Solo travel can be the most liberating, exciting and daunting experience of anyone’s life adventures. So selecting the right destination(s) can make or break a trip when it comes to the wonderful world backpacking.
Whether you’re looking for culture, fun, nightlife, beaches, wilderness, city lights or a bit of everything, finding the most accommodating countries across the globe will be key to any plans, but what are the best countries in the world for travelling alone?
Well, we’ve lined up 10 of what we think are the best countries in the world for ‘going solo’ when it comes to travel. Based on safety, sights, ease of travel, culture and of course friendliness, we’ve mocked up a quick bucket list of the host spots best suited to the life a single wanderer.
So without further ado, let go solo…
- New Zealand
- Costa Rica
- Western Balkans
- The Philippines
No surprise here, the Mecca for adrenaline junkies and scenic wanderers. New Zealand is the solo traveller’s paradise and one of safest countries in the world. With enough to do to tide anyone over for months New Zealand lends itself to the traveller like no other country. Cheaper than neighbouring Australia, NZ has pretty much everything you could want to this side of the hemisphere. Travellers can trek on glaciers and through rainforests, scale mountains, bungee of just about anything tall enough, boat, ski, skydive, kayak hike and all the rest.
If you need help getting around New Zealand operators like KiwiTours and MagicTravellers offer to hop on/off bus tours of the two islands.
New Zealand is also blessed with some of the friendliest and most open-minded people in the world, so if you do get lonely a friendly Kiwi is likely just around the corner.
Across the Tasman Sea is New Zealand’s bigger brother Australia. With as many adventure sports as New Zealand Australia also boasts about 30x more space and far warmer climate. Blessed with sun, sand and surf Australia is a wanderer’s utopia.
Although a vast country, cities in Australia are easy to navigate, feature-packed and traveller safe. As an English-speaking country, you won’t be faced with any language barriers and the Aussies know how to relax.
It’s not all BBQ and Beach, Australia holds some of the world’s most staggering natural sights, like Uluru, Shark Bay and The Great Barrier Reef.
Any country that ranks number 1 on the happy planet index must have something good going for it and Costa Rica doesn’t disappoint.
If you love wildlife, happy people and delicious coffee, this Central American beauty is for you.
Costa Rica, unlike a few of its more ‘rowdy’ neighbours, is one of the safest countries in Central America, and with the steady influx of travellers for the last 40 years, the country has developed a very healthy tourism scene. Don’t worry about everything being spoiled. A quick 4×4 ride north and you’ll be knee deep in greenery, parrots and the lush Cloudforest.
San Jose is the entry point, but the capital city is not really much more than a hub. Get yourself out to the Cloudforests, Volcanoes and lakes in the north, coffee and farmland in the centre or an option of the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean east or west. Alternatively, if you fly into Liberia (CRs second airport) companies offer tours into neighbouring Nicaragua and a route onto the Pan-American Highway
Europe might not be the bucket list destination for solo travellers bucket list but some of its countries are perfect for travelling alone. With an easy plane, rail and bus access, the European continent is rife for exploring opportunities.
We’ve picked out Spain here because it ticks off so many boxes on the list and frankly, we love it.
From big bouncing cities like Madrid and Barcelona, coastal metropolis like Valencia to old time meandering towns like Granada and Cordoba, Spain has so much to see.
Excellent Mediterranean weather conditional and a pace of life cranked way down to ‘relaxed’, Spain is a wonderful holiday destination. Travellers may want to steer clear of the traditional package holiday resorts on the Costa Brava/Blanca, but there is plenty more to see outside the ‘all-inclusive bubble’.
High-speed rail links the major cities meaning you could travel from north to south in under 4 hours, but for cheaper, and only slightly slower transport, rail and buses wind around the rest of the country.
Spain’s cuisine is also worth the trip alone. Traditionally farm based in the north and seafood in the south and coastal, the home of tapas, paella and sangria call out to any foodie. Hit up places like Seville or Granada for real tapas culture, the south and east coast for fresh fish or the northern cities like San Sebastian or Bilbao for stews, fine chorizo and the lesser known Pintxos (tapas but not tapas) lifestyle.
Ok, I’m going to cheat here, the Balkans are a group of countries but I struggled to pick the best out of a great bunch, so you get a taste of them all here.
Made up of Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro (also Albania), travel between these former Yugoslavian states is pretty simple by bus and rail. With enough to keep anyone occupied for at least 2 months, these small European countries are worth at least a little of anyone’s time and their close proximity lends themselves to solo travel.
