Traveling solo to Italy
Singles tours and other options and tips for solo travelers in Italy
The cruelest, costliest words in the travel lexicon just might be "single supplement." That's the penalty solo travelers pay merely for the fact that they're traveling alone.
Some "single supplements" are spelled out—you have to pay $X more to book this vacation because you're going stag ("$X" usually being somewhere between 40% and 90% of the per-person trip cost for two traveling together).
Many tour companies will offer to pair you up with another same-gendered single on the trip as a roomie so you don't have to pay this supplement (though, in a game of monetary musical chairs, if there is an odd number of singles, one person is still going to end up going stag and paying the penalty).
That really only applies to people booking tours or packages—but there are penalties for traveling solo even for the independent traveler.
Best lodging bets for solo travelers
Singles can avoid the high premium at most hotels by booking a bed, studio, or single rooms at:
• Couchsurfing (free)
• Affittacamere (rental rooms)
• Hospitality networks
• Residence hotels
• Mountain huts
• Cheap hotelsSome single penalties are implicit.
A single room at a hotel rarely costs exactly half of what a double one does (it's usually more like 70%–80%).
When two or three of you rent a car—even if only one person drives it—you still split that cost evenly.
Heck, there are even discounted rail passes for couples.
Then there are all the little extras.
There's no one to share the cost of the meal (perhaps you would have shared that secondo, and a bottle of wine).
It's sometimes tough to book a day trip, as they often have a minimum participant requirement before they'll go (though you can glom on to a trip that already has participants).
There are often menu items (risotto in particular) that require you order for a minimum of two.
The good things about traveling solo
That said, I spend the vast majority of my travel time in Italy going solo (part of the job, you see), and while it might cost a wee bit more, it's still extraordinarily fulfilling.
I get to do what I want, when I want. No negotiating over when to get up, what activity to do or sights to see, where to eat out, and where to head next. I am master of my own itinerary and my own daily schedule.
A good resource
Most sites out there claiming to serve single travelers are either selling you something or act as shameless link farms. This one is actually a resource chock full of tips and useful links: www.solotravel.orgI tend to notice and absorb a whole lot more of my trip, since all of my attention is focused outward, on the destination, not split between what I am seeing and paying attention to the person or people I am with.
Sure, its fun to share experiences, but it's also fun to have them alone. Plus, I am a lot better about keeping my daily journal up to date (without someone else around, I have the time, plus the only outlet I have to share my adventures is the blank piece of paper or computer screen).
Besides, it's easier to meet people and make new friends if you're all alone. For one thing, you get lonely and tend to become more outgoing that you might otherwise be. And I can't count how many times I've been temporarily adopted by other travelers who must just feel sorry for me, the lonely guy sitting in at a corner table with no company save the open novel by his plate.
Tours for single travelers
If you're a single, straight male, however, and want a tour there are very few options beyond the standard guided bus trips or active tours (and even then you're usually looking at a wallop of a single supplement).
Here are a few tour companies that do not (or rarely) charge a single supplement:
Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com)- One of only two only major tour outfits I know of that makes a concerted effort to travel like real independent travelers—small groups (max of 12 people), staying in mom-and-pop accommodations and getting around by public transport (trains, local buses, bikes, feet) rather than a big tour bus.
This fantastic Australian company marries an independent travel style with the expertise of truly knowledgeable guides and a focus on the cultural experience of travel. There are usually around 30–35 Italy trips on tap each year—though half of those will be longer overland treks across Europe and/or the Middle East (with Italy making up just a slice of the two– or three-week trip), and a handful are self-guided walks (no group to follow, just you, your itinerary, and your pre-booked accommodations).
Intrepid really does run a different breed of group tour. Let me put it this way: When my parents—who travel widely and on their own and normally would never have even considered taking a group tour—suddenly found themselves with airfare to Japan but no time to plan a trip, I suggested they try booking with Intrepid. They did—and they have raved about it every since. Nearly seven years later, they still keep in touch with their guide via email.
G Adventures (www.gadventures.com) - The other major outfitter with small group sizes and a devotion to seeing its destinations more like an independent traveler. G Adventures trip range from the more tour-like Comfort and Original trips to the gnarlier Active and Overland ones. Drawbacks: no airfare (yet), and quoted prices are not as inclusive as some others (read the fine print to find out about lots of on-the-ground costs, often including most meals).
They offer between 15 and 20 Italy trips each year (see box on the right)—some focused more on sightseeing; others more physical and active (lots of hiking and biking), and a few include Italy as part of grander overland treks across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Best Single Travel (www.bestsingletravel.com) - Tour company that only does singles travel. Usually a couple of Italy tours in there.
Singles Travel International (www.singlestravelintl.com) - Not too many offerings, but they're making an effort.
Contiki Holidays (www.contiki.com) - Bus tours for ages 18 to 35 only—and the participants partying their way through Europe tend toward the lower end of that demographic.
- Tips for women traveling to Italy
- Tours FAQ (what questions to ask, are tours right for you, etc.)
- Vacation packages (air-hotel, air-car, untours)
- Escorted group tours
- Active vacations (bike, hike, horse)
- Educational tours (cooking, language, art/history/cultural, study)
- Special interest & niche tours (family, seniors, student, women, gay/lesbian, religious, handicapped)
- Design your own group tour
- Private guides
This material was last updated December 2010. All information was accurate at the time.
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