Solo Travel: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Alone
At Under30Experiences 75% of our travelers travel solo, so we know a thing or two about the concerns of solo travelers. By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to travel alone and be sufficiently prepared to satisfy your wanderlust, without having to wait for your friends to stop being so darn busy!
We hope this post gives you the travel bug and endless ideas for traveling solo...
How to Save Money When Traveling
Let’s quickly talk about how you can make your travel budget go further, so you can spend more time traveling. Spend your money too quickly and you’ll find yourself broke, and then you won’t be able to book another trip. Everyone wants to save money on travel. Savvy travelers know that when they get home, they’ll be itching to book their next adventure so they have something to look forward to. It’d be nice to have money left over, so when the travel bug bites, or that great travel deal pops up, you’ll be able to book!
Making your travel budget go further
Sure, we all love to splurge and treat ourselves to a nice “vacation” once in a while, but solo travel is a lifestyle, so we can’t spend all our money in one place. Many of our community members at Under30Experiences enjoy taking three or four short trips per year, while others like to take advantage of more advanced techniques, negotiate remote work, take off as digital nomads, and/or travel for a month or two in between leases back home. I recently sold my home in Austin, Texas and took a month-long road trip across the United States to take advantage of some time when I wasn’t paying housing costs. While budgets aren’t sexy, knowing how much you want to spend is important.
If you can, look to spend more time in a place and find longer-term accommodations, which will be less expensive than renting hotel rooms per night. By staying longer, you'll also really get to know a place. Use the “boots on the ground” method if traveling in the developing world and walk around looking for “for rent” signs. Hostels will often negotiate with you if you stay for 2+ weeks. Airbnb and VRBO also offer lower rates for month-long stays. Don’t be afraid to haggle!
When to Solo Travel and How to Spend Less
Traveling off-season is always going to give you the best deals on solo travel. Right now I’m writing in a beach house on the Atlantic Ocean, taking advantage of off-season prices. I found a private cottage rental website by searching “vacation rentals” and the name of the town I was interested in. Traveling in “shoulder season” or “off-peak” allowed me to rent a house for a month for the same price they charge for just a week during the summer.
Traveling anywhere in the off-season helps you avoid the crowds as long as you don’t mind if the weather is less than ideal. Do your research and if you don’t care about a little rain or cooler temperatures, you might just have the place to yourself, which is especially helpful if you want to take photos with no tourists in them. Look for off-season solo travel deals!
If you are traveling alone, you’ll also want to consider how easy it will be to meet people, if that's what you are looking to do. To avoid arriving somewhere only to find it a ghost town, I’d suggest “shoulder season”, or the time right before or after peak season. In the United States, you might think of the month of June or after Labor Day for summer destinations. Other examples would be early December and April for winter destinations in North America. Places like Costa Rica and Mexico can be fantastic in late November and early April after the Easter holiday.
This term was popularized by lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss in The Four Hour Work Week who encouraged readers to make their money in a developed country with a strong currency and then explore a place with a cheaper cost of living/traveling. Some of my favorite inexpensive places to travel to are Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, Mexico, Central Europe, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, & Cambodia. Some of these places may be more expensive to get to, but once you arrive things on the ground will be cheap. Later on, we’ll address how to save money on flights.
Calculate Cost Per Day of your Trip
In this guide, we’ll discuss transportation and accommodation options, and how to save money, but for now, it’s important to understand that you want to be mindful of your cost per day to travel. A week-long trip to Iceland might have a high cost per day versus a three-week trip to Thailand. Both might have cost a few thousand dollars, but by traveling to Thailand your cost per day is much cheaper, thus allowing you to travel longer.
At first glance, your flight to Thailand might be $1200 while your flight to Iceland is only $800, but when you calculate the cost per day you’ll see that flight to Thailand spread out over three weeks is actually a much better deal.
To calculate the cost per day of your trip simply add up your estimated expenses for your trip and divide it by the number of days. This will be helpful in deciding where to go. Hint: it’ll be a good idea to know how many vacation days you might want to take!
A good solo traveler knows they are solely responsible for their finances… remember, you are traveling without your parents, significant other, or business-minded friend!