If you’re looking for the beach, Croatia has 1800km of pristine Dalmatian coastline with islands like Hvar and Brac dotted down its length. For nightlife, Serbia’s capital Belgrade is bouncing and the second city Novi Sad is home to the famous Exit Festival. For spectacular valley views, incredibly friendly hosts and a fascinating mixed culture Bosnia & Herzegovina has you sorted. Or fancy a mixture of nature and the beach? well, Montenegro (literally ‘Black Mountain’) has them both, check out Kotor and Budva.
Spread your wings a little further and head south to Macedonia for the lively, but laid back town of Ohrid (Lake Ohrid) or check out Europe’s newest country Kosovo. For the very intrepid traveller, Albania is raw and relatively untouched by western developers but has been a tourist hotspot for Eastern European for years, the beaches around Sarande, are still unexplored gems.
Not to mention above all, the Balkans is pretty good value for money and will be easier on the wallet than the rest of Mediterranean Europe, with a similar climate.
For our far eastern leg of this one-man (or woman) trip, we’re going to pass over to Jack Oldham from RamblingNortherner who is going to take us through his favourite locations for solo travel.
It’s a bit of a clichéd one, but as a first-time solo backpacker, I can think of few places to start better than Thailand. Upon arriving at your first hostel you’ll be greeted by many like-minded people, all wanting to have a good time. Like it or not, there will probably be very little doubt about the fact you’ll end up on Khao San Road in a few hours too!
If you don’t mind the over-commercialisation of a lot of the backpacker hotspots (don’t be a snob – take it for what it is!), then Thailand is the perfect introduction into solo backpacking life.
Bangkok is the hub of Thailand but the country is split roughly into four regions North (Hills and nature) central (Lowlands, old Thailand and the big city), South (rainforests and beaches) and Issan (rural, natural, fewer tourists).
Although not quite as popular as Thailand, The Philippines are slowly making their way on to many backpackers’ itineraries. It’s not difficult to see why, either.
Pure, white sand; crystal-clear water; stunning mountains; world heritage accredited rice terraces; these are just a few of the special things about The Philippines and – trust me – I could go on. What makes The Philippines so good for solo travel, however, is the fact that you have the option to be as sociable as you wish.
In the popular backpacking areas of Thailand, there is very little opportunity for peace and quiet. The Philippines has the best of both worlds. Want to go out and meet new people? No problem – there are plenty of backpacker hostels for that! Fancy a few days downtime, strolling along the beach and exploring a quiet island? Sure, accommodation is cheap enough to get yourself a nice little private beach hut for a few nights of R&R. If this sounds like your thing, my personal recommendation would be the rather mysterious island of Siquijor: The Philippines’ home of witchcraft and healing!
N.B. I do not work for The Philippines tourist board.
A slightly off-the-wall suggestion here, but if you fancy something completely different then Mongolia may be up your street. Spend a day or two (maximum) in the capital Ulaanbaatar before making your way into the desert for a truly unique experience.
Many hostels in the capital offer tours into central Mongolia, which means as a solo traveller you don’t need to worry about getting on the wrong bus to the middle of nowhere (although isn’t that sometimes part of the fun?). Often on these tours you will be driven for a few hours every day to a host family, where you will spend the night living in their yurt, helping out with the day to day jobs and experiencing a truly nomadic lifestyle. If five days without the internet, a mutton-heavy diet and a once in a lifetime experience sound like something you’d be interested in, then Mongolia comes highly recommended.
Back to the home stretch, and we’re going to stay in Asia for a tiny bit longer.
The only landlocked country in South East Asia and one of the last somewhat untouched nations in Asia. If Thailand is too touristy but you still like the look of South East Asia, take a wander across the border into Laos.
Laos is the laid back forgotten sibling in the region, squeezed in between bigger, brasher and better know neighbours giving Laos that air of quaint little brother. It’s beautiful northern territories are strewn with hill tribe villages, mountains and staggering trekking. The central belt is home to a rather sleepy (by Asian Standards) capital, Vientiane, and the south flows into lowlands dominated by the Mekong River.
Solo travel here is easy; there is so much to see, friendly people to meet, a leisurely pace, untouched Asian culture and a tremendously low cost of living.
Desert, mountains, beaches and fields all crammed into one rather slender strip of land. That’s right, the land of contrast, it’s Chile!
Want to cover almost all of nature’s extremes, Chile is your guy. Northern Chile houses driest desert in the world, archaeological ruins and the Andean highlands, the south is ice cold for half the year with lakes and rivers connecting the landscape. In the middle, you’ve got beaches, vineyards, mountains and lively set of cities. What more can you need?
Solo travel, South America, are you crazy? Well, yes, but no, it’s not that bad. The whole region, although admittedly higher in crime than other places in the word, has been tarred with this ‘dangerous’ tag. Take your normal precautions and you’ll be rewarded by some of the most interesting culture and scenery on the planet.