G Adventures – Ultimate Cambodian Adventure Review
I booked my Ultimate Cambodian Adventure tour with G Adventures as I felt it was safer than travelling solo. Firstly, as a woman in a third world country. Secondly, with a local guide and sustainable travel the tour would be a way to ethically travel whilst helping local people.
Length of Trip
The trip was “14” days but they count the first day when you get there at 6pm. You have a meet and greet talk and dinner as 1 day and the last day when you leave. Even though I didn’t see anyone on the tour but my roommate when we both left at 8.30am. So both of these days included no activities or any contact with a tour guide. Long story short, it’s a 12 day tour not 14.
We were told to be in Bangkok to meet our group at 6pm on 21st May. Prior to leaving London I had emailed G Adventures to ask the name of the tour guide I was to be meeting. I didn’t get a response before I left (I got one a few days into the trip…helpful). I had no idea until I got to the hotel and saw a note at reception the name of the tour guide.
Since this seemed to be a pre-prepared typed note I am not sure why we hadn’t been emailed these details prior to going.
Tours That Didn’t Materialize
Our trip details said that we could take advantage of various options such as motorcycle tours, cooking classes etc. This was during the optional activity sections of the trip. It sounded great and was one of the main reasons I booked. As much as I love meeting people I knew that being stuck with the same group of 15 all day every day would wear a bit thin. So going off and doing other mini trips either alone or with a few others would be really fun.
Unfortunately, what ended up happening each time was there was either the choice of doing an activity that the majority decided they wanted to do. Or a combination of two or three things one after the other so you had to do them all as the bus took us from one to another. The other option was going off alone since most seemed reluctant to stray from the group and it wasn’t encouraged.
Not Exactly Optional Activities
A lot of the optional activities that the tour guide arranged were expensive compared to what I paid when I had a walk around the town and booked myself. In Kampot two of the group (Marion and Jim) came with me on a $5 sunset boat cruise. The rest of the group went on the arranged boat trip which was basically the same as ours but they had party music and lots of drinking. Apart from that did the same sunset tour and that cost them $25.
I don’t eat seafood when travelling in places like this very often as the water isn’t clean, therefore fish and seafood – a bit sketchy. And boozing and blasting music isn’t what I wanted from the holiday. I just wanted to quietly enjoy a sunset! I am glad I went on the other boat, we got to meet some other travellers and they were lovely and ever so chatty.
Multiple times we got to a destination and found out that despite the suggested optional activities for that day being on the itinerary they were not offered from the tour guide. We weren’t given any suggestion of where to book them ourselves if we did want to do them. Often we got to the new destination too late in the day to be able to go and do the things we wanted to do.
We missed the opportunity to go to Rabbit Island as we got to that town at lunchtime, hours past the early morning start time of all of the tours. I am not sure why going there was an option on the itinerary as there wouldn’t ever have been time.
We missed out on doing a cooking course and motorcycle tour in Battambang since we all ended up having to go on a tuk tuk tour instead. I enjoyed it but what I’m saying is that it wasn’t either of the two things that were listed on the website as being available for that day before you booked the tour.
I wanted to do both the cooking course and the motorcycle tour. Those of us on the boat trip to Koh Rong missed out going to Ream National Park in Sihanoukville as it was a trip organised on the same day at the same time time. This was despite us being in Sihanoukville for two full days so they could have been on different days so people could have gone to both.
Trips Not What They Seem
The snorkelling trip ($15) didn’t include the bbq on a secluded island beach as it says on the itinerary. All of the other boat trips you could book in the town took you to 2 or 3 different islands rather than the one we went to for the same price. We ended up spending 4 hours on one beach with a load of stray dogs. Then doing 2 short snorkeling drops where you couldn’t see anything much.
My trip ended up costing way more than GAP’s estimate. The trip price itself was £861. You then have to get a certain level of travel insurance to cover the mandatory level of medical expenses that they require which runs about £40 minimum and that was much less than purchasing it via GA.
Most city tours and other activities aren’t included, with at least 1-2 of these “optional” tours per location. On top of that you must put money into a kitty at the beginning of the trip so that is used to tip each guide whether the activity was included or not and whether you attend that activity or not! I found it ridiculous my money was being used for tips for dinners and outings I didn’t go on. So you would need to take extra money for that too.
When The Tour Guide is Hella Terrible
The guide of your trip is really the number one factor of your experience on a tour. It makes a huge difference as a great tour leader will have a great personality, be able to answer your questions about your surroundings intelligently, be a problem solver, have a well organised plan and have experience dealing with a group of varying personalities, nationalities, travel experience and level of activities. You really have to have amazing inter-personal skills and buckets of enthusiasm to be a good tour guide.
Does He Even Know What’s Going On?
