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Using a travel agency as a solo traveler = cheaper & less lonely?

Using a travel agency as a solo traveler = cheaper & less lonely?

Old Dec 25th, 2023, 05:54 AM
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Using a travel agency as a solo traveler = cheaper & less lonely?

Happy holidays, everybody!
I wanted to do a 10-day trip to central Europe by myself but when I calculated how much it would cost me to go by car or bus/train to Zagreb, Vienna and Budapest for even a 4 night trip or 5 days it turns out using a trip agency with their own bus would cut my costs almost by half on the first 5 days!
The trip is roughly as follows:
1st day traveling from Sofia to Zagreb. A couple of hours free time in Zagreb then spending 1 night in Zagreb, then 2 nights in Vienna and one in Budapest with panoramic trips in Maribor and Graz in passing. Other companies offer 1 in Vienna and 2 in Budapest instead & Ptuj instead of Maribor. The aim of this trip is of course seeing Vienna and Budapest.

With such a company it would be about 300-400 EUR. And that includes stays in 3-star hotels with breakfast.
If I book by myself the bus from Sofia to Zagreb is just between 13 to 30 EUR and the flight is about 40 EUR. Not much but then I added the train/bus costs between Zagreb and Vienna and from Vienna and Budapest plus hotel stays at 3-star hotels in Zagreb, Vienna and Budapest. Even for rooms without breakfast the price swells to about 600-750 EUR total (transport + accommodation). Of course booking through Airbnb might be cheaper but I won't usually get a breakfast and TBH it's quite risky to stay in the homes of total strangers. Couch surfing is mostly free but even more dangerous than a shared room in a hostel or an Airbnb. Individual rooms in hostels these days cost as much as hotel rooms in most of Europe and I'd like to avoid sleeping with 4+ strangers as a solo traveler.

So even as a solo traveler using a TA makes financial sense and lowers the transportation costs. I plan a 10-day trip but even so it's cheaper if 5 of them are done with the tour company and the other 5 are focused on the places I liked the most. I think tour agencies get big discounts for booking more rooms and of course using their bus is cheaper than relying on FlixBuses and trains between the cities.

I did a city break recently to Athens and just the plane tickets costed me 200 EUR (100 EUR one way). Plus 100 EUR for my 2-night stay in a private room in a hostel without breakfast. In the end a bus trip from Sofia would've costed me the same price for two nights (it's usually 4 or 5 nights in total) and I would've seen more places than just Athens like Delphi with a guide in my own language.

I think people who claim organizing it yourself is cheaper probably use Airbnbs or shared rooms in hostels. Or thing 100-200 EUR is not a big difference. With a 3-star hotels and breakfast a TA always comes out cheaper at least in the countries I'm interested in the most like Austria, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, Romania. Even the Scandinavian countries are far cheaper by using a TA.

Another thing is I think I'll feel safer traveling in a group with a guide that speaks my language rather than find myself all alone in a foreign land where I can't speak the local language and I've never been. It's always so awkward for me really! Now when it comes to cities and countries I've been to I could gladly go totally alone but in this case I've never been to Croatia, Slovenia and Budapest.

I haven't been on a group trip with a TA yet though but I remember similar trips we had with teachers at school and I really prefer if someone else gets the burden to think of bookings, itineraries and things like those. I'd love a solo trip only if I have someone to go to in the places I'm about to visit. Or I've lived/been there and know them by heart and it's a nostalgia trip. Otherwise it's really an unpleasant chore and to be honest once you've seen way too many old buildings and castles becomes boring if you have no one to share it all with!
So has anyone here been a solo traveler with a TA group? Did you feel weird being the odd one out with so many couples or relatives using TA organized tours?

I know I can sign up for a free walking tour once there but there's no travel companion service on my way to that city or town, is there? (side note: that's a good service some solo travelers could like). Even though I won't know the people on the group tour at least I will relish after a few days when seeing their familiar faces in a sea of strangers. And traveling on your own in a FlixBus or even a train is so much boring, annoying and dare I say, dangerous, compared to a TA bus. Even driving your own or a hired car in a foreign country is safer than that!
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Old Dec 27th, 2023, 06:36 AM
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I am not usually a solo traveler but have done some day tours by myself and it didn’t go the way I thought it would. No one spoke to me and I tried. Even when I am with someone else, I do speak to anyone who might be alone. On tours, I’ve even invited them to dinner and taken their picture for them. I even sent one a Christmas card even though we both didn’t speak the same language.

