Have the solo trip of your dreams by picking one of these awesome places to travel alone for the first time.
Taking those first steps outside of your comfort zone and navigating unfamiliar cultures is an instant self-esteem booster. Moreover, the benefits of empowerment and self-determination persist long after you have returned home.
That said, travelling alone for the first time is a big deal. Solo travel statistics suggest that safety concerns, fear of loneliness and the higher cost of travelling solo are the main reasons for people not travelling alone.
The key to mitigating these risks is choosing the right solo travel destination.
Make the right choice. In this article, I share my top 10 countries to travel alone for the first time, based on my experience of over 30 years of female solo travel.
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Why is Your Choice of Solo Travel Destination Important?
Choose the right solo travel destination and you’re well on the way to having the trip of your dreams. But choose the wrong solo travel destination and it can be a very different experience.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s put it a different way. Do you want to head off on your first solo trip to a country for which there are safety concerns?
You also need to consider the country’s infrastructure. For example; is there a good transport network?
Even though you are travelling solo you won’t want to be alone all of the time. So, ask yourself if there be opportunities to meet other travellers?
Finally, your chosen destination has to suit your travel budget.
Other factors to consider include what you would like to get out of your trip – for example; recharge or adventure – and your preferred climate.
As with many other life decisions, your choice may boil down to balancing competing priorities. That said, it’s good to have a few ideas and inspiration for starters.
To help you make this sometimes tough choice, in no particular order, here are my top ten favourite solo travel destinations.
10 Best Places to Travel Alone for the First Time
If I was forced to make the decision at gunpoint, I would name Japan as my favourite solo travel destination.
Japan is famous for many things but, for me, it’s the intoxicating mix of the ancient and the modern that continues to seduce me. Unlike many countries, it manages to retain its rich culture and historical heritage whilst innovating and embracing technological advances.
Kyoto has temples and shrines-a-plenty (spend three days in Kyoto to fully appreciate the city). And Japan is also home to some of the most sublime gardens in the world (Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Sengan-en in Kagoshima are my favourites).
Japan also produces some of the best food on the planet, from okonomiyaki in Osaka to the often imitated Hakata ramen in Fukuoka. And let’s not forget the sake (Himeji is one of the best places to sample this).
Largely thanks to its excellent high-speed rail network, Japan has a superb and efficient travel infrastructure. In an Asian country that is not particularly budget-friendly, the Japan Rail Pass is one of the world’s best travel bargains.
The country is clean, very safe, people are kind and polite and you won’t be viewed with suspicion or pity because you are travelling alone. Solo dining is a cultural norm.
Curious to learn how to explore this exceptional country? This 2-week Japan itinerary has all you need to know.
I have visited Thailand on three occasions and can vouch for its reputation as one of the best solo destinations in Asia.
Unlike Japan, Thailand is very budget-friendly. Transport is cost-effective and there is no shortage of cheap accommodation, including hostels and apartments.
There is a well-established tourist path and infrastructure and there should be no difficulty in meeting fellow travellers.
The Land of Smiles really does have something for everyone.
Thailand brims with natural beauty, from hills and waterfalls to picture-perfect beaches. In 2022, it’s still possible to find your own piece of paradise on an unspoilt Thai island.
Whilst Thailand is considered to be relatively safe, remain vigilant. Sadly, spiking drinks is common and theft on night buses has been reported.
Malaysia is a criminally underrated solo travel destination that has a rich historical heritage and offers a diversity of cultures and landscapes.
This is a relatively safe and inexpensive country and has an efficient travel infrastructure.
Furthermore, Malaysia is home to some of the best, and cheapest, food in Asia. This is hawker stall heaven.
Peninsular Malaysia is a good place to start. Although it is more developed and more touristy, it includes the capital, Kuala Lumpur as well as other popular destinations, including Melaka and Penang.
Eastern Malaysia is quieter and may appeal to those with a more adventurous nature. This side of the country features white sand-fringed islands that offer sensational diving and the jungles of Borneo.
Above all, don’t overdo it. Malaysia is a vast county and unless you have a lot of time available, you will need to choose between Eastern Malaysia or Western Malaysia.
This was one of the first countries that I visited as a solo traveller 30+ years ago, and one to which I have returned more times than I can count (it also helps that I have good friends in Rome).
From the serenading Venetian gondoliers to the hilltop Tuscan towns, this is an outrageously romantic country. But neglect the smaller medieval towns such as Tuscania and Civita di Bagnoregio at your peril.
Italy’s landscape is equally majestic. From the lakes of Lombardy to the dramatic cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, there’s something for every solo traveller in Italy.
I’m a complete Italian Renaissance fan-girl and Italy’s artistic legacy is the best in the world. Florence, Sienna and Urbino are amongst many towns and cities that display their artistic treasures like the jewels they are.
