Pól Ó Conghaile: Worried about solo travel? Here's where to start...
Solo travel is on the rise, our Travel Editor writes. Why not give it a try by travelling alone with a group?
Thinking of travelling alone, but worried about taking the plunge?
You're not alone.
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Solo travel is booming, particularly among women. One Irish tour operator, clickandgo.com, has seen a 15pc rise in solo bookings this year, it tells me.
Another, Travel Department, says "any historical stigma associated with solo travel has well and truly gone".
Last year, a British Airways survey found over half of female respondents had taken a trip alone... and 75pc were considering one.
Yet despite all this, safety remains a concern.
When The New York Times hired Jada Yuan to be its 52 Places Traveller last year, I followed her adventures eagerly. I also learned about the trickiness of travelling alone as a woman in places like Tangier, about the difficulty in going out alone at night, and why an apartment scare saw her resolve to stay in hotels with 24-hour front desks.
While benefits outweigh the risks for most, it's important to find your own comfort level - and one way to do that is by joining a group trip.
"We see a surge in the number of women, particularly over 50, looking to join groups of like-minded people," says Maria Golpe of caminoways.com.
The company now offers exclusive tours for both solo travellers and women (many customers ask to share rooms, so they can avoid single supplements).
"The one thing they have in common is a pathological hatred of the dreaded 'single supplement'," agrees John Galligan, who managed to reduce supplements by 25pc on a forthcoming 'Bucket List' trip to Antarctica.
Three out of four people on the trip are women, he tells me.
"We're seeing a definite increase in women travelling on their own," adds Tanya Airey of Sunway. "It's a mix of both married and single."
Women can be more adventurous than their husbands, Tanya says, or their partners may have different interests. With group tours, she says, you can experience exotic destinations with the comfort of guides, planning and group company.
Men aren't excluded either! Three tour operators - Tour America, Friendship Travel and Wendy Wu (25pc of whose Irish business is now from singles) - told me this week that they're seeing just as many, if not more, solo male travellers.
Nor is it all about Bucket List trips.
Friendship Travel, which specialises in singles holidays - and this summer will open its own solo-friendly hotel in Portugal's Algarve - says its best-selling holidays this year are traditional sun breaks to Greece, Turkey and Spain.
With each passing year, solo travel becomes more mainstream. If you fancy giving it a try by travelling alone with a group, other travel agents and tour operators worth contacting include Travel Department's TD Active brand, Riviera Travel and G Adventures.
Read more:Top 10 tips for solo travel - from doorstops to eating alone