Solo travel can be the ultimate in self-indulgence. You can sleep in when you want or set out on daring escapades when you’re feeling ambitious. There’s no worrying that your bursting enthusiasm to go cycling in the scorching sun or hiking all the way across town to spend time at a museum might ruin your partner’s day.
According to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions study, which surveyed 13,000 travellers from 25 countries, 24 per cent travelled alone on their most recent leisure trip.
But for some, venturing out into the world completely solo can be intimidating. The good news is that boutique travel companies are tapping into this growing market to bring together adventure lovers to share their travels and meet like-minded people who are seeking new journeys.
Take a look at some of the top solo-special tours designed by travel companies in India and abroad. Pick your perfect getaway this holiday season.
Contiki caters to travellers aged between 18 and 35. “The idea is to connect youngsters from all over the world who are looking to venture out on their own and also share a passion for adventures. No parents or children are allowed on these trips,” says Sam Morrah, director of sales and marketing, Contiki Asia. This year the company has seen a 30 per cent rise in millennial travellers from India compared to last year.
To take into account individual travel preferences, Contiki has devised an ‘8 ways to travel’ scheme where trips range from a High Energy Contiki Trip for younger members who like fast-paced days moving from one city to another combined with action-packed nightlife at the best party spots, to the more relaxed Discover Contiki trip meant for mature travellers looking to spend leisurely days sightseeing.
Among their most popular solo tours are the European Magic (Rs 98,700), which is a nine-day tour that ticks off eight countries taking you from the Swiss Alps to the canals of Venice, and the Argentina and Brazil Experience (Rs 1.20 lakh) that lets you soak up the sunny beaches of Rio and dance the tango in Buenos Aires.
Experiential Travel Journeys
For a bit more exclusivity and a quieter time, Experiential Travel Journeys has a super high-end 11-day Wilderness Safaris Exploration from Livingstone to Maun for well-heeled solos. The wilderness journey goes deep inside the jungles of Africa, is undertaken in a small group of seven people, and is tagged at a whopping Rs 7.93 lakh per person (single occupancy).
“This tour is designed for solo travellers seeking luxury travel with small groups of mature travellers, usually in their 50s,” says Amit Kalsi, founder and CEO of Experiential Travel Journeys.
All activities are done in a group and range from communal meals to walks, picnics and game drives on a seven-seater vehicle to ensure that everyone gets a window seat. “These explorations are privately-guided journeys led by a professional Explorations guide so that solo guests are lavished with personal attention,” adds Kalsi.
The highlights of these intimate safari excursions include deluxe camping in the Chobe National Park and staying at plush safari-style tents in Botswana.
“By veering away from the typical touristy trails, we offer solo travellers one-off experiences like a lunch with locals or music and dance lessons,” says Vikram Ahuja, founder and CEO Byond Travel a community-led travel company.
One of Byond Travel’s specialties is curating trips based on specific interests, like the self-drive Road Trip To Bangkok (Rs 4.25 lakh) covering 2,500km, from Manipur to Bangkok. Here you can test your driving skills on the meandering hills of Myanmar.
“Solo travellers find it easier to come together based on communities designed exclusively around their passions. So there are extremely active travel groups around self-drives and motorcycle riders who are constantly discussing itineraries; similarly there are women-only travel groups, foodies and music lovers,” notes Ahuja.
Cuba is a brand new destination for the company, which launched tours to Latin America this year. The eight-day Knocking on Cuba’s Door tour (Rs 1 lakh) which dives headlong into the land of cigars, salsa and the prose of Hemingway is designed for culture enthusiasts.
More than half the travellers who book with UK-based Intrepid Travel go alone; so travellers are unlikely to find themselves surrounded by couples or groups. “The number of solo travellers has increased by one-third over the last five years due to changing lifestyles and higher disposable incomes,” says Michael Edwards, Intrepid’s UK MD.
Intrepid has pulled together a trio of solo-only departures for three of its most popular trips — Café Colombia (Rs 1.28lakh), South Morocco Discovery (Rs 60,700) and Classic Rajasthan (Rs 84,000) — which depart from March 2017.
The first is a coffee lovers’ dream holiday and heads to plantations and roasteries in the Columbian highlands. In Morocco, the tour starts and finishes in Marrakech and you will be taken through the Sahara desert on a camel. The two-week Rajasthan holiday covers majestic palaces to give you a peep into the royals’ opulent way of life.
“Our solo groups have a maximum size of 12 people and each trip throws in off-the-beaten-track explorations like going on street food tours and attending karaoke sessions,” adds Edwards.