What are the best destinations for solo female travelers? It’s a good question and one I’ve given a lot of thought to. I travel as a solo female traveler about 98% of the time. I travel around 9 months per year. And I’ve been doing that for over four years. Oh, and I’ve visited over 50 countries.
I’m not telling you this because I want to be that idiot that you meet when you travel who can’t wait to tell you how their travels have been sooooooo much better than yours (bigger, faster, further). I’m telling you because I’ve been to a lot of destinations – as a female – alone.
And from my travels, here’s my list (in no particular order) of…
The Best Destinations for Solo Female Travelers
Really? You’re going to list your home country as one of the best destinations for solo female travelers? Yes, yes I am. And here’s why:
- England is very easy to travel around – the public transport is clean, safe and affordable (but do book in advance).
- the country small enough to cover a lot of ground in a short time. And if you’re keen to add more countries to your ‘visited’ list, you can easily pop to Scotland, Ireland or Wales.
- if English is your first language, you don’t need to grapple with a phrase book on top of all the other challenges of travel.
- the people are friendly (*excludes Londoners). Head up North (unofficially designated as beyond the Watford Gap) and you’ll find yourself making friends with any Tom, Dick or Harry.
- there’s a pretty well-established hostel scene if you want to use that as a means of meeting people/sticking to a budget. Otherwise, Bed & Breakfasts are good value, easy to come by and more inviting than hotels.
- there’s a sh*t tonne of things to do (navel gaze at Stonehenge, surf in Cornwall, take cream tea in Dorset, get literary in Stratford-upon-Avon, go hipster in London, visit Roman baths in Bath…the list goes on), England is a very interesting country to travel around.
Best for: history, culture, quirky regional differences, quick travel, ease of travel (language, transport).
Don’t go for: making local friends in the capital, budget travel, sun.
I was nervous about visiting Hawaii as a solo female traveler, assuming it was going to be shore to shore packed with honeymooners. As expected, there were a good number of loved-up couples but there is a thriving solo traveler scene too.
- four (main) islands to choose from, each with different vibes and activities. Island hopping is easy and affordable (again, book in advance).
- 12 out of 14 of the world’s climates in one place – if you’re after diversity, Hawaii has it in spades. Surf, trek into volcano craters, skydive, lie on a beach: Hawaii has it all.
- Polynesian culture – despite Hawaii’s history and now being part of the USA, it’s possible to dig deeper and get closer to this fascinating and spiritual culture.
- like England, you’re going to get along fine without having to pick up a Hawaiian phrase book (though get one anyway because trying to figure out how to pronounce the Hawaiian language’s words that are formed from just 13 letter is mind-bogglingly fun).
- Hawaii felt safe enough to wander alone at night (in busy areas) but with a good backpacker scene and hostels with very high standards, you can sleep on more of a budget than you might think.
- the fish: swim with them, catch them, eat them. Whatever your preference, some of the best things about Hawaii go on under the waters…apart from the surfing, of course, which, incidentally, you can choose to do with a team of firemen in Hawaii if that takes your fancy.
Best for: outdoor types (active or beach basting), island hopping, English speaking, making hostel friends.
Don’t visit for: budget travel, just a few days en-route to Oz (you’ll regret it), culture shock (there’s a lot of Polynesian culture but the islands feel predominantly like an extension of the USA).
I know. You’re going to read way more articles telling that you shouldn’t visit India. And that you certainly shouldn’t do it as a female. And Heaven forbid you might go on your own. But guess what, many women go to India alone each year and have a trouble-free visit. I spent over 6 weeks there and although it wasn’t the easiest destination I’ve ever been to and there were a couple of scrapes, it’s still a county I recommend to women time and again.
- The sights: I’ll start with the Taj Mahal then go on to mention the forts, the palaces, the ganges (river), the beaches, the mountains, the temples, the desert, the parks…you get my point.
- The food: ok, so I suffered from Delhi belly when I was in India but the fact that I kept going back to the same street vendors and restaurants is proof that the food was addictive regardless of the effect it had on me.
- Can you think of a more spiritual place? Whether you’re looking to practice yoga, learn how to meditate or just indulge in an Ayurvedic massage and get a henna tattoo, there’s nowhere more authentic to experience it than Indian. Plus, where else are you likely to get your legs waxed using strips of denim (true story).
