Tips Tours

Groups & Tours For Solo Travelers: An Overview

Should you travel as part of a group trip (Contiki Tours, Gap Adventures, etc.)?

Well, it depends. Our goal is to help you make an educated decision on the matter. In this post, we’re going to cover:

  1. The pros & cons of traveling by yourself vs. in a group tour
  2. A detailed comparison of all the popular group tour providers, including approximate costs and what kind of traveler each is best suited for. We’ve also included some reviews from Reddit for each provider.

Let’s get started!

Pros & Cons of Group Tours For Solo Travelers

Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of traveling as part of a group tour.

Pros of Group Tours (The Good):

  • It’s never a dull moment when you’re traveling in a group. Whatever happens, there will be a conversation going on about it. And with enough people, the chances of something unexpected happening are very high. If you’re the kind of person who finds it difficult to travel alone, a group tour is a way to get all the social benefits without the need to rally your friends back home to join you.
  • You’ll make some new friends. Group tours attract lots of solo travelers, so everyone’s starting out “by themselves”–striking up a conversation and making a new friend is pretty easy. And the more stuff you do together, the more at ease you’ll feel with one another. Not to mention that you all (independently) signed up for the exact same tour–so you probably have far more in common with a group member than with another traveler taken at random.
  • Safety in numbers: if you’re traveling in a group, everyone is looking out for one another. There’s less chance of someone attempting a mugging (unless one of you strays from the herd). This point is especially amplified at night–it helps to have a buddy or two when you’re drinking and partying in a foreign land.
  • Local wisdom can make any trip more interesting. Group tours benefit from having access to knowledgeable guides that can explain the significance of important locations, attractions, dishes, etc. You’ll save a lot of time flipping through guidebooks and translating everything back to English.
  • Ease of travel: forget planning out your accommodation, meals, and day-to-day itineraries. The tours generally have everything prepared already–it’s truly travel on easy mode!
  • Exotic destinations can become a possibility with a group tour. It’s much harder to justify a solo trip to Antarctica, for example, when there’s a possibility of splitting costs 15-20 ways via a tour group. Even if the tour is expensive, you may still come out ahead than if you attempted to pull it off by yourself. Naturally, this varies by operator and destination.
  • The possibility of sexy times. What do you think happens when you put a bunch of singles on the same trip–and fill up their day with activities that encourage social bonding? Romantic relationships and quick flings are not unheard of, especially when the nights are spent partying and dancing.
Young people hanging out at a pool party at sunset
On a group tour, you’ll be doing EVERYTHING together – which can be good or bad

Cons of Group Tours (The Bad):

  • It’s never a dull moment. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, group tours may not be the best solution. At the end of the day, these packages are about having a great time together — and this often takes precedence over immersing yourself in the local culture or attractions. Extroverted people will naturally be comfortable in a group setting when traveling, while introverts may feel a nagging claustrophobia.
  • Being the odd one out isn’t very fun. If it happens that you don’t get along with anyone else on the trip, you’re still stuck with them until it’s over. Maybe you’re very introverted, and they’re not. Or vice versa. Or maybe you don’t fit the demographic profile (this is why operators often have references or even limits as to the age of the participants).
  • Too much alcohol. Not to generalize too much about tour providers (there are a lot to choose from, all with their own approach), but many of the companies that target 18-35 year olds put a heavy emphasis on partying and going out. This leads to a lot of alcohol-fueled nights, and a lot of time spent in bars/clubs. It can be a lot of fun, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. Make sure you read reviews before you commit to a particular operator! (If possible, talk to someone who has gone on a similar trip with them).
  • Missing out on the actual destination. This may sound a bit silly, but a group tour *may* limit your interaction with the local attractions. If the focus is on doing everything “together” and bonding, then there’s naturally less time for solitary activities such as going on a photo walk, exploring a museum, or getting lost in the side streets of a foreign place.
  • Less chance of interacting with locals. It applies in almost any situation (regardless of whether you’re on a trip): when you’re in a group, strangers are less likely to strike up a conversation with you. A group acts as a social “shield”–both protecting its members and organically “repelling” anyone else. Contrast this with the typical experience of a true solo traveler–everyone’s naturally curious about someone traveling alone and many will ask questions and try to get to know you.
  • You’re stuck with the itinerary. Group tours take away a lot of the freedom that attracts people to solo trips in the first place. The start and end dates are fixed. Most of the day-to-day activities are predetermined, and are not going to change. Even the meals may be pre-booked in restaurants of the tour operator’s choosing. And if you want to spend less or more time in a particular place, it will have to happen on a future trip.
  • Being told what to do. As a naturally independent person, this is something I’ve always struggled with. I have trouble taking orders from people, especially when I’m on a vacation that I paid for. Sure, I’ll wake up at 8 AM to get on the damn boat–but I won’t like it. And the idea of having someone else determine how much “free time” I have in a given day? It’s a tough pill to swallow.
  • Cost: group tours can be very expensive. Before you commit to spending thousands on an 8 day / 7 night itinerary, check to see how much the trip would cost you if you were to book everything by yourself.
Group of people hiking up a hill
It’s no secret: most of the popular tour companies draw a younger crowd

