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15 Great Destinations For First Time Solo Travelers

OK, so you’ve decided you want to go on a solo adventure. But where to?

There are almost 200 countries in the world, each with something unique to offer. Seasoned travelers might say that anywhere is a good travel destination, provided you have your wits about you, the budget to keep going, and an open mind.

However, we believe that some places are much better suited for solo travel than others. Factors include: safety, ease of getting around (e.g. public transportation), density of attractions, ease of meeting other travelers, available resources, traveler infrastructure, and more.

With all this in mind, we’ve narrowed it down to a list of 15 trip ideas for solo travelers – for both first-time travelers and more experienced adventurers alike!

Note: we feel that these are great for all genders. Given the (relatively) high level of safety for travelers in these 15 places, this article could just as easily have been titled 15 Destinations for Female Solo Travelers. Of course, no place is 100% safe–so common sense should still be applied!

Bird's-eye view of white temple surround by trees in Northern Thailand
Thailand isn’t just beaches and islands. Go up north for a different side of the country! (Pictured: Doi Inthanon)

#1. Thailand

Thailand is South East Asia on “easy” mode. More than 35 million people visit the country annually, and the Thais have got it all worked it out – from hotels, flights/transport, and endless tour activities. Tourist infrastructure is well developed, and most Thais by now speak at least a few words of English. It’s safe, cheap (by Western standards), and often sunny – what more could you ask for in a destination?

As a bonus, Thailand is serviced by a multitude of air routes – and affordable flight deals are easy to find.

Example solo itinerary: Phuket → day trip on a boat to outlying islands → back to Phuket → ferry to Ko Lanta, more snorkeling and relaxation → Krabi → back to Phuket → fly to Bangkok, spend 2-3 days there → fly to Chiang Mai, explore for 2-3 days → minibus to Pai, stay overnight → back to Chiang Mai → fly back home!

Pro tip: never, ever make fun of the King. Oh, and please don’t have your photo taken with sedated tigers (their treatment is decidedly not #awesome).

Another pro tip: most ATMs will charge you 200 BHT (~6 usd) just to withdraw each time. Get a debit card that refunds withdrawal fees, or bring cash to exchange.

Koala sleeping on a branch in Australia
A koala in his natural state (at the Kuranda Koala Gardens)

#2. Australia

Aside from being quite an expensive place to visit, Australia is very travel-friendly. While a proper exploration of the country could take months (and perhaps best done in an RV/camper van), a quick solo adventure is logistically easy to pull off. Just be sure to book your accommodation in advance, as hotels are very pricy and hostels fill up fast!

Example solo itinerary: Fly into Perth (3 days there) → fly to Melbourne (4 days there, including day trip along Great Ocean Road) → fly to Sydney (4 days there, including 2 nights in Katoomba to explore the Blue Mountains) → Cairns (4 days there, including rainforest tours and a day spent lamenting the dying Great Barrier Reef).

Pro tip: Australians have a very direct sense of humor – don’t take it personally!

Sunset cityscape of Florence, Italy
Pop open a bottle of vino and enjoy the sunset over Florence, Italy

#3. Italy

The biggest danger in Italy? Falling in love with the place!

It’s a perfect country to explore at your own pace, taking in the culture, history, and amazing cuisine. A must-visit for any history buffs, and a great place to link up with other travelers.

Example solo itinerary (mostly train journeys): fly into Rome → explore Rome & The Vatican → Naples/Pompei/Salerno → Florence → Bologna → Venice → Milan → Genoa → back to Rome
(Optional: Amalfi Coast, but perhaps best saved for the honeymoon!)

Pro tip: the most useful website for finding European train/bus tickets is loco2. For train itineraries and journeys specifically, Seat61 is a treasure trove of info (has info for all over the world).

