Explore! vs SmarTours - Tour Companies Compared

Compare details and see what other travelers are saying.

Rating Breakdown
Overall — 5
Value — 4.8
Guide — 4.8
Activities — 4.8
Lodging — 4.5
Transportation — 4.8
Meals — 4.8
Overall — 5
Value — 4.9
Guide — 4.9
Activities — 4.9
Lodging — 4.9
Transportation — 4.9
Meals — 4.9
Recent Reviews

Beauiful Croatia

0.0 July 2019
M
Recommends
This was our first Bus Tour. While we did enjopy the spots we visited, we felt that there were too many towns and not enough time in each, necessitating more time on the bus. Nevertheless the value of the tour is undeniable. The Tour director Jon, was extremely professional and he was a huge positive on the trip. The topography of Croatia was spectacular, the Sea and mountain views were gorgeous. Lake Bled, the Postojna Caves, Opatija/Plitvice Lakes, Debrovnik, the Roman Ruins, Zagreb were wonderful. The hotels were all clean and rooms were comfortable. Unfortunately my partner Barbara fell and injured her face and broke her glasses on the way to Debrovnik. Jon was extremely concerned offered to find a doctor ()which Barbara declined) but Jon took the broken glasses to an occulist who temporarliy repaired the frames. Two of our fellow travelors who were Nurses took care of Barbara after the accident.
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Exceeded my Expectations!

0.0 July 2019
K
Recommends
For someone who usually plans every detail of my travels...going on a group tour was not something I relished. Plus, I knew that Smartours was considered a “budget” travel company, so my expectations weren’t that high. However, other than a few minor inconveniences, this trip exceeded my expectations. The magical African landscapes and its kind, welcoming people made this adventure one of the best vacations I’ve been on. Pros: Well-paced itinerary that gave us the opportunity for some free time to plan our own activities, smallish group (25) of lovely, considerate, fellow travelers (we were in the minority of “younger” folks and we are in our 50s), excellent included tours, mostly lovely hotels/lodges, amazing breakfasts/dinners, included porter services at all stops, Smartours CEO personally responded quickly to our inquiry regarding booking cost concern, and our delightful and attentive guide Jonathan. Cons: 6 hour scheduled layover, most uncomfortable 14+ hour flight ever via South African Airways, trip extension Vic Falls guide was very personable, but not very attentive, Smartours sends trip info only 2 weeks prior to departure (would love to have had this info sooner), several of the optional tours were mediocre. But honestly...if you’re a frequent traveler...these concerns are pretty minor. I will definitely be recommending the South Africa Tour to friends for value/quality and hope that ST keeps its word about limiting group sizes to under 25. I will definitely use them again in the future!
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Wonderful experience, well-deigned by SmarTours

0.0 May 2019
R
Recommends
The Treasures of Portugal trip focuses on the highlights of the cultural and artistic heritage of this fascinating country. The chosen destinations and sites rarely disappointed, and there was always something awe-inspiring at each stop. The tour provides a great balance between programmed and free time, allowing you to see what you want or find time to explore on your own. The fact that few dinners and no lunches were provided afford you the opportunity to discover the places and tastes that intrigue you as you discover the variety of offerings available in each location.

The destinations chosen are smart and live up to the promise that these are the country's treasures. Our guide was brilliant - she knew well the backstory of the locations and the significance of the art and architecture. Each part of the tour was a lesson in history, presented with excitement and passion. Her adoration of the history and culture of her countrymen was palpable and infectious, and gave the touring experience much added value.

Well planned, organized, balanced, affordable, and utterly enjoyable. Very highly recommended.
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Tours 735 Trips 1 Trip
Average Trip Price Per Day $ 0 $ 328
Operator Type Mixed Land & Cruise Mixed Land & Cruise
Size Global Operator Global Operator
Trip Styles
  • Group Tours
  • Independent / Self-Guided Packages
  • Group Tours
  • River Cruises
  • Custom Itineraries
Service Level Standard Budget
Regions
  • North America
  • South America
  • Australia & Pacific
  • Asia
  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Central America & Caribbean
  • South America
  • Australia & Pacific
  • Asia
  • Africa
  • Middle East & North Africa
  • Europe
Known For
  • Trekking & Camping
  • Cycling
  • Adventure
  • 50+
  • 18 - 35
  • Adventure
  • Budget
Headquarters Hampshire, UK New York City, New York, USA
Year Established 1981 1996
Solo Friendly No single supplement N/A
Tour Languages English English
Top Trips
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    Countries
    About Explore!

