When planning a trip, one of the more important decisions you have to make is whether you’re going to travel alone or with a group. This choice depends on a number of factors including personal preferences, where you’re traveling, your budget, and more. There is no right or wrong way to travel. This guide lists the pros and cons of solo travel vs group travel to help you decide which type of travel is best for your trip. We’ll cover costs, the social aspect, safety, freedom, difficulty, and more.
What is Solo Travel?
There is some debate among travelers about which types of travel are considered solo travel. In its purest form, solo travel simply means traveling alone, without friends or a tour group. You research, plan, organize, and book everything related to your trip by yourself. You are completely independent.
Some travelers are a bit looser with the definition of solo travel. Depending on who you ask, traveling on a tour with people you don’t know could be considered solo travel. Some consider traveling with friends but planning and reserving everything yourself to be solo travel.
There is no formal definition of solo travel. It’s up to you to decide. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll go with the first definition.
What is Group Travel?
Group travel usually means you’re traveling on an organized tour with a group of people that you don’t know. An average group tour consists of 15-20 people. The tour company plans and arranges transportation, accommodation, activities, and meals for you. You pay once for the complete trip. You don’t need to do any planning on your part other than getting to the tour start location and maybe arranging visas. The guide takes care of all of the logistics.
Some travelers also consider traveling with a friend or group of friends to be group travel as well.
Solo Travel Pros
Solo travel gives you complete freedom and independence
When you travel alone, you are in complete control of your trip. There is no one there telling you where to go, when to go, or what to do. You don’t have to take anyone else’s preferences into consideration when choosing a restaurant, hotel, or itinerary. You have absolute freedom and independence.
For example, maybe you fall in love with a particular city and want to extend your stay. You can do that. Maybe you spot some interesting street food that you want to try. You can go try it. Maybe you don’t like museums. Then skip the museum and go to the beach instead.
There are no compromises in solo travel. You can be spontaneous. It’s your vacation. You make your own schedule. This feeling of absolute freedom is one of the best parts of solo travel.
You get to spend time alone
Introverts will love this point. While solo traveling, you don’t have to talk to anyone or interact with anyone if you don’t want to. You can sightsee and eat by yourself. During your downtime or while in transit, you can think, read, listen to music, or write. This allows you to really take in your destination and unwind. As an added bonus, you really get to know yourself when you spend so much time alone.
You can travel at a faster or slower pace
As a solo traveler, you can see more in less time. The reason is that you don’t have to wait around for other people. For example, every time I travel with friends, I end up wasting time waiting for somebody to get ready. There is always a slow packer in the group. If one person gets sick, everyone has to wait until they get better. The more people in the group, the more slowdowns you’ll experience. This adds up to a lot of wasted time that could have been used for traveling and seeing the sites.
You can also slow travel when you’re alone. For example, maybe you really enjoy a particular city and want to spend a month getting to know it better. You can do this. For example, I spent a month exploring Mexico City alone last year. Maybe you’re just tired and you want to move more slowly. You can do this if you’re by yourself. On a group tour, you must maintain the pace of the group.
You can stick to your own budget
We all like to spend our money on different things. Maybe you prefer to spend money on nice meals than a fancy hotel room. Maybe you’d rather take a bus than fly to save yourself $100. You can also hunt for bargains and discounts. While solo traveling, you control exactly how you spend your money.
When you’re on a group tour, everything is already paid for upfront. You can’t adjust your spending as you go. When you’re traveling with a group of friends, you may feel peer pressure to spend more money. For example, maybe your friends want to eat at a fancy restaurant but you just want to eat street food. Of course, you don’t have to go with them but you may feel pressured to.
You don’t have to worry about finding a travel partner or having your travel partner flake out
If you don’t want to book a tour, finding someone to travel with is not easy. This is particularly true if you enjoy traveling to off the beaten path destinations. After all, how many of your friends really want to travel across Africa by bus? Your travel buddy also needs to have the money to travel, similar interests, and a personality that you can get along with for weeks or months on end. Finding a suitable person to travel with can be a challenge.
If you do manage to find a travel buddy, there is a good chance that they’ll flake out on you before your trip begins. Some travelers end up not going on their trip simply because they couldn’t find someone to travel with. Solo travelers don’t have to worry about this. Of course, this point only applies if you’re traveling with friends. If you book a group tour, you don’t have to worry about this point.
