The Pros and Cons of Independent Travel
In the past, if you wanted to go on an adventure, you probably would need to visit a travel agent who could organize everything for you. Nowadays, it’s possible to book an entire trip just using the apps on your phone. Although many people prefer to do everything on their own, is it the best option?
It all depends on your travel style, how organized you are, and how much responsibility you want. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way of traveling. However, if you’re considering embarking on an awesome independent trip, it’s worth knowing the pros and cons of your decision.
Pros of Independent Travel
It’s Easy to Make Friends
You just need to stay in a hostel one time to see how easy it is to meet new travelers and like-minded people. Hostels are usually set-up to be as inclusive as possible. As such, it’s hard to find someone on their own.
On the other hand, package and group travel can be very restrictive in terms of accommodation and social dynamics. Imagine if you’re traveling with a group for a month, but realize you don’t have anything in common with the group in the first three days? It’d be a nightmare! Also, most package holidays put people in hotels and resorts, which can be enjoyable, but not necessarily easy to meet other people.
It Can Be a More Immersive Experience
One of the common perceptions of package holidays is that you don’t really get to understand the culture and connect to the place you’re visiting. This can be even more acute for all-inclusive holidays, where sometimes the travelers don’t even leave their resorts.
However, independent travelers tend to get to know the locals on a deeper level. This leads to a better understanding of their traditions, beliefs, and cuisine. When you make the effort to travel and live like a local, your experience can be more authentic and closer to the real deal.
It’s Potentially Cheaper
Although group travel can be cheap in some instances, most of the time the cost of a trip depends very much on the way someone travels. Package holidays usually don’t give travelers much room for flexibility, so they end up paying a high price.
Independent travelers can always choose the cheapest option if they are on a budget. Why pay more for a hotel room if they can pay peanuts for a bed in a hostel dormitory? Why take the expensive airport transfer if they can just take the local bus into town?
You Can Travel at Your Own Pace
Have you ever seen those tours where people visit several cities in a short period of time? They tend to be super intense. As a result, travelers are rushed from attraction to attraction, instead of enjoying and exploring each destination. By the end, they have lots of pictures, but few experiences.
What if you really enjoyed one particular town and wanted to stay a couple more nights? When you’re the boss of your own adventure, you can just do what you feel like. Likewise, if you arrive at a place and hate it, you don’t need to stick to the schedule and stay five nights; just pack your things and move on.
It’s a Great Way to Learn About Yourself
There’s nothing wrong with traveling with an organized tour. However, you probably won’t get the opportunity to truly challenge yourself. If everything’s taken care of and all of your companions speak your language, where’s the struggle? Where’s the chance to see what you’re made of?
By traveling independently, you’ll realize you’re a lot more capable than you previously thought and that doing things on your own can be a great confidence boost. The more experienced you get, the easier it becomes, and before you know it, you’ll be asking yourself why you ever needed a travel agent in the first place.
You Have Room for Spontaneity
Sometimes, one of the best ways to travel is by having no plans and directions. It allows you to just go with the flow.
You might meet someone in a cafe in Budapest and learn about a small village in the countryside that sounds interesting. The next day you buy a ticket, visit the place, and have an unforgettable time.
Unfortunately, you could never do that if you were traveling in a guided tour. They usually have a very strict schedule with no room for unexpected day trips. The only thing you could do is write down the name of the Hungarian village and hope to visit it one day in the future.
Cons of Independent Travel
Researching Is Sometimes Tiresome
Many people don’t like the idea of researching their trip as it can take time and be annoying. You need to:
- Book all the flights and accommodations;
- Know how to get from the airport to the hotel for each destination;
- Figure out the best travel insurance, and;
- Research each destination to discover all the attractions and best places to eat.
If you’re not used to doing this type of research, it might be simpler to just head to the nearest travel agent and let them do everything for you. It’s just a matter of telling them where you’d like to go, how you like to travel, pay for the package, and enjoy your trip.
You Have to Make All the Decisions
Much like the researching and planning, independent travelers are in charge of all their decisions once they set foot in the destination. There won’t be a travel representative or guide with a detailed itinerary telling you what to do every day.
Many beginner travelers struggle with so much freedom. Since they’re used to following the herd and being told what to do, they have difficulties deciding on their own. So, if they make choices they regret, there’s no one to blame but themselves.
There’s No One to Fix Your Problems
One of the good things about purchasing your trip via a travel agent is there’ll be someone to help you if something goes wrong. The process might not always be simple, but you can expect your problems to be fixed. At the very least, you’ll get some sort of refund when you get back home.
When you book everything on your own, you’re the one who needs to sort it out when things don’t go according to plan. For instance, if you buy the wrong type of travel insurance and you miss your flight, you may need to foot the entire bill.
It Can Sometimes Be Lonely
Although it’s easier to make friends when you’re traveling independently, depending on the destination you’re visiting, it can be a struggle. If you’re going way off the beaten track, you’re probably going to have a great cultural experience. However, you’ll most likely be the only foreigner around.
When you’re traveling with an organized group, there’s always going to be someone to lend you a hand. Traveling with a bunch of people might be a better option if you don’t like the idea of being alone in another country.
Safety Might Be a Concern
As the saying goes “there’s safety in numbers.” So, when you’re traveling with a group of people, the possibilities of bad things happening diminishes. An assailant will think twice before approaching a big group. However, if they see one or two people walking alone, they could be an easy target.
Travelers who do everything by themselves need to always be aware of their surroundings. They also need to be extra careful when taking dodgy taxis or exchanging money as it’s the ideal opportunity for scammers to take advantage of them.
Some Destinations Require Organized Tours
There are some situations where trying to visit an attraction on your own might turn out to be a nightmare or downright impossible — especially if it’s out of town. It might be expensive to hire a car for one day or you need to take multiple bus transfers, so it could take you four hours to get there.
The sane decision would be to go to a travel agent and book a tour. They’ll probably have a van to take you there. The extra price is definitely worth more than the hours of stress.