There are a number of different types of overlanding but they all have a few things in common. How many of the top 10 ways to travel overland have you experienced?
Overlanding it’s an affordable and exciting way of seeing more of the planet. You get to see places most travellers never visit, meet interesting people and try lots of new things.
Different types of overlanding
The idea of overlanding is that a big part of the adventure is the journey itself. Spending time exploring the Americas, Africa, Australasia or Asia having various adventures along the way. But the exact definition of what constitutes overlanding varies greatly by person.
We explore this in more detail in this article ‘what is overlanding’. But broadly speaking overlanding is independent or guided, self-reliant travel using a variety of different vehicles.
Often the accommodation is camping, much of the time in the wild. But when overlanding you can stay where you want. Hostels, homestays, guesthouses and even hotels are all on the menu.
Typically overlanding trips tend to be longer in duration than your average holiday. While you can overland for a couple of weeks most trips last months. There is an emphasis on exploring, heading off the beaten track and really getting under the skin of a country.
Top 10 ways to travel overland
So, now that we know what overlanding is, here is a look at some of the different types of overlanding available. The top 10 ways to travel overland:
When most people think of overlanding it is the specially kitted out trucks that are front of mind. With space for multiple occupants and all the necessary gear they have become the byword for overlanding in recent times.
There’s something very exciting about boarding a truck in Tangiers with a bunch of strangers. Then making your way together across the African continent all the way to Cape Town (a classic example).
There are companies that specialise in offering these kind of overland tours such as Oasis Overland. Or you can get a suitable vehicle and do it yourself.
Few methods of transport give you an authentic experience like catching a local bus. It involves a fair degree of planning, waiting around and not a little discomfort (if we’re being really honest). But you get an accurate picture of how a country really works from buses, plus you get to meet locals.
In some parts of the world, it is an absolute must. Traversing Central America on the brightly coloured former US school buses, known as chicken buses, is a genuine journey of discovery.
Generally (although by no means always) trains are a more upmarket option than local buses. Trains are a great way to travel long distances quickly and comfortably.
Book sleeper cabins and plan your route in advance. But remember that you will be bound by the local train network and timetable.
In Europe there are great rail passes available such as Interrail and Eurail. So Europe overland travel by train is one of the best ways to get around the continent.
The success of TV shows such as A Long Way Down (Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman) has helped make motorcycle overlanding mainstream. But the truth is it’s always been a popular method of travel for those exploring the world.
If you get the right bike it can ride any terrain – so dirt tracks or potholed roads are not a problem. Plus the mechanics on many older bikes are simple and spares are easy to come by the world over.
In term of in terms of fuel and motorcycle insurance a motorbike is much cheaper to run than any other vehicle. But you can still travel long distances independently. Plus it’s a little more exciting!
A car gives you, and a few friends, the independence to travel where you want. Perhaps it is just a short overlanding trip from home, in which case take your own motor. But if heading to a different continent you will need a different approach.
Pretty much everywhere you go on the planet these days you’ll find hire cars from reputable and well-known suppliers. Depending on what kind of car you need, and for how long, prices can be reasonable.
However, overlanding is usually a long journey that might not end in the same country, let alone place, you started. So making an investment in a vehicle is a great way to explore. Just make sure it is roadworthy, complies with local laws and is insured.
An upgrade from the humble car! If your overland adventure is heading off road, then you’ll need a machine that can handle everything you throw at it. You can hire or buy 4x4s that can tackle most off road terrain.
A 4×4 gives you access to parts of the world other travellers never get to see. Just remember to be sensible and take spares with you plus everything you need to survive, because there are no recovery vehicles or supermarket deliveries where you’re going.
If you travel in a campervan then your home and your transport are covered. Whether it’s a classic VW camper or a Winnebago behemoth you will have a lot of fun.
You can hire or buy either. Also a popular option is to convert a van, ambulance or other similar sized vehicle. While you can rock up anywhere, and in theory sleep where you want, just check out the local laws and always tidy up after yourself.
Bikes are a great way to travel overland. It is free, doesn’t pollute and slow enough to really get to know a country.
A few years ago I had an amazing time cycling across the Balkans. The freedom you get from self-powered travel is like no other. Get on your bike and ride all day along back roads and country tracks. Calorie load at the end of the day.
Find somewhere to sleep. Get up. Repeat. It’s no more complicated than that and totally liberating. Plus, the endorphin high from all that exercise leaves you feeling ecstatic.
Less of a thing these days and not without its risks, but this is one of the most rewarding of the different types of overlanding. The advice is generally not to do it alone, at night or on less travelled roads.
Hitchhiking, it’s a great way of meeting people and it often opens the door to genuinely unforgettable experiences. Definitely one of the best ways to travel overland if you want to save money and see where the journey takes you.
Weird and wonderful ways to travel overland
While the above different types of overlanding are all quite well known there are many other forms of travel you could use. A friend of mine bought a Tuk-Tuk/Rickshaw in India and traveled the length of the country.
You could overland on a moped, a skateboard, a hand-bike or even a spacehopper! At the other end of the scale you could probably Uber your way around the world…
How ever you travel, overlanding is an amazing experience. You get to see things usual tourists won’t experience. You’ll also meet a wide range of people often making friends for life.
We hope you found this guide to the different types of overlanding useful! If you know of other ways to travel overland let us know in the comments below. Also be sure to check out our overlanding discounts as you could save a fortune.