Package Tours in Sensible Countries

Package Tour. The words alone give the inveterate traveler a case of the heebie-jeebies: visions of overfed middle-aged pasty Americans (or Brits, or Germans) herded from their gaudy-hued tour buses into third-rate freeway-adjacent restaurants which are distinguished largely by the fact that their parking lots are of sufficient dimensions to accommodate a multitude of tour buses. After the meal, said tour drones parade through the inevitable attached gift shop, picking through souvenir clothing (“My parents went to _____________, and all I got was this *%&^* shirt!”), small “hand crafted” objets d’art (likely made with child labor in some seedy backwater far far away from the gift shop environs), and the like. It must be said that there are tours in Asia that approximate the above, albeit with a somewhat more exotic flavor, at least for the Western attendee. Where they diverge from their American counterparts is (for the most part) in the pricing. Consider: just to take the famed Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto round trip runs 25,600 yen, about $300 US, per person (so, $600 for two). Figure on a minimum of $100 per night for a traditional Kyoto inn (which might be found in a modern high-rise apartment building, oddly); so, three nights’ accommodation, $300. You can eat, not lavishly but decently well, for about $50 per day per person, so there’s another $300. Booking all this on your own will set you back about $1200 for a three-night long weekend for two (not counting taxis, admissions and incidentals). Alternatively, you could place a quick phone call to any of a dozen aggressively competitive Tokyo tour companies and get all of the above, plus all admissions to attractions, inter-attraction transport, and free half-day side trips to Nara, where the tame deer will nuzzle your fingers in pursuit of a morsel of fruit or veggie, and Arashiyama, whose fall colors give New Hampshire a good run for its money. The price: 49,800 (about $600) for two, all in. (And if by some chance you do find yourself aboard a bus, rest assured that it will be rather upscale from its US counterpart: leather seats, individual a/c controls, etc; not in any form or fashion the penalty box that pops to mind when you think of domestic “motor coach” travel. Clearly there are many things we can learn from our Far Eastern brethren, beyond martial arts and how to make reliable cars!)


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