You get to meet a wide variety of people
Every time you check into a hostel you meet a new group of interesting travelers from all over the world. Just walk into the kitchen or common area and chat some people up and chances are, you’ll have some new friends. You’ll also meet people while in transit, on day tours, and while out and about sightseeing.
As an added benefit, as a solo traveler, you’re also much easier for others to approach than a group. You may receive invitations to go sightseeing, go out to a bar, or even travel with others. Locals often approach you and strike up a conversation. While solo traveling, you’re rarely alone.
Group travelers, on the other hand, tend to stick to their group. They don’t meet as many people because they already have each other. When you’re on an organized tour, you’re pretty much stuck with the tour group.
If you’re worried about not being able to make friends during your trip, check out my guide: 19 Ways to Meet People While Traveling.
Solo travel builds character, teaches you about yourself, and helps you develop as a person
Personally, I’m not a fan of the ‘travel to find yourself’ meme. Having said that, solo travel can absolutely make you a better person.
When you travel alone, there will be hardships to deal with. For example, you may have to deal with a language barrier and navigate bureaucracy. You may be discriminated against. You might even fall victim to a crime. During your trip, you will experience loneliness, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and confusion. This is all part of the journey. These experiences build character. The way you deal with these feelings and situations can tell you a lot about yourself. You’ll also be better prepared to deal with similar situations back home.
When you solo travel, you become more independent, more adaptable, more confident, more courageous, more patient, and more accepting of others. These are all positive traits that make you a better all around person.
It’s easier to meet locals while solo traveling
One of the most rewarding parts of solo travel is making local friends. Chatting with locals is a great way to experience the culture and get to know the country better. For example, locals can recommend you different restaurants to try, cities to visit, and foods to try. They can show you the non-touristy sides of your destination and give you a local perspective of current events. If you’re lucky, you might even get invited into their home.
While solo traveling, you meet locals when going about your day to day life. For example, when you take public transportation, eat in a restaurant, shop in a market, or just walk down the street, you could make an interesting local friend. Because a single person is much less intimidating to approach and talk to than a group, local people are more likely to chat you up if you are alone. My favorite way to meet locals is through online dating. Couchsurfing is another great way to meet locals while traveling alone.
On a group tour, you’re kind of isolated with your tour group. The only locals you meet will be those working in the tourism industry. When you’re traveling with a group of friends, you’re less likely to be approached by locals.
Solo travel feels like an accomplishment
Solo travel is a personal challenge. During your trip, you’ll have to deal with adversities such as a language barrier, loneliness, getting lost, going outside of your comfort zone, dealing with new situations, etc. Something as simple as learning how to navigate a new public transportation system or ordering a meal in a foreign language feels like an accomplishment.
After crossing a continent by yourself, you’ll feel proud and accomplished. You will know what you are really capable of. You don’t get that feeling when you take a group tour because all of the difficult parts of traveling are handled for you.
You’re not stuck with the same people
If you grow tired of one of your new travel buddies or you don’t get along with someone at the hostel, you can just leave. Move to a different dorm, hostel, or go on to the next city. You never have to see or talk to that person again.
This isn’t an option when you’re traveling with a group tour or friends. You’re stuck with the annoying individual until the trip is over.
Random and unique experiences
Solo travel allows you to be spontaneous. You never know what kind of interesting opportunity will present itself. For example, while visiting the Omo Valley, I spent an afternoon with a woman from the Hamar tribe in Dimeka, Ethiopia. We spent the day walking around town, drinking, and eating. We didn’t share any language in common. In Addis Ababa, I spent a day hanging out with an Ethiopian con man. He explained his scams and introduced me to his girlfriend, who lived in the slums. I wouldn’t have had these wacky experiences if I was traveling on a tour.
Group tours are much more predictable. Every day is pre-planned. You don’t have time to stray too far from the group.
You can travel with others if you want
The whole trip doesn’t have to be done alone. If you meet a group of people and really hit it off, you can travel together for a while. You can even change your itinerary if necessary. If a friend wants to meet up somewhere along your journey, you can travel together for a time. It’s up to you how social you want to be. Solo travel doesn’t have to be lonely. For example, while traveling in Kenya, I met an Irish guy at the hostel. We ended up spending the next three months traveling to Cape Town together.