Comparison of The Most Popular Group Tour Providers

All the companies below are reputable group tour operators–they have been doing this for decades. And while you’re unlikely to go wrong with any of them, there are some differences between how they operate, where they travel, target demographic, and general approach to travel.

In alphabetical order:

Contiki Tours logo

“Travel with no regrets”

Full name: Contiki Travel Tours
: 1962 (New Zealand)
Description: “Contiki is the travel company exclusively for 18-35 year olds. Our purpose is to connect young travellers to the time of their lives.”
Where they go: “350 trips across 6 continents” (everywhere except Antarctica)
Target demographic: 18-35 year olds
Price range: $230 – $9,800 USD
Trip length: from 3 to 55 days
Trip photos: Contiki Instagram feed

Word on the street (anonymous Reddit reviews):

“If I had to redo the choice of either going myself on a DIY trip and going through Contiki for my first Euro trip, I would 1000% do Contiki again. The people I met were amazing, and it was essentially like a road trip through Europe. It was a great gateway for someone like me who had never been to Europe and was nervous about planning everything and getting between places. I’m heading back to Europe for two weeks this fall and revisiting some of the countries that I loved. If you are a solo traveler, it is a great way to meet people.” – kb32492

I did Contiki (Europe) when I was in my early 20s and I generally had fun. It was my first time travelling and went with a few friends and had a good time. Lots of drinking and such. It was expensive, but easy to organise. The ‘extras’ tagged on were sometimes a bit so-so. Also, a lot depends on the person/drivers hosting you. My guy was incredibly annoying and seemed to use the contiki tour as his own personal pick up joint. The hotels we stayed at were reasonable, but not awesome.” – loggerheader

“Did a Contiki last year in England and Scotland, absolutely loved it. Was my first time overseas and I wanted to do it on my own as I didn’t really have any friends to go with, sounds cliched but absolutely no regrets. My tour was only ten days unfortunately, and it only left me wanting more. The trip managers are pretty cool, the coach is comfortable enough. We had a good enough mix of people: those wanting to party and those just wanting to see sights and experiences. I definitely had a good mix of both.”swanny246

“I am from California. And I have traveled 3 times with Contiki. Highly support it. Great for people in their mid 20s. Fast paced, get to see a lot. Tour guides are generally super knowledgeable. I think they do Europe the best. I liked my Europe Spain Contiki better than my Asia Contiki.”s0ysauce09

G Adventures logo

“Help make our world a little bit better, one adventure at a time”

Full name: G Adventures
: 1990 (Toronto, Canada)
Description: “G Adventures is an adventure travel pioneer offering the planet’s most awe-inspiring selection of affordable small-group tours, safaris and expeditions.”
Where they go: Over 700 different tours across 100+ countries (all continents)
Target demographic: minimum 18 years old. No upper age limit on most tours, but their 18-to-Thirtysomethings tours are limited to 18-to-39-year-olds
Price range: $240 – $16,000 USD
Trip length: from 2 to 65 days
Trip photos: G Adventures Instagram feed

Word on the street (anonymous Reddit reviews):

“I’ve done 5 trips with them in the past and have another one booked… I’ve picked tours where I felt the logistics would have been a bit more difficult to do on my own…. they generally are relatively fast paced tours, and you’ll often want a holiday at the end. Overall I’ve found the itineraries of the trips I’ve done to be structured very well – most places I would have loved more time in (as is the nature of travel) but was very happy with what I did/saw and didn’t feel like I’d missed out. There’s also been a good mix of “organised time” and “free time.” – cupp95

“I’ve travelled with them ten times on five continents. They have 3 styles of travel: 18-30something (basic, hostels, public transport), classic (standard hotels, private transport) and comfort (upgraded hotels, a/c busses, etc.) I’ve travelled on both 18-30something and classic. Age group in the former is mostly 18-25, and classic is mostly 25-40+

You usually share a room with 1 person (or more if hostel accommodation), but always same gender, and never with strangers. It’s massive fun, and you get to make a lot of new friends as part of the trip. You always have people to hang out with if you want (no force).

