Singles tours of Italy

Ah, to be single and in Pisa, Singles tours, Italy, Italy (Photo by Roberto Trombetta)
Ah, to be single and in Pisa

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).

If you're a woman, there are plenty of options. If you're gay: again, loads of options. If you're a student: traveling solo is what students do.

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). 

The companies listed in the "Links" section are tour companies that do not (or rarely) charge a single supplement, or at least can easily accommodate solo travelers.

Singles tours


Some questions to ask if you want an escorted tour

Before you sign up for an escorted tour, you need to ask some questions.

  • What is the cancellation policy? Do you have to put a deposit down? Can the company cancel the trip if they don't get enough people? How late can you cancel if you are unable to go? When do you pay? Do you get a refund if you cancel? How about if they cancel?
  • How jam-packed is the schedule? Do they try to fit 25 hours' worth of activities into one day, or is there ample time for relaxing by the pool or shopping? If you don't enjoy getting up at 7am every day and not returning to your hotel until 6 or 7pm at night, certain whirlwind escorted tours may not be for you.
  • How big is the group? The smaller the group, the more flexible the schedule, and the less time you'll spend waiting for people to get on and off the bus. Also, the larger the group, the more some quaint little village will treat you like an invading barbarian horde to be fended off by throwing large amounts of overpriced souvenirs in your general direction. Tour operators may be evasive about group size until they know how many people have signed on, but they should be able to give you a rough estimate. Some tours have a minimum group size and may cancel the tour if they come up short.
  • What is included in the tour? Don't assume anything. You may have to pay to get yourself to and from the airport. A box lunch may be included in an excursion, but drinks might cost extra. Beer might be included but not wine. How much choice do you have? Can you opt out of certain activities, or are you committed for a full day? Are all your meals planned in advance? Can you choose your entree at dinner, or does everybody get the same chicken cutlet?
  • How much is "optional?" Many tours look cheap but are larded with the phrases "optional excursion" and "optional tour." That's brochure-speak for "you have to pay more if you want to do this."
Should I travel alone or join a tour?

Do you like to let your bus driver worry about traffic while you sit in comfort and listen to a tour guide explain everything you see? Or do you prefer to rent a car and follow your nose, even if you don't catch all the highlights? Do you like to have lots of events planned for each day, or would you rather improvise as you go along? 

Or do you like it somewhere in between, with some of the travel details planned for you so you can devote your energies to planning your daily sightseeing? The answers to these questions will determine whether you should choose a guided tour or a vacation package or travel à la carte under your own steam and ambition.

Get a guidebook regardless

Even if you're on a fully escorted tour with a live guide, invest in a good guidebook. It will give you more background on and insight into your sightseeing beyond the pat infonuggets dispensed by the tour guide.

Plus, it will serve as a trusted companion for the time you spend away from the group and will help you discover off-the-beaten-path sights, go shopping, or pick a restaurant.

Buy insurance independently

If you do choose an escorted tour, think strongly about purchasing travel insurance, especially if the tour operator asks to you pay up front.

Important: Do not buy travel insurance from the tour operator! If the operator doesn't fulfill its obligation to provide you with the vacation you've paid for, there's no reason to think it will honor the insurance either. Also, one of the things travel insurance protects you against is the bankrucptcy of the company providing the travel (and if they're bankrupt, they can't very well pay your insurance claim).

Get travel insurance through an independent agency. » more