Solo travel is more adventurous
You have only yourself to rely on. If things turn south, it’s up to you to remedy the situation. Sometimes you feel like a pioneer or explorer when you’re out in the middle of nowhere all alone. It’s exciting.
For example, when traveling across Malawi, the police detained the bus I was riding because they suspected it was carrying some kind of contraband. I ended up having to find a place to stay in the town of Mzuzu, Malawi in the middle of the night. I ended up staying in a nice hostel and spending an interesting day exploring the town before catching a bus the next night. This experience wouldn’t have happened if I was traveling on a group tour.
Solo Travel Cons
Solo travel is lonely
While solo traveling, you can be surrounded by other people and still feel lonely. This loneliness can make you depressed, homesick, isolated, and sometimes anxious. When you get feeling down, you have to be able to pick yourself back up.
Traveling by yourself gets lonely at times. There is no avoiding it. During your trip, you may spend days on end without having a conversation with another person. You will spend countless hours on busses, trains, and walking around without speaking a single word. Sometimes you’ll check into a hostel and not meet anyone. You will eat alone and sightsee alone. This is just part of the solo travel experience.
The best way to deal with this feeling of loneliness is to find someone to talk to. If you’re a naturally social person, this is easy. There are friendly people everywhere. If you’re socially anxious, striking up a conversation can be a challenge.
To meet people while traveling, you can stay in a social hostel, use social media and online dating, go to a bar or club, join a day tour or walking tour, go couchsurfing, take a class, or volunteer. You can also call your friends and family back home. For more ideas, check out my guide to meeting people while traveling.
Solo travel is more expensive
When you travel alone, you have to cover the full cost of hotel rooms, taxi rides, food, or tours by yourself. You can’t split costs with friends or take advantage of group discounts. As a result, solo travel ends up costing more than group travel.
The price difference depends on where you’re traveling. Some destinations are more suited to solo travel than others. For example, in Central America and Southeast Asia, there are hostels, shared busses, and street food. You can solo travel cheaply. On the other end of the spectrum, much of Africa is expensive to solo travel because there are few hostels. You must spend most nights in overpriced hotels. Costs add up when you have no one to split the room with.
There are always ways to cut costs when solo traveling. You can walk, hitchhike, or take shared busses instead of taking taxis or Ubers. Camping and couchsurfing are excellent ways to reduce your accommodation cost. If you adopt a minimalist lifestyle, you can travel with shockingly little money.
Solo travel is more dangerous
A single person is more likely to fall victim to a crime than a group. The risk of getting mugged, drugged, assaulted, scammed, or victimized in some way is higher when you travel alone simply because you are an easier target for criminals. After all, it’s much easier to trick or overpower an individual than a group of people.
When you travel alone, you also don’t have anyone you trust to help you out if you find yourself in a dangerous situation. For example, if you get sick, injured, or arrested, you don’t have any friends to take care of you or call your emergency contact. You’re pretty much on your own.
Of course, if you take some basic safety precautions, solo travel is a perfectly safe way to travel. Read up on the travel advisories of the country you’re visiting. Avoid wandering into sketchy neighborhoods after dark. Don’t carry valuables or dress too flashy. There is no need to be paranoid about safety while solo traveling if you’re cautious.
For more info, check out my guide Is Solo Travel Safe: Avoiding Crime, Scams, and Injury While Traveling Alone.
You have to eat alone and cook for one
Having to eat alone is one of the most difficult parts of solo travel. Probably because eating is such a social activity. When you’re eating your meal, you’ll feel lonely and homesick at times. It’s easy to feel self-conscious sitting in a restaurant alone. When you travel solo, you’ll have to get used to this feeling. You will eat alone regularly.
If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll probably want to cook some of your own meals. Unfortunately, it’s hard to motivate yourself to cook when you’re alone. Buying ingredients and cooking is a time-consuming and annoying little job. It’s tempting to forget about cooking and just eat something quick. This is less healthy and oftentimes more expensive.
You have to plan and arrange everything by yourself
Planning an international trip takes quite a bit of work. You must create a budget, plan a route, arrange visas, research transportation, book accommodation, research activities, and more. A complicated trip can take weeks or months to plan. When you’re in the country, you’ll have to research and book hotels, find restaurants, and figure out the public transport system. This takes quite a bit of time.
