The first solo trip either builds confidence and leads to many more or is less successful and curtails future travel. It's important to get it right. Choosing the right destination for first-time solo travelers is the first step to an adventurous future.
Some newbie solo travelers head out without a moment's thought. Others think about solo travel for a few years before going. I know this to be true because I receive emails from readers who tell me of finally stepping out for their first solo trip.
It is to those who hesitate that I dedicate this post.
I want all first-time solo travelers to have excellent experiences. For this reason I think the first priority is to choose a destination where they speak the local language.
Since this site is in English I'm going to assume that you are English-speaking. Whether you're in your 20s or 30s or over 50, these 16 very different destinations are great for the first-time solo traveler.
Note: You'll also want to read Travel Solo for the First Time: Complete Guide for Newbies.
North American Destinations for First-Time Solo Travelers
It was not easy to decide which are the top destinations for solo travel beginners in North America. There are so many. I've chosen eight that tend to be easier to navigate and offer a range of experiences.
1. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah also made our list of top budget destinations for 2023. The city's Historic District is famous, but there is also the architecture in the Victorian District and the hip Starland District, all within the downtown area. Venture a little further to Savannah’s quiet Lowcountry in the Moon River District.
2. Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is a small city with a lot of music going on. It's super easy to navigate Nashville and it's not too expensive. People are friendly and they have Downtown Ambassadors in bright yellow shirts to help visitors find their way. Read: Travel Nashville on a Budget: 32 Free and Low-cost Tips.
3. Montreal, Quebec
Montreal is officially French-speaking but don't worry. There is plenty of English spoken which makes it both accessible and exotic. It's a little less European than Quebec City but it still has a European flavor, especially in Old Montreal. It's also a city that is alive with arts, culture, and festivals and easy to get to for many in North America. Don't forget to have a Montreal bagel! Read: Solo Travel in Montreal: Food, Art & Culture.
4. Key West, Florida
Key West lies on the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys and is the most southerly point of the continental United States. It's definitely a party town but it's also great if you're more of a beach, fine dining, and just relaxing person. Stay anywhere near the center of town and you won't need a car. It's all walkable. Read A Perfect Day in Paradise.
5. St. John's, Newfoundland
As destinations for first-time solo travelers go, Newfoundland can't be beat. Canada’s most easterly province is home to friendly people, rugged coastline, and gorgeous scenery. The capital, St. John’s, is one of the oldest cities in North America, has a vibrant arts community, tasty culinary scene, and personality to spare. Having fun in Newfoundland is as simple as trying screech.
6. San Francisco, California
San Francisco has a great vibe with unique neighborhoods to explore and lots to see in the tourist areas like Fisherman's Wharf. Ride a bike across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito and take the ferry back. Tour the city by cable car. Explore the food scene, and don't forget to have clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Pier 39. Stop by the iconic City Lights Bookstore.
7. Vancouver, British Columbia
This is one of my favorite cities. Like San Francisco, the city center is built around the water but what makes Vancouver special is that it is easy to get into nature. Public beaches go on for miles from the University of British Columbia campus around English Bay and into Stanley Park. In North Vancouver there's skiing in winter and hiking year-round that can be reached by public transit.
8. Kauai, Hawaii
One of the quieter islands in Hawaii, Kauai had a magnetic effect on me. Despite wanting to return home to those I love, I also didn't want to leave. My experience of it included big nature, quiet nights, and a slow pace. With one main road on the island it's impossible to get lost. I did lots but also relaxed and did a lot of reading. It's a perfect vacation destination for solo travelers. Read Affordable Kauai Update – 32 Free and Low-Cost Tips.
International Destinations for First-Time Solo Travelers
It was even more difficult to choose the top destinations for first-time solo travelers outside of North America. Here are eight to get you started.
1. London, England
Yes, London. You'll notice that in North America I stayed away from the big, popular cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, but in the UK, London is a must and it's very doable for the first-time solo traveler. Stay central. Walk lots. See the iconic sights that you recognize from movies. Take in the theater. Shop. Read: Solo Travel London on a Budget and Best Places to Stay in London: Accommodation for Solo Travelers.
2. The Lake District, England
I just love the UK, but while I could go on and on about destinations there–Liverpool, Edinburgh, Bath, Cambridge–if I had to make only one recommendation outside of London it would be the Lake District. It's so beautiful and so welcoming. Try to go during the shoulder season when school is in or it will be very busy. Read: London and the Lake District: 12-Day Itinerary.
Located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast, Malta is an English-speaking country though many also speak Italian. Given its location, you can expect rich history and delicious Mediterranean cuisine influenced by many cultures. Malta is made up of 3 islands so indulge in beaches and water sports.
4. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland is such a warm and friendly country, it is a perfect destination for first-time solo travelers. Dublin is your entry point. From pubs to theater to festivals and fine food, there's lots to enjoy. I'm not a big museum fan but it currently holds my favorite museum in the world, the Epic Ireland. Read Dublin, Cork & Galway: Exploring Ireland Solo.
5. Sydney, Australia
What a great city and a great city to get out of as well. It's so easy to enjoy both the urban setting and nature escapes from Sydney. People are super-friendly and there are vibrant arts, food, and sports scenes. Read: Affordable Sydney: 32 Free & Low-Cost Tips. Of course, New Zealand could just as easily have been chosen here but I don't have the experience there that I have in Sydney.
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Explore by boat or on foot, take in a tour of the countryside, discover tasty new treats in the Dutch tradition, and fall in love with Amsterdam. You won't find a city that speaks as much English yet is so different from any native English-speaking city. Read Solo in Amsterdam: A City that Left Me Wanting More.
This young, island country offers some of the most diverse landscapes and the best scenery in the world. I stood aghast time and again and declared that it is like the Isle of Skye (which I love) on steroids. Iceland is a spectacular destination for a road trip that you will never forget. Read A Road Trip Through Iceland.
8. Belfast and Northern Ireland
I may be a little partial to this destination. In my family, one grandmother and two great-grandparents emigrated from Northern Ireland. I visited the older generation there many times before they passed on. Then, I went and explored my heart's second home solo. But you don’t need a connection with Northern Ireland to fall in love with it. From Belfast to Derry, from the loughs (lakes or bays) to the glens, from fables to festivals, there is a lot to do, see, and enjoy in Northern Ireland. Read Solo Travel Northern Ireland: Tips for Belfast and Beyond.