The top 10 best places for solo travelers

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For #SinglesDay, we’ve got some recommendations for the best places to travel alone: city breaks, backpacking and more. We’ve found the safest, friendliest destinations for solo travelers so that you can take the trip of a lifetime!

Solo travel is becoming increasingly popular as people realize that their bucket list won’t tick itself off. With companies specializing in taking solo travelers to places you’d needed to access as a group in the recent past, and the increasing use of a smattering of English in even the most remote places, solo travel represents a way to see the world, meet like-minded people, and get your own view on life. Coincidentally, November 11 is Singles’ Day, and in honor of all you lone world-wanderers out there, we’ve found 10 of the most welcoming countries in the world for individual travelers.

Chile

View over Santiago de Chile with mountains in the backrground — ShutterstockThe city of Santiago de Chile — Shutterstock

A South American adventure can take many forms — being a beach bum in Brazil, hacking through the jungles of the Amazon, exploring Incan ruins — but if you head to Chile, you could easily pay your own way and have a solo experience on the cheap.

Starting in Santiago de Chile, you can travel up and down the country, from the arid, mountainous landscapes of the north, to the wetlands and glaciers of Patagonia in the south. Almost all long-distance travel is done by bus, so you’ll meet plenty of locals on your overnight journeys.

There are also loads of working holiday schemes, so if you’ve ever felt like working on a farm, building an eco-community, teaching English in a mountain village or organizing events in a hostel, there’ll be something to keep you busy and give you a chance to meet fellow travelers.

To plan your South American adventure and read an interview with someone who’s done it, click here.

Scotland, UK

I was considering putting Ireland on this list, but the famed Irish hospitality and gift of the gab have been done to death, so let’s head to Scotland instead. The stereotype of the dour Scot may be in stark contrast to that of the happy-go-lucky Irish, but it’s a stereotype that’s far from always true.

You’ll almost certainly visit both Edinburgh and Glasgow, two fine cities with two very different personalities. Edinburgh is all sandstone and grandeur, avenues and hills, while Glasgow is gritty, exciting and artistic.

For a massive change of pace, head up the west coast and out to the islands. There are ferries from places like Oban to the islands of Mull and Islay, or onwards to the Hebrides. If you’re a fan of whisky, there are distillery tours, or you can simply head out to trek across the eerie, almost treeless expanses of the islands. Feeling even braver? From the very north, you can get a boat to Orkney or even out to the Shetland Islands, a windswept collection of rocks in the North Sea to meet the hardy but welcoming locals. You’ll have earned your dram or two of whisky by then!

The Pacific Northwest, US

Sign reading 'Keep Portland Weird!' — ShutterstockPortland is the hipster capital of the Northwest — Shutterstock

Three cities within easy reach of each other, at least by US distances. From south to north we have Portland, Oregon, a city that manages to be so self-consciously both twee and cool that it spawned a mildly surreal sketch show — Portlandia — that played on the city’s hipster reputation. It’s not unfounded either, but it’s no bad thing; it is a genuinely nice city, with a lot of locally-owned businesses, breweries, coffee shops, thrift stores and the like, and it is within reach of the bleak but beautiful coast to the west and the Mount Hood National Forest to the east.

 

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Head up the coast three hours (there are regular low-cost trains and buses taking you from door to door) and you’re in Seattle — home of technology, coffee, the Space Needle, bustling Pike’s Place Market (the location of the original Starbucks), and more of a big-city vibe than Portland. See the city from the water on one of the commuter ferries, learn about the culture of the region’s First peoples, or simply head to a park, record shop or bookshop (depending on the famously changeable weather of course!).

 

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Finally, after having made sure you’ve got the paperwork if you need it, skip over the border into Canada and Vancouver. A city of parks and forests, with a strong multicultural identity that manifests itself in everything from the arts to the city’s strong street food scene, it’s a lively place with a history of welcoming people from all corners of the world. If you’re traveling solo, it’s the perfect city in which to find yourself — in more ways than one.

Iceland

Northern lights in Iceland — ShutterstockIt’s coming up to the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland — Shutterstock

A bucket-list destination for a lot of people, Iceland is popular among solo travelers due to the very fact that it’s become such a popular destination. The rise of tourism has created companies and tour guides that specialize in grouping people together for a trek along one of the well-traveled routes, such as the Golden Circle or the Ring Road.

It’s a small country too, with most of the population living in the capital, Reykjavík. You’ll never be short of someone to chat to in one of the many bars or cafes in the city, and though it’s an expensive place, maybe someone will stand you a beer — you never know!

Finally, there are a lot of things that are — if not exclusive to, then certainly associated with — being in Iceland. Bathing in the hot springs, trekking across glaciers, heading out at two in the morning to see the Northern Lights; these are all things that become shared experiences because of their personal and unusual nature. Even traveling solo, you’ll share a lot.

Guatemala

Tikal Temple in Guatemala with tourist in the foreground — ShutterstockTikal Temple — Shutterstock

Guatemala is a great destination for solo travelers because it’s generally one of the most popular, particularly in this part of the world. One of the most accessible countries in Central America, it’s a small place of tight-knit local communities and friendly people.