In my book, The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life, I have many strategies on how to make money and save money for travel if you want to dive into this topic further. There I share strategies on becoming a digital nomad, freelancer, negotiating remote work, and joining the location independence movement.
Solo Female Travel Tips
Are you a woman interested in solo travel? Have specific concerns that relate to solo travel for females? This section will answer the question “why solo travel” and put any woman's mind at ease to show you that you can travel alone, stay safe, and have a blast doing it!
Why all women should experience traveling alone
While I write to you as a man, over seventy percent of our travelers at Under30Experiences are solo female travelers, and I’ve written a best-selling book on solo travel. Traveling alone as a female is empowering. Having the courage to step outside your comfort zone, face your fears, and challenge yourself can help you learn more about yourself and the world. However, it is common for some women to feel nervous or intimidated about traveling solo.
A recent travel industry study found that 86 percent of women state that they are not afraid to travel, regardless of what is going on in the world today. 73 percent of women feel that travel has made them stronger, and 69 percent of women draw inspiration from travel. There are tons of other female solo travel stats that will convince you that if you are staying home, you are simply missing out!
Challenges and fears of female travelers
Let’s get the scary stuff out of the way, shall we? Females often have a different set of challenges than their male counterparts, including having overprotective people in their life who think they know what's best for them. In our experience as a company that caters to female solo travelers, many women fear personal safety, getting lost, not knowing a language, and not being able to meet other people. Men, on the other hand, often suffer from an inability to plan in advance, fear of taking time off from work, and reluctance to spend their savings. Now that we’ve become aware of our often subconscious concerns, let’s plan to leave our limiting beliefs at home, and address them head-on!
What are the benefits of female solo travel?
How many times have you really wanted to do something but your friends weren't interested?
Solo travel allows you to try new things without being tied down to other people's desires. Your friends might be busy working, saving money, or your schedules might not align. It’s time you stopped waiting for your friends to travel, or worse yet, a significant other to ask you to go somewhere!
There are so many benefits to traveling solo, but perhaps the greatest benefit is personal growth.
Leaving your home country for the first time can spark self-discovery, independence, and improved confidence. You'll be forced to mingle with strangers, navigate a new country, and possibly dabble in a new language.
Not only does solo female travel help you learn about yourself, but it also gives you the unique opportunity to reinvent yourself. While traveling, you can be whoever you want to be. You may even be surprised what was hiding inside you all along...
So many solo female solo travelers in our community report that traveling alone is empowering, builds confidence, and can teach valuable skills like problem-solving. It’s time you embrace your independence and do something for yourself!
Solo Travel Communities We Recommend for Female Solo Travelers
- Girls Love Travel: provides resources and empowerment to one another through safety, socializing, and support.
- Young Travelers Network: a global community of young adults who love travel and a little adventure in their lives founded by Gabby Beckford @packslight.
- Nomadic Network: a global community of travel-enthusiasts who support and inspire one another to travel better, cheaper, and longer founded by Nomadic Matt.
- Female Digital Nomads: the group was started with the goal to “unite, inspire, and inform digital babes that are wandering the globe.”
- Under30Experiences: want to travel alone but meet other like-minded people? You can join our community, a great solution for people looking to solo travel with groups. We’ve been consistently rated as one of the fastest-growing solo travel companies.
Your First Trip
It might be important to you to convince the people in your life that you are traveling alone and it’s going to be okay. If this is the case, then I’d recommend a shorter trip that costs less and isn’t too intimidating. As travel author Gregory Diehl told me, “look to travel one step outside your comfort zone.”
Perhaps for you, this means joining a solo travel company on a group trip where you can tell your friends and family you’ll be with a local guide who works for a well-reviewed company that takes safety seriously. Many first time travelers decide to travel in the United States or other English-speaking countries like England, Ireland, Scotland, or Belize if English is their first language. This way you’ll avoid the language barrier and excessive culture shock.
Convincing loved ones you'll be okay is about showing them a plan, so they can rest assured that you will be safe on your trip. Having a clear itinerary and staying in reputable hostels that cater to solo travelers will give you a more “soft landing”. Show your significant other, friends, and family a well-built website that shows exactly where you will be staying. Going on a retreat or joining a trusted volunteer program is another great way to show the stakeholders in your life that you are heading off to better yourself, not just frivolously spend your savings. More safety tips and specific itinerary suggestions in the “solo travel safety” and “where to solo travel” sections of this guide.
