What are the best destinations for solo travelers?
I am asked this question all the time and there is no one right answer to it.
It depends on who you are, your interests, physical abilities, financial resources, time available and travel experience.
That last point, travel experience, is especially relevant in determining a great destination for solo travelers. When asked, here's how I break down the destination decision.
First-Time Solo Travelers with No Travel Experience
If you're not only a first-time solo traveler but also quite new to travel, I suggest that you stay close to home. Start by taking baby steps to build your confidence. Try a weekend getaway. Drive, take a bus or train to another town, city, province or state and explore. You will be doing so in a language and culture that is familiar which minimizes the challenges of solo travel.
As you travel, practice some of these basic solo travel techniques:
- Stay at a hostel or B&B and have breakfast with strangers. Read: Sleeping with Strangers: The Hostel Experience
- Join groups for a short period of time. Take a museum tour or a cooking class. Anything of that nature will deliver a really social experience. Read: Find a Travel Partner: match-ups, meet-ups and hook-ups
- Research coffee shops and restaurants with communal tables so that you can meet people in a casual setting. Solo Travel: You Don’t Have to Eat Alone
- If you're feeling really adventurous, go out and see some live music in the evening. Read What to Do at Night When Traveling Alone – 7 Tips and Night Safety for Solo Travelers: 15 tips.
Please refer to the Solo Travel Safety section of this site, do a bit of research and head out. Don't forget to give yourself some quiet time as well and take note of how it feels to be independent, strong and capable.
Best destinations for solo travelers without travel experience:
Anywhere close to home. After you're comfortable close to home you can stretch yourself to the next category.
First-Time Solo Travelers with Travel Experience or
Experienced Solo Travelers with Little Experience Abroad
Both of these categories of solo travelers can have the same best destination in my mind so I've lumped them together.
If you've never traveled solo but are already a traveler, you need to develop the solo travel skills. You know how airports work and that tourism bureaus are typically near train stations. A lot of your travel knowledge has become instinctive so your challenge is being alone. Read: Why Travel Solo? Let’s Go to the Heart of the Matter
If you've traveled solo but only close to home, your learning curve is on the other side of the coin. Your challenge will be to negotiate transportation and foreign currency but you will feel pretty comfortable with being alone. Check out our Destinations section for solo-travel-tested information on 101 countries.
In both cases, I suggest that the best destination has a familiar culture and language. For North Americans, Britain is a great idea but there are others. If you have even a rudimentary understanding of Spanish or French there are many more options. Look for our 32 Tips posts for our best advice on saving money at some of the most popular destinations such as London, Paris, New York, Sydney, and Toronto.
Best destinations for first time solo travelers with travel experience and solo travelers who haven't been out of the country:
Places that have a familiar culture and language.
Best Destinations for Solo Travelers Wanting to Broaden their Horizons
Once you've traveled solo both home and abroad, you're really ready to broaden your horizons and explore more challenging destinations. But where? This is my challenge. With limited time and money, where to go. Here are a few recommendations based on personal experience.
Patagonia, Chile – Chile is a great destination in South America. Santiago is sophisticated with an excellent transit system, wonderful restaurants and great public spaces. From there I traveled by bus to Puerto Montt to take the Navimag Ferry to Patagonia. To learn how to travel to Patagonia read: How to Travel Solo to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips. Chile is an easy stretch for experienced solo travelers.
Rajasthan, India – I will never ever forget my trip to India. It was an amazing experience. Challenging, yes, but rewarding in many ways. I gained a real appreciation for how different a culture can be. It was likely the most dramatic culture difference I ever experienced and yet it was not that difficult. I also changed my way of eating. I became vegetarian. Read: Solo Travel to India: 32 Tips You Need to Know, Solo Travel India Tips: 11 Tips from a Local.
Eastern Europe – Now I covered this territory on a river cruise but what an incredible experience. The cruise was not the most luxurious there is but likely the most educational. Each day we went into a different port and while we had guides to make it easy we also had plenty of time to go off on our own and experience the culture ourselves. Read: My Eastern European River Cruise: Itinerary in Photos.
Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia – Not only is the language challenging in Russia but the alphabet is as well. I took photos of signs and landmarks to help me find my way back to my accommodation each day. I also took a day tour in each city which I felt was very important in orienting me. Read: Soft Landings in Russia: day tours make challenging cities easy.
Check out the Destinations section of Solo Traveler. It has dozens of recommended destinations for solo travelers made by readers. Each is rated according to its level of difficulty.
Don't Forget to Travel Your Own Country
While going to another country is exotic, it's also important to travel your home country. Whether the land mass is large or small there are cultural differences within. I think it's important to understand your compatriots in hopes of being a good citizen.