This blog post was originally posted on 22 August on InsideJapan’s blog by Guest Blogger Becky McGillveray.
Becky has explored completely solo, travel guide in hand, and as part of small group tours as a solo traveller around the world. While setting off alone for a spot of navel-gazing will always be a romantic endeavour, small group tours can be easier, cheaper and more fun!
For my first trip alone outside of Europe I chose to do a group tour as a solo traveller. There were quite a few reasons for this and I’d bet that they are things you’ve thought about too;
1. There’s always someone there to answer your travel queries
– What does that sign say?
– Where should I visit?
– Where can I get that food I read about in that thing?
– How will I know if I’m on the wrong bus?
– Where do I even get the bus?
– I’ll get the train instead…
– How will I know if I’m on the wrong train?
…you get the idea
Hint: a tour leader knows the answers to all of these questions, and more!
2. It’s easier to plan your time effectively
I found that one of the biggest benefits of going on group tours as a solo traveller was not having to worry about logistics. It really is the most stressful thing when you are visiting 5 or 6 different places in two weeks. Knowing how long it takes to get between them, where you can go in the time you have there, where should you go in the time you have there and where to stay etc.
I have been known to book a hotel online only to discover it’s actually in a completely different place with the same name. That was a bad day.
3. You get to meet new people
One of the other great things about a group tour is meeting people and sharing all of your ‘firsts’ with them. In Japan particularly, eating should be a communal activity. Okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) where you sit around a big table, Kobe beef that is cooked on a hot plate in front of you, Sushi conveyor belts for you to pick your plates, and karaoke should all be group activities.
Everyone gets together and shares stories; perhaps you’ll find the next destination on your bucket list because Joe Bloggs went there last year and you absolutely have to visit!
Afraid to try that sea urchin? Let someone else do it first and then you can decide based on their post-eating face…
4. You’re more open to cultural experiences
A lot of the experiences included on tours are hard to find elsewhere, and much better in a group. Taiko drumming wouldn’t sound nearly as majestic if you were on your own. Be part of the orchestra!
5. You save money!
How easy it is to make plans for your purse on a small group tour when your accommodation, tourist attractions, and many of your dinners are included. One of the greatest (and under-discussed) part of going on a group tour is that experiences are often cheaper when shared between a group – all aboard the limousine! (Joking, half-joking).
In short, group tours as a solo traveller are a fantastic way to experience a country, and shouldn’t be discounted even for the most experienced jet-setter. Sometimes all you want is for someone to do the hard work for you. Relax and enjoy your hard-earned holiday!