As much as we love running custom group tours, we understand that not everyone travels with other people. Whether you use the adventure to get out and meet new people, or just didn’t have friends or family who could join you this time around, sometimes it just makes sense to travel alone.
To start, here are 5 things that can be different when you are traveling alone vs. traveling with others:
Some people love traveling by themselves for the very reason that they can get away from everyone they know for a while. While you might not have someone to take your photo at every stop, you might just perfect the art of the selfie and lean into traveling by yourself. Being a single traveler can be all the more reason to push yourself out of your comfort zone to engage with those around you whether they are a local or a fellow traveller. Striking up spontaneous conversations along the way is a great way to learn about new cultures (even the one you’re not currently visiting)!
While not everything is more expensive, some things are, and unfortunately, the things you can typically split with other people tend to have bigger price tags attached (such as the cost of hotel rooms, guiding fees, and private transportation). Guided tours for one person can be cost-prohibitive for quite a few people, although in Lhasa and Central Tibet (the TAR), they are required for you to travel there. (Keep reading below for your options!)
If on the other hand, you were planning to stay in a hostel dorm room and take the bus in Kham or Amdo regions (Eastern Tibet), these are conveniently priced per person anyway so there is not really a change to your budget. Even if you decide to “splurge” on nicer accommodations, or a fancy dinner, paying that cost for one instead of for a family of 6 can make a huge difference to your budget.
Wondering where to start? Here are 10 things to budget for when traveling in Tibet.
While traveling with others is fun, it’s just different when traveling by yourself. Solo travelers aren’t tied down with the demands or the pace of other people quite the same way. You can choose what you go see, how long you want to linger, and what you want to eat, etc.
If you are in a sharing style restaurant, the upside of having multiple people means that you can order multiple dishes and not feel like you’re going to have too much food while also getting to try a lot of different things. (Here's our list of Top 5 Foods to try in Tibet). For a solo traveler, you can remedy this conundrum by taking the leftovers for later or inviting another few travelers you meet along the road for a meal. Meals are great to share with new friends and a wonderful time to swap stories and collect travel tips about the next place on your bucket list. Alternatively, in Tibet, there are a lot of great restaurants where you can order a bowl of noodles or your own meal that is the perfect size for one person.
As a solo traveler, you can also decide if you just need a day of rest, if you are ready to move on to the next town, how active you want to be, or how much history you want to see, etc. You can plan every detail, or move more freely, and you don’t need to respond to the pressure of other people who might be the opposite of you. Traveling by yourself can increase both your independence and your decision-making skills.
Traveling solo is very doable in many countries, especially if you use English. But, China is not most places. Though you can get around with English fairly easily in large cities— you may occasionally bump into a helpful bystander who studied some English in middle school —once you get off the beaten track in China (i.e. most places in Tibet), English is very rare. So, be prepared to take a useful travel guide book with place names and addresses in Chinese, in case you need to ask that helpful bystander how to get back to your hotel, and a Mandarin phrasebook in case you need to ask where the bathroom is.
While traveling in a group does not guarantee your safety and protection, solo travelers need to be aware of their own personal safety at all times. Just as a busy family with kids and luggage to take care of can be a prime opportunity for pickpockets because they are distracted, traveling by yourself means you need to take extra precautions with your own safety. It’s wise to let at least one person (even at home) know where you are going, how long you expect to be there for, and what you are doing, etc. Females in particular (regardless of who they are traveling with) should opt for wearing modest clothing, (especially in monasteries/holy places and more rural areas) to both be respectful and to not draw attention to themselves.
With those five things considered, if traveling by yourself is still the best option for you, you have one further choice as you start your planning. Note: if you are planning to travel to Central Tibet (TAR), foreigners must be accompanied by a tour guide (see option # 2 or 3).
Interested in a small group tour? At Extravagant Yak, our small group tours typically range in size between 4-12 people. Click here to see our upcoming tour dates that you can join right now, or click here to talk to us about your solo traveling dreams.
When travelling to Tibet, there are few things to complete your Tibetan experience you must try. We’ve compiled a list of 7 things for you to do to (including both some renowned and lesser-known activities) practically anywhere in Tibet.