- It will confront you on every level. The cities can be noisy and dirty, the people can be in your face and the levels of poverty are probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen, but you’ll go home with a whole new perspective – the kind you won’t get from any book or, in fact, any other destination.
- It’s safer than you think, so long as you use your street smarts, stay in the central locations and don’t wander down dark streets/get on empty buses at night, you should be fine.
- If you have a minuscule travel budget, you can visit India and still leave with change. Eating for under $1 is easy, as is sleeping for under $7. You can ride the trains across a good chunk of the country for just a few dollars and all prices are open for negotiation.
Best for: culture shock, food, getting a spiritual fix, testing your patience, highly affordable travel.
Don’t visit for: cleanliness, your first solo trip (it might be a bit too confronting), well organised, peaceful travel.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who didn’t enjoy their time in Italy. It’s a country that draws me back time and again (I’m writing this while I’m in Puglia) and even when you’re done exploring the big hitting sights, there’s still so much more to explore. Italy is everything you might imagine and much more besides.
- I have to start with the food. You might think you’ve had amazing Italian food in your home country but I promise it will not compare with what you will eat in Italy.
- Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, the Amalfi coast: Italy is formed from one superlative after another. Sure, you’re going to meet a lot of other tourists if you turn up in mid-summer, but there’s a reason all of these people have travelled from all over the world to see the same things.
- Getting around: despite Italy’s penchant for bureaucracy, it’s incredibly easy to get around Italy on your own. There’s an excellent train system and you can book online in advance.
- Getting off the tourist hamster wheel is so rewarding: heading even a few miles north, south, east or west of the big hitting destinations can take you to tiny towns where you can see real Italian life without the crowds and truly get to understand how this country epitomises the dolce vita (sweet life).
- With so many tourists turning up each year, Italy does a great job of keeping them safe; basic common sense is enough to keep you well.
- “Ciao bella” (hello beautiful): get used to hearing this in Italy, even if you’ve reached the point where you can only fit into those ugly fat pants you packed as a last resort. Put on a slick of lipstick, a nice bit of jewellery, hold your head high and be ready to feel adored.
Best for: food and indulgence, some of the world’s most iconic sights in one country, confidence boost, culture, diversity (old, new, cities and beaches).
Don’t visit for: weight loss, solitude (unless you go ultra rural/local).
Confession first: my month in Japan was the rare occasion when I didn’t travel by myself, apart from a couple of days. So, feel free to skip on by this recommendation if you wish, but hopefully you won’t because Japan is awesome and all of my traveling alone has given me an eye for a good solo female travel destinations, even when I have company.
- Japan is so much more than Tokyo and Kyoto. Did you know the country has a bunch of islands off the south coast making it perfect for a beach break. From big cities to smaller stops, Japan will keep on surprising you turn after turn.
- Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Ok, so there might still be a pretty big disparity between men and women when it comes to gender equality, particularly in the workplace, but if you can get past that, crime rates are low and if you leave your phone in a bar, it’s most definitely going to find its way back to you.
- The people are helpful beyond compare. From the sales assistant who walked me through a mall and helped me buy a SIM card at a competitor store to the countless people who didn’t just give me directions but got on the metro (carrying my bag) to deliver me to my destination, I’ve never meet such a helpful nation.
- Despite the language barrier, most Japanese people (at least in the main tourist areas) speak a little English. They’ll tell you otherwise, then continue to answer you with perfect English vocabulary and grammar.
- The food: you might be sensing a theme here but I do love to eat when I travel and Japan very quickly became one of my top foodie destination. And it’s not just about raw fish. Kobe beef, okonomiyaki, tempura and ramen, this country fed me well and it was even possible to find a few budget eats.
- The Shinkansen trains: no, the Japan Rail Pass is not cheap but the train windows are squeeged clean before each ride and, damn, the trains are fast. In fact, they’re among the fastest in the world!
Best for: history, sights and culture, surprising natural beauty, 21st century travel, kindness of strangers, food.
Don’t visit for: cheap travel, making friends with locals (although friendly, the culture is pretty reserved).
Coming up in Part Two: more best destinations for solo female travelers…
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