I wouldn’t use G in Europe because it’s easy to do on your own, except maybe for their sailing trips around the med. I used them in Australia & NZ, which maybe wasn’t necessary, but I had a great time. SEA wasn’t as amazing, so I wouldn’t recommend them there either. But their tours in all of Latin America is great, they’re epic in Central Asia, and have fantastic trips in Africa.

Finally, their trips can be really good value. Look at their website for tours on offer.” – windcape

Logo Intrepid Travel

“Responsible travel, small groups and very (very) big adventures”

Full name: Intrepid Travel
: 1989 (Melbourne, Australia)
Description: “The world’s largest small-group adventure tour company, carrying over 100,000 travellers across the globe each year”
Where they go: “more than 1,000 adventures in over 100 countries” (all continents)
Target demographic: all ages (18+). Some tours are limited to 18-29 year olds.
Price range: $515 – $18,000 USD
Trip length: from 4 to 58 days
Trip photos: Intrepid Instagram feed

Word on the street (anonymous Reddit reviews):

“I did my first Intrepid tour last year! I went to Egypt and Jordan and I did one of the all ages trips. I LOVED it. I went as a solo traveller 28 years old. For my Egypt group the range was 24-71. I’d say half of those people were mid to late 20s, the other half were older. I was one of 3 solo travelers. You spend a lot of time together socially. You travel together to and tour each location together so there’s a lot of socializing. Typically after you tour the location with your guide you get like an hour or two to walk around on your own and typically you stick with a couple of members from the group so you have a buddy to explore with. Our tour leader was also great at arranging large group dinners with the whole squad, but that was optional.”lhs0726

“I’ve traveled a lot with Intrepid and it’s usually a huge variety of age ranges. A lot of younger people who want a party atmosphere will do the trips specifically for younger people. If you want that, go for it. If not, stick with the mixed crowd.”huddle1031

“I’ve been on 2 intrepid tours and one of the guides told me the key is in the price. Intrepid has tiers, and the cheapest tier is (almost) always full of young people, where as the expensive tier is (almost) always full of older people. You will have a good time regardless though!”furiousfire

“I did a 15-day trip to India with Intrepid Travel last June and had an amazing time. There were 11 of us including the guide. I was solo, as was a few others. There was a mother/daughter from the US, a couple from New Zealand, and a couple from Australia.”kilroyishere89

Topdeck Travel Logo

“Here at Topdeck, it’s your trip, your way”

Full name: Topdeck Travel
: 1973 (United Kingdom)
Description: “We offer variety, comfort and value for money, and promise a hassle-free holiday, loaded with authentic local experiences.”
Where they go: “330 different tours in 65 countries” (all continents except South America and Antarctica)
Target demographic: “18 to 30-somethings”
Price range: $180 – $7,700 USD
Trip length: from 4 to 58 days
Trip photos: Topdeck Instagram feed

Word on the street (anonymous Reddit reviews):

“I went on a Topdeck tour many years ago to Europe. I wasn’t alone but many people were. I have mixed feelings about these organised trips. I had a great time ,made some really good connections and definitely saw A LOT! almost too much. this was my biggest beef, we were constantly on the move. we were in 9 countries in 3 weeks. I really didn’t get to fully enjoy or experience any one place because we were in and out so fast. One great advantage is that everything is planned for you, you can sit back and enjoy the ride.”travelboy

“I have done 2 tours with Topdeck before and both were brilliant. The first one was a 4 day ANZAC day tour to Gallipoli and Istanbul in Turkey, the second was a 9 day tour of Egypt. They were professional and the guides were fantastic. But the best part (from your point of view) is that it was really easy to make friends, especially because it was a pretty small group (10 -12 people). All it takes is one night at the pub and you’ll never want to forget them”lukemarlin

“I decided to do a Topdeck tour because I had 0 experience overseas and had friends who had done Topdeck trips and loved it. 


