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Bicycle tours: yes or no?


Mount Kailash, Tibet ChinaWhy would you join a bicycle tour? There can be many different reasons. For one it can simply be a time problem. Another reason can be you don't feel you wan tto cycle on your own or are not be able to find a cycling buddy. Another reason can be money and the wish to see as much in a certain time frame as possible. And than there are areas in the world you simply can't go individually (think of Bhutan, West Tibet, North Sikkim etc.).

Therefore group tours are the ultimate solution for you! Typically you can book such tours with bicycles on the spot available and with transport of your luggage. This is especially great when you realize it gives you the freedom to explore more off the beaten track trails. After all, cycling a dirttrack uphill with all your luggage can be a difficult task.

Another reason to join an organized tour is the organization of local needed visas. This becomes more important in some areas in China, especially Tibet and India (the far north east area that borders Myanmar).

Two kinds of tours

In principle you could say there are two kinds of tours: fully organized or half organized. The difference is usually that in a fully organized tour you just have to bring your clothes and your toothbrush, everything else is included in your package.

The half- or simi-organized tour gives you more space but it typically requires you to bring more "stuff" with you. My favorite tour company Exotissimo who organizes biking tours in several South East Asian countries offers mostly this kind of tours.

Usually there are levels of what is included in the package, like, bring your own bike, hotels yes/no included etc..

Bicycle journey to Angkor
Bicycle journey to Angkor

Take a tour in Cambodia, would you want to include everything ncluding hotels, visas and bicycles? Considering you can obtain a visa by entering the country, personally I wouldn't include it in a Cambodia tour. If your objective is to cycle Angkor, I wouldn't even include a bicycle or hotel, in fact, I wouldn't even go for a tour at all.

However, if you want to explore other parts of the country, such a Cambodia tour offers some possibilities you can do easily with a tour group. For example, a trip from south Laos through the wild areas of Cambodia to Angkor is worth to do in an organized tour with a guide. See details on the Cambodia tour page.

And think also about traveling/cycling independent but joining such a tour when you desire it!

Stone Forest, Yunnan China
Stone Forest, Yunnan China

China is a huge country, I often say it's not a country, it's a continent (just like India). China has a several "touristy hotspots" which makes it difficult to choose where to go. One of my first journeys in China went from Beijing to Gansu, traveled south to Chengdu, Kunming and finally to Guilin and Yangshuo before going quickly north to Xian and back to Beijing to fly home.

When you look on the map it looks OK to do until you realize that for example Chengdu-Kunming is 638km (it took me 2 weeks cycling) as the crow flies. A train from Beijing to Xian took 18 hours, a train from Kunming to Guilin 22 hours.

So, what are you going to do? Are you going to cycle everything? Or are you going to choose a particular area? Yunnan, as an example is as large as France. It's easy to cycle 3 weeks in Yunnan and still have not seen everything what there is to see.

North Laos
North Laos

So the real question for joining a bicycle tour is what you really want. If your desire is to visit the highlights of a country like India, Thailand or China inj a short time, take a normal tour and use a bicycle to explore the place you are.

But if you are into exploring a little deeper, choose a particular area and cycle it. Good examples are North Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Yunnan and Chengdu in China or a particular island in Indonesia (good choices here are Java plus Bali, Bali plus Lombok or Bali plus Flores and Sumba).

And as said, some countries are simply easier or only possible in tours, think of North Sikkim, India, Bhutan, Tibet (although you can sneak in but although I did that myself twice, I can not recommend it.

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