Best destinations for female solo travellers
Researchers from San Francisco State University revealed what many of us suspected already: people gain more happiness from travelling than from acquiring new material possessions.
The researchers explain that the initial high we feel from acquiring a flashy car or new TV wears off rather quickly, but the experiences we have when we travel stay with us. They also inspire us to learn more, make connections with others, and continue to explore our world in meaningful ways. In fact, travelling helps us to learn more about ourselves and to unlock the curiosity that’s been buried under to-do lists and email inboxes.
So, plan that trip. It could be the best thing you do for your wellbeing.
Why travel solo?
Don’t let the lack of a travel companion prevent you from exploring the world. It can be both empowering and rewarding for women to travel solo, at least once in their life. When you’re on your own, you can go where you want to go and see what you want to see without having to compromise. If you’re itching to get away from it all, a solo trip might be just what you need: time to think, explore and relax on your own terms.
8 destinations for female solo travellers
Once you’ve decided a solo trip is in your future, it’s time to explore destination possibilities! Here are some awe-inspiring places to visit as a solo female traveller.
Beautiful weather, plenty of history, and vibrant music and dance culture make Cuba a favourite destination for solo travellers. Find solitude in the Cuban countryside and on the legendary beaches, and when you want to meet people and socialise, sign up for a salsa dance class. Don’t forget to take advantage of the free walking tours of Havana, which take place every morning and afternoon.
Wi-Fi in Cuba is not so easy to come by, so make the most of this by switching off your devices and fully immersing yourself in the people and culture. Locals are said to be open and enthusiastic towards foreigners so it’s a good opportunity to practice a bit of Spanish and make friends.
One thing to be aware of that is commonplace in Cuba is catcalling (‘piropo’), which is aimed at both Cuban women and female travellers; however, this is normal and usually non-threatening.
Insider tip: Travellers can face problems accessing money in Cuba. Credit cards, debit cards and travellers cheques are not widely accepted and the availability of ATMs to withdraw cash is limited. It’s best to take enough cash with you to last your entire trip. Find accommodation that includes a safe, so you can secure some of your cash rather than carrying all of it on you at one time.
2. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s lush landscapes and architectural wonders will give you plenty of food for thought during your solo trip. Bring your hiking shoes and plenty of storage space in your camera. This tiny island country offers a surprising array of experiences, from backpacking in the misty mountains to elephant watching in the national parks.
If it’s serenity and soul searching you’re after, Sri Lanka’s forests are home to some world class yoga retreats, such as Ulpotha, where you can seek sanctuary staying in a mud hut surrounded by rice paddy fields.
It’s wise for women to dress conservatively in Sri Lanka (think flowy pants, long skirts, kimonos, shawls and modest t-shirts), so as not to attract unwanted attention or cause offence to locals. It’s also likely that you’ll be required to cover up when visiting any of the many great temples dotted throughout the island, so layer up on your fabrics.
Insider tip: Don’t leave your drink unattended when you’re in restaurants and bars. Due to reports of drink spiking, it’s best to avoid accepting drinks from strangers or people you’ve recently met, no matter how friendly they seem.
Easily one of the world’s safest countries, Iceland is a popular destination for female solo travellers. Spend some time whale watching along the coast - eleven species of whales are regularly spotted year-round! Visit the ice caves at Vatnajökull Glacier, and if you visit between October and April, you may be able to see the legendary Northern Lights.
If you want to experience some of Iceland’s spectacular sites with like-minded travellers, hang around in Reykjavik, the northernmost capital of the world, for the first few days to make some friends. English is widely spoken so you can also chat to the locals for recommendations on what to do and see on your trip.
There are many tours you can join on your Icelandic adventure, whether you’re into hiking up glaciers or photographing otherworldly landscapes. Stop by the tourist information centre on your first day to plan out your itinerary.
Your trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon, where you can bath in milky blue geothermal pools, indulge in a luxury spa retreat, or experience an in-water massage, whilst surrounded by rocky volcanic landscapes.
Insider tip: The weather in Iceland can be fairly unpredictable, so ensure you know what to do in an emergency. Between sand, snow, and ash storms, travellers should carefully prepare for the weather. For example, pack your passport in a waterproof bag, and visit the Icelandic Meteorological Office for updated weather reports before heading out for the day.
Portugal was voted as the fourth most peaceful country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index, making it a perfect spot for female travellers. It’s also one of the more affordable countries in Europe, with an easy-to-use public transportation system. The sunny cobblestone streets are perfect for unwinding and rejuvenating.
If you stay in Lisbon, consider including a few day trips into your itinerary, especially to Sintra, where you can visit three major castles in one historic city.
If relaxing on a beach, book in hand, beneath the Mediterranean sun is more your thing, head to the stunning stretches of sand along the coast of the Algarve. Highlights include Praia da Marinha in Lagoa (often seen in lists of ‘Europe’s best beaches’) and Praia de Vale Figueira in Carrapateira (to escape the crowds).