  • It’s a fantastic balance of scheduled activities and free time
  • Got to meet a group of fantastic people
  • Everything was booked. Didn’t have to worry about finding transport and accommodation
  • Knowledgable guides who could answer any questions I had. Give good recommendations on what to do on free time
  • always had somebody to do activities with but could also just do your own thing on free days
  • a lot of meals are included (65% on estimate)
  • my group was very sociable. Always went out on a night, met new people from other tours. However there was no stigma if you decided to have an early night – definitely made friends for life


  • not as cheap if you booked it all by yourself
  • the final couple of days I was starting to get sick of a few people. just stayed away from them; was fine-
  • if somebody gets sick, most likely you will as well 
  • having to get up at 8am for travel days is hard (just sleep on bus)
  • only a couple of days in each city. If you like a place it’s not enough time. However if you don’t like it your out of there quickly
  • you’re hanging out predominately with Aussies, kiwis and Canadians.” – Uleh11

* * *

TL;DR: all the tour companies are great, and of course your experience will greatly depend on who you get in your group. Contiki and Topdeck seem to attract more of a “party” crowd, while G Adventures and Intrepid are a bit more toned down. Also, any tours to Europe typically involve much more partying than trips to other destinations.

If you’re looking for a smaller tour operator (that comes highly recommended by other solo travelers), check out Free and Easy Traveler.

Pro tip: if you have any questions, call the operator beforehand! Don’t be shy about asking for specific details about the typical age makeup of the tour(s) you’re considering. Also, ask if the tour generally gets more couples, more solo travelers, or an even split. Get all the details before you spend all your savings!

We hope this guide was helpful. If you feel that we’ve missed anything, please leave a comment below. Safe travels!

PS. Looking for solo travel destination ideas? Check out our article featuring great trip ideas for new solo travelers.

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

Asia Europe North America Oceania South America

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)!

North America

The 8 Best Places To Travel Solo in the United States

Traveling in the U.S. is a bit different than Europe, Asia – or anywhere else really.

First, there’s the issue of distance. It’s a massive country, so you have to budget considerably more time spent in transit.

Secondly, transportation options are limited. While there are certainly a few train journeys available, it’s not at all like Europe – there’s no high speed rail, and not all major cities are connected (there’s no train from LA to Vegas, for example). If you’re not willing to rough it out on buses, you’ll have to book some flights (and there are no budget airlines here). As any American surely knows, the USA was designed to be traversed by automobile – and driving thousands of miles by yourself isn’t particularly fun (or safe).

Finally, there’s cost. Unless you’re visiting from Scandinavia, you’re in for some sticker shock. Cheap hostels? Forget it. Student discounts? Yeah… maybe for high schoolers. The dollar is strong, and the US is an expensive place to vacation!

With all these factors in mind, we have narrowed it down to 8 destinations (spoiler: they are all big cities) that make for a great solo travel experience in the United States. For each place, we’ll break down our reasons why.

[Note: please read the addendum at the end of this article before you crucify us for not including a place you had in mind.]

#1. New York City

No surprises here – NYC is a must visit, whether you’re coming from Milwaukee or Madagascar. You really, truly don’t need any travel companions for New York – the city has enough in store for you already.

It’s the #1 city on our list for a few reasons:

  • The energy. New Yorkers live to “work hard and play hard” – and this mantra affects how everything works in The City. Restaurants are open late, and bars close later than anywhere else in the US (last call is 4 AM). Food delivery services work late into the night, and fleets of taxicabs stand at the ready – everyone’s always going somewhere. Also: is there any other city in the world with a subway system that runs 24/7? (Spoiler: only the #2 city on our list).
  • The sheer variety of things to do and see. From world-class museums (The Met, MoMA, Guggenheim), Broadways shows, West Village comedy clubs, legendary cocktail bars, ethnic enclaves and sprawling urban parks, NYC gives you a lot to choose from. You can easily fill up 4-5 days of nonstop exploration, which already justifies the cost of an expensive plane ticket to get here.
  • The diversity of its residents (and visitors). Walk around long enough and you’ll hear every major language spoken. Historically, this was the world’s entry point into the U.S. – and many chose to settle here and make NYC their home. While even first-generation immigrants are typically proud to declare themselves American, they still retain elements of their home culture (most notably, the delicious cuisines).

It’s particularly good for solo travelers due to ease of getting around. Lower Manhattan is downright walkable, and the other boroughs are just a subway (metro) ride away. Even when you’re completely out of energy, distances within NYC are short enough that a quick Uber or Lyft ride won’t break the bank.

As cheesy as it is to say, there’s no place like it. If for no other reason, go because it’s the one city that Americans love to hate. It simply exerts too much national (and global) influence to be ignored.

Finally, the city’s air, rail, and bus connections make it a perfect hub to continue your journey. For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our New York city guide.

