Tour group or Solo travel?
I always get asked if I prefer to, or is it better to travel alone or in tour groups. I never really seem to know how to answer the question. I find myself wondering the answer myself all the time? So here are my thoughts on the age old subject.
Firstly I normally travel with my wife but we don’t always do the same things, or spend every last second together. We are both travellers and we both enjoy different aspects of travel. On our last big trip we did both sides of the travel spectrum. We did the big group, party Contiki and Topdeck tours as well as travelling just the two of us. Along the way we met people who were travelling by themselves and some who were travelling by themselves but just happened to be on some of our group tours. Whilst travelling one of the things you do is ask how your fellow travellers are going? Where have they been? What have they seen? Who have they met? Etc etc etc…… It is always an interesting conversation and one of my favourite topics around the bar at the backpackers. It is a great way to get ideas or inside tips on other places you should see.
My own experiences do not say either way is better, neither do I lean towards one style of travel, just that both ways are just different. I certainly see the value of the solo experiences as well as the friendships you make in group travel.
I would say that it depends on:
• How much travel experience you have,
• Where you want to go,
• What you want to get out of it,
• Why you are travelling,
• And Budget,
You see if you are travelling for the 1st time it may be a good idea to start in a tour group. I say this because you have built in travel buddies, all your sites are in a package, all your transfers “Should” be organised. Sorry a little personal grip there, we have been stranded by a few pre-booked transfers over our time. Trying to figure out how to get to your accommodation, in a foreign country where they speak a foreign language and you have not previously sorted out how much it should cost and how to get there. Usually you are getting harassed by a trillion crazy foreign language speaking taxi drivers who you know are going to try and rip you off, is rather daunting.
Group tours are a great way of introducing yourself to travel, as well as a brilliant way to chat to the people that have been there done that already. These travellers are a wealth of knowledge and are usually more than happy to pass on their tips. Group travel is huge fun and that’s what it is about. When you travel in a group I find you tend get convinces to try some things that you would not normally do. This is a great way to have some pretty cool experiences that you might not normally have done if you are travelling by yourself. If you are a bit of “Club Rat” and like to party group travel is brilliant. You have drinking buddies already and maybe if you’re lucky some ne to take you home if you have a little too much to drink. Like a certain Kiwi on my Contiki on a night out in Istanbul. Even long delays crossing borders is better with groups, you have a bunch of mates to waste time with. We had a long hour delay crossing the border in Albania and somehow we ended in this bazaar photo.
Where do you want to go I think should play a big part in how you travel. For example when we were new to travel we did Egypt on a Contiki. For us this worked great as we had a tour manager who could speak the local language, who knew the little ins and outs that knowledge is priceless. But the major benefit is that you have the both the support of the group and the support of the tour manager. Having this in a country that is a little on the rough side is worth its weight in gold.
On the flip side are “safer” places like the UK, Germany etc. These places speak English enough and are relatively easy to get around by yourself. Travelling by yourself forces you to meet fellow travellers outside of your group, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you get a lot more out of your time at that place. One of my most treasured memories was a night in Lithuania drinking, smoking Shisha, chatting around the kitchen table at our backpackers with a bunch of fellow solo travellers all night until one of us had to leave for his flight to Sweden.
You need to consider what you want to get out of your trip? Why are you doing this? Do you want to Party Hard? Do you want to see the tourist sites? Do you want to see the real country? Do you want to experience different cultures? Or are you going on a soul searching adventure?
If you want to Party, go on a group tour, if you want to see the “tourist sites”, group tours are pretty good for them. If you want to see the “real country” maybe solo travel is the correct option for you same as if you are a culture vulture and sole searcher.
Last but not lease is budget. “The Budget” any traveller knows there budget, be it an endless budget, lucky for some, or the tight as tight budget traveller. If you have a little bit of savings and a limited time frame for your travel the group tours would probably be the right move. If you are a budget traveller the solo option is a great way to do it on the cheap. You can do things like couch surf your way around, you can pick up last minute tickets and save a fortune on your travel. The Budget travellers I met on my travels have had some amazing stories to tell from the brilliant to the outright scary. This style of travel can be exciting but probably for the seasoned traveller.
I like to mix it up when I travel, depending on what I want out of that part of my journey. Good Luck with your choice of travel style and remember.
One Life, One Search.
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