I just took a guided tour through Central Europe and there were at least 3 single people. Two of them seemed to hang out together and I spoke to all of them . I invited one to hang out a bit. We have each other’s email and have already communicated. So in my experience, I think it’s hard but maybe my expectations are high. I just feel more comfortable when I am with someone in case no one wants to be friendly with me. However, I would still take the chance if it was to somewhere I wanted to go. I am not afraid of not knowing the language. I’ve been able to get by just fine. You also might get lucky and run into a person like me who is with someone but would still like to make friends.
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Old Dec 31st, 2023, 11:40 AM
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Sassy, I'm sorry you were in a group of stick-in-the-muds. I've been on many solo trips with groups and I always find the other travelers to be fast friends. I have no fear of traveling alone but I do enjoy the company of others so I enjoy group tours.

That said, I think small groups are the best. I highly recommend Exodus Travels for small group tours at reasonable prices.

Thinking back, I do remember one tour where I had a hard time relating to other members and that was when I hiked the Inca Trail. Most of the group were 20 something while I was an old lady of 44. Except for that trip, my experience with group travel has been great.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2024, 09:47 AM
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Everyone's different. I travel solo because I enjoy being on my own. Joining a tour group would not serve me well as I know I would not enjoy traveling in a structured situation with a group of strangers! I enjoy the challenge of being in a place with a different language.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2024, 08:13 PM
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There are advantages of group bus or van tours and they can certainly be cheaper.

There is some comfort in having a local guide especially when "things go wrong".

Unfortunately sometimes tours include too much time shopping for souvenirs and eating at bad restaurants (that pay them a commission). Or you stay at lodging not convenient to sightseeing just because they have space for the tour vehiicle. Also there is no guarantee that you will find a compatible travel friend for conversation . Sometimes it happens, but some people are not cut out for group travel, complain about every little thing and make it unpleasant or embarrassing for everyone else.


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Old Jan 4th, 2024, 06:44 AM
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Mlgb has pointed out my #1 complaint about tours, which is all of the shopping stops. Gate1 and Cosmos do way too much of that, but I have never had that experience with Exodus. Exodus is based in the UK and they seem to have a better approach to travel. They treat you more like a world traveler than someone who needs a lot of hand holding.
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Old Jan 4th, 2024, 09:48 AM
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Interesting information as not all my group travels have had me shopping. My last group trip was with Gate 1 and I didn’t think we got to shop much as I am a shopper. I had to hit most shopping places on my own. It was a Christmas market tour and some comments made was we didn’t really hit them. We only walked by them. To me, it was more about the history. My friend felt we didn’t get to inside a lot things.

Guided tours have hits and misses as does traveling on your own. I find cruises to be the same. I try and enjoy the moment. I once was on a tour when I could either choose to use the bathroom or get a drink. No time for both and that wasn’t pleasant. I once also did my own town visit and everything was closed so I promptly left. It happens. Funny enough, I just booked a guided trip and added a guided tour of a castle. When I was there years ago, I went and it was closed. This time, I am going to see the inside.
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Old Jan 4th, 2024, 03:24 PM
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OMG sassy, I would think a Christmas market tour would be all about shopping. I can see why that was disappointing.

There are other things I like about Gate1, but when I traveled with them to Turkey, we spent a ridiculous amount of time at shopping stops. We spent at least 2 hours at a leather shop and later in the trip, another 2 hours looking at rugs priced in the thousands and tens of thousands. The salesmen kept telling us what a great investment these rugs are. There were also stops at other souvenir joints and there were pushy salesmen at all stops. Needless to say I bought nothing at any of those stops. I still enjoyed my trip to Turkey but JMO, that time would have been better spent sightseeing.

In fairness I should say the I don't remember a lot of shopping stops when I went to Israel with Gate1.
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Old Jan 4th, 2024, 04:44 PM
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P_M you made me recall a day trip I took from Rome to Pompeii. We stopped at a cameo shop which didn’t seem long but at the end some type of wood working shop. The things at the wood working were ridiculous and extremely expensive. A lot of huge gambling games and cabinets that no one seemed interested in. Maybe that’s why it seemed like a long stop so I said I was going back to the bus.

As I was going back, I noticed a mom and pop food/convenience store so I went in. Others followed me and we cleaned out their pasta and candy sections. It was a real small store. The cashier thanked us so much and had to say sorry no more available and closed after we left. I think we helped that store that day.

Tour guides can really make or break a tour and think it’s hard to know if it's worth it or not. I do enjoy a mix and why I would still go on one if it was to some place I wanted to go and not be alone. You never know and maybe meet some nice people.
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Old Jan 6th, 2024, 01:08 AM
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I have friends who do & enjoy group tours.

I suppose it might be cheaper than solo travel,
but Iím not entirely convinced of that compared with someone who does their own research & tailors their trip to what they want to do, where , when and how.

Iím a solo traveller and although it may be cheaper to travel in a group, thatís not how I want to spend my time & $. Exceptions are small group special interest tours to specific places I either could not access or which would be better with a guide.

