Empowering, exciting, challenging: Few things are more rewarding than solo travel—and research shows it’s on the rise, especially with women. Sure, you might have to ask a complete stranger to take that photo of you walking across Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing or standing outside of Barcelona’s Sagrada Família, but it’s a small price to pay for the freedom to plan a trip exactly how you want it, when you want it. That said, traveling alone isn’t always easy (even if you’re a Traveler editor) and choosing the right destination can be equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming. Luckily, British tour company Ampersand crunched the numbers to figure out best places for women to travel alone, rating countries by their safety and women’s rights records, along with common interests like scenery, adventure, food, and, well, Instagram hashtags (it is 2018, after all). Here, the 15 best places for solo female travelers. Counting down…
Sure, Mexico is just over the border, but it has enough diversity in culture, landscape, and even seasons to suit all types of solo travelers—from adventurous types itching to get off the grid to those who just want to lie on a beach for a week. The vibrant colors and fantastic food also make it a prime destination for Instagrammers, who have hashtagged the country no fewer than 45,751,910 times. “You’ve got the Caribbean coast, where you’ll find laid-back beach getaways like Tulum and Isla Holbox; for outdoorsy types, it’s all about the mountainous coffee-growing region of Chiapas; and, for others, it’s Mexico City, where you can get a taste of the best cuisines from around the country, with a side of Frida Kahlo (her home and studio are there),” says community editor Megan Spurrell. “And because it’s such a popular destination, it’s easy to meet other travelers as well.”
14. New Zealand
New Zealand is the capital of the adventure travel world, so it’s no wonder that the country ranks as one of the best destinations for thrill-seeking solo travelers. Want to hike a volcano? Head to White Island. Crazy enough to bungee jump and ride in a jet boat in the same afternoon? You can make it happen on the South Island. The country also has a great track record when it comes to women’s rights, electing their third female prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, just last year.
Thailand came in top overall for adventure and scenery, thanks to its floating markets, unrivaled beaches, and Khao Sok and Khao Yai National Parks. Plus, the entire country is primed for young travelers setting out on their first big trips. “You can work your way through the best street food of your life in Bangkok for just a $1 a plate, or rent a motorbike for the equivalent of $10/day in Sa Pa and get your adrenaline pumping as you zip around rice paddies (just please, please wear a helmet),” writes Spurrell. “I felt incredibly safe…and there is such a well-established backpacking trail you’re never really alone.”
With a highly efficient rail network to take advantage of, you can move between central cities—and most places in between—on your own with ease. (So much so, you could have breakfast in Munich and dinner in Berlin in the same day.) “There are also plenty of year-round activities to keep you busy and give you an opportunity to meet new people, should you want to: think outdoor music festivals in summer, or those famed Christmas markets during the colder months,” says Senior Editor Katherine LaGrave. “Also very important? Germany is incredibly safe, and should you have fallen behind on your Rosetta Stone lessons, fear not: Most Germans, no matter where you are, will speak or understand basic English. (Last year, a popular German politician even complained that too many people speak English in the country.)”
Switzerland secured 11th place on the list thanks to its rich scenery and year-round sense of adventure—skiing, hiking, rock climbing—as well being an incredibly safe option for women wanting to explore the country alone. Still not sold? The wine rivals that of France and Italy, according to Traveler‘s Mark Ellwood.
Our readers voted the island of Siargao—a longtime favorite with surfers—as one of the best in the world, but solo travelers are heading there for the volunteer opportunities and friendly locals, too. “The banana pancake trail through mainland Southeast Asia is well trod (that’s the backpacker route through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos), but the Philippines remains a little less discovered—possibly because its whopping 7,641 islands would take more than one lifetime to explore,” says Spurrell. “One thing they all promise, though, is rich, Spanish-influenced cuisine unlike that of its neighbors (brace yourself for plenty of pig grilled on a spit, known as lechon),;welcoming, often-fluent-in-English locals; and landscapes that vary from lush, terraced rice fields in Ifugao, to the screensaver-worthy beaches of Palawan. The country’s official tagline is ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines,’ and, well, it really is.”
If you feel like Portugal has been all over your Instagram of late, you’re not wrong: The country has been hashtagged a whopping 23,837,080 times. The whole place scores points with solo travelers for its scenery (those tiles! those beaches!) but is also a draw for its good track record with women’s rights and culture. Feel adventurous? Elise Linscott recommends pairing a weekend in Lisbon with a road trip through the Algarve region: With more than 150 beaches, she writes, “You’ll pass dramatic cliffs, turquoise waters, small (cash-only) tile shops, and surf-themed cafes as you hop between a string of sleepy fishing villages.”
