There’s something empowering about traveling solo: the malleability of each day, the new friends, the unexpected hindrances, and with them, the sense of confidence we develop when we’re on our own. Since traveling alone as a woman brings with it its own distinct concerns, we tapped our ever-traveling staff, as well as a few trusted female contributors, to share their own solo travel insights—and with them, a bit of encouragement. Below, they tell us about their favorite solo destinations, and in doing so, affirm the value of going it alone. As Traveler contributor Jordi Lippe-McGraw says of the experience, “It’s just you, on an adventure with the destination.” Let the adventures begin.
In my opinion, for a place to be ideal for solo travelers, it has to have a few things: friendly people, great public transportation, lots to see and do, and a certain level of safety, especially on public transportation and in public spaces. Malta has all these qualities, in spades.
I was traveling in Italy when I decided that hopping over to this island country, just south of Sicily, would be a fun idea. Knowing nothing more than what I read off its WikiTravel page, I arrived in Malta with an open mind and no expectations, and was totally blindsided by the mosaic of cultures, the incredible scenery of both hilltop towns and cerulean seas, the depth of tangible history, and the good eats (mmm, pastizzi!). Plus, it ticked off everything on my checklist: the bus network is extensive, the beaches are incredible, and the scuba diving is first-rate. Although I’ve visited nearly 100 countries, only a handful have beguiled me into considering relocation, and Malta is one of them. —Cynthia Drescher, Contributor
New York City
As millions have before me, I not only traveled but moved to New York solo—I didn’t know another soul in the city when I boarded my flight from London. But there’s a reason so many have chosen to brave the same destination alone over the centuries. No one stands out in New York. Unlike a honeymooner-heavy retreat in the Maldives or so many other quieter places in the world that can leave solo travelers feeling self-conscious and lonely, no one will pay you the blindest bit of notice amid the city’s nearly nine million-strong population. Equally, if you want to connect with other like-minded humans, no city has more happening at once, everywhere, all the time.
If you’re going it alone, I’d recommend staying at the Ace Hotel in NoMad or the Hoxton Williamsburg in Brooklyn, both of which are awash with individuals on laptops or laid-back groups ripe for people watching, and each offer cool single or small rooms. In terms of activities, hit the streets and wander wherever your selfish will takes you in this incredibly pedestrian-friendly place, or book onto some group classes or tours—try Vayable.com or EatWith.com for peer-to-peer experiences led by locals. And, obviously, keep an eye on cntraveler.com for what to do in the city this month. No doubt, as with myself and most frequent visitors, you’ll soon feel like you’ve built up a strong one-on-one relationship with the city itself. —Becky Lucas, Digital Editor
As a new parent, traveling solo sounds indulgent to me right now—any alone time is a commodity. But if I had any, I would go to Iceland and do a crazy hike with Hidden Iceland, and then check into the new Retreat at the Blue Lagoon hotel for a spa session; I like the idea of being on a tour for part of it, in case I get bored of my own company. —Laura Dannen Redman, Deputy Digital Director
I’ve been dying to get back to Bermuda ever since running a half-marathon there a few years back (the island hosts an annual race weekend every January). It’s such an easy trip if you live on the East Coast, like me—you can be there in under two hours—but it feels like such a break when you touch down amid are-they-really-that-blue waters. If you stay downtown at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, everything’s walkable, too, though I’d suggest spending a few hours in St. George’s, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the island’s north side, and taking the public ferry to Royal Dockyard (I picked up some of my favorite coffee mugs at a small pottery shop called Jon Faulkner Gallery there). If you travel during race weekend, you’ll undoubtedly bump into other runners, but regardless, Bermudians are some of the nicest people I’ve come across in my travels. —Cassie Shortsleeve, Contributor
There’s a lot about solo travel that can be overwhelming; you’re responsible for every decision, and you have to be hyper-aware of your own safety. But while traveling with friends can be twice as relaxing, it can also be half as rewarding; often, you end up gravitating towards fellow travelers, rather than locals. When you’re alone, it’s more likely that locals will gravitate towards you—in a good way.
In Bali, Hinduism and Buddhism are central to the culture of the island, and both generate a strong sense of community; so it’s no coincidence the people are warm, welcoming, and open-hearted. This became most apparent one afternoon when, visibly lost and a little flustered in Ubud, a grinning lady no taller than my armpit gestured to a shady spot on the floor next to her, and spent the next hour teaching me (without a word of English) how to make canang sari, the woven baskets filled with flowers that locals leave on their doorsteps as offerings for the gods every morning. It might not have been quite what I’d imagined when I’d pictured making new friends on my trip—but it immersed me in an essential ritual that Balinese Hindus practice daily, and I made a connection I might not have otherwise. —Anna Prendergast, Digital Editorial Assistant, Traveller U.K.
Traveling solo is something everyone should do at least once. It doesn’t have to be a multi-week backpacking tour through Europe or a cross-country road trip—even a weekend getaway will do. Even a few days alone will change the way you think, and perceive the world. You’re problem-solving in a new way that boosts confidence (I once used a cow as a landmark to navigate to my hotel when I got lost driving in a rain storm in the Dominican Republic, for example). But, most importantly, you’re more in the moment. There’s no boss, colleague, friend, or partner vying for your attention. It’s just you, on an adventure with the destination. And I don’t get that feeling more than when I’m in Paris. Even if it’s a city for lovers, I relish in the fact that I can take myself on a date there. I’ve walked along the Seine under the amorous glow of the street lamps; enjoyed a steak-frîtes dinner for un; wandered the grounds and galleries of quieter museums like Musée de Montmartre; and indulged in a cream puff (or two) at Odette. It’s a welcome assault on the senses that I can only ever truly experience alone. —Jordi Lippe-McGaw, Contributor
My favorite place to travel solo is Miami—to me, it’s the perfect last-minute weekend trip where I can get away from it all, with good weather most of the year, regular flight deals, and a short travel time to boot (it’s about a three-hour flight from most of the East Coast and Midwest). I also often find really good hotel deals there.