What to watch on the way there: Woody Allen’s Manhattan

Manhattan skyline (seen through the Brooklyn Bridge)
The Manhattan skyline (seen through the Brooklyn Bridge)

#2. Chicago

Perpetually in New York’s shadow, Chicago has long been nicknamed the “Second City” – and here it is yet again, at #2 on our list.

Visiting Chicago is key to truly understanding America – it’s an economic and cultural powerhouse, and is arguably the dominant influence in the Midwest.

Take a short cruise (or stroll) down the river and you’ll quickly see what the hype is all about. Chicago’s varied and numerous skyscrapers are a testament to the city’s rapid growth, all the way from the mid 19th century to the late 20th. You’ll see many styles and schools of architecture represented – from Colonial and Queen Anne all the way to Art Deco and Postmodern (and everything in between). The city continues to attract and inspire architects and engineers.

Downtown Chicago is very walkable, and is perfect for exploring solo. In the evenings, catch a comedy show at The Second City – or relax with a cocktail and listen to world-class jazz at The Green Mill.

Finally, don’t be surprised if people strike up a conversation – the Midwest is known for its friendly, down-to-earth folks – and Chicago is no exception.

Pro tip: on a clear day, you owe it to yourself to take the elevator to the Skydeck on the 103rd of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). You’ll be able to see four different states!

For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our Chicago city guide.

What to watch on the way there: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Aerial shot of Chicago river
Chicago: an architect’s dream destination

#3. Washington D.C.

While the USA may be a young country, it’s still the world’s longest surviving democracy – and D.C. is where the nexus of political power lies. It’s the nation’s capital, and offers plenty to the curious solo traveler.

The centrepieces of the city are its expansive and varied museums: from the Smithsonian (incl. the National Air and Space, Natural History, American History, American Art museums), to the more modern Newseum and International Spy Museum, there’s something for everyone. And with so many great museums to choose from, it’s doubtful that any two people in a group will want to spend the exact amount of time in each one – solo is truly the way to go here!

And we haven’t even gotten to the nation’s democratic institutions – The White House, United States Capitol, and all related monuments and memorials (including the iconic Washington Monument).

What the city lacks in nightlife and pizazz, it more than makes up for in cultural diversity. There’s a plethora of cuisines available all over the city – you might just find yourself sharing an Indian restaurant table with Japanese diplomats!

For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our Washington DC city guide.

What to watch on the way there: House of Cards (Seasons 1-2)

Street shot of Washington DC with Capitol Building in background
The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

#4. Los Angeles

Now, we swing over all the way to the other coast – to the TV and movie capital of the world.

Some may find it surprising that L.A. is even on this list. Known for its notorious traffic jams and commute times, Los Angeles doesn’t seem like a place that a solo traveler should attempt to conquer.

These days, however, it’s entirely possible to have a great time in LA without a car. There’s a lot you can get to with just the Metro light rail and bus (link to LA transort system map), and anything else could potentially be reached with an Uber/Lyft ride. Bonus: you won’t have to think about finding parking for the entire trip.

From people-watching in Santa Monica and Venice, to finding your favorite actor’s star on the Walk of Fame (let’s face it, you’re going to go there), all the way to hiking to the Hollywood sign and seeing how the sausage is made at the Universal Studios – don’t be surprised if you can easily fill up a 3-4 day itinerary just in LA alone.

Pro tip: the city’s downtown has undergone a complete revitalization, and is an increasingly popular place to eat, drink, and party. Make sure you swing by Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and the Arts District to take full advantage. For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our Los Angeles city guide.

What to watch on the way there: La La Land, Straight Outta Compton, Get Shorty

Skyscrapers in Los Angeles downtown
Can you feel that California sunshine? (LA’s downtown core)

#5. San Francisco

Ask Europeans what their favorite U.S. city is, and “San Fran” is sure to come up at least 50% of the time (pro tip: don’t actually call it “San Fran” in front of the locals).

It’s easy to fall in love with SF. It’s a tiny, walkable city – stuffed to the brim with great restaurants, hip bars, and hipper boutiques and cafes. To top it off, the natural setting could hardly be more perfect – the Pacific Ocean and forested Marin Headlands border the city to the west and north, respectively. And don’t worry about missing all the action, either: you’ll have plenty of opportunities to marvel at the city’s surroundings while walking up and down the numerous hills.

It’s hard to find another city in the US where your surroundings can chance so quickly. Walk 5 minutes in any direction from Union Square and you’ll find four very different areas: modern skyscrapers and condos to the South in SOMA, a farmer’s market and Ferry Building to the East (Embarcadero), America’s largest Chinatown to the North, or the eclectic Polk Street to the West. This pattern seems to repeat itself wherever you are in the city. Some of my favorite neighborhoods to explore include North Beach, The Mission, and Hayes Valley.

