Travelling solo is a right of passage for many, a chance to explore the world freely, set your own itinerary and journey wherever you want. However, it is a pretty daunting prospecting hopping on a plane and jetting off half way around the world to a country you’ve never been, surrounded by people you’ve never met.
My solution to this - Booking an organised travel tour. Here's why...
You meet new travel companions
Whether you’re travelling with friends or by yourself, your tour will (hopefully) be full of like minded people chasing the best travel experiences in your chosen dreamy destination. And this no doubt means sharing a room with people. Nothing brings you closer to someone than spending pretty much 24 hours with them, sharing incredible experiences and inevitable early morning wake up calls.
It’s having a shared experience that is so special, and something I’ve not quite found when travelling solo. Don’t get me wrong, you still meet incredible people – but unless you change your itinerary to stick with others you’ve met, it’s not quite the same.
You can navigate different travel styles
People will of course have different ideas on the best style of travelling. You may be a flash packer preferring luxury hotels with all activities and meals included, you may prefer authentic experiences camping under the stars or in homestays. You might just want the most basic, affordable accommodation to spend your money on the rest of the trip.
There are many types of tours to suit, for instance, Contiki run tours exclusively for younger people. These tours are great if you’re looking to travel with people of a similar age, and speaking from experience, they are SO fun!
There's Safety in numbers
We’re constantly reminded that the world is a dangerous place, and tourists can be an easy target for any number of crimes. As a solo female traveller, I do worry about these dangers – but equally I think anyone travelling should be wary. When you travel in a group, you instantly gain ‘safety in numbers’.
Be it watching others possessions in train stations whilst they are getting food, or lending each other money when you can’t find an ATM and you’ve run out of cash. Even loaning and sharing items such as food, medical supplies and clothing, it is a comforting thought being with a travel family who have your back.
The fabulous tour guides
I’ve been lucky enough to have many absolutely brilliant tour guides who take the tour to another level. They mostly tend to live in the area you are visiting, and as a result are extremely knowledgeable. Their job is to ensure you are having the best time possible, organising day to day activities, and overseeing everyone’s welfare for the duration of the trip.
It is also a huge help if you cannot speak the language to have a guide there on hand to help translate and communicate with locals. I know in China especially it was handy having a guide for both translations and helping us adapt to and understand local customs; something we may not have been aware of ourselves.
You can have Exclusive and authentic experiences
On my recent trip to India, our guide was keen for it not to be a “monuments trip” but a taste of the everyday lives of Indians. As well as the usual tourist sights like the Taj Mahal which was incredible, he took us to local villages to interact with locals. One of the stops was a night spent camping in a rural village in a sustainable family run resort where we cycled through the streets to a local families house to share a cup of Chai. An experience you may struggle to find alone.
We also stopped at our guides family house for more Chai and then visited the two local schools. We were special guests at their republic day celebrations, being treated to a dance display, which we then returned the favour of. Spending time with those children was an absolute highlight of my trip!
Ignore the reputation...
I think that travelling on a tour has a bit of a reputation. It can be viewed by some as a completely alcohol fuelled crazy party. True for some tours, so it is wise to be careful if you’re not looking for this (read reviews before booking). I’ve even experienced snobbery from fellow travellers saying it’s not an authentic way of travelling and why can’t I just do it myself. To them, I explain the reasons above and I tell them to experience one before jumping to that conclusion.
Others may say it’s the most expensive way to travel. Again, this can sometimes be true – but I think value for money should be the more important factor. For the sheer amount that is squeezed in and the ease of having everything arranged for you, it is well worth the money.
At the end of the day, what suits you best is the right option. If you want to cram as many memories and experiences in as possible, tours are the way to go. I’m a complete convert!
Have you recently been converted by a life changing group tour experience? Share your stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…