Tourism is undergoing a new phase in Iran facing much larger number of travelers visiting the country compared to the previous years and even decades! Therefore, all the professionals involved in this industry have to tackle several issues from visa and booking to guiding and transporting clients. From practical point of view, as a tour guide who is back from two extra large groups, I want to mention the problems you may face if you travel as such.
Group Size for Tours in Iran
There are various numbers of people traveling either alone or in groups in Iran. I’m categorizing the groups in an approximate manner based on my experience here.
Some prefer to hire a guide and a driver, or a driver-guide to explore the country. The means of transportation is usually a sedan or an SUV depending on the nature of the tour. These individuals pay a lot more for their journey and obviously experience more of what they want to see.
Small groups are the ones in which there are from 3 to 12. The tour groups traveling in such numbers in Iran are accompanied by a guide and a driver. Their vehicles are vans or minibuses.
Large groups are the ones in which 13 to 25 people are traveling together in buses. Although these buses are designed to accommodate up to 44 passengers, they are the only and ideal means of transporting such number of travelers.
And what I call the extra large group tours in Iran are the ones in which more than 25 people are traveling together in one bus with one guide! Yes, you’ve read it correctly. This is happening in Iran these days. I had two large groups to guide in spring of 2015, one was 34 pax and the other one 37 pax. From what I have experienced, here’s the conclusion:
Problem #1 of Extra Large Groups:
You Will Not Move on Rapidly Enough!
There are often some people who aren’t physically as fit as you are. Some are careless about the cause of the group and tend to enjoy their sluggish movement. Some ignorant ones walk with walkers, walking sticks or even sit in wheelchairs and still join a group! Don’t count on the tour operators whom you don’t know enough as they may invite everyone to sell as many packages as possible. Such operators only care about the larger financial benefit at the end of the tour. Extra large groups, even without such bonuses, tend to be much slower than smaller tour groups.
It takes time for the entire group to come together,
- In the morning
- Getting on and off the bus
- Getting in and out of the museums & sites
- Finishing their meals,
Do you want me to tell a catastrophic story for you? In some groups, individuals pay individually for their meals before leaving the restaurants. For your information, this is a phenomenon Iranian restaurants aren’t prepared for. So, it would take ages!
In addition, such a tour will make you extremely exhausted. You have to start the day earlier and finish it later. There will be less flexibility and more strictness by the tour leader. He has to manage the tour like that to make sure all tour promises of the extra large group are put in action and covered.
Problem #2 of Extra Large Groups:
You will Not Be Sufficiently Informed!
It’s a likeable theory that buses have loudspeakers and microphones so that everyone could hear the guide’s explanation inside the bus. In practice, some buses have very good audio systems by which everyone can hear the guide from any seats. In some of the buses, some speakers aren’t working as perfectly as others. Sometimes, apart from technical inefficiencies, human factors could worsen the listening experience of receiving information like having extra low-pitch or high-pitch voices.
Not all the guides have got tour guide audio systems to gently talk, instead of shouting, and be heard by every tour member in Iran. Actually, this is a new thing among Iranian tour companies. Although they will make your listening experience much richer and more convenient, imagine if some begin to ask questions and time flies away! By the way, how much time do you think you will get to contact your guide and ask your question?
Problem #3 of Extra Large Groups:
You will Not Make Enough Acquaintance with the Locals!
No matter how considerately your tour designer has worked to provide a rich experience for your trip, when the extra large tour group size is going on, things cannot be done the way you wish them to be done. A smart tour guide may arrange for some free time if the itinerary allows, but it would be just a small opportunity of what the tour should be like.
Have you ever experienced such golden moments when the tour stops and you’re on your own to explore the country’s culture? If you have such a time to feel the local culture, you will be amazed by how much people like to connect to you and get in touch with you. They love to talk to you, welcome you, ask you questions and invite you to a drink, meal, etc. How much of that type of experience do you think you will have in an extra large group?
How Could Extra Large Groups Be Avoided?
This is a question for you, because you are the ones who go to the tour companies in your countries and ask for a tour to Iran. Most of you, who plan to visit Iran, have traveled extensively before. Therefore, you are familiar with how to approach a tour operator, travel agent, etc and ask for a tour to visit Iran.
I would like to hear from you and see how you prevent such an experience. Please go ahead and leave your comments below here.