Some aspects of travel are tedious and annoying to deal with. For example, when you travel alone, you must research transport schedules and book tickets, navigate unfamiliar cities, negotiate prices, and more. You must take care of everything related to the trip by yourself. These little jobs get exhausting after a while.
When you travel in a group tour, you have a guide to take care of all of the planning and most of the annoying little jobs. When you travel with friends, you can delegate tasks so everyone has less work to do.
The friendships you make don’t last long
You will meet plenty of new people while traveling alone. It’s easy to form quick friendships with other solo travelers as well as locals. After spending a few days in a hostel, you may feel like you’ve known your new friends for years.
The problem is that these quick friendships fade quickly. After you move on to the next hostel, you’ll meet a new group of people and quickly forget about your previous travel buddies. When you return home and get back to your regular schedule, the friendships you formed during your trip will fade further.
Solo travel doesn’t suit all personality types
While solo traveling, you’ll spend many hours alone with your own thoughts. There’s no getting away from it. Sometimes there just isn’t anyone around to talk to. This is often the case while in transit. Sometimes you’ll check into a hostel and find the other guests to be unfriendly. If you’re an extrovert and you’re not used to being alone, this can be a challenge. For some, it can even be frightening to spend so much time alone with your thoughts.
You have to rely on yourself for everything
Coming to the realization that you are completely alone in a foreign country, can be anxiety-inducing. If you fall ill, get injured, get robbed, run out of money, lose your passport, or get arrested, you’re on your own to deal with it. There is nobody there to help you out.
In addition, you have to research, plan, and book everything by yourself. This realization can feel overwhelming and scary. In fact, some people may not be competent enough to solo travel. On the first day of my first solo trip, I wondered if I was in over my head. Luckily, I figured things out.
You’re more likely to get scammed
Scammers tend to target solo travelers. The reason is that it’s easier for them to trick an individual than a group of people. A fast-talking con man can approach you and swindle you out of some money. There are some elaborate scams out there. You can’t catch them all. Maybe you’re tired and you’re not thinking straight. For example, a scammer sold me a fake bus ticket in Ethiopia. That cost me $10.
For more info, check out my guide to 19 Common Travel Scams.
You’re more likely to get pickpocketed
Pickpockets often target solo travelers. The reason is that it’s easier for them to distract an individual than a group. After all, you only have one set of eyes to keep track of all of your belongings. A pickpocket can distract you while their accomplice steals your wallet, phone, or camera.
For some tips, check out my guide: How to Avoid Getting Pickpocketed While Traveling.
There is no one to share your excitement or suffering with
Humans are very social. Sometimes we want to experience the beauty of a destination or the absurdity of a situation with another person. While traveling alone, there is no one to share your comments or thoughts with. You have to keep your amazement to yourself. This makes the experience feel a bit less special. Visiting a major destination with a good friend makes it feel more memorable.
Sometimes you want someone else to commiserate with. Enduring an unpleasant experience is much easier if there is someone there to share the suffering with. For example, some of my lowest points while traveling have been during long night bus journeys. The loneliness becomes excruciating. While traveling with a friend, the same long bus journey becomes fun. You can joke around and chat to pass the time.
Sometimes you’ll feel like the third wheel
When going out with a group of other travelers from the hostel, you may be the odd one out as a solo traveler. This may happen when you spend time with a couple or group of friends. Hanging out with people who share a common language that you don’t speak can also be awkward. If they start speaking among themselves in their language, you’re left out of the conversation. The good thing is, if you’re not having a good time, you can just go off on your own or find another group of people to socialize with.
Solo travel can limit be limiting
There are some places that you might not want to travel alone. For example, you may not feel comfortable traveling too far off the beaten path by yourself out of fear of getting lost or stranded. You may choose to limit yourself to the tourist trail instead to be safe. I felt a bit nervous while visiting the Omo Valley alone because I was so far from a hospital and embassy. If something went wrong, I may have been in trouble. Some solo travelers may not feel comfortable going out drinking alone or visiting certain neighborhoods alone out of fear of getting drugged or robbed. With a group, you may not have these fears.
There may be some activities that you don’t want to do alone. This is often the case in romantic destinations. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to go for a gondola ride in Venice by yourself. You wouldn’t want to go to a romantic restaurant alone. You may not want to go hiking alone for safety reasons.
