Passplanet's Tours is an idea that I developed while in Central America in 2001 and was hoping to run by myself around March 2003. My life however took a completely new way recently and here I am now (november 2002) with a lovely wife, a cute little boy and a new business in Geneva. All this within less than a year! Needless to say, it's unlikely that I can find the time for such a tour in the near future... My apologies to those who expressed their interest.
I will however leave the suggested itineraries for China online. This is the tour that I was basically trying to set up. Who knows, maybe someone with a deep understanding of the backpacking needs will one day be interested to run it ? Do not hesitate then to contact me. The last person who contacted me (a girl from Singapore living in HK) had the motivation but clearly not the knowledges required... You need both!
More details about the tour below :
Passplanet Tours would be the best of two worlds : the authenticity, freedom & low costs of backpacking plus the security & relative peace of mind of a guided tour. To make it simple, it would be a backpacking trip with a guide !
A small group of backpackers from all over the world would travel together, following a logical itinerary. The guide, who speak the country's language, would assist them in the discovery of the country and take care of the logistic (transports, accommodations & food). The backpackers would be responsible for all their spendings within the country.
You travel over a much longer period. You experience the country from the inside and are in contact with the local people. You keep your freedom as for the itinerary and the places you wish to stay in. You travel with young dynamic people from all over the world. You spend only a fraction of the 'normal' cost and know where your money is going to !
You travel with a guide who knows the country's language and culture. You avoid a lot of logistics' headaches. You benefit from some group's discounts and therefore save money. You meet people from all over the world.
Simply because this is by far the 'scariest' country to travel to in Asia : a different world with a tricky language and lot's of problems to solve. Nothing serious but quite a few annoyances. You certainly need experience to backpack there ! Going with a group could therefore prove less stressful and more enjoyable. Most tours however caters to tourists and cost a fortune for a very limited tour around the place. Passplanet's tours could prove a good alternative for backpackers with more time ahead but less money...
For China, expect a minimum of US$10 per day and a maximum of US$20, less in the South, more on the developed East Coast. A two weeks tour in South China should cost less than US$200 and a three months tour all over China less than US$1450, all inclusive except for the HK related expenses and the trip to HK. On top of your spendings, there will be a fee ranging from US$100 to US$250. This would cover the trip's expenses of the guide, his reasonable tip and Passplanet's commission. Check the suggested itineraries for more details.
The guide will always suggest the best cheapest alternatives (often following Passplanet's information) and traveling in a group will obviously get you many discounts. In any case, even with the additional fee, the trip should turn out much cheaper than if you had traveled on your own ! And you will have more fun as well !
Unless a tour, nothing will be booked nor paid in advance. If you do not like the room suggested, you will be free to look (and pay) for a better one ! If you want to make a side trip, you will also be free to do so and catch up with the group later on... You will have complete freedom over your adventure !
Your guide will be an experienced backpacker who loves to travel and help others traveling. His task will be to facilitate your adventure : he will speak the country's language and have already been traveling around. He will be your travel companion, helping you in many ways, and being responsible for the global well-being of the trip. He won't however be your personal servant at your disposal 24 hours a day so do not expect him to sacrifice his sleeping time because your hot water is not working ! It is important that he enjoys his trip as much as you do. Bear in mind that this is about sharing a backpacking experience !
A backpacking trip implies authenticity, adventures and surprises : you will travel with local people on local transports, stays in basic (yet acceptably clean) accommodations and eat local foods. Nothing will be booked in advance, so that you have more flexibility over the itinerary and your spending. Sometimes, the transport may break down or the recommended guesthouse be full. The guide will help you to find alternative solutions but won't be liable for any mishaps that may happen.
The number of backpackers traveling together should be between 10 and 15. If less than 10 people register, the trip may be cancelled as the guide's personal expenses won't be covered by the fees.
You need to be reasonably fit, equipped with a backpack, know how to 'tie your shoes' and be open to others. Some activities may require good physical conditions but you will be free to join or not. In addition, we recommend that you are up to date with your vaccinations and are covered by a good travel insurance (medical expenses, repatriation & loss of luggage).
We leave this to you to organize : indeed, with backpackers coming from all over the world, it would be impossible for us to do it. Also, this leaves you the flexibility to come earlier or leave later...
If interested, just let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org . There will be no commitment at this time as I am just testing the market but you will have priority if the trip goes on and able to define the itinerary.
Passplanet would be responsible for the organization of the trip only : putting together the guide and the backpackers. It would offer a moral caution as for the quality of the guides it selected and the payment of the trip between both parties. Passplanet will indeed pay the guide in two times : half upon confirmation of the trip (that is that the guide's expenses are being covered) and the remaining at the end of it, upon global satisfaction of the backpackers. Passplanet however will hold no liability as for the running of the trip itself, which remains the guide's own responsibility. That means that if you are not happy with something, you will have to sort the problem with the guide, between backpackers ! Passplanet's duty will only be one of fair arbitration in case of serious mishaps (not supposed to happen anyway).
If you would like to have your travel expenses paid & get some pocket money in exchange of helping people travel one country or area, you are welcome to submit an application. You will however need to obey the following criteria :