... and don't worry, as you become a more seasoned traveler, we'll be encouraging you to get off the beaten path. You don't always have to stick to the plan!
Tips for Making Friends While Traveling
As a solo traveler, it’s a great idea to book a hostel where there will be other solo travelers. This way you’ll increase your chances of making friends, and finding people to split the costs of taxis or activities. You might want to find a buddy who wants to go hiking or surfing--two activities that are safer when done with someone else. When I travel alone, I really enjoy going to restaurants and coffee shops where I can sit at the bar and chat with the people around me. Bartenders and baristas are excellent sources of information about what’s going on locally. I also always stop into local outdoor shops, bike shops, or surf shops to ask for recommendations. Often times the people working at these stores are open to making friends who like the outdoors and might just invite you along on their next adventures. I always try to take their recommendations for trails, beaches to visit, local events, and places to eat.
Just last month, I was in Jackson, Wyoming, and asked the guys who worked at the local outdoor shop which trails to explore in Grand Teton National Park, how they liked living in Jackson, and where they’d recommend eating lunch. I ended up with several great recommendations and a perspective of the local area I never would have found on TripAdvisor.
Of course, you can always join a group trip... Day trips like snorkeling, fishing, whitewater rafting, or canyoning are always nice ways to meet other travelers. Traveling solo is a great way to get out of your comfort zone, overcome your fear of making conversation with strangers, being shy, and fear of rejection. Asking people where they are from, if you can take a photo for them, or how long their trip is, are great conversation starters. I always ask fellow travelers what else they’ve done in the area that they’d recommend. This is the conversation you’ll hear most frequently in hostel common areas.
Solo Travel Safety
Safety in Groups
As you may have heard before, there is “strength in numbers”, which is why we believe that traveling in groups is the safest way to travel. Your group should be led by a guide who is experienced in the local region, should give you guidelines about the safety of the local area, knows where it is safe to go out at night, areas to avoid, and knows how to stay safe while doing outdoor activities. When you travel with a group, you are simply less vulnerable, and you’ll more easily be able to find a buddy if you want to break off from the group and explore on your own.
Safety Tips Abroad
When traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to try and blend in and not look out of place. Leave your flashy jewelry and expensive belongings at home, and any other valuables locked in the safe at your accommodations. You simply don’t want to be an easy target. If you are carrying a camera, keep it hidden in your bag when possible. Try not to walk around with a large bag that makes you look like a tourist waiting for a thief to take advantage of you. Remember--you have things that locals may not have the means to purchase. Do your best to be aware just as you would in any major city at home.
Be sure to know what the local emergency numbers are, and have the name, phone number, and address of your hotel written down somewhere in case your phone battery dies. Have the phone number of the local embassy for your country with your important documents.
Outdoor Safety Tips
Whether you are surfing, boating, hiking, or engaging in whatever outdoor activity you wish to embark on, it’s important that you check the weather forecast and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. If you see dark clouds ahead, it’s best to turn back. If you are with a local tour operator horseback riding, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, or doing anything with a decent degree of risk, be sure you assess the situation yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your traveler’s intuition!
In the “new normal” following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that you take appropriate social distancing measures and wear masks wherever appropriate. Be sure to travel with your own hand sanitizer, and avoid being indoors around a lot of people. Many states and countries require COVID-19 tests and/or temperature checks before entering. We believe that the great outdoors is an excellent place to stay active and healthy. If someone is not respecting your personal space and making you feel uncomfortable, speak up, especially if you are a person who is considered to be at risk by your doctors. Most importantly, if you have symptoms, please stay home, see a doctor, and get tested. If you are COVID-19 positive, please quarantine, even if you are asymptomatic, and do not spread this virus!
Top Destinations When Traveling Solo
Wondering where to travel? Looking for ideas when traveling alone? Below are some solo travel destinations that I’d recommend, and a few pointers on how to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. As I mentioned earlier, if this is your first time traveling, you might want to start somewhere close to home, where you speak the local language, and is perceived as safe.