Close-up of paella dish
Paella is a traditional – and very delicious – Valencian rice dish

#4. Spain

If you’re worried about traveling to Spain, just know that thousands of new retirees move there every year to enjoy a calmer way of life. While the big cities are not nearly as despacito as you might imagine, Spain makes for an easy trip even if you can barely say Ola!

As everywhere else in Western Europe, the backpacker/hostel culture is very well developed and you’ll find no shortage of affordable accommodations anywhere you go. The country has a great train system, and you’ll be spoiled by the high speed connections between cities.

Example solo itinerary: fly into Barcelona (3 days there) → Valencia (2 days) → fly to Malaga or Seville → explore Andalusia (including Granada, Córdoba, Ronda → make your way to Madrid (4 days there, including a day trip to Toledo) → fly back home!

Pro tip: take advantage of the delicious and filling set lunch menus available at almost any restaurant (menu del dia). For ~10 Euros, you’ll leave satisfied and full. And yes, dessert is included!

View of the Porto promenade and old town
The charming coastal city of Porto, a short train ride from Lisbon

#5. Portugal

An underrated destination in Western Europe, Portugal is (finally) getting the traveler attention it deserves. Makes for an easy week-long trip by itself, or as the other half of a Spain/Portugal combo adventure.

Example solo itinerary: fly into Lisbon (3-4 days there) → full day trip to Sintra → up to Porto (2-3 days there) → back to Lisbon and home (or onwards!)

Pro tip: try to get a hotel or Airbnb in Lisbon’s historic Alfama district. You’ll be hearing beautiful (and somber) Fado music every night for free… while tourists will be overpaying to eat at the restaurants where the musicians perform!

Beachgoers on a summer day in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Summer is Coming – and Dubrovnik awaits all

#6. Croatia

Beautiful people, crystal blue waters, and a city that served as the filming location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones – it’s no wonder that Croatia has quickly become a mainstream travel destination.

As a bonus, the country is a more affordable place to visit (compared to places Zlike Italy, France, or Germany). Unless you’re going there to spend thousands of dollars for a few days of Yacht Week, you won’t be breaking the bank.

Example solo itinerary: Fly into Zagreb (2-3 days there) → Zadar (by way of Plitvice Lakes) → Explore Zadar for a few days, with day trips to Dugi Otok and Nin → head to Split (with a stop at Krka National Park) → Hvar → Dubrovnik

See this blog – these guys have done a great job of outlining an excellent itinerary for Croatia.

4 yellow houses in a unique architectural style in the Netherlands
The Dutch are known for their wacky and experimental designs

#7. Bene(lux)

Quick recap: “Benelux” refers to the political and economic union of Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg. And we say (lux) because Luxembourg is a strictly optional part of this suggested itinerary.

Excellent train connections make exploring this part of Western Europe an absolute breeze. While all three countries combined are just half the size of New York (state), there’s a lot there to explore. As a bonus, Amsterdam is an excellent hub for air travel and affordable tickets are often available in and out of Schiphol.

Example solo itinerary: Fly into Amsterdam → Explore Amsterdam for a few days (with day trip to Haarlem) → Rotterdam (because Holland is not just about Amsterdam!) → Antwerp → Brussels (1 day max) → Ghent → Day trip to Bruges → Back to Brussels → Onwards (home? to Paris? to Cologne?)

Pro tip: don’t spend too much time in Brussels. Instead, take advantage of Belgium’s affordable local trains and check out Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges.

Man walking by a graffiti design on the Berlin Wall
Large chunks of the Berlin Wall feature graffiti artwork

#8. Berlin

There are just a handful of cities that defined the course of Western civilization in the 20th century – and Berlin is right up there. Almost anywhere you go, there will be evidence of what happened… and who it happened to. The city itself is almost one big open air museum – where are are you going to see Checkpoint Charlie, the Iron Curtain (East/West wall), and Holocaust Memorial all in one day?

