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As a solo traveler, you go by yourself but you don't necessarily have to stay by yourself as you travel. One good option for solo travelers who want company is a guided group tour. Or you could take a cruise, ensuring that you will be surrounded by other passengers. Many cruise lines will waive the often-hefty single supplement charge -- the bane of many solo travelers who occupy a room that would otherwise be occupied by two paying customers -- if you agree to be matched up with a roommate of the same sex. And a few companies charge no solo supplement at all. You can check them all out at Stride.
While even seasoned travelers may shy away from the idea of traveling alone, those who try it often find it to be a rewarding and exciting experience. Admittedly, solo travel does have its downsides, for example, it can be lonely at times, or dangerous in certain places. However, the pros far outweigh the cons. Among many advantages are being completely in charge of your trip and getting to make interesting new friends from all over the world.
And of course, traveling alone does not mean being alone. Whether you are traveling independently or on a tour, as part of a group or on a solo itinerary, you will constantly find yourself surrounded by new friends. Here are a few travel options for those going solo:
Traveling alone independently can be tough, but rewarding. Yes, you have to make all the arrangements, but you also get to make all the decisions. Landing in a foreign country and going wherever the mood takes you can be thrilling, and lead to new and exciting experiences you didn't anticipate. It can also be empowering to head off trekking into the wilderness by yourself, alone with nature and your own thoughts. However, while independent travel allows for greater flexibility than traveling as part of a tour, it does come with a lack of security. That solo trek becomes a lot less fun if you twist your ankle and have no one to help you.
For independent travelers looking to meet new people, hostels can provide the chance to stay with like-minded travelers. It's also useful to book a few group activities, such as lessons, shorter group tours, or group adventure sports. A cooking class in Thailand, a jeep tour of the Bolivian salt flats, and white water rafting in Costa Rica are not only thrilling experiences, but chances to meet new people while abroad. The most important thing to remember is to be sociable. Approaching a complete stranger, whether they are a local or a fellow traveller, may seem intimidating, but can lead to some of the best travel memories. So just pull up a chair and start chatting!
For those who want travel arrangements taken care of, a tour is a good option. As well as sorting out travel details, tours offer great security than independent travel. For example, you won't find yourself wandering around a new city looking for somewhere to stay, or stranded at a bus station when you find your route fully booked.
Solo tours offer the benefits of security and hassle-free travel, yet still allow travelers to remain completely in control of their itinerary. Hanging back to get that perfect photo on a Kenyan safari, haggling over a souvenir in a Marrakech bazaar, or even staying in bed for an extra few minutes becomes a lot easier when you aren't surrounded by a group that wants to get moving.
When deciding between a solo or group tour, it's worth factoring in the price difference. Also, traveling on a solo tour can get lonely, so if you're hoping to meet new travel companions, it may be better to book as part of a group.
If you do want to book a solo tour, but want to ensure you are not on your own all the time, look at packages that include some group activities. For example, many South American tour operators will arrange private tours that include some group Spanish or dance lessons, where you can meet both locals and other travelers. When booking your tour, make sure to ask about which activities you will be doing alone, and which activities you will be doing as part of a group. It's also worth remembering that when booking a solo tour that includes a guide, such as a trip to Machu Picchu or a tour in the Amazon, the guide will likely be your constant companion. It may be possible to meet your guide in advance, or correspond with them beforehand, to get to know them.
A group tour is perfect for solo travelers who don't want to remain alone for their journey. While joining a group of new people may seem daunting at first, you'll likely find that everyone soon becomes friends. After all, you already have a love of travel in common, and it's hard not to enjoy the company of people when you're sharing a new adventure with them!
One option is to book a group tour for your entire trip, and another is to book shorter group tours within an independent trip. While the complete package of a two week tour of South Africa may appeal to some, an independent trip that includes a few days on a group safari through Kruger National Park may suit others.
When booking a group tour, ask about the other people in the group. For example, do they speak the same language as you? Are they traveling by themselves too? Will you likely be spending your downtime with them (i.e. your time outside of organized activities)?
Meeting new people on your travels is, of course, not limited to meeting other travelers. After all, you're there to experience another country! Homestays are a wonderful way of getting immersed in local culture, as well as getting to know local people. Living like a local at a family farmhouse in a remote village in Nepal is an eye-opening experience, as is staying at an apartment in Rio de Janeiro with a resident who can show you all their favorite spots.
When booking a homestay, be sure to ask about what exactly it entails. Try to look for those that allow you to live as part of a household, rather than merely renting a room. Ask about the people you will be staying with, as well as finding out what activities will be included. A completely immersive experience will allow you to live the way a local does, get to know the people you are staying with, and join in the best experiences that the area has to offer.
Whichever solo travel option you choose, you will get to experience both the freedom of traveling alone and the fun of meeting new and interesting people. So decide what works for you, start looking for your perfect trip, and enjoy your solo adventure!