Solo travel is one of those things that everyone needs to try at least once. After my first solo trip, I was hooked and wouldn’t travel any other way. With that being said, it’s definitely not for everyone. This list outlines all of the pros and cons of solo travel vs group travel to help you decide whether or not solo travel is something for you.
What is Solo Travel?
In its purest form, solo travel simply means traveling alone. This includes researching, planning, organizing, and booking everything related to the trip by yourself.
Having said this, there is some debate among travelers about exactly which types of travel are considered solo travel. For example, is joining a group tour by yourself considered solo travel? Is it still considered solo travel if you meet a fellow traveler along the journey and travel together?
In the end, there is no formal definition. It’s up to you to decide. It’s your trip, after all.
Solo Travel Pros
- Solo travel allows freedom of choice- You can do whatever you want without taking anyone else’s preference into consideration. If you fall in love with a particular city and want to extend your stay, go right ahead. If you feel like eating Italian for dinner, go for it. There is no compromise in solo travel. You do what you want when you want.
- It’s easier to meet other travelers- As a solo traveler, you’re much easier to approach than a group. You often receive invitations to meet up, go out, or even travel together. While solo traveling, you’re rarely alone. This is particularly true if you choose the right hostel for solo travel. Group travelers tend to stick to their group. They don’t meet as many people because they already have each other. 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.
- It’s easier to meet locals while solo traveling- Because a single person is much less intimidating to approach and talk to than a group, local people are more likely chat you up if you are alone. One of the most rewarding aspects of solo travel is making local friends. They can show you the non-touristy sides of your destination and give you a local perspective of current events. I always try to make it a point to chat with some locals.
- You don’t have to find a travel buddy- 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 people really want to travel across Africa by bus? Your travel buddy needs to have the money to travel. They need to have similar interests. They also need to have a personality that you can get along with. Finding a suitable person to travel with can be a challenge. Some travelers end up not going on their trip simply because they couldn’t find someone to travel with.
- 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.
- You learn about yourself- This may sound cheesy or cliché but hear me out. When you travel solo, there will be difficult times. You will feel lonely, depressed, lost, hopeless, and confused. This is part of the journey. 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 these feelings when you experience them in your normal life back home.
- You can see more in less time- There is no waiting around for other people. Every time I travel with friends, I ended up wasting time waiting for everybody to get ready. If one person gets sick, we all have to wait until they got better. If one person loses their passport, we all have to wait until they get it replaced. This adds up to a lot of wasted time that could have been used for traveling and seeing the sites. Other people slow you down.
- You feel like you accomplished something- After crossing a continent by yourself, you feel proud and accomplished. You have dealt with adversity. Solo travel is a personal challenge.
- 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.
- Couchsurfing is easier- Hosts are more likely to invite a single person into their home than a group of people. This is for both safety reasons, and simply because there may not be enough space to accommodate multiple people.
- People are more likely to help you out- If a local or other traveler sees that you are struggling or injured and you are alone, the likelihood of them stopping to help you out is much greater. No one stops to help out a group of people. They just assume that they already have it covered. A good example of this is if you get a flat tire. It is a struggle to change it alone so someone may stop to offer you a hand. If you are in a group, passers-by assume you’ll figure it out on your own.
- It’s more fun- This is a personal onion, but in my experience, I have had a much better time traveling alone than in a group.
Solo Travel Cons
- Solo travel is more expensive- When you travel alone, you don’t have anyone to split the cost of hotel rooms, taxis, or tours with. The trip ends up costing about 20% more in my experience. Some destinations are more suited to solo travel than others. For example in Africa, there are very few hostels so you spend most nights in hotels. If you have no one to split the cost of a room with, you have to pay the full amount yourself which is often in the $20-$50 range. If you have someone to split the room with, you save $10-$25 per night on accommodation. Over the course of a long trip, this can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings.
- Solo travel is more dangerous- A single person is always a bigger target for crime than a group. Being mugged or victimized is more likely if you are by yourself. For more info, check out my guide Is Solo Travel Safe: Avoiding Crime, Scams, and Injury While Traveling Alone.
- There is no one else to rely on- If you get sick or badly injured while solo traveling, there is no one there to help you out. You have to take yourself to the doctor or seek help if you need it. This is somewhat limiting. You can’t travel too far off the beaten path in case there is an emergency and you need help.
- You have to do everything yourself- Some aspects of travel are tedious or boring. For example, finding bus schedules, navigating an unfamiliar city, cooking, booking hotel rooms, and negotiating prices must all be done by yourself while solo traveling. You have no one to delegate different tasks to. This can get exhausting after a while.
- Solo travel is lonely- Humans are very social. When traveling solo, you will sometimes spend days on end without having a conversation to another person. Maybe even months in some parts of the world. You spend countless hours on buses, trains, and just walking around with only your own thoughts to keep you company. Sometimes you just want someone else to complain to. Sometimes you want to experience the beauty of a place with another person. When you get feeling down, you have to be able to pick yourself back up. The good news is, if you’re a naturally social person, finding someone to talk to is pretty easy.