Sometimes you feel awkward
Going to a bar or restaurant alone takes some getting used to. Some tourist sites are best experienced with a friend. Even after solo traveling for years, I still don’t enjoy going out for a drink alone. I also hate taking selfies but do so anyway on occasion if there is no one around to take a photo for me. It can be an awkward and embarrassing experience sometimes.
You have to carry and keep track of all of your gear by yourself
When you travel alone, you must carry everything you need for your trip in your backpack or suitcase by yourself. There is no one else to help you carry gear. In addition, you have to keep an eye on your gear at all times to make sure it doesn’t get stolen. You cannot leave your gear unattended while you go grab a coffee.
When you travel with a group, you can share some items among the group. This way, everyone carries less weight. There are also more eyes to watch everyone’s gear.
People feel sorry for you
Occasionally, someone will ask you where your friends or family are. They may ask why you’re alone. Many people just don’t understand solo travel. In these cases, people may pity you or think you’re weird. To me, this gets kind of frustrating and depressing. Some people just can’t get through their heads that I’m traveling alone by choice.
You have to take selfies
When you travel alone, it’s difficult to get a decent picture of yourself. Much of the time, your only option is to take a selfie. Unfortunately, selfies are often low quality and kind of cheesy. It’s hard to get a good shot of yourself.
Another problem is that some solo travelers feel self-conscious when taking selfies. Particularly when everyone around has a friend to take pictures of them. It can feel kind of embarrassing and awkward to take selfies.
There are some solutions. You can ask a stranger to snap a photo of you. You can also pack a tripod and use your camera’s timer to take photos of yourself. Still, your photos won’t be as good as if you had a friend helping you get the best angle.
Pros of Group Travel
You develop a close bond with your travel group
When you travel with friends, you’ll grow closer to them. Even if you’ve known them for years. Overcoming hardships, navigating unusual situations, and viewing incredible sites together strengthens friendships. For the rest of your lives, you will share memories of your travel experiences together. You’ll always have an interesting travel story to reminisce about.
When you travel on a group tour, you spend the entire duration of your tour with your tour group. During that time, you will bond with your new friends. It’s not uncommon for lifelong friendships to form.
When you travel alone, it is difficult to form a strong bond with anyone you meet because you’re moving around so frequently.
When you take an organized group tour, you are guaranteed a built-in group of people to hang out with, travel with, explore with, and get to know for the duration of your trip. You never have to be alone. Organized tours also introduce you to like-minded people from around the world that you otherwise would never have met. You’ll meet a different type of travelers than you would meet when traveling alone.
Organized tours are also an excellent choice for shy travelers because they make it easy to meet people. You’re guaranteed to make friends with some of the people in your group because you are forced to spend so much time around them. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with someone you’re traveling with because everyone shares the same interest in the destination country.
Group travel can be cheaper
You can split the cost of hotel rooms, taxi and Uber rides, food, and tours with your friends. For example, if a taxi ride from the airport to your hostel costs $15, it only costs you $5 if you split it with two friends. If you want to hire a tour guide to show you around a site, you can split the cost with your friends. When you travel alone, you can’t split costs with anyone.
You can split work up amongst the group
Travel involves a number of annoying and tedious little tasks. Examples include looking up train schedules, negotiating the price of a taxi, cooking, and buying bus tickets. When you travel with a group, you can divide these little jobs among your group members. If one person gets sick and needs a break, the other group members can continue planning the trip. When you travel alone, you have to take care of all aspects of the trip by yourself.
Group travel is safer
As the saying goes, there is safety in numbers. When you travel in a group, you are far less likely to fall victim to crimes like mugging or assault. A criminal can’t overpower a group as easily as an individual. For this reason, bad guys are far less likely to target a group of travelers.
In addition, you’re less likely to get lost when you’re with a group because there are multiple minds navigating. If you get injured or fall ill, your group members can help you get to a hospital and call your emergency contact for you. When you’re on an organized group tour, the guide will make sure you only visit safe destinations. When you’re alone, you’re on your own.
The tour guide
Every organized group tour has a guide. The guide is usually a local with a deep knowledge of the region and training in hospitality. They can teach you about the sites you’re seeing, make sure you stay safe, translate the local language, help you navigate the culture, assist with immigration, and smooth out any bumps. The guide can also be your friend. A good guide can really make a group tour.
