Travellers come from all walks of life. Some are introverts, some are extroverts and some just need that extra push of confidence. Some like the challenge of figuring things out by themselves when they travel and others prefer a little helping hand. When considering group tours or solo travel, it may seem completely contradictory for travelling solo but if you’re the type of person who worries about each step of the way then consider taking a tour, even for just the beginning of your trip.
Planning at least part of your trip before you go gives you peace of mind especially if you book it at the start of your big adventure. Giving yourself a few days to acclimatise is essential when travelling alone. Not only will it give you the confidence to you a bed for a few nights, gives you ready-made as you arrive at the airport is worth its weight in gold.
Group Tours or Solo?
“But I’m not a ‘tour’ person!” I hear you cry.
As much as independent travel rocks, it can still be daunting if you’ve never done it before. I’m not suggesting that you need to book an organised group tour for the whole time. Even the word “tour” now holds a different meaning from a large group of tourists being herded through the main tourist sites following a guide with a coloured flag.
Nowadays travel companies offer a more unique experience using local transport, taking you to lesser-known spots and offering cultural experiences so you really get to know the country rather than seeing it through a tourist’s eyes. They can be a great way to meet others at the beginning of your trip.
Why use a group tour?
Travelling to a destination that has recently opened up to tourism or poses a greater risk than others is much easier on a pre-organised trip. Certain countries such as India and places within the Middle East, can be more challenging than others and local tour guides will know the best places to go, and the ones to stay away from.
It will also give you a peace of mind. Even using local guides and companies can eliminate the apprehension if you get to a country and are not sure about doing a certain area alone, especially for jungle treks or wanting to go off the beaten track.
Pros of Taking a Tour
Even if you’re not a ‘group tour person,’ you may have to succumb to one at some point. Depending on which country you are visiting, some areas are only accessible on tours. Travel to Chile overland from Bolivia and you need a 4×4 and an experienced driver for some of the tough terrain and salt flats. A guide will know the area, the people and the local dialect in areas it would be difficult to visit alone.
You don’t have to stick to just overland tours either. Taking a sailing trip with a group of others is a great way to experience life on the open seas without worrying about knowing how to sail. If it’s a specialised activity you’re looking to do then tours are a great way to share your passion with others and offer experiences which could be hard to organise alone.
All you need to do is turn up (or get picked up) and they organise everything for you. You don’t need to worry about knowing the language and all the logistics are planned for you so you can relax and learn from their knowledge.
There’s also the added security of knowing that someone is on hand should you need any help. There’s no dining for one and there’s always someone to talk to and share travel memories with. You may even find a travelling partner to join you afterwards or make plans to meet at a later date.
If you want to stay independent but just need a little bit of assistance getting around then consider a hop-on, hop-off bus. They work similarly and offer additional tours but give you the flexibility of doing your own thing. They generally drop off and pick up in main areas in the city so you don’t have to work too hard to find your way there. That way you still have the independence of a solo traveller within the safety and ease of a group. You can choose to do your own thing in a destination or stick with the team, so you can have as much security and company as you want.
Cons of Taking a Tour
Although the price of a group tour may seem like an absolute bargain, make sure you know what’s included in the price. Generally your airfare isn’t included and some meals or additional activities won’t be either. Most prices require you to share a room (or tent) with another member of the group. If you do prefer your own room then you will generally need to pay a single supplement which can bump up your costs.
You may have to eat in chosen restaurants, have limited time in places that you want to stay in longer, and they may pack so much in that you could spend hours on a bus as they escort you from place to place. Being on a tight schedule and with the same people 24/7 can be exhausting so by the time your tour is over you may even be glad to be back on your own. Check the demographics of the tour before you travel to ensure that you’re not about to embark on a tour with couples or an older or younger crowd. You can even find out the nationalities too.
You can just travel on a small sector then when you’ve got a feel of the country and improved your confidence you’re ready to go it alone. It’s not cheating as a solo honest!