Four of us are walking the Camino de Santiago, the Portuguese Way, in March. The group we hooked up with gave us a reasonable price which includes hotel accommodations, breakfast every day, two dinners, and transportation of our luggage to the next town. That’s it. The rest is up to us. There is no guide. We are walking.
I contacted the same unnamed company for a solo hike I wanted to take in December. I have a $1100.00 voucher for a trip to Israel which was canceled because of COVID before February 22. I could have used this voucher for our group trip, but the airfare was only $500. I didn’t want to donate the balance to the airlines.
It took me three days to finally talk to a human who kept putting me on hold. I finally called at 8:00 p.m. Arizona time and got someone to book my flight. I realized the ticket was only $750. I called back at the same time the following evening to request an upgrade with the balance. That wasn’t possible. So I donated about $300. No mercy from anyone.
So back to the unnamed company I wanted to book my solo hike with and the increase of $400 for traveling solo. Wait a minute. I am walking. They secure our hotels, carry our bags to the next hotel, and arrange breakfast and two dinners. I don’t eat more than one person. I checked out the hotels, and they charge for the room, not the number of people staying in the room. This made me angry.
Here are seven reasons not to travel with a group if you are a solo traveler based on my experiences.
1. You will not make new friends
Six months after my husband passed away, my friend and I traveled with an unnamed company to Spain and Portugal. We thought we could meet new people. Our tour group had twenty people. Fifteen of the people were related. They weren’t interested in talking to anyone else on tour. There was a young couple, my friend and me. We never communicated with the others, but we did strike up a very short friendship with the other couple.
Photo taken by Carol Kubota
2. The stops are set up by the company.
We stopped at some places and were given a certain amount of time to spend and then get back on the bus again. There were a few places I wanted to stay longer, and others I just wanted to stay on the bus. You don’t have a choice of places to visit. If you see something exciting and want to stop. Forget about it.
3. The restaurants were mediocre.
Travel companies have contracts with restaurants. Meals that are included in the price of the package are prepared by cafeterias. Some of the food is not authentic. You might get a choice of two meals. Meat or Chicken.
4. Historical Information
The information given to us on our trip was read from a prepared script. Some people asked questions, but others could care less. The guides were not very well informed of history or cultural events. The guide and the bus driver spent most of their time talking about the company they worked for. They weren’t too happy, and one of them was thinking about quitting.
5. Local events
Local events are staged for tour groups. A solo traveler can scope out authentic possibilities. Our group was scheduled to go to a flamenco dance in Seville, Spain. My partner and I decided not to pay for the extra event. We walked down the streets of Seville and found a small bar and restaurant that would host an authentic flamenco event. We sat in the bar and ordered some tapas and had a front-row seat to the real deal. Later we walked outside and ended up in a park where there were more dancers. Much better than a choreographed group of dancers set up for foreign visitors.
Photo was taken by Carol Kubota Streetcar in Lisbon
6. Hotel accommodations
Hotel accommodations are not more expensive for those who want a private room. Hotels charge for the rooms and not the number of people in the rooms. The hotels lacked character and catered to group tours like ours.
7. Time schedule
A group tour is on a time schedule. Everyone wakes up simultaneously to get on the bus and ready to go to the following location. There were times when the entourage of 15 people didn’t show up on time. They were always late as the other four of us waited.
After this group tour, I decided never again. I now travel solo and walk at my own pace and visit the places that interest me. What have been your experiences traveling solo with a group tour?