Sometimes you have no choice but to travel in a group
There are a handful of countries that prohibit independent travel. If you want to visit, you are required to be on a tour. Sometimes this requirement depends on your nationality. A few examples of countries with this requirement include North Korea, Iran, Bhutan, Turkmenistan, and Tibet.
In some cases, it’s simply easier to travel in a group. For example, many travelers choose to travel Africa on an overland tour instead of independently.
You can carry less gear
For some items, you only need one to share between the group. For example, you could get away with carrying only one water filter, tent, camp stove, and a bag of food for the whole group. Each person can carry part of the load. Everyone carries less weight as a result. When you travel solo, you have to carry everything by yourself.
It’s easier because there is no research and planning required
When you book a group tour, the tour company takes care of all researching, planning, reservations, and logistics for you. You don’t have to worry about reading hotel and restaurant reviews, making bookings, or looking at transport schedules. You pay one fee then you can relax and enjoy your trip. It’s easier. The guide can help you navigate the language barrier if there is one.
No wasted time
Most people have a limited amount of time to travel. Usually 1-2 weeks. When you take an organized tour, the company sets the pace and makes sure that time is utilized wisely. There is a rigid itinerary that the tour sticks to. You will visit all of the major attractions and a few hidden gems. You won’t miss any major sites when you take an organized tour.
When you travel alone, it’s easy to get lazy and miss out on some sites. You also have to waste time taking care of boring tasks like finding a restaurant or researching a bus schedule.
Someone is always there to help you out
If you catch malaria or sprain your ankle, your friends are there to take you to the hospital or carry your backpack for you. If your debit card gets stolen and you run out of money, your group members can lend you some cash so you’re not stranded. It is comforting to know that someone you trust is there and willing to help you out if you need it. You don’t have to rely on yourself for everything.
Falling victim to a scam is less likely
Scammers don’t approach groups as often. The reason is that it’s more difficult to trick a group of people than an individual. Chances are, someone will identify the scam before it takes place because are multiple minds analyzing everything. Of course, a group can still get conned. There are some shockingly elaborate scams out there.
Theft is less likely
It is also harder for pickpockets to steal from a group because there are multiple sets of eyes watching everyone’s gear. You can also ask your group members to keep an eye on your gear while you go to the bathroom or into a shop.
Someone is always there to experience the moment with you
When traveling with friends, you always have someone there to share the beauty or misery with. Sometimes you just want to complain about the situation or comment on your surroundings. Sometimes you want someone to appreciate a site with. If you’re all alone, you don’t get to do this. Some destinations are best experienced with friends by your side.
You can travel further into the middle of nowhere
When you’re alone, you have to consider how you will get back to civilization in the event of an unexpected accident or event. When you have friends with you, someone can go for help if the worst happens. For example, imagine if you fell while hiking and broke a leg. If your friend is there, they can carry you or find help. You may not feel comfortable wandering as far by yourself.
No Experience Required
You don’t need any skills or travel experience to travel in a group. The guide takes care of all of the difficult parts of the trip for you and helps you stay safe. You can travel wherever you want. Also, some people just aren’t suited for solo travel.
For some destinations, you may need some travel experience if you want to visit alone. For example, most people wouldn’t feel comfortable traveling to Nigeria or Afghanistan on their first solo trip.
You’ll get better travel photos
When you travel with a group, there is always someone there to take pictures for you. You don’t have to bother with selfies. You can also take group pictures. It’s fun to look at pictures with your new friends together. At the end of the trip, you can swap photos with your group members. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some awesome candid shots of yourself as well.
Cons of Group Travel
You have to make compromises
When you travel with a group, you can’t always get your way and do what you want to do. For example, maybe your travel group wants to go to the beach and you want to go to a museum. Maybe one person wants to eat at a fancy restaurant and you want to eat street food. Everyone has their own preferences.
When disagreements occur, you must negotiate and compromise with your group members. You don’t get to do what you want all of the time. When you travel with a group, it’s not your trip. It’s the group’s trip. This can be difficult to accept.
When solo traveling, there is no compromise. You make all of your own decisions and do whatever you want.
You have less freedom and independence when traveling in a group
When you travel on an organized group tour, the itinerary is already set. You don’t get to choose which hotel you stay at, which restaurant you eat at, when you wake up, or when you go to sleep. You follow the pre-planned itinerary. There is very little freedom or independence.