I’m partial to staying in South Beach, where I know I can get access to the beach, and the bike and running path that runs alongside it. That area has plenty of restaurants and bars to keep you entertained, but generally I just want to come to Miami to chill and hit the reset button. Between reading on the beach, I’ll fit in a museum visit (the Perez Art Museum isn’t far from SoBe), some shopping, and a visit to Wynwood, which always has cool stuff happening (next time I go I’m fitting in a visit to The Sacred Space, which encompasses a plant-focused restaurant, wellness classes and workshops, and a health shop). It’s such a friendly city that I never feel strange or like I stand out for being there alone, but at the same time, the weekend always goes by quickly because there’s so much to do—I hardly notice I’ve spent a few much-needed days on my own. —Corina Quinn, Senior Editor, City Guides
The year 2018 was a bit suffocating for me, and I found myself looking to escape, far away from the congested streets of Manhattan. I needed slower; I needed quieter; I needed to be alone. And that’s how I ended up in North Dakota in January. It was the perfect place to reset: The people were kind, the air was clean, and the landscape was breathtaking at every turn. After passing a bison roaming along an empty road, I threw my car in reverse and spent some time connecting with the land, myself, and this stunning animal. A little while later, I ended up at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where I came across two gates: One said ‘Closed,’ and the other, ‘Push to open’—you can guess which one I picked. The views, the colors, nature: it was all beyond words, and there wasn’t a person in sight. I left North Dakota feeling fulfilled and re-centered, and with an invitation to come back and learn how to fly fish, from a local I met at breakfast one morning. I’ll let you know how that goes. —Meg Reinhardt, Photo Editor
Traveling alone is empowering and freeing, leaving you wide open to new experiences and connections—there’s nothing quite like it. The childlike wonder of roaming around an unknown place entirely on your own is invigorating. My favorite place to travel alone is Italy: 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. 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. Povera, they always say, meaning “poor thing,” eating all by herself. But in the end, it’s their unflinching hospitality that rescues me from such a fate, as I’m constantly invited to dine with groups of strangers and families—it’s my favorite part. —Linda Pugliese, Contributing Photographer
I love Japan for solo travel, if only because there’s so much to see, taste, and do: who needs another person when you’ve got miles of manga to get through, and ramen counters that practically beg you to eat alone? The country’s expansive public transportation network also makes it easy to get around without much coordination, and the crime rate is extremely low. You’ll be pushed out of your (cultural) comfort zone, to be sure, but isn’t that the point of travel? —Katherine LaGrave, Senior Digital Editor
For me, Edinburgh has it all as a solo travel destination—great cafés, restaurants, and bars, a thriving arts and theater scene, friendly people, and bags of character. It’s small enough to explore on foot (and you should—it’s one of the best-looking cities in the world) but there’s so much to see that you’ll never be at a loss for things to do. This is a city that manages to hum with life without ever feeling frenetic or overwhelming. But if you do fancy a break from the metropolitan rush, the green, open spaces of Holyrood Park are right by the city center. An hour’s hike up to Arthur’s Seat leads to 360-degree views of the city and, if that’s not reward enough, stopping for coffee and the city’s best bagels at Filament Coffee on your way back into town should be. —Olivia Holborow, Engagement Manager, Traveller U.K.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Though I’ve not always traveled solo by choice, it’s something I’ve grown quite fond of. I learned quickly, and at an early age, that you can’t always rely on others to join you—and I wasn’t going to let that stop me from seeing the world. I first started traveling alone when I was 18, when I moved to St. John, in the USVI, to work at a fine dining restaurant. Being in hospitality taught me valuable tools, like how to talk to anyone, and after having a few trips with friends go sour in my twenties, I realized that it’s often just easier to do it alone: your true colors and vulnerabilities come to light while traveling, and nothing ruins a beautiful experience more quickly than not having a travel partner who’s on the same page. Plus, having freedom to do as you please is quite a gift. —Nicole Franzen, Contributing Photographer
Big cities are easy to sidle into on your own, because you’re never really alone; small towns always feel a touch more daunting to the solo traveler (to this one, at least). I used to avoid them, fearing boredom—could I really keep myself entertained full-time?—but a solo trip through the Andes completely changed my perspective. Each small town I passed through (a string of pueblos in northern Argentina, in particular) made me fall in love with being completely on my own. The quiet, dusty streets felt conquerable. People noticed me, and were eager to offer help, and the time spent alone heightened every one of my senses. Without thinking about anyone else, without having to talk to anyone else, I selfishly soaked up every ounce of my surroundings, and tuned into the subtleties of each town in a way I never would have been able to otherwise. Since then, I’ve relished solo travel to smaller towns—I’ll save my travel buddies for heftier destinations. —Megan Spurrell, Community Editor
Planning a trip can seem really daunting when you’re by yourself—too many choices, and no one to help you whittle it down. But in New Orleans, you can count on the locals to practically plan the whole thing for you. 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. 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. It comes down to the city being surprisingly small—the population is just under 400,000—and friendly, making it the perfect destination for a solo traveler. —Meredith Carey, Associate Digital Editor