It’s not that I don’t have any friends, you understand; just that some are not built for adventure holidays, or don’t know how to ride (horses, that is, not bicycles) or have no money or, more probably don’t fancy a whole week or two in my company.
So – that means I have to go on my own. Travelling alone has its advantages and disadvantages but I must point out that I never travel completely alone and always join a group holiday organised by a company that understands my requirements as a single traveller. This is generally made up of like-minded people also wishing to see the same places I have chosen to visit. Solos Holidays, provides such a service, offering a wide variety of group holidays – from beach breaks to tennis weekends – specifically for the single traveller.
Small cruise ships, such as those operated by Noble Caledonia or the Star Flyer, are ideal for me: sufficient number of passengers, maximum 120, to meet and become friends with, either for the duration of the cruise or even for longer, but also spacious enough to avoid those one might want to exclude from future Christmas card lists.
Coach trips with 48/50 passengers are anathema to me; better a smaller group of maximum12/14. Indeed Solos Holidays’ group sizes are typically between 15-25, but have the added bonus of being steered by a Solos Tour Leader; in this respect the tour leader experiences all of the trip, activities or holiday with you and really helps to ‘gel’ the group.
Yet on the other hand, being independent is the greatest advantage for a single traveller. Don’t want to talk to or sit with anyone, then don’t. I have seen couples, or even friends, who have fallen out on day one and then been stuck with each other for the duration of the holiday.
The main disadvantage is the cost – so much hotel accommodation has a single room supplement, although Solos Holidays often have double rooms for single occupancy but do not charge extra single supplements.
On some cruise ships where there are no dedicated single cabins this can be fiendishly expensive and involves paying for two beds in a double cabin; though, obviously not eating for two (though this might be possible given the number of meals provided each day) or occupying two aircraft seats. But there again, after all the food provided on a cruise ship one might well require two seats for the return flight. It’s always worth enquiring about single cabins, for example, P&O Cruises, Noble Caledonia and Viking Cruises, all have some single cabins on certain ships, although they do get booked up very quickly.
Sometimes companies do allow sharing of accommodation. Holland America Line, for example has a single sharing programme. This again has its pros and cons. Indeed, the main advantage can be avoiding that pesky single supplement if you are with a company or hotel that charge one. Apart from sharing with a friend on riding holidays, I have taken the option of sharing with a complete stranger on about four or five occasions. This has been with a wonderful Swedish tour operator called Polar Quest, an associate company of Noble Caledonia. Their clientele is a mixture of Scandinavians (who all speak perfect English) and Brits.
I have always shared with charming and interesting ladies. Needless to say it’s all same sex sharing! BUT … they have all snored. Maybe it’s the herrings they eat in Norway and Sweden; or perhaps the Schnapps they drink.
The worst experience I had was in Mongolia. I was down to share with Kristina (I’ve changed her name to protect her identity!) whom I had already met on a previous Polar Quest trip to Spitsbergen. “Marvellous” I said when I was told with whom I was sharing. “Good fun lady.” On arrival in our room she said “I have brought you some ear plugs as I snore. I had an operation to cure the problem but it didn’t work.” “No problem”, I said cheerfully, “I have often shared with snoring friends on holiday and have my own ear plugs.” But I was not prepared for Kristina’s industrial strength snoring and, despite earplugs and a pillow over my head, I slept not a wink. Mercifully the tour leader was the owner of the company and took pity on me. A single room was provided in the hotel and a single tent, pitched as far as possible from Kristina, for the camping part of the holiday. I heard that the same problem occurred on subsequent trips with Kristina after which the company insisted that she should pay for a single room.
So, would I recommend anyone to travel alone on holiday? Definitely yes. A mature traveller might find it a trifle daunting to backpack alone around India in which case I would recommend joining a group, organised by a specialist company, as small as possible in my experience. There are plenty of special interest holidays available and, who knows, you may find a like minded person with whom to share accommodation in the future!
Solos Holidays is the UK’s number 1 holiday company for single travellers and recommended by Silver Travel Advisor.