Canada attracts solo travelers for its safety, solid women’s rights record, and diverse range of scenery—the magical Great Bear Rainforest, the Arctic Baffin Island, and the Galápagos-like Haida Gwaii—but it’s also the perfect way to dip your toe into international solo travel without straying too far from your support system. “When you visit Canada, it’s kind of like you’re going to Europe or Asia without leaving the continent,” writes Spurrell. “Montreal lives “la belle vie” in French and English, with Francophonic sidewalk cafés, boho enclaves, Gothic architecture, and decadent cheesy dishes (bonjour, poutine). Vancouver has a Hong Kong-esque skyline and some of the best Chinese (and Vietnamese, and Malay…) food in the region.”
Aussie’s are notorious for their good cheer, and it’s virtually impossible not to get to know a few locals while you’re hopping between cities and coastlines. “If there was ever a place to quickly and easily make friends, it’s Australia—it might be over a pint, or on a snorkeling trip around the Whitsunday Islands you joined on your own (you should totally do that). There’s no pretense: Just a lot of friendly folk who are also in hot pursuit of a great drink, meal, or a bit of adventure,” says deputy digital director Laura Redman.
Remember when Julia Roberts gorges on that big plate of spaghetti all by herself in Eat, Pray, Love? Well, that could be you. Not that anyone will let you dine alone for long, of course. “It’s a culture so firmly based on welcoming and hospitality that it’s practically impossible to go about your day without exchanging at least a few pleasantries with complete strangers,” says photographer Linda Pugliese. “The only thing I don’t always love about traveling alone is eating alone—and ironically, Italy is a place where people often can’t stand to watch you dine solo.”
One of the best ways to travel solo may be counterintuitive, but you should join a tour or volunteer group: It gives you the independence of a solo traveler, but with the safety of numbers, too. And according to Ampersand, Indonesia has no shortage of volunteer opportunities to sign up for (plus some seriously ‘Grammable beaches, mountains, rice paddies…). Not only that, but the people are friendly and top destinations like Bali are perfectly safe to explore on your own—after all, the country has long been a must for intrepid travelers in search of self-discovery and some great surf.
4. United States of America
Whether it’s the intoxicating buzz of New York City, the quiet trails around the Rocky Mountains, or the thrill of the open road, the U.S. pretty much has a way for every type of solo traveler to feel free. But what it really does well is adventure travel (c’mon, we’ve all seen Wild). After all, there are 59 national parks to explore and some 193,500 miles of trail to walk. Have zero desire to pull on a pair of hiking boots? For associate editor Meredith Carey, there’s no better place to go it alone than New Orleans. “NOLA residents love their city so deeply that they would never steer a visitor wrong, so spend your day playing travel telephone—going from place to place, asking the shopkeep, the waiter, and even the random passersby on the street where you should hit up next,” she says. “Even if you’re just sidling up to one of the city’s chaotic bars, odds are you’ll eventually have plans laid out with the bartender or your neighbors for the rest of the night.”
Given that Madrid was the first city to officially ban manspreading on public transport, it’s no surprise that solo female travelers rate Spain highly for its women’s rights. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to visit the country: a thousand miles of Mediterranean coastline, endless servings of paella, fabulous architecture, and, well, the entire city of Barcelona. Just don’t show up for dinner before 9 p.m.—even if it is just you.
France owes its second place on the list to its high score for women’s rights: As of writing, the country has successfully closed 80 percent of its gender gap according to Ampersand, and last August the country outlawed catcalling and street harassment (perpetrators will now be met with on-the-spot fines of up to €750 ($870)). Plus, who hasn’t daydreamed about living in France for a few months? “When you’re traveling solo, the French sensibility—specifically, the tendency to observe others without reproach—makes you feel much less self-conscious,” says associate editor Betsy Blumenthal, who spent six months living in Paris. “After all, even the cafes are set up like bleacher seating on the streets, so it’s a generally accepted practice to people watch as much as you want.”
Whether you’re looking for hiking trails, UNESCO sites, or the best meal you’ll ever eat, Japan ticks all the boxes (and then some), and so it’s not surprise it secured the top spot for solo female travelers. Sure, the language barrier might feel a little daunting when you first step off that plane, but the country’s expansive (and extremely efficient) public transportation system is easy to navigate, and the low crime rate leaves you at feeling at ease to explore as much as you want. “I love Japan for solo travel, if only because there’s so much to see, taste, and do,” says LaGrave. “Who needs another person when you’ve got miles of manga to get through, and ramen counters that practically beg you to eat alone?”