Note: San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the world, both to live and visit (more so than even NYC). If your visit coincides with a major tech industry conference, you may be completely out of luck when trying to find hotel rooms or AirBnbs (or even hostels). Book your accommodation as far in advance as you can for this city!

For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our San Francisco city guide.

What to watch on the way there: Silicon Valley (TV show)

Wide shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Fun fact: The Golden Gate Bridge is not red – it’s “International Orange”

#6. Boston

Even more so than D.C., Boston is a city that will appeal to all the history buffs out there.

Originally founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England, Boston long served as the de facto political, financial, religious, and commercial capital of New England. We’re not going to spoil what happened next – it’s best to go and relive what you can through historic walks in the city’s charming center (an area arguably more suited to carriages than cars).

Today, Boston stands as a hub of cutting edge technology and education (Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, and Tufts are all here). It is also home to a sizeable Irish-American community, and is very popular for this reason with visitors from Ireland.

It’s small, charming, and very walkable – perfect for a 2-3 day solo jaunt. Just don’t come back before trying a pint of draught Guinness at a traditional Irish Bar (especially if you’re in town for St. Patrick’s day!) As the home of the Red Sox, it’s probably the place to watch a baseball game if you haven’t experienced one already. For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our Boston city guide.

What to watch on the way there: Good Will Hunting

Acorn Street in Boston, Massachusetts
A leisurely stroll down Boston’s Acorn Street

#7. Philadelphia

Next up is none other than Philly, one of the nation’s oldest cities – and one with a tumultuous past.

Much like Boston and D.C., this is a place with considerable historical significance – the city’s Independence Hall was the original signing site of the Declaration of Independence & constitution. The Liberty Bell (and entire National Park surrounding it) is a literal symbol of American freedom.

The best part? All the sights are very closely packed together, making Philly one of the easiest places to visit. Start at Fairmount Park, and you’ll hit all sorts of fascinating venues by walking east: the Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia Zoo, Eastern State Penitentiary, Rodin Museum, Franklin Institute, and more. You’ll be practically surviving on historical facts and cheese steaks!

For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our Philadelphia city guide.

What to watch on the way there: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia’s City Hall was officially opened in 1901

#8. The Pacific Northwest

To round off our list, we’ve got something completely different.

Leave all the hustle and bustle behind and head to America’s introvert mecca – the scenic Pacific Northwest. Defined by its two major population hubs (Portland and Seattle), the region has its own distinct culture – perhaps more closely resembling that of Canada’s British Columbia (to the immediate North).

In Portland, you’ll be hot on the trail of a fascinating persona: the modern American hipster. Don’t quite have your full sleeve tattoos done? No problem: the city’s residents are extremely liberal and generally welcome everyone (except for those pesky Californians, of course). Don’t miss: the Japanese Garden, Rose Test Garden, Powell’s City of Books, and a drink in the hip Pearl District.

Further north in Seattle, you’ll be treated to some of the freshest seafood in the country (and unsurprisingly, world-class sushi to boot). Have a drink in the world’s first ever Starbucks, then use all that energy to hike to the Washington Park Botanic Gardens. If you’re itching to get deeper into the woods, Cougar Mountain and Tiger Mountain are not too far away. Finally: in case you’re wondering about the 420 situation, here’s everything you need to know.

For a full breakdown of essential solo travel info, check out our Portland and Seattle city guides.

What to watch on the way there: Portlandia

Boat moving along Puget Sound near Seattle
Seattle’s Puget Sound – adventure lies ahead!

“You must be joking. Why was X not included?”

Look, we hear you. There is much, more to see in the US.

For one, we didn’t even mention any of the amazing National Parks (Yosemite, Yellowstone, etc). Hawaii? Alaska? Not on the list. And what about sunny Florida, or sinful Las Vegas, or soulful New Orleans?

There’s no reason why a solo adventurer can’t see – or enjoy – the rest of the country. It’s just that most people will probably get a bigger kick out of seeing the rest of America in a group. It’s a lot more fun to go with someone else on a long road trip through a National Park, for example (and to split gas money!)

One great approach is to tackle the rest of the sights with the friends you meet along the way.

If you’ve made it this far, congrats and thanks for reading! As always, please feel free to leave your comments below.

PS. Don’t forget to check out our quick guide to packing for solo travel.

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