Travelling solo doesn’t have to be lonely!
Security and safety aside, if the thought of feeling lonely while travelling solo worries you and you prefer the company of others to share your travel experiences with, there are several options available. A few that I will highlight are escorted tours, guided self-drive tours, ocean or river cruises or all-inclusive vacations. If you do prefer your own company and you’re not worried about feeling lonely while travelling solo, these options can be for you too.
Join an Escorted Tour
On an escorted tour you’ll have tons of opportunity to meet other like-minded travellers, make connections and share experiences with them, and even make life-long friends you can travel with again.
If you prefer your own room, you may be thinking the cost is prohibitive, but there are several tour operators offering tours for solo travellers with no single supplement while others offer tours with low single supplements (for example, 25% to 40%). Those that generally don’t offer single accommodation, sometimes have specials and promos with selected dates where the single supplement is waived, usually during the low seasons or on a trip that needs filling.
If you don’t mind sharing, many tour operators offer the option to share a room with another same-sex traveller, usually of a similar age and/or with a similar background and/or interests.
If you’re a solo female traveller, and travelling in a mixed group bothers you, some tour operators specialize in women only tours. Some even use all-female hosts, guides, drivers and female inspired excursions.
For those that prefer their own company but prefer safety in numbers, an escorted tour is still an option. Most tours are never full to capacity so you can always choose to sit on your own on the bus. Some tours even use transportation that accommodates twice the number of passengers so everyone gets their own seat.
Escorted tours also have plenty of leisure time when you can be on your own. Even when you are part of the group tour, you do not have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to, especially if you’re shy/introverted. But just knowing you have an escort to ensure you’re safe is very beneficial.
Go on a Guided Self-Drive Tour
If you prefer to go it alone or do not like rigid schedules, but would like the extra measure of safety, consider going on a guided self-drive tour. While you won’t have anyone to share your experience with while driving, you’re bound to meet others along the route – while sightseeing, on excursions, guided walking tours etc. You may even meet up with them more than once and share a meal at the local restaurant or bar. (This has happened to my brother several times when he travels through Europe on his motorbike!)
Tour operators that specialize in this type of travel arrange all the accommodations and car rental for you, provide you with an itinerary with all the best places (tourist attractions AND hidden gems) to stop for sightseeing, excursions and other activities. They also provide you with a tablet and app with an itinerary, guide, online map, and other safety features.
Like escorted tours, you can choose from several tour itineraries that range in duration from two to three days to anywhere up to 45 days. Most tours can be customized to your own preferences provided accommodation are available for your dates.
A couple of draw-backs with this option, however, are that they are generally designed for two or more people, so you’ll be paying more per person for the tour. Also, while accommodation and transportation are included, unlike escorted tours, entrance fees for excursions on the itinerary are not included, generally because you travel at your own pace as opposed to sticking with a rigid schedule – one of the benefits of a guided self-drive tour.
In addition, usually only breakfast is included with the accommodation but this a great opportunity for you to head to a restaurant, café or bar and meet the locals and/or other travellers visiting the same area – and perhaps some that you met along the route.
If budget is a concern, and a guided self-drive tour sounds like something you’d prefer, then consider going during the low or shoulder seasons when prices are lower, ask your travel agent if they can negotiate a lower class of rental vehicle and/or more budget-friendly accommodation (such as bed and breakfasts, motels or hostels).
Ocean Cruise or River Cruise
Cruising is another way to travel solo where you won’t feel alone—unless you want to that is. Most cruises are all-inclusive (i.e. accommodation and all meals are included) while others also include excursions and other amenities (such as free Wi-Fi, bikes on board).
For this reason, they are often great value for money compared with a regular all-inclusive vacation and unlike a land tour, you only need to unpack once while visiting many destinations.
A cruise is an especially great way to travel for someone who has never been to a particular region and can’t decide which country, island or city to visit first.
Many cruise lines have solo cabins with no single supplement. On large ocean cruise ships, however, solo cabins are usually inside cabins with no windows but you’ll only be sleeping in it anyway. If a view is a requirement, plan your trip around the shoulder season and/or look for promos where the single supplement for an ocean view room is waived. PS: Virgin Voyages’ new ships will have solo rooms with sea views – yay!
River cruise lines use smaller ships, so travelling solo, you’ll generally have a view, but the accommodations may be a little on the pricy side for budget conscious solo travellers since they are generally more on the luxury side. In this case, you would want to look out for the no-single supplement promotions, which would generally be in the off-season (when it’s a lot quieter anyway!).
You may think that all-inclusive vacations are for couples and families only, but I have personally been on an all-inclusive package vacation and had an awesome time, got to know some locals, as well as had fun on some amazing excursions. Depending on where you stay, it can also be a great way to get to know the locals. An isolated resort may not be ideal, but a hotel or resort in or close to a town, with reliable, safe and easily accessed public transport is ideal.
On my vacation, I was able to walk into town to eat at local bars and restaurants, and the hotel concierge made sure I was looked after during my stay, introduced me to local families vacationing at the hotel, and also arranged a meal at a home a few blocks away. (I don’t necessarily advocate this for all women, especially in certain countries and regions, but I had gotten to know the hotel’s concierge during my trip, and felt entirely safe the whole time during my visit – the host was a little old lady.) The hotel concierge even arranged for a taxi to take me to the medical centre when I hurt my leg. But I digress.
The benefit of an all-inclusive vacation is everything is paid for up front (except gratuities to housekeeping and restaurant/bar staff usually – Sandals even include gratuities in the cost of the vacation).
With a package vacation the flight and hotel transfers are also included. Some resorts cater to adults only if you’d rather not to stay in a hotel with lots of families with small children, while others do offer low single supplements and adult-only weeks during certain times of the year.
Be sure to book some excursions to immerse yourself in the destination rather than staying at the resort though. It’s also an opportunity to meet and connect with other like-minded solo travellers who may not be staying at the same hotel. Unless all you want to do is soak up the sun and relax by the pool with a book that is. Then an All-Inclusive vacation is also definitely a great option.
Combination of Trip Types
Another option is to combine two or more trip types during the same vacation. If you don’t want to be confined to spending time with the same people on your entire vacation, combine two trip types for some alone.
For example, combine a city tour or an all-inclusive vacation with an escorted tour, or guided self-drive tour or city break with a cruise. Some ocean and river cruise lines offer pre- or post-cruise extensions at the departure or arrival city. Some escorted tour operators offer a similar trip extension.
You can spend a few nights exploring the city before or after your tour or cruise and either wing it with a city pass, using hop-on-hop-off bus or rail transport or book a guided bus tour, excursions or other planned activities (such as a cooking class). Be sure to book your accommodation in advance if you’re not adding a tour or cruise extension with your cruise package though. Or ask your travel agent to help arrange a custom city break for you.
Combining an all-inclusive vacation with an escorted tour is a great way to relax for a few days by a pool or on the beach after an energetic hiking tour in Costa Rica or Saint Lucia or a long coach tour in Europe.
Travelling solo really doesn’t have to be lonely. The above are just some of the options and tips for solo travellers who don’t want to feel alone while travelling solo but need to keep the budget down as much as possible. There are, of course, more options for keeping the budget down, particularly for those who are more adventurous or, dare I say, younger, and who don’t mind winging it. However, these tips are mainly aimed at women of a certain age like me and/or those who would prefer not to wing it in an unknown destination, and have no interest in hitchhiking, backpacking and/or bar hopping from city to city!