Some travel solo for the first time without a moment’s thought.
Others think about it 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. It’s either the trip that builds confidence and leads to many more or the trip that curtails future travel. It’s important to get it right. For this reason I think the first priority for the first time solo traveler is to choose a destination that speaks her or his language.
Since this site is in English I’m going to assume that you are English-speaking. And I’m going to suggest 10 very different destinations that I think are great for the first time solo traveler.
North American Destinations for First Time Solo Travel
It was not easy to decide what five are the top destinations for solo travel beginners. There are sooooo many. I’ve chosen five that tend to be easier to navigate and offer a range of experiences.
- Nashville – a small city with a lot of music going on. It’s super-easy to navigate Nashville and not too expensive. People are friendly and they have Downtown Ambassadors in bright yellow shirts to help visitors find their way. Read: Affordable Nashville: 32 Free and Low-cost Tips and Nashville: There’s More than a Little Country in this City Girl
- Montreal – Montreal is officially French speaking but don’t worry. There is plenty of English spoken in there which makes it both accessible and exotic. It’s a little less Europe-like than Quebec City but it still has a European flavor – especially in Old Montreal. It’s also a city that is alive in the arts and so easy to get to for many in North America. Don’t forget to have a Montreal bagel! Read: Solo Travel: a one day tour of Montreal
- Key West, Florida – Key West lies on the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys and is the most southerly point of the continental US. 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 Paradis and Positive Thinking and Solo Travel.
- San Francisco, California – San Francisco has a great vibe with unique neighborhoods to explore the local scene and lots to see in the tourist areas like Fisherman’s wharf. Take a bike across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito and take the ferry back. Read: Solo Travel Destination: San Francisco, United States and A Particular Kind of Heaven: a spring tradition in San Francisco. My stop in San Francisco was part of an Amtrak trip on the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles. Read The Coast Starlight: a Slice of Americana
- Vancouver, British Columbia – This is one of my favorite cities. Like San Francisco the city center is built around the water but what I love about Vancouver is that it is so easy to get into nature. Public beaches go on for miles from the University of British Columbia around English Bay and into Stanley Park. In North Vancouver Skiing in winter and hiking year-round can be reached by public transit. Read One Day in Vancouver – food, ferries and a walk around the Stanley Park and Solo Travel Destination: Vancouver, Canada
Destinations Outside North America for First Time Solo Travelers
- London, England – Yes, London. You’ll notice that in North America I stayed away from New York, Chicago and LA… 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 see in movies. Take in the theater. Shop. Read: Affordable London! 32 free and low-cost tips and Solo in London: Shopping
- 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 have 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: The Slate Buildings of the Lake District and Pub Life in the Lake District. (These are among the first posts I wrote on this site so be gentle with your criticism.)
- Dublin, Ireland – Ireland is such a warm and friendly country and Dublin is your entry point. From pubs to theatre to festivals and fine food, there’s lots to enjoy. It’s 2016 and all of Ireland is commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916. Don’t miss the GPO Witness History museum and Kilmainham Gaol (get advance tickets for a tour of the latter). Depending on how many historical sites you want to go to you may want to get a Heritage Card. Read: Solo Travel Destination: Dublin, Ireland and watch for a new 32 Tips post on Dublin coming soon.
- 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 Tip. 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.
- Caribbean – If you’re looking to relax in the sun why not the Caribbean. There are many islands to choose from and while other languages may be spoken English is common on all so take your pick. If you’d like to go to a resort check out Transat Holiday’s Solo Collection.