I have friends. I donít travel to make friends. I travel to see the places & do things I want to do and Iím quite happy to do that on my own, at my own pace and cost.
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Old Mar 4th, 2024, 06:36 AM
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Yeah, I decided on just using the tour agency for the tickets, airport transfers, travel insurance and hotels. And the free walking trip. I won't do any of the extra trips as they require surcharge. It's cheaper to book a Free Walking Tour at the places I'll go. I just can't match the price the agency can get me if I book by myself at the Ibis Copenhagen. And the air transfer is also expensive if I book it by myself and I wouldn't like to use public transport first thing after landing for a 2 hr long flight.
If I book everything of these by myself they price will be the same or even higher, 500 EUR for 3 nights in Copenhagen sounds OK. I'll just avoid the extra trips. It might be cheaper with AirBnb but one never knows if the host has planted hidden cameras in the bathroom for example haha.
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Old Mar 4th, 2024, 07:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Bokhara2
I have friends who do & enjoy group tours.

I suppose it might be cheaper than solo travel,
but Iím not entirely convinced of that compared with someone who does their own research & tailors their trip to what they want to do, where , when and how.

Iím a solo traveller and although it may be cheaper to travel in a group, thatís not how I want to spend my time & $. Exceptions are small group special interest tours to specific places I either could not access or which would be better with a guide.

I have friends. I donít travel to make friends. I travel to see the places & do things I want to do and Iím quite happy to do that on my own, at my own pace and cost.
Do you also avoid interactions with locals?
I guess to each their own. To me travel stories like these are heart-warming more than the typical seeing bricks and stones trips. Once you've seen several cathedrals and museums you've seen them all. Here's part of a bicycle trip from Sofia to Craiova Romania some Bulgarians made. I wouldn't go with a bike, hell no, but I would go by a car or by a train and it's so amazing how people without a common language can connect:

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Old Mar 4th, 2024, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by tanek
Do you also avoid interactions with locals?
I guess to each their own. To me travel stories like these are heart-warming more than the typical seeing bricks and stones trips. Once you've seen several cathedrals and museums you've seen them all. Here's part of a bicycle trip from Sofia to Craiova Romania some Bulgarians made. I wouldn't go with a bike, hell no, but I would go by a car or by a train and it's so amazing how people without a common language can connect:
No, I don't avoid interactions with locals or other travellers at all. I just don't feel the need socially or financially to travel in groups. The exception is, as mentioned above, the occasional small group, special interest tours.


I have met some very interesting people whilst travelling, some of whom have become good friends. As have several Fodorite and Trip Advisor members I've met in person as well as chatting with online through the Forums. One of my favourite things to do around the world and around the regions at home is to do a market & cooking class. It's a great way to get a taste of the local food and culture as well as meeting like minded people.

I have also been helped by and helped perfect strangers in my own country and abroad.

Food, Flowers and Furry Animals - there is no language barrier to sharing enjoyment of these delights.

I can see the advantage of using a Travel Agent only if they can get significantly better deals and prices than I can. The distinct downside is that if there is an issue in another time zone, the Travel Agent is not going to be able to sort it out at 3am their time, and the supplier may not deal with the traveller because the TA has made the booking.
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Old Mar 12th, 2024, 05:30 AM
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I've done my fair share of backpacking, and let me tell you, there's something magical about the freedom of the open road and sleeping under the stars. Eastern Europe is generally safe for hitchhiking, but as always, use your instincts and exercise caution. As for camping, it can be a mixed bag. While wild camping is technically illegal in some places, if you're discreet and respectful of the environment, you should be fine.
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Old Apr 28th, 2024, 11:03 PM
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Frankly, unless one uses a bike or a car for a road trip you still don't have much freedom with having to book train/bus/plane tickets well in advance. To me true freedom is waking up one day deciding to go to city X and getting there right away. But booking tickets as you go is either impossible or very expensive.

The bus/train fares these days rarely allow this as they're really expensive in most countries if you book on the day of the trip. Except for trains in Bulgaria where the fare is the same if you book 30 days or 30 minutes before departure.

For Austria I calculated that if I book as I go it would be far more expensive than using the bus of a group trip. There are package organized trips to Vienna, Melk, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Graz and I think they have short trips in Budapest and Zagreb as well as they're on the way and back.

I calculated all the train tickets I will need between all those cities if I book them as I go and it's just more expensive. Even if I book in advance it's mode expensive. If I have to book weeks before that's more stressful for me actually as it's lack of freedom and on top of that I will have to make sure I get on the right train on time. If I am going to lack the freedom to pay as I go as it's expensive I'd rather outsource the planning to someone else from the start. On a group tour it's harder to miss the bus and having familiar faces everywhere I go I can rely on is very comfortable. I guess I'm not suited for traveling solo and these days just booking hotels on Booking.com causes me hot flashes of anxiety. Solo travel is really triggering for people with depression or anxiety I've found.
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