Where to Solo Travel
The world is an enormous place with many famous tourist destinations and even more incredible experiences that are off the beaten path. I’d recommend selecting some locations you’ve always wanted to go and then do your best to venture out and go where the locals frequent. Finding less touristy places to travel isn’t hard, but it requires a little effort. Again, asking local people for recommendations is one of the best ways to understand local culture, unspoiled by tourism. The following are my recommendations on some places that might interest you, but remember that you’ll want to experience more than just major landmarks…
Where to Solo Travel in the United States and Canada:
- Seattle & Portland: Known for outdoor markets, Asian cuisine, and hip coffee culture! Check out Mount Hood, Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park.
- San Francisco Bay Area: Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe are incredible if you like the mountains. Be sure to wine taste your way through Napa & Marin County Vineyards.
- Los Angeles: Drive on the Pacific Coast Highway, and spend some time along Venice Beach & Santa Monica, and then hit Channel Islands National Park before heading south to San Diego. Take a detour out to Joshua Tree National Park and spend a night in Palm Springs!
- The Southwest: Road trip your way from the Grand Canyon, through Navajo Country to Canyonlands & Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. Continue your trip to get a taste of Park City, Utah for some mountains! Little known fact: there is tons of hiking near Las Vegas.
- Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Park: This massive ecosystem offers incredible wildlife, camping, and hiking. Check out Jackson, Wyoming, Big Sky & Bozeman, Montana for a real wild west feel!
- Denver, Boulder, and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains: Known for good food, craft beer, and lots of skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. This area of the country is full of young people who love the outdoors and is ideal for meeting people as a solo traveler.
- Austin, Texas: Austin is a hip, youthful city with lots of events like SXSW and ACL music festivals. The city is centered around Lady Bird Lake, so grab a paddleboard, kayak, canoe, or bicycle and start exploring the Greenbelt trail system within city limits. People are super friendly to solo travelers here, too.
- New Orleans: NOLA is one of the best cultural experiences in the United States with its French-creole influences. Eat plenty of gumbo, crawdads, and po-boys, and please see more than just the inside of bars on Bourbon Street!
- Chicago: The Windy City is an excellent place for solo travelers, especially in the summer. Go sailing on Lake Michigan and visit historic Wrigley Field. There are loads of outdoor bars and restaurants. Walk the Magnificent Mile and be sure to hit the beach!
- Portland, Maine: Coastal getaways in the Northeast are expensive in the summer, but worth the trip. Consider traveling during late spring or during fall foliage. Make your way up the Atlantic Coast to Bar Harbor, Maine, and visit Acadia National Park.
- New York: New York City can be intimidating to visit, but as a solo traveler, after you see Central Park and any bucket-list landmarks, look to get out of Midtown Manhattan and make your way downtown to Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge to DUMBO, Brooklyn. Consider taking the Long Island Railroad or the Hampton Jitney to make it to the beaches in Montauk or ride the Metro North to go hiking in the Hudson Valley!
- Asheville, North Carolina: This is a really fun city in the foothills of the Appalachians. Hike, whitewater raft, eat barbecue, and drink craft beer as you make your way through the Great Smoky Mountains!
- South Florida: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach are always nice places to escape colder weather. Everyone should see the art deco areas of South Beach Miami, but if you want something more laid back look to stay in Fort Lauderdale--the fishing capital of Florida. Rent a car to see Everglades National Park and drive one of the most beautiful highways in the world through the Florida Keys to Key West.
- Alaska: The Final Frontier is on almost every solo travelers’ bucket list, so fly into Anchorage and get your trip started. Here you’ll have the option of kayaking and hiking in Kenai Fjords National Park near the towns of Homer and Seward, or going inland to Talkeetna to see Denali National Park or out to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve which is much more remote.
- Hawaii: Say Aloha to another bucket list trip! If I had to pick one island to visit as a solo traveler, I’d go see the Big Island of Hawai'i for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Enjoy the amazing surf, rainforest, and tuna poke… Hilo has a great community of folks who are into organic farming, yoga, and a healthy lifestyle.