Berlin is perfect for a solo traveler. Cheap hostels abound, and you could technically sustain yourself on 2 Euro doner kebabs and free* walking tours for a whole week (and still not run out of things to do).

And in case you haven’t heard by now, Berlin is also the nightclub/trance capital of Western Europe – this is a city that knows how to party. With its (comparatively) low cost of living, Berlin continues to attract artists, hipsters, and – most recently – young tech startup founders.

Example solo itinerary: fly into Berlin and spend a week exploring it! Make sure you take a day trip to Postdam, and don’t forget to check out some cool museums in the city (including the Technology Museum and the Museum der Charité – a fascinating museum of medical history and procedures). With cheap flights and a ton of train connections, you could either return home or continue your adventure to anywhere in Europe.

Pro tip: read our Berlin city guide for all the essential info, including how to get past those high-maintenance Berlin club bouncers!

*Please tip your walking tour guides!

Sunset skyline of Hong Kong and Kowloon from Victoria Peak
Hong Kong is a perfect place to kick off your first Asia trip (Pictured: view from Victoria Peak)

#9. Hong Kong

OK, so we don’t recommend flying 10+ hours to Asia just to see Hong Kong. But if you’re going to make a stopover as part of a longer trip, this might just be the perfect place to do it. Warning: accommodations in Hong Kong are expensive!

HK is a perfect destination for solo travelers – it’s extremely safe, there are English signs everywhere (most people at least speak basic English), and the public transport system is one of the best in the world. Photographers will love this place (it’s highly #instagrammable), foodies will be in heaven, and even outdoorsy folks will be pleasantly surprised (there are 100s of km of pristine hiking trails, both on Hong Kong Island and a short ferry ride away on the outlying islands).

If you’re going to make a stop in Hong Kong, make sure you read our Essential Solo Travel Guide to HK first! It’s got everything you need to create a great travel itinerary. 3-4 days is a perfect amount of time.

Pro tip: for a good “bang for the buck” accommodation plan, find a room in an Airbnb somewhere on the West side of Hong Kong Island (e.g. Sheung Wan, Sai Ying Pun, HKU, or Kennedy Town). This way, you’re still on the main metro (MTR) line, but not paying ridiculous business hotel prices.

#10. Bali

Hah! Thought you wouldn’t see Bali on this list? So did we, until we gave it some thought.

On one hand, Bali is a bit of a “played out” travel destination. It seems everyone and their mothers has already been there, done that, and got the yoga mat to prove it. But there’s a reason why Bali is such a popular destination: there really is a lot to do there – you just have to get out of Kuta (the city where you first land).

Bali is a huge island, so it helps to know what you want. Want to catch waves and hang out with the surfers? Make a beeline for Canggu. Just want to relax and party on the beach? North Kuta is great for that. Interested in the whole Eat, Pray, Love experience – with artisanal coffee and daily Warrior II? Ubud is your place. Looking for some great scuba? You’ll want to see Bali and hop over to Lombok ASAP, then.

This is a great place for newbies to build some real travel skills – all the basic stuff (e.g. asking for directions, buying a SIM card, arranging for private transport) is just a hair less predictable than somewhere like Thailand. And it seems the farther you get out of Kuta, the more interesting stuff you’re going to find. There’s a lot to explore here – and lots of “insider” info that you’ll only get by talking to other travelers or semi-permanent residents on the island.

For more info, check out our Essential Solo Guide to Bali.

Pro tip: while you can use Uber on Bali (I did it all the time), you have to be discreet about it as Uber is technically not allowed on the island. If there’s a taxi or police nearby, your Uber driver might keep circling until the coast is clear (to pick you up). Other transport options – aside from the local taxis – include Grab, GoJek, and BlueBird.

A farmhouse between two valleys (Ninh Binh, Vietnam)
A farmhouse between two valleys (Ninh Binh, Vietnam)

#11. Vietnam

A popular phrase travelers use to describe their trip Vietnam: “It’s like visiting China… ten years ago.” 

