Coach tours? Been there, done that! Hop-on-hop-0ff buses? Nothing novel about it. Driving holidays? Sooo yesterday! So how about a kayak tour instead? Or a para-gliding tour? A rickshaw ride, perhaps? Or even a “Duck tour”?
Rashmi Deshpande explores the world of off-beat transport that is most suited to the terrain, pace or adventure you are about to experience.
#1 Kayak Tour – New York, USA
The Big Apple has one of the most spectacular skylines in the world! And a great, off-beat way to see it, is to try a kayak tour of the Hudson river. Better still, try an after-dark kayak tour. Imagine night-paddling in one of the world’s most recognised cityscapes! It’s surreal!
Why A Kayak Tour? It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own kayak. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve never been in a kayak before! New York‘s guided kayak tours, which can last a few hours, half a day or the whole day, come with kayaks, guides, safety equipment, and fully-guided instructions.
PS: There are lots of free kayak tours available around New York. Try the voluntary organisation, RedHookBoaters.org and StatenIsland.org for starters.
#2 Vespa Trail – Rome, Italy
The narrow, winding streets of Rome, were not built for tour buses. But they’re perfect for Vespas and Fiat 500s! Hire a Vespa guide for the day and ride pillion, like a true Roman! You could also opt for a Fiat 500 tour and have the guide pilot you through the tiny alleyways, backstreets and central squares of the Italian capital.
Why A Vespa Trail? Cliched though it may seem, we can’t think of a better Roman holiday souvenir than an Audrey Hepburn moment on the iconic Vespa! Tours typically last four hours and are peppered with photo-stops, cafe-stops and gelato-stops.
PS: Even if you have an international license, avoid giving in to the temptation of hiring a scooter for yourself. Italians aren’t the world’s best rule-observers, and driving in Rome can be a bit like riding a rickshaw in Mumbai. Chaotic! Oh, and one more thing, hang on to your valuables, Rome is famous for pick-pockets!
#3 Bicycle Tours – Puri, Munnar, Hampi & Goa
There may be nothing novel about cycling in rural India. Kids going to school do it, men commuting to work do it, even girls off to college do it. But nothing compares to the joy of riding a bike through the mud-hut villages of Puri, up the cardamom plantations of Munnar, along the endless backwaters of Alleppey, the rocky terrain of Hampi and the coastal roads of Goa…all on a holiday!
Why A Bike Trail? The pace of your cycle tour can be as fast or as slow as you want. It’s the most eco-friendly and budget-friendly way to travel in India and the best way to get to know the locals, the culture and the street food. Besides, everyone can do with a bit of exercise on holiday!
PS: Expect to garner a lot of curiosity. And while you’ll get all the help you want from friendly locals regarding directions, make sure you’re not travelling alone, and especially, never at night because traffic can be unpredictable, and safety could become an issue.
#4 Motorcycle Sidecar Tours – Beijing, China
Experience the secrets of Beijing, as you squeeze through tiny lanes or ‘hutongs’, in the sidecar of a motorcycle. With the wind in your hair and an expert rider by your side, you’ll see Beijing the way the locals do–up close and personal.
Why travel by sidecar? Beijing’s traffic can be chaotic, so when you’re in a sidecar, you spend less time negotiating vehicles, and more time seeing the quaint, hidden aspects of the city. Besides, riding past the front gate of the Forbidden City in a motorcycle sidecar–who wouldn’t want to do that!?!
PS: Always wear a helmet and protect your eyes. And dress according to the weather, Beijing’s winter air can get cooler when you’re riding in the open air.
#5 Hot Air Balloon Rides – Worldwide
Hot air balloon-rides over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia (Turkey), the historic city of Bruges (Belgium) and over the vineyards of Tuscany (Italy). What better way to experience a sunrise or sunset in these gorgeous locations that to float over them in a hot air balloon?
Why travel by hot air balloon? It’s the oldest form of flight travel invented by humans. It may also be the most romantic…
PS: The inability to steer a balloon means you travel with the wind, going where its fancy takes you. Well, sorta… So do it only if you’re okay with the slow, languorous pace. If not, you can always opt for a paragliding tour. The ones in Himachal, Uttarakhand and Goa are quite good.
#6 Amphibious Tours – London, Dublin & Boston
Travel by water, or travel by land? Combine both these choices and you have a tour that’s straight out of a Bond film! A duck tour! First started in the USA in Wisconsin, DUKWs were multi-purpose, land and water military vehicles deployed by the US army during World War II. Amphibious travel is now available in several countries around the world.
Why Travel By An Amphibious Vehicle? Along the streets, and into the water, amphibious vehicles offer a fun way to see any city. And the kids absolutely love it!
PS: A combination of air and sea are also available in places like the Maldives, and Greece, while Kerala was the first state in India to introduce the concept.
#7 Segway Tours – Worldwide
More fun than walking, and definitely more eco-friendly than taking the bus, Segway tours are available all over the world, from Paris to Berlin, from Budapest to Amsterdam and from Chicago to Delhi. The breakthrough technology is powered by gyroscopes and tilt sensors, the Segway works according to your body movement and is a fantastic way of seeing a city.
Why Travel By Segway? The Segway is a fun way to travel. It’s popular with families and couples alike, and kids love them!
PS: Some tour operator allow children above 12 years, while others are adult-only tours.
#8 Tuk-Tuk Tours – Asia & Africa
From Bangkok in Thailand to Soweto in South Africa, these three-wheeled wonders are how the locals usually travel. In Delhi, you have a choice of motorised, and cycle rickshaws.
Why Travel By Tuk-Tuk? Close to the ground and exciting, tuk-tuks are driven by local experts who can introduce you to the back streets, and the hidden sights and sounds of their city. You can stop at local haunts, and see how the city operates on a day-to-day basis.
PS: If you’re not used to traffic in cities like Delhi and Bangkok, the tour can be quite the hair-raiser. But go with a reputed company and you should be perfectly fine!
#9 Trike Tours – Scotland
If you enjoy motorcycle rides, there’s no better way to enjoy Scotland‘s exquisite scenery than on the trike, a three-wheeled motorcycle. Chauffeur-driven trike tours operate all over Scotland and England’s Lake District and offer a cool way to sit back and enjoy the countryside.
Why Go On A Trike Tour? A head-turner, the trike offers customisable routes, as well as a much more exciting way to see your destination than on a bus.
PS: Gloves and helmets are provided by tour operators. Some helmets have integrated head-set communications, so you can chat with your partner. Other operators also offer iPods and music to drive to.
#10 City Snow-Shoeing Tours – Quebec City, Canada
Traditional snow shoes, which look like tennis racquets, usually have a hardwood frame with rawhide lacings. Quebec’s snowshoe walk takes you through scenic and historic areas, with a guide who regales you with battle tales and historic tidbits.
Why Go On A Snowshoe Tour? A snowshoe tour is a great way to see snowy landscapes, while being non-intrusive enough for you to catch a glimpse of wild animals. The tours can be as gentle or as tough as you choose.
PS: Snowshoes, mittens, a lantern and a hot chocolate beverage, are usually staples on such tours.
Which of these holidays interest you the most? Let us know in the comment section below!