- You’re more likely to get scammed- Scammers tend to target solo travelers. It’s easier to trick an individual than a group. For more info, check out my guide: 19 Common Travel Scams, How they Work, and How to Avoid Them.
- 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. Particularly when you are spending time with a couple or a group of people who share a common language that you don’t speak. 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.
- You have to carry all of your gear by yourself- For some items, you only need one for the whole group. For example, a group can travel with one water filter, camp stove, or even tent. By dividing up the load amongst your friends, everyone can carry less weight. When you travel solo, you must carry all of the gear by yourself.
- 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. If you’re an extrovert, this can be a challenge. It might even be frightening.
- 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. I’ll admit, 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.
- There is no one there to commiserate with and complain to- Enduring an unpleasant experience is much easier if there is someone there to share the misery with. For example, a long bus journey can become fun if you have someone to share the absurdity with. When you’re alone, the same journey can feel like torture.
- People feel sorry for you- Occasionally, someone will ask you where your friends or family are. They may ask why you’re alone or why you’re not married. 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 at times. Some people just can’t get through their head that I’m here alone by choice.
Pros of Traveling with a Group
- It’s cheaper- To me, this is the biggest benefit to traveling in a group. You can split the cost of hotel rooms, taxi rides, and tours with your friends. For example, if a taxi ride from the airport to your hostel costs $10, it only costs you $5 if you split it with a friend. Everything becomes more affordable.
- You can split work up amongst the group- Tedious little tasks like studying train schedules or negotiating the price of a taxi can be divided up. These jobs are a necessary part of travel but can get exhausting or boring after a while. If you travel with friends, you can divide up these annoying little jobs.
- Group travel is safer- When you are traveling in a group, the likelihood of falling victim to a mugging or attack is lower. There is safety in numbers. Criminals choose the easiest target. Because of this, you can visit more risky destinations when you travel with a group than while solo traveling.
- Someone is always there to help you out- If you catch malaria or sprain your ankle, for example, your friends are there to bring you some food or carry your backpack for you. It is also comforting to know that someone is there that cares about you and is willing to help you out if you need it.
- You can carry less weight- 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 bag of food for the whole group. Each person can carry a couple of items. If you were traveling solo, you would have to carry everything by yourself.
- 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.
- 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 want to wonder as far by yourself.
- You develop a bond with your travel buddy- For the rest of your life, you’ll remember your travel experiences together. You’ll always have an interesting travel story to look back on.
- Everyone can enjoy group travel- It doesn’t matter what type of personality you have or what your level of experience is. Traveling with a good group of people is enjoyable for everyone. Some people just aren’t suited for solo travel.
- It’s more normal- The general population understands someone traveling with their friends. Some people think solo travel is weird. If you’re the kind of person that cares what others think, you may not enjoy solo travel.
Cons of Traveling With a Group
- You have to compromise when traveling in a group- Maybe one person wants to go East and the other West. Maybe one person wants Chinese food for dinner and one wants Greek food for dinner. When problems like this come up, you have to make a compromise. You have much less freedom when traveling with friends. When solo traveling, there is no compromise.
- There will be arguments- Traveling with a friend or group is a real test of the strength of your relationship. Some people are worrywarts. Some people have different expectations of comfort. When you spend weeks or months on end in such close proximity to the same people, sooner or later there will be a disagreement. If the argument gets serious, it could end a friendship or even end the trip. I can’t imagine spending months on end with most of my friends.
- 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. Other travelers are also less likely to approach you or invite you out to meals, sightseeing, or activities.
- Finding a friend to travel with can be a challenge- Sometimes friends flake out at the last minute. Some don’t have enough money. Some have different interests. If you think you absolutely have to travel with a friend, you may end up not going at all. Finding a suitable person to travel with is a challenge.
- 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.
- More problems arise- 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.
- Meeting local people is more difficult– It can be intimidating for a local person to approach a group of foreigners. People are less likely to strike up a conversation with you if you are traveling with friends. Solo travelers are much more accessible.
- Couchsurfing is more difficult with a group- Many hosts can only accommodate one person at a time because of the size of their home. They also may not feel comfortable having multiple people come to stay in their home due to safety concerns.
- It’s less fun- This is just my experience. In general, I haven’t had as much fun when traveling with friends as traveling solo.
My Choice: Solo Travel Vs Group Travel
I have been traveling, off and on, for the past 8 years. The vast majority 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’ll also admit that I’m a selfish individual. I 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 get sick of my travel buddies. That’s just what happens if you spend too much time in such close proximity to another individual.
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. It’s why I’ve built my life around it.
Final Thoughts: Solo Travel Vs Group Travel
While solo travel isn’t for everyone, it’s something that everyone should try. It’s one of those things that you just never know if you like or not unless you give it a try.
You don’t have to take a sabbatical on the other side of the planet to try out solo travel. You could simply bus, train, bike, or even walk to an interesting nearby town and spend a couple of days sightseeing by yourself. After this little taste, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not solo travel is for you.
For more solo travel resources, visit Solotravelerworld.com. This excellent site offers some solo travel tips, recommendations, and guides.
Where do you stand on the solo travel vs group travel debate? Share your experience in the comments below!
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