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Solo Travel - Independent or Group/Escorted Tours

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Sep 20th, 2012, 10:32 AM
  #1
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Solo Travel - Independent or Group/Escorted Tours

Hi All,

This may seem like quite a generic question but I just want to ask the "seasoned travelers" in the house which you think is better for traveling in Europe - independent travel or escorted tours?

I am a female traveller from Asia planning to explore either Italy, Scotland or Scandinavia next year, I had some time traveling in Europe before but mostly with either family or friends.

This time I plan to explore on my own and am weighing the pros and cons on whether to do an escorted tour or not.

My initial feeling is that for Scandinavia in particular - group tours such as ScanBalt would probably allow you to cover more areas than if you were traveling alone. (Is this true?)

Your insights would really help.
jochy is offline  
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Sep 20th, 2012, 10:43 AM
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I think it is true that certain kinds of trips are better for a tour, and others aren't necessary. Any trip that is mainly focused on cities, for example, you don't need a tour much. If you plan to move around the countryside a lot doing unusual things (safaris, etc), it may be a lot easier and more efficient to be in a group tour. There are certain countries where it is much easier to be in a tour, also (not this this pertains to western Europe).

I don't know about Scandinavia but think you could be right about that. And a lot of it depends on your experience and comfort with traveling alone or just traveling in general. Some people in my country (US) have never been outside the country even when older adults and have never taken a train or used public transportation, they can't figure out how to do things very well because of lack of experience with entire systems.

Now Scotland it depends what you want to do there, there is a lot of country and outdoors things there that may not be that easy to do on your own. I've only been to Edinburgh and then did a one-day couch tour of the countryside, that was easy enough.

Italy you could do on your own easily.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 11:02 AM
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How independent and confident are you? Are you intimidated or anxious if you don't speak the language? Are you someone who enjoys just exploring, or would you rather have someone else make up an itinerary?

If you get anxious when you don't speak the language, if you get overwhelmed trying to plan what to do or used public transportation, guided tours would probably work best. If you're confident and independent, like to do spontaneous things on your own, then you would do well exploring on your own.

It all depends on your own comfort level.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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In my opinion, even in Scandinavia, where both gas and car rentals are really through the roof, you can still do quite well independently. There is good bus and train service through much of Scandinavia, crime is low, and public transit is generally good. So I don't see any reason to book a tour. Of course, if you want to see the countryside, then a tour might be more worthwhile. But English is widely spoken in almost all parts of Scandinavia, so it's the most user-friendly of all the regions you mention.

In Scotland, where there are probably more places you might want to explore that are off the beaten path, a tour might be a good idea. I don't think a tour is ever the best option in Italy, however.

I usually advocate tours in areas that are more difficult to visit independently (places like India and Egypt), particularly for individuals traveling solo (unless they are hardy backpacker types who can endure long stretches on hot and cramped local buses and trains). I just don't think most of Europe falls into that category, particularly if you are sticking to major cities.

But I think Christina has a good point. You can always take day tours into the countryside to see places that are too difficult to reach on your own. That doesn't mean you have to take a full guided tour the whole time.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 11:25 AM
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I am a solo female independent traveler, and have been for years. It is my preferred way of travel.

I've been to Italy alone countless times, and also to Scotland - Edinburgh and Inverness. Both countries are very easy to get around and since you have already done some European traveling and are now planning to travel alone, you are obviously not intimidated. I think you will enjoy exploring either country on your own.

I have not been to Scandinavia, but if you are looking to cover several countries in one trip, you may be right that a group tour is the way to go -- but not having been there yet, I don't really know.
(One of my very few group tours was through Asia, where we covered several countries in a month, which I felt I could not have done on my own). That would be my only reason to take a group tour.

I hope some travelers experienced with Scandinavia will weigh in on this. Perhaps you can ask the editors to tag this thread with "Italy, Scotland, Scandinavia".
panecott is offline  
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Sep 20th, 2012, 12:33 PM
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Hello. What has worked for me in the past is to take a tour the first time I go into a non-English speaking country (my first language) to get a feel for things. Then I go back on a second trip alone. I found Denmark to be very easy to handle but I've been exposed to German, so often the language was not difficult to decipher. I speak some French, so France is fairly easy alone. but, while people may speak English, the road and directional signs are often not in English. Also, it may depend on what you want to see and if you want a tour that relates to something you are interested in. I'm taking an archeological tour in Italy next month. I've been to Italy several times but this will be specifically geared to my interests and I feel I can learn more and have a better experience with a small tour. As a solo traveler, I have not found myself too often befriended by others and so travel, while not lonely (for me, anyway), can be solitary - with no one to share the experience. And while people may dismiss tours as too "touristy" I've not had a bad one - although occasionally obnoxious companions - and sometimes I have met some very nice folks. Just be sure you don't spend most of your time on the bus or driving past sights you wish to visit. The itinerary will list places you "visit" and places you "view." "View" means drive by. And some tours have very nice, knowledgeable guides. You might even get a date (Adamo, where are you now - and do you remember our interesting evening together?) Whatever you decide, have a great time.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 01:31 PM
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Yes I believe organized tours can cover more ground, more quickly. But I prefer to travel on my own.
suze is offline  
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Sep 20th, 2012, 02:18 PM
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I would only do solo travel except for a place where you can enter only with a tour - or a specific city tour (such as local architecture or similar).

Many places yuo can go by public transit if you don;t wan the expense or hassle of renting a car (although I've done short road trips several times and loved them).

But then I have a lot of problems with least common denominator tours and I go knowing a lot about what I want to see and do. Two tours (one free and one to Russia when that was the only choice) convinced me I'm much happier organizing everything exactly the way I want - not wasting a lot of time waiting for people that are late for everything, or spending hours shopping for "souvenirs" I don't want - or eating americanized versions of local foods.

But - you know yourself best - and what you would enjoy most.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 02:46 PM
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We just came back from Scandinavia two weeks ago and were in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden for four weeks. We did a combination of independent travel and a small-group tour. When we went to Norway, it was with the tour and we were glad we did. Norway is quite a bit more expensive than Denmark and Sweden and since our tour group, Odysseys Unlimited, generally covered 2 meals a day and put us up in 4-star hotels, it was much cheaper to do it with them than on our own. Also, figuring out the ferry system when we went into the Norwegian fjords we thought might be a challenge for us. But I think for Denmark and Sweden it's easy to do on your own.
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