3 Great Destinations for First-Time Solo Female Travelers

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Even though I've never really labeled this blog as one for solo female travelers, the truth is that I AM a female, and I DO tend to travel solo roughly 90% of the time.

And as a frequent solo female traveler, I get all the usual questions. The questions about why I travel alone (it's because I haven't found an ideal travel companion yet, and am not about to let that stop me from traveling). The questions about how I pay for my trips (it's called budgeting, people). The questions about how I deal with loneliness on the road (it's a mixture of enjoying being alone, and having the nerve to go up and make friends with strangers). And then there are my favorite questions: the ones about safety.

But don't you get scared?” people ask me. “You're all alone and a girl. Don't you get scared?

New Zealand
Do I look scared to you?

The truth is that, no, I don't really get scared about traveling on my own, whether I'm off to London, San Francisco, or Istanbul. There have been very few times that I've felt uneasy while on the road, and not one time when I have actually felt scared for my safety (well, other than that one time I almost died on a mountain).

Yes, the world can be an intimidating place (and a downright scary one if you listen to the media), but you have to remember that most of that is just hype. Despite my media background (or perhaps because of it?), I've managed to retain a rather rosy outlook on the world. Sure, traveling can be dangerous. But it's no more dangerous than getting in your car and driving to the mall, ladies.

Scotland

Traveling safely as a solo woman is as simple as using common sense. Don't go out on your own after dark if it makes you feel uneasy. Don't go anywhere with questionable strangers. Don't call unnecessary attention to yourself by acting stupid (this includes getting drunk and messy). Keep someone at home updated on your plans. And, most of all, listen to your gut instincts.

But, if you're still a bit uneasy and unsure if solo female travel is really for you, perhaps my best advice for you is to ease your way into it by choosing destinations that are extremely solo-female-travel-friendly.

Destinations like:

Scotland

Even though nearby England is home to my favorite city in the world (London), it's Scotland you want to add to your itinerary if it's your first solo trip abroad as a woman. Not only is the country easily accessible and gorgeous, but it is also extremely safe and populated with friendly locals.

Scotland

The pros:

  • English is the main language (assuming you can decipher a thick Scottish brogue)
  • Scotland is a safe country
  • Scottish people are extremely warm and welcoming
  • There are some great hostels all over the country that offer up safe ways to meet other travelers
  • Scotland is close to the rest of Europe — if you gain confidence here, you can easily take your solo show to the rest of the continent
  • Scotland is SO pretty — with all of its castles and glens, you'll feel like you stepped right into the setting of a fairy tale

Scotland

The cons:

  • Scotland isn't the cheapest destination in the world (it's on the British pound, remember)
  • The weather in Scotland isn't always great, and it can change in an instant (tip: bring layers!)
  • The ideal way to get around Scotland is by car, which can be pricey when you're traveling solo (though there are also trains and buses between major cities)
  • If you visit outside of high season, many attractions (like castles) will be closed

Scotland

New Zealand

New Zealand still remains my favorite country in the world, even after having visited at least 2 dozen others by this point. There's just something about it — a combination of a laid-back attitude, SO much to see/do, and some of the most breathtaking scenery anywhere in the world — that keeps drawing me back. It, too, would be a fantastic place to begin your solo travel adventures (just beware that you may never want to leave!).

New Zealand

The pros:

  • English is one of New Zealand's official languages, making communication a breeze
  • New Zealand is a very safe country
  • New Zealanders are laid-back and friendly
  • New Zealand is easy to get around (by train, bus, car, or plane — you don't necessarily need a car)
  • The country has a fantastic system of hostels — some of the best quality I've seen anywhere in the world
  • Lots of young solo travelers make their way to New Zealand, and there are established backpacker bus routes should you want to use them
  • New Zealand is tourist-friendly year-round, regardless of season
  • New Zealand is extremely diverse when it comes to landscapes — no matter what you're into (mountains, beaches, volcanoes), you'll find it here

New Zealand

The cons:

  • New Zealand can be pricey, especially when it comes to food and it's popular adventure sports
  • New Zealand is not convenient to get to from ANYwhere, unless you're coming from Australia

Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook

Iceland

Lastly, I'm going to suggest you consider Iceland. While not a “typical” tourist destination, Iceland is definitely an up-and-comer. Not only is it convenient to get to from both Europe and the U.S., but it also offers a ton of unique activities against some of the most dramatic backdrops I have ever seen in real life. The fact that Iceland is also a very safe destination makes it ideal for the adventurous solo female traveler.

