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Essentially it's a challenge and an adventure rather than a holiday. A few companies run cushier options for those who really can't handle the idea of roughing it - usually a mix of hotel accommodation and camping - but, apart from these, the answer is yes.
And you have to put the tent up and take it down as well, which is no mean feat if you've never slept under canvas before.
THAT DOESN'T SOUND VERY CHEAP It does when you consider what's included (usually transport, food and accommodation at least) and for how long.
Some overland companies charge substantially more than others - Dragoman and Guerba (01373 826611; are at the expensive end of the market, which is especially noticeable in Africa where there is so much competition - but then their trucks are of a very high standard.
Camping with your group can inspire a wonderful sense of camaraderie as you cook together, huddle around the campfire and glug tin mugs of mulled wine under the stars. After weeks stuck in each other's company, the group can also split into warring factions. On my three-month trip, from Rio to Quito in South America with Tucan ( 020 8742 8612), there were brash Antipodeans, serious Canadians and a few well-balanced Brits - divided into those who liked alcohol and those who hated people who liked alcohol.
According to the companies, most overlanders are between 18-40, although you'll occasionally get a sprightly 70-year-old either making younger travellers look like wimps or else driving everyone crazy with complaints about their rheumatism.
Tucan's seats are reclining and padded, as are those of Dragoman (01728 861133;