- Canada: Sorrey Canada, you are such a big country that we’ll need to devote an entire article just to exploring you. In the meantime, if you were traveling from West to East, start in Vancouver and spend some time on the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island. Then, make your way across the Rockies to Banff and Lake Louise, perhaps ending your trip in Calgary. On the eastern side of Canada explore one of the top culinary cities in the world--Toronto, before hitting the French-speaking province of Quebec. See Montreal, Quebec City, and the eastern seaboard of Gaspé.
For more in depth recommendations check out my Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel in the United States.
Solo Travel Destinations in Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean:
- Mexico City: Abbreviated as CDMX to Spanish speakers, Mexico City is a great place to begin your travels through Latin America. Check out the hip neighborhood of Roma, see a Lucha Libre wrestling match, eat incredible tacos, get your dose of history at the Bosque de Chapultepec, go to the Frida Kahlo Museum next to the authentic market in Coyocán, and finally, escape the city to the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán.
- The Yucatán Peninsula: Where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean is another world-famous area of Mexico not to miss. Skip the crowds in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum and head Mérida. The Yucatán is known for its beaches, Mayan Ruins like the world-famous Chichen Itza, cenotes, and jungle!
- Costa Rica and Nicaragua: These two countries are excellent stops along the “backpacker trail.” In Nicaragua, see the colonial city of Granada, hike the volcanoes at Lake Ometepe, and eat ceviche on the beaches of San Juan del Sur. In Costa Rica see the volcano at Lake Arenal, the monkeys on the beach in Manuel Antonio, and go whitewater rafting on the Caribbean side of the country. All of these activities offer some of the best eco-tourism experiences in the world. Add an extra country to your itinerary by going to Bocas del Toro, Panama.
- Belize and Guatemala: Start in Belize City and “go slow”, snorkeling in the Caribbean off Caye Caulker and Ambergris Key. Move inland through the jungle and go cave tubing! Then cross the border into Guatemala and explore the Mayan Ruins. Lake Atitlán, Antigua, and Flores are three areas that solo travelers love.
Solo Travel Destinations in South America:
- Argentina: Buenos Aires is a big city with a European feel in South America. Known for its red meat and wine, fuel up and then see a polo match before heading south to Patagonia for some world-class hiking and kayaking.
- Colombia: This culturally rich country has three major cities that are tops for tourism and national parks deep in the jungle that will blow your mind. The capital of Bogotá, the lush city of Medellin, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cartagena will be your main jumping-off points. Travel up the coast to Tayrona National Park or hike the Lost City trek for some real adventure!
- Chile: Known for incredible landscapes, you can go from the Atacama Desert to Torres Del Paine National Park in Patagonia to the end of the world at Tierra del Fuego. If you can get there, Easter Island hosts some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
- Peru: This is another very diverse country that is a culinary enthusiast’s dream. Sample food from all over the country right in Lima, see the changing of the guard in the city center and walk the “Costa Verde” or green coast from Miraflores to the hip neighborhood of Barranco. Cusco and the Sacred Valley is nearly everyone’s favorite stop, where you can clearly see the juxtaposition between the Incan and Spanish cultures. The most adventurous of folks will opt to arrive at Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. Finally, if you can get to the Amazon Rainforest or Lake Titicaca you won’t regret it! For a bonus experience, cross into Bolivia after Lake Titicaca.
- Brazil: This is a country where safety can be a concern, but we couldn’t leave it off our list. The culture of Brazil is so rich, every solo traveler should figure out how to visit it. Even if you just stick to Rio de Janeiro, the enchanting culture of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches rarely disappoint. Enjoy Tijuca National Park and see Christ the Redeemer, then head down the mountain and enjoy the botanical gardens. Indulge at Brazilian steakhouses and drink caipirinhas. Try your best to get to the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Go north and check out the off the beaten path in Chapada Diamantina National Park. Here is what to pack for Brazil!
Solo Travel Destinations in Europe:
- The UK: If this is your first time out of the country and you only speak English, consider traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales where you’ll be able to easily communicate. After seeing the tourist attractions in London, escape the city by train and head to the enchanted countries of Wales and Scotland. Make your reservations early if you are headed to Fort William, the adventure capital of the UK, as accommodations fill up in the summer! You'll want to spend at least two days in Edinburgh.