    Why Explore

    Unforgettable experiences

    On our trips you'll see a mix of famous sights and hidden gems that others miss, or don't even know about. As travellers, we want to experience a country, not merely observe it. We'll take you closer to the country, its culture and people, often in unscripted, spontaneous, impossible-to-replicate ways. You'll come home having seen and experienced the country in a way that other travellers might never have.

    Expert local guides

    If you book a guided trip, like one of our small group tours, your guide or tour leader will use their expert insider knowledge and local connections to make the most of unexpected opportunities. You might be invited to watch the sunrise from a lighthouse or to join family Diwali celebrations. They'll be on hand to make sure your trip goes smoothly, taking care of logistics. Our tour leaders are all hand-picked and trained by our experienced team to ensure consistently high standards. 

    Small groups & private trips

    Our average group size is just 12; big enough to meet like-minded people but small enough to get to the heart of a destination.  All sorts of people travel on our trips; groups are usually a mix of solos, couples and friends united by an adventurous spirit and a sense of fun. Get in touch to learn more about the group already booked on a particular trip (age range, solos vs couples etc). If you’d prefer a more private experience, we also offer a large range of Self-Guided trips throughout Europe.

    Sustainable Travel 

    Responsible tourism is one of the driving principles of Explore. We care deeply about travelling in a way that positively impacts the people and places we visit. 

    We have joined forces with other leaders in the tourism industry to help tackle the largest environmental crisis ever faced: climate change. As a responsible tour operator, we know that we are part of the problem, but this is our commitment to become part of the solution.

    We offset carbon on all trips booked with us. We recognise it’s not perfect, but believe that carbon offsetting is the most effective way of addressing carbon emissions in the short-to-medium term. By working with ClimateCare, a Gold Standard provider, we will offset the transport, accommodation and flights booked with us. This is part of a bigger project to reduce carbon, as part of our long-standing commitment to sustainable travel.


    Accommodation

    We carefully select our accommodation to give you a comfortable night's sleep in the best possible locations. The places we stay are every bit as important as the sights we visit and the things we do. Wherever possible we choose small, local and family-run properties. Occasionally, when we want to get off the beaten tourist trail, we may stay in more basic accommodation. Choices are based on what’s available in the places we want to stay; we choose the accommodation to suit the itinerary, not the other way around.


    Travel with Confidence 

    Our protocols are guided by the WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), UNWTO (World Tourism Organisation), and the European Commission and local government regulations and include personal protection, extensive disinfecting and physical distancing measures. When you travel with us you can be confident that we are doing everything possible to keep you safe. 


    General guidelines for the safe operation of Explore trips

    • Given the ever-changing nature of local rules and protocols relating to COVID-19, our itineraries are under regular review and will be tweaked according to local requirements to ensure a safe experience. Should any major change be required, you will be informed prior to departure.
    • Our Explore leaders will make judgement calls during the trip to modify the itinerary if appropriate social distancing can’t be achieved (for example to avoid a large crowds).
    • Our Explore leaders will undergo detailed training on COVID-19 protocols and leading our trips in the ‘new normal’. 

    • Our Explore leaders will brief you on arrival on the usage of face masks and social distancing during the trip, based on local government guidelines.
    • Only restaurants with strict protocols that comply with local requirements for food hygiene and social distancing will be used. We will encourage outdoor eating spaces where possible.
    • All our staff and third party suppliers will continually be updated on any new health and safety protocols.


    Protocols for transport

    • Our drivers will follow local protocols on the usage of face masks and required social distancing.
    • Our drivers will make alcohol-based hand sanitizer and paper tissues available in the vehicle and encourage customers to clean hands when they get into the vehicle.
    • All relevant touch points (seats, door handles, etc.) in vehicles will be disinfected regularly throughout the day.