Iceland

The pros:

  • While English is not the official language of Iceland, 99% of Icelanders speak it very fluently
  • Iceland is an extremely safe country (seriously, there's like zero crime)
  • Icelanders are welcoming and fun-loving
  • Iceland has one of the strongest tourism infrastructures I've ever seen
  • The country is ALL about day tours — sign up for a few from Reykjavik and you'll automatically have travel buddies
  • Iceland is easy to get to both from Europe and North America (it's only a 3-hour flight from the UK, and a 4-hour flight from Boston)
  • You can visit year-round and still find plenty to do (such as midnight golfing in the summer when there are nearly 24 hours of daylight, or hunting for the Northern Lights in the winter)
  • The landscape here is out of this world — so dramatic

Iceland

The cons:

  • Iceland is expensive — on par with the UK and even Scandinavia
  • Outside of Reykjavik, there are few budget options for accommodation
  • Iceland is best explored by car if you're venturing outside of Reykjavik, which can get expensive when you're traveling solo (there aren't really bus or train services to the rest of the country)
  • Iceland is far north, meaning it gets very few hours of sunlight in the winter months (though tourism still operates during the dark months)

Iceland

 

Of course, if none of these destinations sound appealing, there are plenty others out there that would be just as suitable. The important thing is that you get out there and travel. Don't let the fact that you're inexperienced or on your own or (God forbid) a female hold you back.

Traveling solo as a female doesn't have to be scary. In fact, it can be exactly the opposite — fun and liberating and life-changing. And hopefully this post will help convince you of that!

What other destinations would you add to this list?

 

Some great items for the female traveler:

*A caveat: Yes, these destinations are listed with an American, Canadian, or perhaps Australian woman in mind. This is simply because I myself am an American woman who travels solo, so it's what I know. And yes, I have been to all of these destinations as a solo traveler!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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94 Comments on “3 Great Destinations for First-Time Solo Female Travelers

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  1. My very first solo trip was to Greece and it was fabulous. The very first night I got off the ferry on the wrong island (at midnight–the ship was two hours behind schedule) because the sailors and I had pronunciation problems. Got a great room from a retired merchant marine who had seen the world and spoke a little English. His wife had just opened the three rooms for tourists. Near the beach. She invited me into her kitchen for fresh squeezed orange juice at breakfast time….that was when I was 50 and after 30+ years of everyone saying “you can’t do that!” I just did. I have now been traveling solo for nearly 20 years and LOVE IT. I get to see and do what ‘no one else wants to do and on my own schedule. Many more trips to take, but so far Kenya, Ghana, Costa Rica, Haida Gwaii (Canada) and Mexico, Madeira, Brazil, Argentina… just because I didn’t know any better. Absolutely love your blog — Thank you

      And look at all the great stories you have now! That’s awesome. Keep traveling! 🙂

    I second Candi who proposed Singapore. It’s a safe, modern place but at the same time it also manages to keep its culture alive. The streets of Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street are particularly colorful. In Chinatown, you can find the Chinatown Heritage Centre, visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum and re-discover 1930s Singapore through the Village Singapura. It’s a great team activity to help you bond with your friends and families.

    Hi Amanda. Thanks for the write up on Langkawi as I am headed there next week. I’m not by any means new to solo travel or to Malaysia as I have now been to most countries in SE Asia (by the way I’m a New Zealander living in Singapore). I have also previously lived in South Korea. The one thing I would say to anyone thinking about Singapore as first time solo female traveler is that if you are planning on visiting the attractions, bring lots of money!! Everything is very expensive here, even more so than New Zealand. A glass of beer at a bar will set you back between SGD$14-17. However eating at a hawker centre is pretty cheap starting at about SGD$3. In my opinion Bali, Phuket and Boracay are much cheaper and better options. No transport is really required for any of those places. Boracay is absolutely beautiful with powder white sand, a real island vibe, live bands all along the beach every night, 2 cocktails for SGD$6 during happy hour, you won’t want to leave. For the slightly more adventurous, Vietnam is my choice of craziness. Its full on, exciting, especially Ho Chi Minh. I went on private tours almost every day on the back of a vesper or motorbike, it was amazing. Da Nang is very pretty with all the bridges lit up over the Han River at night and the Dragon Bridge breathes fire on the weekends. The French Village at Bana Hills is gorgeous with all the gothic style architecture, and of course riding the longest single cable, cable car in the world was an experience all on its own as you go up through the clouds to get to the top.

    This gave me a lot of confidence. Since a couple of years ago I started planning a trip to South Korea with some friends. We are suppose to go in March of this year but they all cancelled. I really want to go but I wasn’t sure because is my first time traveling outside my country.

    So, I read your blog and I decided to go. I can’t wait for other people anymore. So, thank you so much.
    (Sorry if i wrote something wrong, English isn’t my first language.)