While the memories of war still linger, the people of Vietnam are definitely not living in the past – this is one of the fastest growing economies of Asia (and it shows). Wherever you go, big changes are happening here: from soaring office towers in Saigon, to miles of beachfront resort developments near Da Nang, to hundreds of new factories popping up all over (ready to export to the rest of the world). Everyone is on the move in Vietnam, and business is booming!

Even with rapid economic growth, Vietnam continues to be an affordable travel destination. Decent hotel rooms in Hanoi can be had for as low as 15 USD/night, and a bowl of delicious street-side pho noodle soup is just 1-2 dollars. Even a SIM card (with a month of LTE data) will only set you back $5 or so.

Example solo itinerary: before your trip, check weather reports for the 3 major cities (HCMC, Da Nang, and Hanoi). Depending on the season, it could be very rainy in the South and perfectly clear in the North (or vice versa). This will affect which direction you travel in as you explore Vietnam. For example, you could start in Hanoi (with day trip to Ha Long Bay → bus north to Sapa (spend 1-2 nights here and enjoy the hiking and views) → back to Hanoi → fly to Da Nang (or ride a scooter down if you’re feeling brave) → take train up to Hue (2 nights here) → back to Da Nang by bus → Hoi An (1-2 nights here) → back to Da Nang → fly to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and explore the city for a few days → (optional) continue onwards to Cambodia

Pro tip: people of (most) nationalities will need to obtain a tourist visa for Vietnam prior to arrival. It can usually be all done online – there are many agencies that offer this service, ranging from excellent to dubious. We recommend just sticking with the official government e-visa service. If you want to stay longer than 30 days, you’ll need to get the traditional tourist visa.

Interior shot of Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia
Exploring the wonderful and enormous Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia

#12. Cambodia

Sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand, Cambodia is another popular destination on the so-called Banana Pancake Trail in South East Asia. Cambodia is affordable, tourist-friendly, and makes for a perfect solo adventure – especially when combined with a neighbouring country.

If you’re coming from abroad, you’ll probably enter the country via one of two cities: Siem Reap or Phnom Penh (the capital). Just as well, because these happen to be the two must-visit places: Siem Reap for its proximity to the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex, and Phnom Penh for witnessing not only the rapid economic rise Cambodia, but also to learn about and reflect on the horrors of the country’s recent past under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Example solo itinerary: Phnom Penh (2 nights) → Explore the city, making sure to take a day trip to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center → Siem Reap (wake super up early for the Angkor Wat visit, it’s worth it) → fly home (or continue to Bangkok!) Optional: Sihanoukville + islands, Kampot, and Battambang

Pro tip: the best bus companies to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice versa) are Giant Ibis and Mekong Express. Probably best to just stick to those.

Fushimi Inari Shrine path in Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari Shrine path in Kyoto, Japan

#13. Japan

While Japan has been exporting its culture for decades, no amount of movies, TV, anime, or Pokemon play-throughs will prepare one for the real thing. If you can afford it, this is simply a must-visit country – the history, architecture, cuisine, nature, infrastructure, and unique culture will amaze all but the most jaded of travelers.

For travelers, Japan is the safest country on our list (and of the safest in the world). As long as you don’t go out of your way to start trouble, it’s unlikely that anything bad will happen to you there. It’s also next to impossible to be ripped off in Japan – in almost every case, you will pay the exact same price as locals do.

Example solo itinerary: fly into Tokyo → spend 3-4 days exploring Tokyo’s neighborhoods, temples, and gardens (with a day trip up north to Nikko) → Optional: climb Mt. Fuji (summertime only) and come back to Tokyo in the same day → Hakone (stay at a hot spring hotel or hostel overnight) → train to Kyoto (1-2 nights here) → train to Osaka → With Osaka as your base, make day trips to Kobe, Himeji, and Nara → done! (or continue south to Hiroshima)

Optional add-ons: Japan is not just the mainland. If you really want to get a good sense of the country, make sure to visit Sapporo (and surrounding cities) in the North, as well as the sun-kissed beaches of Okinawa (in the South).

