Navigating your way through the various tours offered on the West Coast or Western Australia can initially be a bit daunting as there are literally hundreds of websites offering the best west coast tour.
And what is the best tour anyway? This is a personal thing, some people are looking for adventure, some people are looking for luxury, some people love birds, some people hate sand!
This post is designed to help with this process of selecting a tour operating between Perth, Exmouth and Broome
Ask and You Shall Receive.
Asking the right questions will get you most of the information you need to select a tour which is right for you.
But what questions? Here’s are some good ones to start you off?
Is it an Operator or a Re Sellar.
Whilst there are hundreds of options online for West Coast Tours, in reality, there is only a handful of tour operators who actually run tours, the rest of the websites will sell you a ticket on one of these tours, but they are not involved in running vehicles or organising the tours.
So the first thing to establish with any tour that you are looking at online is to ask, “is the tour on offer actually run by to the owner of the website, or is it a website which is simply selling a tour operated by someone else?”.
Agents & Re Sellers are a big part of the travel industry and can offer a valuable experience, for example they can often add value to your travel dollars by packaging multiple tours, flights and hotels together, and they take care of all the hard work of putting together a complex itinerary.
However it is important to understand who you are actually giving your money to, an agent or the operator, unfortunately some agents can be a little vague in this area, it is not uncommon for some online agents to make it look like they operate the tours, and to not actually disclose the operator until after you have paid them.
With the de regulation of the travel agency industry in Australia several years ago, there is no longer automatic protection for customers when a travel agent fails to pass on money you have paid them, if they don’t you may find that when you turn up for the tour, you will not be permitted to board.
At the very least it’s a good idea to establish the facts about the tour you are about to invest a lot of money on. All you need to do is ask the question, “are you and operator or a reseller?”
And the normal rules apply with any online purchase, do your research and make sure you are paying a reputable business.
What Type of Accommodation Is Used.
One of the big difference between the tours is the type of accommodation which is used.
Some West Coast Tours are camping, some are accommodated. The ofcourse you can have luxury accommodation or budget accommodation, or camping in Caravan Parks as opposed to Wilderness Camping.
Luxury & Budget accommodation is well understood, however when camping there can be a big difference in camping in an established campground and wilderness, or ‘bush camping’ as it’s called in Australia.
- Normally equiped with ablution blocks (showers & toilets)
- There is often power available
- You will normally be surrounded by other campers (potential noise)
- There will often be street light style lighting, impacting star viewing
- You many often be in a town, so there is noise from traffic etc
- Campfires are normally prohibited
- Surrounded by wilderness
- Campfires normally permitted
- Fantastic star viewing
- No ablution block (showers & toilets)
- No power at camp (unless the vehicle is equipped)
What you choose will clearly be what you prefer, for me, you cannot beat wilderness camping, we all live luxurious lives these days and can shower every day of our life if we want, IMO for the short time you spend in the wilderness on a West Coast Tour, it makes sense to push your limits a little and go all the way and wild camp.
Some roads can be tough on the vehicles…
As a customer, what you don’t want is to be stranded out in the Wilderness because the vehicle you are has broken down, not only will it disrupt your tour experience, but it may result in missing flights and hotel bookings if the tour is delayed.
It is a good idea to have a look at the vehicles on offer, most operators have modern vehicles, if the operator you are looking at is using older vehicles, then there is a higher risk mechanical issues along the way.
So again, ask the question, “how old are your vehicles?”
Group sizes vary a lot, what is common amoung all operators is they they will claim to have small groups, but actual group sizes will vary from couples to 30+ people.
Every one recognises the in general, smaller groups are a good thing, and anyone can claim small groups. Small is simply a relative number and can mean anything. The sun is small compared to the universe.
Thankfully it’s easy to spot the fakers, those who claim to have small groups, but who then do not disclose the actual size of the groups, probably have big groups.
Another trick that operators will use to disguise their big groups is to quote an “average group size” so they might have a 25 seater truck and claim an average groups size of 15, but who knows what their average is? Really they can just make this number up, there are no “group size police” out there patrolling the bush and checking busses for empty seats. And every operator is working as hard as they can to sell every seat, if they can sell 25 you can bet they will.
On a plus side, a larger group size may result in a cheaper price as the operator has economies of scale.
Typically small groups are better because larger group sizes can suffer from access issues, larger vehicles cannot get down narrow bush tracks, and they suffer from organisational blues, getting up and going in the morning can take longer with very large groups, they are not as personal and the poor guides who lead them are worked hard on organising the trips instead of guiding them.
So again, ask the question, “how many seats are in your vehicles?”
Finally it’s not hard to check the credibility of operators, look for someone who has great reviews on sites like Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor is quite good at weeding out fake reviews so you can trust the majority of what you read, and ideally select an operator who has a history of good reviews going back over the years.
If the operator you are looking at does not have reviews, I would be asking why.
There is a huge range in prices charged for West Coast Tours, and as with most things, this is a reflection of what you get.
So it all comes down to your budget, but make sure you compare apples with apples.
Each we see new operators starting up and charging discounted rates, they buy cheap ex mining vehicles from auctions and off they go, but they don’t last very long. They soon realise that there is a significant cost to keep vehicles going in this tough and rugged region.