Insider tip: Pay attention to the flag warnings on Portuguese beaches. Red flags indicate danger, so don’t enter the water. If yellow flags are flying, it’s safe to paddle at the water’s edge but unsafe for swimming. A green flag indicates that it’s safe to swim. Chequered flags send the message that the beach is not attended by lifeguards.
Known for its safe and respectful culture, Japan is an ideal destination for a solo female traveller. Both petty and violent crimes are incredibly rare; in fact, Japan is one of the safest countries on Earth. Choose Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto as your home base, and enjoy exploring. Indulge in fresh seafood and sushi, and know that it’s very common for Japanese women to eat alone in cafes and restaurants.
Although Japan is a developed country, it can be a shock to the senses for first timers, with most signage in Japanese and a culture far removed from our own, which can sometimes result in solo travellers feeling isolated. But a bit or research and forward planning can make it one of the most unforgettable and enriching experiences of your life.
There is something for almost everyone in Japan: plan a visit to an onsen, but look up the etiquette beforehand; visit the cherry blossoms in Tokyo in April; find out where to rent a kimono in Kyoto; explore the lavender fields of Hokkaido in summer; or discover the tropical beaches of Okinawa.
Insider tip: If you’re feeling lonely on your travels around Japan, make the effort to meet other female travellers by staying in a women-only hostel, taking a women-only train car, or signing up for a guided bicycle tour.
Still relatively unknown and free from tourists, Namibia is currently a safe and politically stable country with intriguing wildlife and spectacular desert views.
If you’re a female solo traveller with a taste for adventure, this is a destination made for you. With one of the oldest deserts in the world and a sparse population, this is the perfect place for travellers seeking solitude and contemplation.
Renting a car is a good way to see the raw landscapes of Namibia, but distances between towns can be vast so stock up on food and water, and know who to call if you break down on your road trip. If you would prefer to spend your solo travels meeting new people, sign yourself up for a safari or desert tour.
Insider tip: There have been reports of foreigners being robbed by taxi drivers, so it’s important to take extra precautions, particularly at night. Don’t get in an unmarked taxi or hail one from the street. Ask at your hotel or hostel reception for advice on a reputable taxi company - they may even be able to book one on your behalf.
7. Quebec, Canada
Fans of art galleries and historic architecture will find plenty to do in French-speaking Canada. The only fortified city in North America north of Mexico, Quebec feels safe and welcoming to solo female travellers.
Don’t forget to indulge in the local French Canadian food, especially the crepes, macarons and pastries. If you want to dine with other curious foodies, join the Old Quebec food tour where you’ll enjoy three hours of culinary delights!
If you’re more of a nature lover, outside of the city you’ll discover rugged coastlines, remarkable national parks and snowy woodland trails straight out of Narnia. Alternatively, enjoy the surroundings from the comfort of a spa, such as Siberia Spa, located in a forest surrounded by tranquil nature.
Insider tip: Take the ferry from Quebec City to Levis, on the other side of the Saint Lawrence River for spectacular views of the Quebec City skyline.
8. Tahiti, French Polynesia
If the goal of your solo trip is to completely relax and unwind, you won’t find a better destination than Tahiti. With endless spa’s and long stretches of white sands, it’s the perfect place to switch off and escape reality.
For a truly relaxing solo holiday, consider booking a room on an island cruise. On a Tahitian cruise, you can explore the islands without having to manage the details of your own travel, accommodation and meals. Snorkel and swim in crystal clear waters by day, and dine under the stars by night.
Feeling adventurous? Hop on a short flight to one of the many surrounding islands, such as Fakarava, with its untouched landscapes and crystal clear lagoons. Or book a once-in-a-lifetime scuba diving trip in Tahiti, where you’ll get to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles.
Insider tip: Take your solo travel to the next level by using your time in Tahiti for a digital detox. You probably won’t have great access to data or Wi-Fi anyway, so it’s the perfect chance to leave the world behind.
Tips on how to travel solo safely
- Leave your itinerary with someone at home - It’s important that your friends and family back home can reach you in case of an emergency.
- Avoid carrying valuables - Not only will you have fewer things to worry about, but you’ll also be safer if you leave your valuables, such as flashy jewellery or expensive bags, at home.
- Always be aware of your surroundings - This is an important rule for travelling under any circumstances, but it’s especially important when you’re travelling solo. Avoid wearing headphones when out in public or in the evening, so you can always be alert.
- Avoid walking alone after dark - Take a marked taxi if you find yourself out late at night. When you arrive, ask your accommodation provider for recommendations on a safe taxi service or research this ahead of your trip.
- Order an appropriate SIM card before you arrive - Being able to use your phone as soon as you touch down at your destination means you can get directions, make phone calls, let family and friends know you’ve arrived safely, etc.
- Order your currency in advance - If possible, order some local currency before you travel so you can shop around for the best deal. Picking up currency at the airport or at your destination can sometimes be expensive.
- Obtain travel insurance - Put your worries to rest by obtaining travel insurance for your trip. When the unexpected happens overseas, travel insurance can help you with things like medical emergencies, travel delays, and theft and loss of personal items.
Create lifelong memories and stimulate your curiosity by taking that solo trip you’ve always dreamed of.
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