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Hiker | © Unsplash/Pixabay
Hiker | © Unsplash/Pixabay

Group Tours Vs. Solo Travel If You're Traveling Alone

Picture of Danielle Emond
Updated: 30 November 2016
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ‘The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.’ But who says you can’t have both? For those with a bout of wanderlust, finding a travel buddy can be difficult. With friends busy with work, school and life, it can be hard to organize a trip. Enter: the organized group travel option. Take it from this group tour guru and solo traveler (having toured South East Asia with Contiki, followed by several months of solo travel): there is no doubt that the two are different experiences, with their own pros and cons. Here’s what to expect from both sides of the spectrum.

Making friends

Organized Group Travel

Most people are in the same boat as you. They came to the group alone, or with a friend, but they all want to meet new people and have fun. While travel forums are ripe with horror stories about being stuck with a ‘bad group’, this is luckily rarely the case. Often, group members become close very quickly and still stay in contact months later. And just think: you’ll now have future travel buddies!

PRO TIP: As in regular life, there will always be a person you don’t like or who doesn’t like you, and unfortunately, you’re kind of stuck with them. Don’t let it ruin your trip; spend time with everyone else. Be positive.

#cabbagesandcondoms

A photo posted by Danielle (@dee_antoinette) on

Solo Travel

Admittedly, the first time you travel solo feels like your first day of school – ‘But what if I don’t make any friends, mom?!’ Going to a new place alone makes meeting people slightly more difficult. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. Say ‘hi’ first, and if people seem uninterested in talking to you, that’s their loss. Once you’ve been chatting for a while, and feel comfortable, ask people to come exploring with you. You will most likely meet other solo travelers while you’re out at restaurants. They are the ones also sitting by themselves. Cherish your time with other travelers; you may only cross paths for one day. Serendipitous moments are the best part about solo travel, so enjoy!

PRO TIP: Not everyone you meet has good intentions. Use your instincts, and remember you don’t have to always tell the truth about where you’re going or where you are staying. Stick to public places. If you feel unsafe, or just aren’t having fun, leave.

 

Down time

Organized Group Travel

Travelling on a group tour is usually fast-paced. The amount of chill-out time you have depends on what type of trip you sign up for. Most trips are late nights and early mornings. If you’re the kind of person who can’t sit still on a holiday and would rather climb 400 steps to explore a temple than lie on the beach, then organized group travel’s for you.

PRO TIP: Sleep whenever you can – buses, planes, trains. Don’t be afraid to skip an activity to do something more relaxing; however, expect a serious case of FOMO when everyone returns.

 

Solo Travel

When you’re on your own, you can do everything at your pace. Take it slow when you’re tired, and when you’re feeling energetic, visit 10 places in one day. You can wake up early or sleep in when you choose. Relax on the beach or spend the day exploring. That’s why so many people travel solo – you control everything!

PRO TIP: You’ll regret it if you take too much down time.

Activities & sight seeing

Organized Group Tours

Not sure what to do today? No worries! Everything is already organized for you. All you have to do is make sure you make it on the bus on time.

PRO TIP: Don’t be late. Seriously.

Chiang Mai

A photo posted by Danielle (@dee_antoinette) on

Solo Travel

Your guidebook is your bible. Read as much as you can before you go, and have it handy at all times. No one is going to organize your day for you, so if you don’t pick the sights you want to see, you will miss out.

PRO TIP: Make a list of the things you want to do, and semi-plan your days ahead of time. Ask other travelers what they recommend; some of the best places discovered are through word of mouth.

Nightlife

Organized Group Tours

If you like to party, organized group trips are the holy grail for a traveling party-goer. You will always have someone else to go out with, and tour managers will always be able to suggest the best spots to go. In fact, they will probably party with you most of the time. Depending on the tour, you could have some top-quality theme parties.

PRO TIP: ‘Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.’ Don’t leave your travel fam at the club, and always look out for each other. For the morning after – coconut water before the bus.

 

Solo Travel

Contrary to popular belief, you can still party while travelling alone. You may end up going to a few more dive bars without a trip manager’s advice – check the guidebook and ask other people you encounter. Dance like no-one is watching: chances are you won’t see any of these people again!

PRO TIP: Watch out for yourself. Get a taxi back to your hotel rather than walking. Dance.

 

Trying new things

Organized Group Tours

If you want to try new things, a group tour is a perfect environment for it. There’s something in the air on group tours that makes your fears disappear. There’s something about being in a group of similarly minded people – all doing something you would otherwise never do – that makes you want to join in. You might even try a garlic-marinated tarantula (to be honest, it not’s bad). Blame FOMO. Group travel is a great place to face fears. You have a group of supportive, positive friends around you. If you don’t like something, you never have to do it again. The good news is you can always opt out – someone else will always be there to eat your tarantula for you.

PRO TIP: If you have doubts, follow your trip manager’s advice. They’ve done the trip before and will give you an idea of whether it’s safe or not.

Me and this friendly giant 🐍#throwback #mekongdelta #lookingtiredaf

A photo posted by Danielle (@dee_antoinette) on

Solo Travel

Feeling a little out of your comfort zone? Good, that’s where the good stuff happens! Without a friend by your side to encourage you, you will have to push yourself a little more. But don’t miss out on new experiences simply because you’re alone. Learn a local dance, eat a local delicacy, or even drink a local cocktail. Another great thing about travelling solo is it is much easier to immerse yourself in the local culture.

PRO TIP: As you’re without a guide, learning a bit of the language will help you get the most out of local experiences.

Safety

Organized Group Tours

There is safety in numbers. Travelling with an experienced guide and a large group does have its advantages. You’ll rarely be left alone. However, it is still important to research the country or countries you are visiting. Don’t go in blind.

PRO TIP: Just because you are with a huge group of new friends doesn’t mean you should forget where you are. Always remember you are in a foreign country.

 

Solo Travel

Research, research, research! Make yourself aware of the potential scams and dangers in the country you are heading to, as they tend to vary. Unfortunately, as a woman, there are definitely always more risks. Men won’t always have the same amount of respect for you as they do in your home country. But that does not mean you can’t go. Do your research, dress respectfully and trust your instincts. You are an easier target on your own, but this doesn’t mean that travelling alone is unsafe. Most people are fundamentally good, so don’t let your worries spoil your trip.

PRO TIP: Many will agree that it’s about your attitude. You don’t need to be rude; you simply need to be sure of yourself. Always look like you know where you’re going, even if you don’t. Don’t flash your cash, ever. Leave your passport in the hotel safe, or locked in your bag. Find out how to contact local authorities.

 

There are pros and cons to any type of travel. Group travel can be a great warm up before diving into solo travel and a great way to make friends. Travelling solo is a truly magical experience; trust us – you will have never felt so free. Travel will give you an amazing perspective on the world. The most important part is that you begin your travels with an open mind, and no matter how you are travelling, be ready for a life-changing experience.