Pro tip: if you’re looking for a truly unique experience in Japan, take the bullet train down to Kagoshima and board the ferry (or turbo jet) to Yakushima. This is a beautiful island, known for its unique animal species (deer, monkey) and ancient cedars (some over 2,000 years old). A great resource for visiting Yakushima is Yaku Monkey.

Panorama of Prague's Old Town
Panorama of Prague’s Old Town (Czech Republic)

#14. Central Europe

OK, so “Central Europe” sounds a bit vague.

To be specific: the idea is to hit up all the most interesting cities of the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. It’s a great way to get off the (very beaten) tourist trail of Western Europe and experience something East of Germany for a change. There’s so much variety of culture, history, and cuisine all packed in a relatively tiny geographical area – from the fairy tale architecture of Prague to the thermal baths of Budapest.

This is a great option for newbie solo travelers, as all our recommended cities are quite safe, offer plenty of affordable hostel accommodation, and are connected via cheap and plentiful transport options (train, bus, car share, etc.)

Example solo itinerary (remember, all of these can be done backwards too): Prague → bus to Brno → Vienna → Graz → Optional: visit Ljubljana (Slovenia), and continue on to Zagreb (Croatia) → Budapest, Hungary (spend at least a few days here)

Pro tip: to quickly see all transportation options within Europe, try the following apps: Rome2Rio or Omio.

Sunrise shot of Machu Picchu, Peru
For the best views of Machu Picchu (Peru), get there really, really early

#15. Peru to Chile (Gringo Trail)

What kind of a destination list would this be without at least one location from the New World?

Latin America (everything from Mexico down to the southern tip of Argentina) is daunting to new travelers for a variety of reasons. First, it’s far away for many – requiring expensive airfare or 40+ hour journeys with multiple connections. Then there’s the language barrier: you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t speak any Spanish or Portuguese. Finally, there’s the looming question of safety.

With that said, there are definitely “easier” countries to visit on the continent. For first-time (or less experienced) travelers, we recommend starting with the tried and true destinations on the so-called Gringo Trail. There are all backpacker-friendly, and offer plenty of accommodation options (along with affordable activities/tours and just enough of a hospitality industry that you’ll eventually find someone that speaks good English).

Example solo itinerary (loose suggestions): fly into Lima (Peru) → spend a day or two in Lima (not too long here) → Optional: take a desert / sandboarding / off-road jeep day tour from Lima → Cusco → Explore Cusco for a couple of days to acclimatize to the altitude → Book a tour locally in Cusco to hire the Salkantay or Inca Trail to Machu Picchu → fly to La Paz (Bolivia) → Optional: Death Road biking tour day trip (dangerous!) → bus to Uyuni → Salt flats jeep tour to San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) → Spend a few days in San Pedro, exploring local rock formations and stargazing at night → fly or bus down to Santiago → back home! (Optional: visit Easter Island via plane from Santiago)

Also, just in case you haven’t heard: learning Spanish is key! Every hour you spend learning basic Spanish phrases is going to translate to considerably more enjoyment while visiting South America. For free lessons, head over to Duolingo and make an account.

Pro tip: some of you may be tempted to try ayahuasca (or other similar substances) while backpacking in South America. Please understand the possible side-effects prior to going in, and don’t take unnecessary risks. If you’re going to do it, it would be wise to go with a travel buddy so you can look out for one another.

(The full “Gringo Trail” includes many more countries, encompassing almost all of Latin America)

And there you have it: 15 great destination ideas for your next solo travel adventure!

(If you’re traveling within to the United States, make sure you see our recommendations for the Best Solo Destinations in the USA).

Or: check out one of our 180 free destination guides (organized by country)!