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. Yay, so glad New Zealand made the list, I totally agree 🙂 I’m here right now and it’s basically my first leap into solo travel after being with my ex for 6 years (and travelling together for 2) – NZ’s awesome for solo female travel!

      It really is a great destination for any sort of travel, but especially for solo travel I think!

    I found this post not because I’m afraid, but because my friends are FOR me! I didn’t know what to tell them to allay their fears about me going out into the world alone, and their unenthusiasm has been so discouraging. This is exactly what I needed to read…thank youuu!

      You are so welcome! And don’t let your worried friends talk you out of your travel dreams! Some people, unfortunately, will just never get it. But you should travel anyway and prove to them that there’s nothing scary about it!

    I live in NZ, so I would have to agree about the safety level:). I do think that driving and having a car makes traveling here much more fun though, the public transport in this country is somewhat lacking… I haven’t actually traveled solo, but that’s going to change in 2013… Your website is really great! Being a Tolkien nut, a travel nut, and a young adventurous female, I can really relate to most everything you are saying:). Thanks:). My list of places I’ve been currently stands: China, USA (L.A., Portland, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, San Antonio), England (London and Oxford), Italy (pretty much all over), Switzerland (again, all over), Fance (Paris), Finland (Helsinki and Turku), Sweden (Stockholm), Denmark (Copenhagen, and surrounding area, and the island of Bornholm), Singapore, and all over NZ of course! You make me so enthusiastic today!

      I agree that NZ is definitely better explored with a car. But you can get by without one if need be, too! Public transport isn’t the *best*, but it’ll get you from A to B!

      It sounds like you’ve traveled a fair bit yourself. Good luck with your foray into solo travel in 2013!

    Ohmigod, before I left for my WHV in New Zealand, everyone asked me if I was scared! I never was (despite knowing no one and had never been before) and after a while, I thought, should I be? I decided against that thought immediately and never looked back:-)

      Good for you! I won’t say that I never get *nervous* before traveling to a new place. But I’ve never actually been scared!

    Great list, and having lived in Scotland for 2 years and spent 2 months in NZ, I agree with both of them. I’ve only ever been through Reykjavik on a layover, so I’d love to explore more of Iceland.

    I’d definitely recommend the Netherlands as a destination for a first-time solo female traveller. Many signs are mutli-lingual and most Dutch people in urban areas have excellent English. I’ve travelled solo in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Delft and felt safe in all of them. Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities; it has so much more to offer than just getting stoned (though if you’re going to, it’s probably one of the safer places to do it publicly ;).

      The Netherlands is definitely on my list! I think you’re the second person to suggest it now, so I definitely have to make it there soon!

    Great tips….totally agree with NZ – brilliant place to travel, alone or not. Have been hearing loads of noise about Iceland of late and would love to consider for next year. Definitely on the radar.

      Iceland is definitely an up-and-comer, so I’d suggest getting yourself there ASAP! It’s a lot like New Zealand in a lot of ways – and yet completely unique at the same time!

    Nice tips, I totally agree with you in Scotland as one of the best destinations, that beautiful country has already helped me once to get back my peace of mind and find myself again…

    These are all good choices; I would also suggest adding Australia (at least the eastern portion, including Sydney and Melbourne). Many of the pros that you cited for New Zealand also apply to the land Down Under, plus it’s a little easier to get to (although it obviously still involves a lot of flying for anyone coming from the U.S. or Europe).

      If this list had had a #4, it probably would have been Australia! Like you said, though, many of the pros for NZ also apply to Australia.

    There is a lonely planet article about 10 best european destinations for first time travellers going around at the moment.
    my favourite place is still amsterdam, though, almost all dutch people speak PERFECT english and there are so many great hostels and to stay in and parks to sit in, and café’s and beautiful neighbourhoods, and museums, and the public transport around the city is great. One of the things I loved most about it was that it turned out to be so much more than smoking weed and coffee shops, though that is available if you want it. and i totally tried it because you only live once and all, but the once and the rest of the time was spent exploring the city!

      I’ll have to look out for that Lonely Planet list!

      And Amsterdam is a place that’s definitely on my list.

    What a great, balanced article! I love your comment ”But it’s no more dangerous than getting in your car and driving to the mall, ladies.” How true. We are often safer in places we travel to than at home (this doesn’t apply to me now but I would say it often did when home was London).

    Re SE Asia. I think this might be a bit overwhelming for someone’s first solo trip, especially if they are an inexperienced traveller as well. However, Singapore would be a great place for a solo trip. It’s incredibly safe – I was out walking around on my own there at 3/4am several nights last week and have done so numerous times in the past. I would do that at home (Dubai) but probably not in any European or North American city. Being somewhere so safe is great. Singapore is also very well organised, has an excellent (cheap) underground rail system to get around and there’s lots to do and a great mix of cultures. Little India is fantastic and without the non-stop sexual harassment of India (which puts it firmly at the bottom of my list of female-friendly destinations).

    Happy to see Scotland on your list 🙂

      Ooo I hadn’t even thought about Singapore, but from what I’ve heard, it WOULD make a good place to go if you wanted a “softer” (albeit much more expensive) introduction to Asia.

      Glad you liked the post!

        I second Singapore- it’s the perfect Asian destination for solo females- amazing shopping, great transport system, safe and clean, plus the best food! Most people speak at least a bit of English. I also felt very comfortable in Langkawi in Malaysia- really quiet and relaxing.

          Sounds like I really need to check out Singapore soon!

    My first solo female travels started with one week on my own in Argentina. Although most people wouldn’t recommend it for a “first,” I enjoyed the challenge (mainly a language barrier) and excitement of being somewhere so different. It made me realize I could go anywhere on my own.

      That’s exactly what Kami and I were talking about in an earlier comment – for some people, a challenge like that would be the perfect way to feel empowered by travel!

    Great list! A friend I met in Thailand told me that Iceland is really a safe place for solo travelers. My cousin is working in New Zealand (which means I can stay in his house to lessen the expenses) and I almost made it to Scotland two years ago. If only the winter season didn’t make me lazy lol

      Your friend you met in Thailand is absolutely right about Iceland! And, it sounds like a trip to NZ is definitely in order!

    Loving that Scotland is included in this list! Looking forward to seeing you super soon in Scotland for Blogmanay 🙂

      Of COURSE Scotland is included in this list! So great for solo travel!

      And I’m super excited to be back in Scotland soon. I think I may be developing a “thing” for the UK…

    I kind of wish I could visit these destinations as a solo traveller, but unfortunately (erm, sorry husband), I have a man to drag around these days. In fairness, he’s a good bag carrier!

    I am very familiar with Scotland though, and would wholeheartedly recommend it for solo females. I think this is such a great, useful post. I am sure it will inspire a good few trips!

      We all need a good bag carrier in our lives. 😉

      And thanks! Hopefully this post will indeed inspire a few solo trips in the near future!

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