of travelling solo, including transportation and entry fees.

Why are private tours better?

Private tours give you the freedom to choose what you want to do and when. You don’t have to consider the needs of other travellers, which provides you with far more room for flexibility and changes to your itinerary at every step of the way. The flexibility and freedom to make the most of your time are why most people choose private tours over group tours.

How to book our personalised tours and chauffeur services

For those simply looking to book a half-day or full-day customised tour with a local and knowledgable private guide, we have created standard private tour packages that you can easily book online for your convenience.

However, if you have any questions, require further assistance or have very specific requirements which require prior planning then you can fill out our Private tour enquiry form and we’ll be happy to help.

How to book a private tour with us online

Our online tour package is great for those who just need a private guide or those who need a private guide with transportation.

  1. Visit our private tour booking page and select either our half-day or full-day private tour option. In our example on the right, we chose the full-day tour.
  2. On the booking form on the right-hand side of the page, choose the date you wish to take the tour.
  3. Once the date is chosen, you’ll be able to select a start time.
  4. Select the number of people who will join the tour.
  5. (Optional) Under “Additional Services”, you can add chauffeured transportation by choosing a vehicle.
  6. After choosing all the options, the booking form will calculate and display the total at the top in Korean Won.
  7. Click the blue “Add to cart” button to proceed and pay online using a secure third-party payment gateway or choose our “pay on tour” option.
  8. That’s it! We’ll be in touch soon to confirm your order and arrange the details.
Screenshot of VIP Travel's private tour online booking form.

How to book our chauffeured transportation service online

This online package is great for those who only need private vehicle transportation and a driver.

Screenshot of VIP Travel's chauffeur service online booking form.
  1. Visit our Korea chauffeur service booking page and select either our half-day or full-day private transportation option. In our example on the right, we chose the full-day option.
  2. On the booking form on the right-hand side of the page, choose the date you require the service.
  3. Once the date is chosen, you can select a pick-up time.
  4. Select the number of people in your group.
  5. Under “Additional Services”, you must choose the type of vehicle you require. Each vehicle comes with an experienced safe driver.
  6. After choosing all the options, the booking form will calculate and display the total at the top in Korean Won.
  7. Click the blue “Add to cart” button to proceed and pay online using a secure third-party payment gateway or choose our “pay on tour” option.
  8. That’s it! We’ll be in touch soon to confirm your order and arrange the details.

How to book our airport pick-up/drop-off service online

This online service is for those who require one-way airport transportation (pick-up or drop-off). If you require a pick-up and drop-off simply book each journey separately.

  1. Visit our airport transportation service booking page.
  2. On the booking form on the right-hand side of the page, choose the date you require the service.
  3. Select the number of people in your group.
  4. Under “Additional Services”, you must choose the vehicle type you require. Each vehicle includes a professional, safe driver.
  5. If you would like an escort please select the “Licensed Guide” checkbox and enter the number of guides you require.
  6. After choosing all the options, the booking form will calculate and display the total at the top in Korean Won.
  7. Click the blue “Add to cart” button to proceed and pay online using a secure third-party payment gateway or choose our “pay on tour” option.
  8. That’s it! We’ll be in touch soon to confirm your order and arrange your pick-up.
Screenshot of VIP Travel's airport transfer service online booking form

How to get private tour consultation, or help booking your tour

Simply fill in our private tour enquiry form with as much information as you can and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. See an example below.

VIP Travel Private Tour Enquiry Form

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many benefits to choosing both group and personal tours. Which is best for you really depends on what you are looking to get out of your trip and who you are travelling with.

So what which option will you choose? Let us know in the comments below.

1 thought on “Private Tours vs Group Tours: Which is best?”

  1. I like how you talk about how group tours can be cheaper and safer all around. My partner and I want to travel ad do fun things, but we’re both quite shy. We’ve been trying to decide if group travel is right for us because it seems like a great choice. https://www.europerevealed.com/tours/

    Reply

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