- Ireland: Extend your trip to the UK by taking the ferry from Wales to Dublin. From Dublin, head south to Bray and the Wicklow Mountains. Stop in the charming Irish town of Kilkenny for their castle, and then follow the Wild Atlantic Way to see absolutely stunning scenery, including the Cliffs of Moher. Be sure to enjoy a pint and understand pub culture while watching live music in Galway.
- Spain: Begin your trip in Madrid, then enjoy a beach day in Cadiz. See a flamenco show in Seville and explore the Real Alcazar. Make your way to Granada for the Alhambra Palace, and then up to Barcelona where you won’t want to miss the local neighborhood of Grácia.
- France: Time to quit your vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free diet! France is every foodie’s paradise… Enjoy your French baguette or pain au chocolat each morning, and be sure to try escargot and steak tartare. Head to Burgundy for amazing wine and a cooking lesson. There are incredible small towns in the French countryside everywhere!
- Italy: Catch a flight to Rome, Venice, or perhaps Milan, and get ready to embrace the slow food movement. Keep in mind that Venice has been plagued by overtourism, so try to travel off-season, if possible, to avoid contributing to the crowds. You can’t go wrong in Rome seeing sights like the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican. Get off the beaten path and explore small towns like Perugia and Gubbio, while staying active at the Frasassi Caves and Marmore Waterfalls.
- Iceland: This country is filled with waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, rainbows, sheep, and tiny horses! As a solo traveler, Iceland is the country that made me fall in love with travel. If you are looking for a trek in Iceland, then go during the summer months when weather and daylight are most reliable. Otherwise, go in late May or June to experience 24 hours of sunlight, or in fall/winter for the Northern lights. Go prepared and pack lots of layers!
- Greece: Fly into Athens and emerge yourself in the history of the birthplace of civilization. The Acropolis, Parthenon, and Ancient Agora are must-sees! Then, make your way to the port and take a ferry to your choice of Greek Islands. Paros, Naxos, and Santorini are three of our favorite places!
- Central Europe: If you are visiting Central Europe, then we recommend seeing a few countries at once. Fly into the Czech Republic capital of Prague, go to the top of the Petrin Lookout Tower, the Prague Castle, and experience one of the many microbreweries. Take the train to Vienna, Austria and admire the Gothic architecture of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Hofburg Palace. Then head to Budapest, Hungary for a river cruise and see the small town of Etyek for some great cuisine.
- Croatia: One of the hottest places, recently, for solo travelers is Croatia. Most people spend time in either Split or Dubrovnik, also known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Kayaking, sailing, and cruising are all popular activities, as well as lounging on the beach in places like Hvar in the Pakleni Islands.
Solo Travel Destinations in Asia:
- Japan: One of the safest countries for solo travelers, this country is known for its polite people. Fly into Tokyo and taste authentic sushi from the Tsukiji Fish Market and visit the Meiji Jingu shrine. Visit Akihabara’s “electric town”, a hub for J-pop, anime, and manga. Don’t forget to see a sumo wrestling match! Hike Takaosan Mountain, and see Mount Fuji from Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Ride the bullet train to Kyoto and see Kiyomizu Dera Temple. Then, enjoy a night of sake and karaoke, two of Japan’s favorite pastimes. Japan also has great beaches in Okinawa, as well as excellent skiing in the northern region of the country.
- China, Hong Kong, & Taiwan: While some solo travelers may be hesitant to travel to China alone, Hong Kong and Taiwan offer great starter locations to begin to understand Chinese culture and influence. In China, focus on seeing the thousands of years of history, including the Great Wall of China, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Terracotta Army, and the Potala Palace. In Hong Kong, get a glimpse of the bays and cityscape from Victoria Peak and take a moment for yourself at the Tian Tan Buddha. Finally, in Taiwan, focus your time on food. I’ll never forget eating dumplings at Din Tai Fung after going to the top of the Taipei 101.
- Thailand: Fly into Bangkok and recover from jet lag with a Thai massage at the Wat Pho Temple. Go early to the Grand Palace and the reclining Buddha to beat the crowds. Solo travelers are in for an experience taking the overnight train to Ayutthaya. Continue your journey to Chiang Mai and learn about elephant conservation. Finally, end your trip by flying to Krabi to explore Thailand’s islands by long-tail boat.