Sadly, our guide seemed to either be new to GA and not know what was going on or just clueless. He didn’t seem particularly interested in helping us learn more about the country in general or giving us information about the culture apart from complaining endlessly.
When he did try and chat on the bus journeys it was quite hard to follow as he flitted from one topic to another to a ‘funny’ anecdote or rude joke, so the information we did get was pretty confusing. Since I have been back I have read up on a lot of the places we went to be able to understand better. It also made me realise a lot of what he had told us was completely incorrect.
Who, and Where and WTF?
The guide’s information on meeting times and activities seemed to vary wildly even during the same conversation. After a while quite a few people just gave up listening. You spend hours on a minibus during this tour (not sure how that is sustainable travel, we didn’t even go on one train).
I didn’t mind to start with as I was looking forward to what happens on most tours when you have a long bus ride, they point out interesting places that you are passing and give you a bit of a background on the place or what the people do there. This didn’t happen, and I got the feeling he was more of a travel booker than an actual ‘local guide’.
Sadly I had my purse stolen in the hotel at Kampong Cham and, despite the tour guide taking me to the police station they unfortunately (but probably not surprisingly) refused to give me a police report for my insurance. For that I give him credit as he clearly did try to sort this at the police station. But then it seemed to get a bit weird.
He wasn’t comforting to me, in fact we had to walk back from the police station in the blazing heat to the hotel as he stomped off from the people that had given us a lift by motorbike and I was the one trying to calm him down! I really would have expected a perhaps ‘sorry this happened to you’ or ‘are you alright’? Perhaps I am too English but I can’t get my head around not asking someone either of those things or actually caring about the response.
Even more weirdly, for the rest of the trip it was as if I was a problem or a nuisance to him, maybe because I had advised GA via email of the theft? I am not sure as they didn’t reply until 2 weeks after the event but as part of my insurance claim you have to advise the tour group you have booked with. Either way I felt uneasy about asking him anything after that.
Ridiculous Customer Service
It took weeks for anyone at G Adventures to get back to me once I had advised them of everything that had happened. I’m not here to slate anyone but to provide information and constructive criticism, my general consus is that overall I don’t rate their Ultimate Cambodia Adventure as worth going on. If you have an issue during the trip they are totally unhelpful.
They did eventually agree to pay for some costs incurred due to the problems I had had, however they didn’t offer (I had to ask), and the problems should not have happened in the first place. For info I received just under £255.
The hotel we stayed in (in Kampong Cham) was definitely not safe and secure. The tour guide had no knowledge in how to deal with a theft situation like this. He had no clue what would have been helpful. Such as taking me to a tourist police station rather than one for locals. Add that to the fact the local G Adventures office in Cambodia are completely useless.
I have still not had a follow up email from the one they did send me which simply said they were looking into these issues on a local basis, I presume they have not looking into anything, as I say I never heard from them again. So basically there is zero assistance from them at all.
When thinking about my trip to Cambodia, I try not to think about the G Adventures parts. Instead I think about the different sights I saw. I think of the fun things I did like quad biking and seeing the Irrawaddy dolphins. I also remember some of the people I met and the fun memories with them.
I went on from Cambodia to Thailand and had an amazing time thankfully. I met up with my cousin, his partner and some new friends so that put a positive spin on things. I have written a separate post about Cambodia in general which includes all the fun that I managed to have. I felt that it was in spite of G Adventures, not because of them. So didn’t want to include it here.
About as Much Adventure as You’d Have In Your Living Room
Perhaps I have a wildly different idea of the term ‘adventure’. The tour I went on definitely didn’t have anything that I would have deemed particularly adventurous. There was no hiking, no extreme sports, even the quad biking was on flat field grass.
We didn’t even go up or down the river after the dolphin watching to see the view. In general, it’s very low on the ‘adventure’ or ‘excitement’ front. There’s not even any need for this to be a backpacking trip. You stay in hotels and your bag goes from hotel room to bus and back again. It would actually have been much easier to have a small suitcase.
Should You Go On a G Adventures Tour?
If you haven’t done a lot of backpacking or travelling before then go for it.
This is just my experience with the one G Adventures tour I have done. It may not be applicable to other tours of Asia or the rest of the world where they operate tours. I am not trying to put you off from the Company in general, I just wouldn’t recommend this particular tour.
If you have done plenty of travelling before you would do perfectly well without this tour. You can look on an app like Tourlina to find someone to travel with yourself. If that fails then go alone and stay in hostels. There are plenty of other people around you to hang out with. That way you can go on trips you actually get to choose. You can also find similar people that you have more in common with. Would I ever go on a G Adventures tour again? It’s a hard no from me.
Have you ever been on an adventure tour? What was it like?