It’s a poor country, there’s no getting away from that, but the locals are extraordinarily courteous and helpful to travelers. A bit of “survival Spanish” will go a long way, but even without this, you’ll still find people willing to show you around or point you toward the right bus.

It’s also the country with one of the richest cultural heritages in the region, the birthplace of the Mayan Empire, and the Maya people continue to live in the rainforests and highlands. In the depths of the jungles are the remnants of ancient cities including the magical Tikal, a collection of huge temples and thousands of other ruined buildings. The country is a delicate place — a wonderful mix of ancient culture and a young democracy still finding its way — and all the richer for it.

Slovenia

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Small, but perfectly formed, if we’re talking in cliche, Slovenia’s size, location and natural beauty has meant that it’s become a popular spot for travelers looking for somewhere cultured, friendly, rugged, but not too taxing.

The landscape is glorious, with national parks filled with crashing rivers and craggy mountains. There are lakes to swim in and caves and castles to explore, and the transport infrastructure is great, meaning you can hop on a regional bus to just about anywhere, and be there quickly and for very little money.

The capital, Ljubljana, is not big, but it’s a reflection of the rest of the country: small, amiable, walkable, relaxed. The locals, knowing that Slovenian is not widely spoken (and being bordered by two linguistic powers in German-speaking Austria to the north and Italy to the west) generally speak good English, and if your idea of a good time is walking, taking photos, wandering into interesting-looking places, and occasionally stopping for a drink or to read your book, Slovenia will be right up your street.

Singapore

Woman looking at Singaporean skyline at sunset — ShutterstockStatistically, Singapore is the safest country in Asia, especially for women — Shutterstock

If you’re looking for somewhere that ticks a lot of boxes in one compact go, Singapore might be it. Sure, it’s a super-modern city-state, built on commerce and trade, so maybe not the most personal place in the world, but it’s clean, safe, easy to get around, and more varied than you’d think.

If you like shopping, there are lots of malls and shopping streets featuring big designer names, but there are also little corners of multiculturalism like Little India and Chinatown (after all, it’s a city built on a rich heritage of mixing cultures). To relax, there are welcome swathes of green space — indeed, 47% of the city is greenery — and there’s a network of walking routes and cycle paths through the city that means you’ll rarely meet a car.

There are forests to explore outside the city as well, and you can join an early-morning nature trail or take anything from an hour to a day hiking the routes through the surrounding nature reserves and rainforest. There are well-marked trails ranging from 3km lopes to 15km loops involving treetop walkways.

East Africa

If you’ve always wanted to go on safari but were worried about the logistics of it all — finding lodging, getting a guide, crossing borders between countries like Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, all the time wondering if you’d missed some vital bit of paperwork or something — there are now companies that specialize in helping solo travelers experience the natural wonders of East Africa.

As the tourism infrastructure improves, you can now avoid any (sometimes apparently random) solo traveler charges by applying as an individual to join a group safari. The beauty of this is that the other people applying will almost certainly be people like you, so you won’t be the odd one out in a group of 60-year-olds from Windsock, Nebraska, or wherever.

It’s not just wildlife-watching either. You can opt for jungle trekking, choose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, or stay in groups of three or four with the Maasai people to learn about their way of life. For a truly amazing travel experience, maybe it’s best to meet other like-minded solo travelers on a trip none of you will ever forget.

Thailand

 

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The classic solo traveler destination for many years now, Thailand has the image of the place people go when they want to either divest themselves of all mortal care, or simply go absolutely nuts with partying. In truth, as with almost everything, the real answer lies somewhere between these two poles.

Bangkok, the city known for its nightlife (and it has that in spades of course) is also home to ornate temples and monasteries that give the solo traveler pause to reflect. It’s also a place where you can try some of the best food in Southeast Asia, with its famous street food stands covering parts of the city with a heady combination of spicy aromas.

Outside the cities, there are thousands of beaches to discover — so many, in fact, that you may even find one to yourself if you’re out in the countryside far enough — as well as mountain villages to visit and people to meet. Traveling solo also means you can rent a scooter to get around (be careful though!), or if you’re craving company, the long-distance buses will allow you to meet the locals and get a true impression of everyday Thai life.

Georgia

Tblisi Old Town — ShutterstockTbilisi, the Georgian capital, is somewhere quite special — Shutterstock

Still one of travel’s best-kept secrets, Georgia is a fascinating country. If you like city life, great food and cool places, this is for you. If you like spectacular landscapes and untouched scenery, this is also for you. If you like combining all of that together, get yourself to Georgia.

The capital, Tbilisi, has an Old Town full of quaint shops and cafes, and a mish-mash of architecture that reflects its complicated history including being ruled by Persia and the Soviet Union. Georgian cuisine is utterly delicious, with fresh vegetables, spicy sauces, grilled meat and hearty bread-and-cheese dishes to the fore. Wash that down with a glass or two of local wine and conversation with the locals will flow.

You can get out into the wilderness and backpack through the hills and mountains as well. It’s generally pretty safe, with small mountain villages dotted here and there, many providing basic but colorful places to stay. You’ll also be almost alone in visiting some wonderful historical sites, such as the 10th-century Udabno monastery, cut into the rocky hillside centuries ago. For a solo travel experience at the true crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia is the place to be.

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