      That is so great to hear, Ana. Solo travel can be amazing, and you definitely don’t need to wait around for anyone else to travel with you! I hope you have a great time in South Korea!

    I love this…I am a bit on the smaller side and I just turned 21, and I really want to travel but no one else has the desire like I do, so I’ve been convincing my parents to be okay with me going alone and this is great to start with. Does anyone have more tips for a first time solo traveller? Thank you!

    Wow love this post! These are three epic destinations lately. I like how you’ve encouraged solo females to start out nice and easy with these safe and friendly countries, yet they still offer up plenty of beautiful views and experiences. Love the blog, by the way, this is the first time I’ve happened upon your site!

      Thanks so much, Mel! Nothing wrong with starting out with “easier” destinations. And you’re right – these are all still epic! Three of my favorite countries in the world, in fact.

    Wow. I feel like I could have written this post. Your answers to questions women traveling alone have to face are all mines… Don’t let being a female stop you from following your dreams!

    I traveled for the first time on my own last year and went to… Scotland! It wasn’t planned at all but I realized afterward it was the best first destination I could have chosen. Scotlanders are very welcoming and landscapes are breathtaking. After being to the US West Coast last month, I now dream of Iceland and/or Eastern Europe. And after traveling with “not-too-bad-but-not-ideal-travel-companions”, I definitely want to travel alone most of the time!

    Thanks for this post, I think it could convince more women that traveling is doable and enjoyable for solo travelers!

      Scotland is so great – Scottish people are so friendly!

    Hi,
    I am about to do my first solo trip to Ireland and Scotland this year. Super excited but also a bit nervous about how to get around (car, train or bus) and also where to stay (I’m 35- is that too old for hostels, should I be thinking more B&B?) Any suggestions/advice would be brilliant!

    Also, I live in Australia and would totally recommend it to solo female travellers 🙂

      Congrats on your first solo trip! As for getting around Scotland and Ireland, it really depends on what sort of trip you want to have. If you just want to focus on cities, you could get around by train or bus pretty easily, and maybe do some day tours to locations outside of the cities. Otherwise renting a car would be best – it gives you a lot of flexibility!

      As for where to stay… most hostels don’t have age limits! So don’t count them out completely – you could look for ones with private rooms, like I do. Otherwise, yes, BnBs are nice, or you could perhaps consider renting a room or flat through a site like Air BnB if you want to stay away from hotels.

    Great list! I’ve visited the first two (I grew up just an hour south of the Scottish border, and I spent a month travelling round New Zealand a few years ago). They’re both stunningly beautiful places, with plenty of opportunity to stare at gorgeous scenery.

    Iceland has been on my to-visit list ever since a friend showed me her holiday photos from there last year. I’d love to go!

    I would probably add two places to this list:

    France: it’s part of a great high-speed rail network, and once you get outside Paris, people are generally friendly, especially if you try and speak a bit of French. (You don’t even have to be good, just show you’re making an effort. A simple ‘bonjour’ or ‘merci’ is often enough to make people behave more warmly towards you.) The various regions are also very different, and although eating out can be expensive, most little French towns have markets selling scrumptuous local produce at affordable prices – it’s where many of the locals shop, after all.

    Australia: I lived in Melbourne for a year as a student and travelled quite a bit around the rest of the country. Although it’s expensiveness is on a par with New Zealand, it has a thriving backpacker industry, meaning that most places have some form of budget accommodation. The people are super friendly and laid back, and because it’s such a huge country, there’s so much to see. I think Australia is the ideal place for the solo female traveller who wants to spend a longer amount of time on a trip.

    But thanks for posting this – it’s great to be reminded that the whole ‘I’m a girl on my own’ thing doesn’t have to become a major issue when planning travel. 🙂

      I haven’t traveled much in France, but really most of Western Europe could go on this list. I haven’t had any real issues anywhere in Europe yet as a solo female. Though the language differences could turn some people off.

      And I agree that Australia would work well here, too!

    YES! Thank you! I love this post and totally agree with it. I know I am a guy so it may seem strange me commenting on the solo female backpacker phenomenon, but ‘solo female backpacker’ a phrase I really hate and dread. The amount of times I have been asked the exact same questions by women who wear the ‘solo female backpacker’ badge and repeated the exact same advice and answers you gave above, ‘Traveling safely as a solo woman is as simple as using common sense’ pretty much sums it up. It really is no more dangerous for a woman to travel than a man, and that is the way it should be.

      Thanks so much for commenting! Glad you agree.

      And, actually, as I’ve written in posts in the past, statistically speaking men are much more likely to get in trouble while traveling! It’s just the whole “weak woman” stereotype that makes people look at solo female travelers differently.

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