When you travel with a group of friends, you have a bit more freedom but you still must follow the group. If all of your friends want to fly to your next destination but you want to take the train, you’re out of luck. You could go off on your own but then you’re not really traveling with a group.
When you travel alone, you have absolute freedom to control every aspect of your trip. You can be as spontaneous as you wish.
There will be arguments and disagreements
Traveling in a group can be a real test of your patience and relationships. Disagreements and arguments will happen. it’s inevitable. Even if you’re traveling with your best friends.
Arguments are common for a number of reasons. First, travel gets stressful. For example, maybe you’re running late for a flight. Some people become snappy when they get stressed. Travel is also exhausting. For example, you may get a poor night of sleep while taking a night bus across a country. Some people get cranky and argumentative when they’re tired. While traveling, you are also forced to spend a great deal of time in close proximity to your group members. Sometimes different personalities don’t mix well.
All of this makes for a perfect environment for disagreements and arguments to happen. A tense atmosphere is uncomfortable for everyone in the group. If arguments aren’t resolved and the relationship between your group members turns toxic it could ruin the trip. Friendships can even end.
If you get in an argument with one of your group members, try to distance yourself from them for a while. Give yourself and your group some space and let things cool down if possible. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you made a mistake.
It can be difficult to make decisions
When you travel with a group, you have to take everyone’s preferences into consideration and make sure everyone is content with every decision. The more people in the group, the more difficult it becomes to make a decision. Everyone has an opinion. You can’t make everyone happy.
One problem that can arise is that one group member takes the role of the leader. This is often the group member with the strongest personality. This person may try to take over the trip and make your decisions for you.
If this happens, you must make sure that your voice is heard. Speak up and tell the group what you want to do. This can be difficult if you’re a passive perosn. If you take the leadership role, you must listen to your group members and consider their desires. You need to be a team player, listen, and sometimes compromise.
You may dislike your group members
When you travel on an organized group tour, you don’t get to choose who you’re traveling with. You won’t know who is in your group until you meet everyone when the tour starts. An average-sized group tour has 10-20 people. It is highly likely that you won’t get along with at least one of them.
There are plenty of reasons why you may not get along. For example, maybe one of your group members is always complaining. Maybe someone is rude to the locals. Maybe you have nothing in common with your group members. Whatever the case, traveling with someone you don’t like can be awkward and annoying. It could even ruin your trip. This is a major risk of booking yourself on a group tour.
There are a couple of ways to reduce your chance of getting stuck in a bad group. First, you can book yourself on a small tour. The fewer people there are, the less likely that there will be an annoying member. You can also book yourself on a tour that fits your age and personality. For example, if you’re young and active, book yourself on a tour that is designed for backpackers. Don’t book yourself on a tour for retirees.
Of course, you could also find that you don’t get along with your group if you’re traveling with friends. Some people behave differently when abroad. Some people just don’t travel well. In this case, you could go off on your own.
No privacy or alone time
When you travel with a group, chances are you’ll be sharing hotel rooms, eating together, and taking the same transport as your group members. You don’t get any privacy or time to yourself. Spending so much time in such close proximity to your group can be a challenge. Particularly for travelers who are more introverted.
When you’re traveling with friends, you can usually split up from your group for some time. Maybe you spend a day exploring by yourself then meet up with your group for dinner. When you’re on an organized group tour, you may not have this luxury. Generally, the itinerary is so tight that you’re with your group for the entire duration of the tour.
Meeting other travelers is harder
When traveling in a group, you tend to stick to your group. There is less incentive to socialize. You’re not lonely. You already have friends and don’t need to make new ones. When on an organized group tour, you’re staying in hotels instead of hostels so you’ll have fewer opportunities to meet other travelers. Other travelers are also less likely to approach you or invite you out for meals, sightseeing, or activities because it is intimidating to approach a group. As a result, you’ll meet fewer people. You may miss out on a new friendship or relationship.
Finding a group to travel with can be a challenge
It’s not that easy to find a group of people to travel with. Friends often flake out at the last minute. Many people don’t have enough money. Some have different interests. If you decide that absolutely have to travel with a group, you may end up not going at all. Finding a suitable person to travel with is a challenge.
Of course, if you really want to travel with a group but you don’t have any friends that want to go, you can always book yourself on a tour.