A well-worn cliché, I know, but Italian food is to die for.
Each region has its own specialities and even in the humblest establishment, you are guaranteed a first-rate meal. And the humblest, and most famous Italian dish of all is pizza, which is reason enough to visit Naples.
For the coffee connoisseurs amongst us, Italy’s bars serve the best coffee on the planet. And don’t get me started on the gelato.
Thanks to Italy’s position on the Grand Tour of the 17th and 18th Centuries, it has had centuries to hone its travel infrastructure.
Most major Italian destinations are accessible by train, including high-speed services. And if you cannot reach a destination by train, there will usually be a bus that will get you there.
Italy’s infrastructure and travel connections serve a well-worn tourist trail. Along the main visitor routes, locals will be used to accommodating a solo traveller’s needs and will be more forgiving to those who do not speak Italian.
Thanks to the global popularity of Italian cuisine and a plethora of TV shows and movies set in Italy, the country will appear instantly familiar.
Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Italy is a super safe destination, Italian cities are likely to be no more dangerous than those in Europe or North America.
I have also travelled to Spain on multiple occasions and consider it to be one of the best places in Europe for those travelling alone, especially for female solo travellers.
Amongst the many things for which Spain is famous are its beautiful beaches, dramatic mountains and volcanic peaks and has a temperate climate, allowing year-round travel. Spain is also relatively affordable compared with other destinations in Western Europe.
Mass tourism is well established and its infrastructure is well developed.
RENFE, the country’s train network serves major towns and cities. Smaller towns and villages are covered by buses.
Spain has a rich historical heritage and is second only to Italy in the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Roman Empire – Tarragona has the best Roman ruins in Spain – the Goths and the Moors have all left their mark on the country.
There is a vibrant cultural scene and foodies will leave the dining table feeling very satisfied. What makes it so exciting is that each region or city has its own speciality not to be found elsewhere(try an ensaïmada in Palma de Mallorca for instance).
Melt-in-the-mouth seafood, fragrant olive oil and spicy chorizo are the staples of Spanish cuisine. And let’s not forget the excellent local wine, tapas and paella.
Spaniards are friendly and English is widely spoken in the tourist hubs.
Spain ranks in the top 10% of the safest countries in the world. However, as with any big city across the globe, watch out for petty crime such as pickpocketing.
Spain’s neighbour on the Iberian peninsula is also a fabulous destination if you are on your first trip alone. Although Spain and Portugal have similarities, there are also a few differences that might help you choose the country that is right for you.
First and foremost, sunny Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in Europe, important if you are travelling alone on a budget.
As Portugal is a relatively small country, you can cover more ground in a shorter space of time. Although its travel infrastructure is not as well developed as that in Spain, it is easy to travel around independently.
Like Spain, English is widely spoken but Portugal tends to have a more laid-back vibe.
There is no shortage of fabulous solo travel destinations in Portugal. From the gorgeous cities of Lisbon and Porto to the wine region of Douro Valley, there’s something for every solo traveller in Portugal.
Due to its well-deserved reputation as an expensive country, Iceland may not be the solo travel destination that immediately pops into your mind. But bear with me.
For the safety-conscious solo traveller, the crime rate in Iceland approaches zero. There is little chance you will be robbed, attacked or harassed.
If you want to treat yourself, Iceland is well placed for splurging. Linger over a meal at one of Reykjavik’s excellent restaurants or buy that handmade Icelandic jumper you have been coveting.
Yes. This is an expensive country, but there are ways to save money as a solo traveller in Iceland.
On the downside, Iceland’s public transportation system is limited.
As there is no railway and a shrinking network of long-distance bus routes, many visitors hire a car. But if you don’t fancy taking your chances behind the wheel, excursions to suit all tastes are plentiful and easy to book. These are also good opportunities to meet other travellers.
Don’t leave the country before visiting the Blue Lagoon. Yes; it’s pricy but it is unique.
Switzerland doesn’t often appear on lists of best solo travel destinations. This is a cruel oversight.
I have visited this staggeringly scenic country many times and it is one of the best places in Europe to catch a super scenic train ride, including the famous Glacier Express. Switzerland is a solo traveller’s dream destination, especially for mature solo travellers.
Switzerland has been assessed as the second safest country in the world – Iceland claimed the coveted top spot! – and is characterised by its cultural and regional diversity.
Public transport in Switzerland is world-renowned for good reason. Trains are clean and punctual to the second, albeit pricey. To reduce costs, look into buying a Swiss Travel Pass or Interrail / Eurail Pass.
Visit the German region in the central and eastern parts of Switzerland for the majestic cities of Zurich, Bern and Basel.
