Want to take off on a journey alone? Have no fear. Here are some destinations ideal for travelling solo.
Travelling solo can be an incredibly rewarding experience that teaches you so much about yourself and lets you to pursue adventure wherever you find it.
But let’s be honest: solo travel can be a little scary.
I travelled to another continent solo for the first time back when I was just 17… I’ll admit I was sort of slightly extremely terrified. I couldn’t catch any sleep on my flight because of the intense mix of excitement and nervousness I was feeling. But the trip taught me that I could survive in a strange land just fine — and even make lots of friends along the way.
But whether you have a successful solo trip depends hugely on where you choose to travel.
If you’re still new to solo travel, it’s absolutely critical to pick the right destination, as some are much more appropriate to this travel style than others.
Choosing an easy country first
To be honest, any destination can be a solo travel destination. In theory, there’s always a way you can make it work. That doesn’t mean it will be easy necessarily, but as long as you are determined enough you can travel alone pretty much anywhere (the only exceptions being—to my mind—a few rare countries where it’s just not very safe).
Some destinations can be a tough nut to crack for a solo traveller.
Road-tripping through the heartland of the USA may seem like a fun and even cinematic idea, but in reality, it’s more difficult to do on your own as you might have to stay in hotels and motels that are not really so welcoming to the solo traveller.
Going somewhere super crazy and intense like India is also not necesserily the best introduction to solo travel. If you want to dive straight into the deep there’s nothing stopping you, but the culture shock is going to be pretty severe and you’ll have to deal with all sorts of hassle on a daily basis.
My point here is that if you want to flex those solo travel muscles a bit first, there are some better destinations to choose from.
Travelling as a backpacker
There are many styles of travel, but the one that is simply the best for solo travel is backpacking. This is especially true if you’re young, though this type of travel can also be adapted in different ways if you’re older. My own experience is mainly in travelling as a backpacker, particularly in budget-friendly destinations.
Some people want to travel solo to actually get away from it all, preferring remote destinations where they will rarely meet anyone else. But if you want to socialize during your trip, the easiest way is to stay in hostels in countries that are at least reasonably popular backpacker destinations.
If you’ve not stayed in hostels before, check out my guide to what hostels are and how they work.
What to look for in a solo destination
Anyone determined enough can (with experience) travel solo almost anywhere, but I believe these three criteria are ones to look for if you want things to be a little easier:
1. Is a country fairly well-travelled?
Travelling solo is a bit like showing up to a party on your own. If it’s already a great party with lots of laughter and many people there, it’s easy to join the fun. If it’s an awkwardly quiet cocktail reception, you might feel differently. The best solo travel countries are like fun parties where everyone’s already having a great time.
If a country is well-travelled it is sure to have lots of backpacker hostels. Staying in hostels will make your trip much more social and a lot easier, as they typically have a fun communal atmosphere and attract many other solo travellers. Once you are more comfortable you don’t need to rely on hostels all the time, but they are extremely helpful, especially in the beginning.
2. Easy travel logistics easy or lots of hassle?
When you are on your own it can be a little more difficult to deal with complicated travel logistics.
A first-time solo destination should have plenty of transit connections, easy visa formalities, relative safety, and so on. Not everything has to be ideal as sometimes a bit of adventure can get you to bigger rewards, but it’s nice not to have to worry about too many things at once so you can focus on simply making the most of your time.
3. Is there a tight circuit or an obvious route?
It helps a lot if a country has an obvious backpacking route or if a country is relatively small. Large countries like the United States, India or China are less ideal, as their geographies are wide-open and you can always go everywhere from any point.
But wherever there’s a more compact circuit, travellers are more likely to be heading in roughly the same direction at any given time. This makes it easier to make friends on the trail (and to meet them again or even travel together). It also makes it easier to get useful tips and information from other travellers about places to go next.
One of the most perfect travel trails I can think of is the one in Vietnam. Because the country is so narrow, backpackers basically go in just two directions: north to south or vice versa. If you start your trip in Hanoi and meet some fun people there, you could stay in touch with them all the way to Ho Chi Minh City.
Countries for solo travel
To help you with your trip research, here are a few suggestions for countries that are amazing for solo travel even if you’re a beginner.
Highlights: Bangkok nightlife, beaches and tropical islands in the south, calm and laidback Chiang Mai and Pai in the north, Buddhist temples, mind-blowingly good food.
Why Go Solo? Thailand is, frankly, the easiest country in the world to go backpacking that I know of. It might seem like a distant and exotic place that will be difficult to navigate, but it’s not. Some people worry about language barriers, but I guarantee you this won’t be an issue in Thailand; many people speak English, particularly those working in the tourism industry.
