Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with others—but sometimes, I feel a deep-seated need to do a trip on my own. Solo travel always allows me to pick the places that I want to explore and to really see them at my own pace. Not only that, but I don’t have to deal with the headache of figuring out when all my friends are free to travel with me, and I’m forced to get out and meet new friends as I go! But as a solo female traveler, there are some considerations that you have to take.
Here is my list of the favorite places for solo female travelers and some of their lesser-known alternatives:
1. For the Eternal Backpacker: Chiang Mai, Thailand
You can’t really go wrong with Thailand as a solo traveler, whether you’re male or female: it’s safe, it’s firmly entrenched in the Southeast Asia tourist route, and there are enough backpackers, ESL teachers, businessmen, and more that you’ll have your pick of people to hang out with.
I recommend getting out of Bangkok and up to the northern parts of the country. Not only is the pace much more pleasant than Bangkok’s frenetic rush, but you’ll also find that prices are generally lower and even though places can still get a bit touristy, everything tends to be a lot more cultural. If you’re really looking to connect with other travelers, I recommend joining them on a jungle trek—nothing builds friendships faster than three days out in the wilderness in a small group!
Alternative: Yangon, Myanmar
If you’re looking for a similar experience to Thailand with all the jungle trekking, Buddhist temples, and otherworldliness, but more off-the-beaten track, Myanmar is the place for you. Since tourism is still relatively in its infancy there, you’ll find that outside of Yangon and Mandalay, hostels are few and far between, but most hotels will have cheap single rooms available.
As with Thailand, you can meet people during treks from Kalaw to Inle Lake or around Hsipaw—or you can totally go it alone exploring out from Sapa or other places in the south that are even less touristy. Even in Bagan, the popular temple complex area, you’ll find everything from hostels designed for meeting people to private rooms. And you won’t have to worry about your safety no matter where you are: the Burmese are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and you’re much more likely to encounter curiosity than danger.
2. For the Beach-Lover: Nicaragua
I had a blast when I was in Nicaragua. It’s a bit less westernized than neighboring Costa Rica, but you’ll still have an easy enough time traveling around the country, even if you only speak a little Spanish. Get your day started with a hearty breakfast of fresh eggs, rice and beans, and fresh fruit, and then get ready to explore waterfalls, surf, and relax in the sun.
The country is becoming more and more popular with backpackers, so don’t worry about finding friends to travel around with, even if you’re traveling as a single female—and you won’t typically experience the catcalling that you’ll find in other parts of Latin America. To cap it all off, I saw some of the best sunsets that I’ve ever seen when I was staying in San Juan del Sur.
Although the surfing in Nicaragua has stolen my heart, I also love the beaches of Indonesia, especially if I’m looking for (incredibly inexpensive!) diving opportunities. With so many beaches scattered across the archipelago, you’re sure to find whatever you’re looking for—whether it’s pristine, untouched sands or popular party locations.
One thing you’ll never really find: busy, cluttered beaches with obnoxious hawkers bothering you every couples seconds. And if you ever want to get away from the beaches for some reason, you could hit up bustling Jakarta, the remote Sumatran rainforests, or anything in between.
3. For the Outdoors Enthusiast: Iceland
At the moment, it seems like all my friends are going to Iceland. And why not? The landscapes are unbelievably beautiful, the people are incredibly friendly, and you can find cheap flights from nearly anywhere in the US and Europe. Part of what makes it great for solo female travelers is that it is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. For the outdoors enthusiast, you’ll find that places like the Blue Lagoon and the black-sand beaches at Reynisfjara are absolutely ethereal. And if you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to see the Northern Lights!
One thing to note about Iceland, though, is that it can be a bit pricey—especially as a solo traveler. Most travelers have no problem meeting travel buddies in Reykjavik to split costs with as they go, but if you’re looking for a truly solo experience, this may not be the destination for you.
I had only a vague idea of where Slovenia was on a map when I booked a bus there from Hungary—all I knew was that the bus was cheap and still had seats available. Boy was I blown away! You may have seen images of iconic Lake Bled circling the internet, but that’s only one bit of the majesty that you’ll find in this little country. The Julian Alps offer some great hiking, and places like Bohinj Gorge, with its amazing turquoise waters, will leave you utterly enthralled.
You’ll find that plenty of people speak English, and it’s a relatively safe country to be in, so traveling as a single female should cause no problems. And after one visit there, you’re sure to fall in love and want to return again and again to see all that Slovenia has to offer.
4. For the City-Hopper: Melbourne, Australia
As the cultural capital of Australia—and one of the preeminent cultural cities in the world—you’ll find no shortage of activities with which to fill your days (and nights) in Melbourne. It’s a pleasant and safe city to walk around, even after dark, and even if you’re traveling on your own. But if you want to go out and make friends, you also have plenty of opportunities for that, not least of which because everyone around you will be speaking in English.
Alternative: Montreal, Canada
Montreal during the summer or winter is an amazing place to be. It can get cold in the winter, of course, but there are so many great activities to amuse yourself with, whether you like skating, skiing, shopping, sightseeing, or whatever else. And at the end of a long, cold day outside, you’ll find poutine—fries slathered with gravy and cheese curds, amongst other things, is just the thing to warm up your insides.
During the summer, you’ll have plenty of fun between the annual Jazz Festival, free Cirque du Soleil performances in the park, and more. Plus, many of the streets, especially in the old town, come alive during the summer, with outdoor tables spilling out into the streets so that you can sit out and people-watch your way through the afternoon. It has a tendency to feel very European—but although you may have the chance to practice your French there, you should have no problem if you only speak English, and with the city’s plethora of accommodation options, you definitely will still have a fun and inexpensive time if you’re traveling on your own.
When you’re choosing a place to travel as a solo female, you definitely need to consider your safety as well as the fun that you’re looking to have on your trip. But there are plenty of great opportunities out there that will give you everything you are looking for in your travels!