    Protocols for hotels

    • Explore will only offer hotels that have specific COVID-19 protocols in place and comply with local government guidelines.
    • We will ensure these measures include; enhanced room cleaning, ventilation, social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfection of high frequency touch points in public areas, food safety, staff re-training and minimising contact within the properties.


    If you become unwell

    • All Explore leaders are trained to support any customer who becomes ill during a trip.
    • Explore has a country-specific  response plan in place to enable us to coordinate the most appropriate medical support and local assistance in the event of a suspected COVID-19 case within the group.

    • Explore leaders are supported by our 24/7 operations team and local in-country partners.


    Our recommendations for you

    • You should take your own face masks (minimum x2 reusable) and alcohol based hand sanitizer. Even if not required in your travel destination face masks are necessary for your flight there, and local rules can change. It’s better to be prepared.
    • You should check with airline on their individual COVID-19 requirements before departure.
    • You should carry your final documents on you as some airlines and arrival airports are requesting that you fill in a ‘passenger locator declaration’ which will require you to fill in your overnight hotel stops.

    • You should regularly check your own government travel advice and that you meet the entry requirements including but not limited to COVID-19 tests, pre arrival health questionnaires and in country Track and trace apps etc.

    About SmarTours

    Founded in 1996, smarTours promises its customers the “Best Travel Bargains” by offering mostly all-inclusive guided tours throughout much of the world.

    What Makes SmarTours Stand Out?

    • Airfare included
    • Affordable trips
    • Numerous ways to save
    • Local guides
    • Destinations around the world

    Japan tour with Smartours

    SmarTours offers affordable tours along with great itineraries. Included in the price of all their tours is international airfare from the U.S., first-class hotels, sightseeing excursions, and English-speaking local guides.

    SmarTours draws a large repeat business, taking travelers to such far-flung destinations as Thailand, Morocco, Japan, Peru, Patagonia, India, and Australia.

    Who Will Enjoy Traveling with SmarTours?

    • Budget travelers
    • Social travelers
    • History and culture lovers

    Travelers who love traveling and care about experiencing the destination above all else - tourist sites, history, and culture - will love the feel of a SmarTours trip.

    These tours are definitely for the budget minded - SmarTours offers numerous deals and specials throughout the year, and provides many other ways you can save money as well, including referring your friends and being a repeat SmarTours traveler.

    London england with smartours

    Trips are comfortable and well guided, if not luxury or especially unique in tone. Airfare is included, which is a major selling point for SmarTours travelers.

    SmarTours is perfect for the traveler who wants to get the most out of their travel experience, in terms of inclusions and time spent exploring the sites, both with a guide and with free time. If you are looking for a more cultivated, personalized experience, the SmarTours focus on keeping costs low doesn’t always allow for this. That said, this is budget travel that strives to appeal to a wider range.

    SmarTours caters to all ages that are looking for good prices. They are largely popular amongst middle aged, 50+ travelers, and families.

    Top Destinations

    sand dune in Africa

    SmarTours travels all over the world, including Africa, Asia, South America and Cuba, Western and Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. Diverse itineraries are available in each destination.

    SmarTours Travel Style

    • Large coaches
    • River and small ship cruises

    Except for its cruise offerings -- primarily river cruises as well as Greek Island and Galapagos cruises -- transportation is generally by bus. Group sizes can reach 40 and beyond, but may also be smaller depending on the popularity of the trip. SmarTours will design custom trips for groups with at least 25-30 travelers.

    Solo hiker on trip with Smartours

    Accommodations are between value and premium, comfortable with a step above basic amenities. You won’t spend much time in your hotel, as SmarTours makes the focus about the travel experiences on the ground. They care about ensuring that you have as much time as possible to explore with the guide and on your own.

    Why Choose a Tour With SmarTours?

    SmarTours is a complete bargain package for budget minded travelers. If you are looking for an unbeatable value, don’t mind a large group and want tours focused on exotic destinations, then SmarTours is a perfect choice for you.

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