Thailand is also such a popular destination that you’ll find great backpacker hostels catering to all types of travellers everywhere, and it’s one of the easiest countries to find travel buddies spontaneously. Are you worried about travelling ‘all on your own’? Don’t be, because you’ll inevitably meet others travelling solo just like you in Thailand all the time. You can read more in my Thailand backpacking guide.
Highlights: seeing the crazy hustle and bustle of a Vietnamese city, the limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay, and rice terraces of Sapa. If you’re looking to party, you can do so very well in Nha Trang.
Why Go Solo? Vietnam actually has one thing going against it: sometimes you can encounter scams and other hassles in the most touristy places, so it’s worth reading up on these things so you’re a little prepared. What it has going for it: it’s full of backpacker hostels, it’s cheap and easy to travel around, and most of all, the country’s long vertical shape makes it ideal for a solo traveller. Everyone is either travelling north to south, or south to north.
For more, check out my Vietnam backpacking guide »
Peru and Bolivia
These countries combine well, with Peru being the obvious starting point.
Highlights: almost too many to mention. The Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, lake Titicaca (the largest high-altitude lake), trekking the Inca Trail or Colca Canyon, the salt flats of Bolivia, and much much more.
Why Go Solo? Peru may look like a big country on the map, and it sure is, but most of the action happens south of Lima. It has a tight and very well-established backpacker circuit, with most people following roughly the same route. Peru is arguably the most popular backpacking country in South America, so you won’t be the only one travelling there (solo or otherwise). If you want to meet other travellers, a great place to start is Cusco. You can learn more about backpacking in Peru here.
Highlights: Paradisical beaches in the Yucatan region of Mexico, delicious food and fascinating culture in Oaxaca, and some great beach and party destinations. From southeast Mexico, you can also easily dip into Guatemala to see the epic Mayan ruins of Tikal and the stunning lake of Atitlan ringed by massive volcanoes. For more info, check out my backpacking guides for Mexico and Guatemala
Why Go Solo? Contrary to popular belief, Mexico is actually very safe for tourists, particularly in the specific states where most travellers go. Transporation connections are cheap and convenient, so you don’t have to worry much about how to get from A to B. Beach destinations in Mexico such as Tulum and Playa Del Carmen are excellent for meeting people and making friends.
More info on Mexico »
Highlights: all of the great cities (Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona, etc.), picturesque rural areas of France and Italy in particular, epic landscapes in the Alps, and lots of dramatic variety between countries especially when compared to the travel distances involved
Why Go Solo? I have focused much on far-flung destinations so far, mainly because I’m from Europe myself and will sometimes forget what’s right at my doorstep! But Europe is clearly an amazing region to travel.
One of the downsides is that it’s really spread out and there are no clear routes that everyone follows. It is also more expensive than travelling in developing countries. On the other hand, safety issues are minimal and you’re likely to have a worry-free experience.
Europe is huge for city travel, so if you like cities you’re going to love it. All the major cities have great modern hostels. The Couchsurfing scene is also massive in Europe, and even if you don’t want to stay on people’s couches there are regular CouchSurfing meet-ups where you can meet both locals and other travellers. (Though actual couchsurfing has moved over the better Couchers.org these days.)
Highlights: Melbourne and Sydney are clear highlights, as well as the many surfing/beach destinations, and of course going into the Australian outback.
Why Go Solo? While it is a vast country, you will find that most people travel similar routes along the coast in the south and southeast. Australians are HUGE travellers themselves (go to any country in the world and you’re guaranteed to meet some Ozzies) and that means they’ve built up an amazing backpacker infrastructure in their own country.
Backpacker hostels are everywhere and they’re very good. Something to keep in mind depending on your perspective is that the backpacker crowd in Australia is very boozy and tends to be quite a bit younger than elsewhere. It’s particularly popular among younger European backpackers. This can be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re looking for.
Remember: you can meet people anywhere
While it helps to pick a good place to travel solo, it doesn’t have to be a lonely affair no matter where you are going. Most people who have travelled solo a lot will tell you that they’re rarely alone if you put in the effort.
Want to know how to travel solo and take any of the challenges head-on? Then be sure to check out my book, Travel the World Without Worries, which covers all the techniques and hacks for successful solo travel in great depth. In the book, I’ll also share a few of the (occasionally embarrassing!) stories from my 20+ years of taking solo trips. The lessons learned will help you make friends, stay safe, prepare for your trip, and how to meet lots of locals and other travellers everywhere along the way.
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