You don’t get to explore an area in detail
Most group tours just hit the main sites. You might only stay in a city for 1-3 days before moving on to the next destination. You miss out on the smaller tourist sites. The tours move at a fast pace as well. You don’t have any time to stop and smell the roses. You’ll encounter the same problem when traveling with friends. Chances are, they’ll want to keep moving.
When you travel alone, you can spend as much time as you want in each city or country. If you fall in love with on place, you can spend a month there and explore it in detail.
Group travel can be more expensive
When you travel on a group tour, you are paying the tour agency to plan the trip for you. They take care of all logistics, bookings, and maybe even visas. You are also paying for a guide for the duration of the tour. Both of these costs are baked into the price of the trip. At the end of the trip, you’ll also be expected to give the guide a tip if they provided a good service.
Prices are also locked in. You are paying for all of your food, accommodation, transportation, and activities at the time of booking. You can’t eat street food or stay in a cheaper hotel to save money because you have already paid for everything when you booked.
When you travel alone, you can cut corners, bargain hunt, and adjust your budget as you go. If you’re frugal, solo travel can be cheaper than group travel.
Your group can slow you down or rush you
With more people, more problems come up. For example, someone could get food poisoning on a travel day. That means you lose a day waiting for them to get better. Someone could have their phone pickpocketed. That means you have to spend time going shopping for a new one. While traveling in a group, it seems like there is always a crisis. This slows everyone down.
Your group can also rush you. For example, maybe you’re a not a morning person but your group likes to start the day early. You may feel rushed. Maybe you like to spend 6 hours in museums but your group rushes through in an hour. You’ll feel like you missed out.
Group travel is less adventurous
When your friends are around, it just doesn’t feel like an adventure. It’s just too familiar. There is always someone there to rely on and talk to. It feels more like you’re just hanging out. You don’t have to deal with the loneliness or struggles of solo travel. As a result, you won’t really grow as a person or learn as much.
Meeting local people is more difficult
When you travel on an organized group tour, you probably won’t meet many locals. The locals that you do meet will be those who work in the tourism industry. The reason is that group tours tend to stick to touristy areas that regular locals avoid. You stay in hotels and eat in restaurants that are frequented by tourists. When you travel from one destination to the next, you’ll sit next to a group member or take private transport. You are somewhat isolated from regular locals when you travel on a group tour.
Local people may also be less likely to approach you to chat when you’re traveling in a group. It can be intimidating to approach a group of foreigners.
When you travel alone, you encounter locals while in transit, while eating, and while out walking around. Solo travelers are also much easier to approach. You also have the freedom to seek out local friends.
My Choice: Solo Travel Vs Group Travel
I have been traveling, off and on, for the past 10 years. The vast majority of this time has been spent solo traveling. I prefer it for a number of reasons. First, solo travel just better suits my personality. As an introvert, I prefer to spend most of my time alone. When I want to socialize, I can always meet some fellow travelers in the hostel. I also value having the freedom to do what I want without compromise.
On the few occasions that I have traveled with a group, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Group travel is great in small bursts. For a short trip, I may even prefer group travel. After a while, I inevitably grow tired of my travel buddies. That’s just what happens if you spend too much time in such close proximity to another person.
In my experience, the first 2 weeks of each solo trip can be a bit rough. It takes time to get into the solo travel mindset. Living in close quarters in hostels, spending long hours on buses, and navigating unfamiliar places alone takes some getting used to.
During this time, I sometimes think to myself, why do I do this? After that rough couple of weeks ends, I’m back into the swing of things and don’t want to travel any other way. The absolute freedom of solo travel is addictive.
Final Thoughts: Solo Travel Vs Group Travel
Solo travel certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s lonely, more difficult to plan, and slightly riskier. With that said, it’s definitely something that everyone should try at least once. It’s one of those things that you just never know whether or not you’ll like unless you give it a try. After my first solo trip, I was hooked.
Having said that, sometimes group travel is the better choice. A short trip with friends can be an excellent bonding experience. Group tours are a great way to visit difficult or dangerous destinations safely and easily. Group travel is also a bit safer and less stressful. Even if you’re a hardcore solo traveler, consider giving a group tour a try.
In the end, this decision comes down to personal choice. There is no best way to travel. Hopefully, this guide helps you decide which style of travel is best for your next trip.
Where do you stand on the solo travel vs group travel debate? Share your experience in the comments below!
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