Take day trips from Bern to explore some of the country’s most magnificent Alpine scenery. From Basel take one of Europe’s most unusual walks: the 24-stop Rehberger Weg, a 5km trail waymarked with art installations.
Another highlight of this region is car-free Zermatt, home of the mighty Matterhorn. Although a popular ski resort, there are plenty of things to do in Zermatt for non-skiers.
The western part of the country is French and include Geneva, Montreux and Lausanne.
Use Locarno as a base to explore the Ticino, Switzerland’s Italian region. The free Ticino Ticket, one of Switzerland’s few travel bargains, makes exploring the lakes and elegant towns of this region a breeze.
And if that’s not enough, consider the excellent Swiss chocolate, cheese and fondues. Switzerland is not a place to diet.
It’s a truism that we are often guilty of ignoring destinations on our doorstep. In my case, this was Scotland.
Now I question what took me so long to explore it.
From rolling hills and jagged mountain faces to white sandy beaches, Scotland features some of the most striking and diverse landscapes in the UK. It’s a walker’s and photographer’s paradise.
This is the starting point for one of Britain’s most scenic train journeys, the famous Jacobite Steam Train, also known as the Harry Potter Train. Fort William is also a good jumping-off point for the dramatic Glencoe valley, one of Scotland’s must-see sights.
Scotland is the land of awe-inspiring castles, which come in all shapes and sizes. The most famous are Dunrobin Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, which keeps watch over the Isle of Skye, and Inveraray Castle.
The main cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh have oodles of cultural attractions but the often underrated city of Dundee, an easy day trip from Edinburgh, is snapping at their heels
Whisky lovers will have plenty of opportunity to down a dram or two. Scotland is home to over 100 distilleries in the five different whisky regions (my favourites are the Oban Distillery and Tobermory Distillery on the lovely island of Mull).
Seafood lovers will love the gorgeous town of Oban on the country’s west coast. This is the seafood capital of Scotland and also the gateway to the romantic Hebridean Islands.
For solo travellers, Scotland is relatively safe and the locals are very friendly. There is a wide variety of accommodation on offer, from hostels and bed & breakfasts to boutique and castle hotels.
Driving is the easiest way to explore Scotland, allowing you to reach places that are more off the beaten track. However, this is not for the faint-hearted. Some roads in the Highlands and islands are single lanes punctuated with passing places that you can pull into if necessary.
Scotland’s major towns and cities are linked train and bus. Scottish Citylink is an express coach service that runs long distances.
I travelled in Scotland without a car and managed just fine using buses, trains and day tours.
During my visit to Inverness, I took two day trips with the local Rabbie’s Tours who were excellent. Group sizes are small and the knowledge and humour of their drivers/guides are first-rate.
Call me biased, but England is one of the easiest places for travelling alone for the first time.
As an English speaking country, it is an appealing destination for visitors from Australia, the US and many European countries.
The travel infrastructure is good with good rail links across the country. For places not served by a train station, you’ll usually find that coaches or local buses are available.
The natives are generally friendly, especially outside of the main cities and in the north of the country. Although Londoners have a reputation for being reserved, in my experience this is overstated and people will usually try to help you.
As England is a popular solo travel destination, it’s relatively easy to meet other travellers, particularly in the main cities.
From dynamic cities to seaside towns and rolling hills, England offers a vast variety of places to visit. But like bees to honey, most visitors head to London.
And why not?
From its plethora of cultural attractions to its historical attractions and vibrant pub and restaurant scene, London is one of the world’s greatest cities. And there are plenty of things to do in London as a solo traveller.
Take in the best free view in town from the Sky Garden and walk along the south bank of the river to view some of London’s finest bridges. Or explore some of London’s best landmarks, including the London Tate Galleries.
But as great as London is, don’t ignore England’s other great cities.
Visit Liverpool for its rich maritime heritage, striking architecture, buzzy cultural scene and all things Beatles.
Just a few reasons to visit England as a solo traveller.
Travelling Alone for the First Time on a Group Tour
I hope that these fabulous places will inspire you to plan your first solo trip. But if you are not sure whether you are ready to travel solo, why not join a group tour?
This is a supported and structure way to travel alone for the first time.
You’ll have an expertly curated itinerary and will gain valuable insights into the country, its culture and its history. There’s safety in numbers and a group tour will provide ready-made travelling companions.
Where Will You Take Your First Solo Trip?
In an attempt to provide focus and not to overwhelm, I deliberately confined these choices of places to travel alone to ten.
It was a tough choice deciding which countries to omit.
In Europe, Ireland, France and The Netherlands were on the shortlist. Further afield, New Zealand, Argentina, Vietnam, Indonesia and Israel just missed the cut.
Whichever place you choose for your first solo trip, have a ball. You won’t look back.