- Vietnam and Cambodia: These two countries are often visited together as they are in proximity to one another. Fly into Southern Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. Cycle through the countryside of the Mekong Delta. Catch a flight to Cambodia to visit Siem Reap & Angkor Wat. Get off the beaten path in Cambodia for a truly unspoiled experience! One of the best parts about Southeast Asia is the low cost of travel once you arrive, making it perfect for solo travelers on a budget.
- Indonesia: Another amazing country for solo travelers, Indonesia has become world-famous for the unique culture on the island of Bali. We’d suggest starting your trip on the island of Java in Yogyakarta, where there are over 500 Hindu temples in the Prambanan temple complex. Seeing the Sultan of Yogyakarta’s Palace is obligatory! The island of Bali is set up perfectly for solo travelers, so consider it if you are looking to spend extended time abroad. Practice yoga in Ubud, and visit one of Bali’s many beautiful beaches. Extend your stay to the Gili Islands or Lombok, but please don’t contribute to overtourism in Kuta or Seminyak.
Solo Travel Destinations in Oceania:
- Australia: This enormous country is far from the western hemisphere, but once you get there, you’ll have all the comforts of home and is great for first-time travelers. It’s one of the most expensive countries in the world, but it’s possible to travel on a budget as a solo traveler to Australia. There are plenty of sights to see in Sydney like the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and the fish market. Explore Brisbane’s Gold Coast, check out Fraser Island’s dunes, Mission Beach, and of course the Great Barrier Reef. Get to the center of Australia to visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, while understanding its significance to the indigenous people.
- New Zealand: If you have limited time and money, like most solo travelers, we’d highly recommend flying directly to Christchurch to explore the South Island, the ecotourism capital of New Zealand. Take the TranzAlpine Train Journey, one of the top-rated train rides in the world, to the Franz Josef’s temperate rainforest. See that Wanaka Tree and visit Mount Aspiring National Park to hike Rob Roy Glacier. Make your way to Queenstown and learn about the Maori indigenous culture from this region.
Solo Travel Destinations in Africa & the Middle East:
- Morocco: Get ready to experience a little culture shock as a solo traveler in Morocco! Fly into Marrakech and explore Jemaa el Fna Square and the Bahia Palace. Escape the bustling city to the High Atlas Mountains for some hiking. Then, ride camels in the Sahara Desert and see the Erg Chebbi dunes.
- Egypt: Egypt is another culturally rich place where only the most adventurous travelers go solo! See the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and go down the Nile River on a traditional felucca sailing boat. Ride a camel in the Luxor Valley of the Kings and take a deep dive into ancient Egyptian history.
- Jordan: Just a short flight from Egypt is the country of Jordan. Fly into Amman and wander through Rainbow Street and visit the King Abdullah Mosque. Travel to Wadi Rum and stay in a desert camp run by the Bedouin desert dwellers. Visit Petra and see the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
- Tanzania: Visit Zanzibar on the Indian Ocean, known for its spice trade and incredible beaches. Look for elephants, giraffes, lions, and leopards in Mikumi National Park. In Serengeti National Park see zebra, wildebeest, and rhino. The most hardcore travelers will want to summit Mount Kilimanjaro with a guide. On your way to the summit, be sure to see this African glacier before it melts!
- Kenya: From Tanzania, make your way to Nairobi for a wildlife safari. Understand the local culture of the Maasai people. Masai Mara National Reserve and Lake Nakuru National Park are where you’ll have the best chance of seeing the “big five” animals--the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Bonus points if you get to Uganda to see gorillas!
- South Africa: This incredibly diverse country is one that either starts or ends with a flight to Capetown or Johannesburg. Visit Kruger National Park to spot the “big five” animals, see the coast around Cape Peninsula, Cape Point Nature Reserve, and the Cape of Good Hope. Take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain and visit Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela spent time in prison.
Passports and Visas
Now that you have some ideas as to where you’ll be headed as a solo traveler, you want to check that your passport gets you into this country, and for how long. You may be admitted automatically under “visa-free travel”, or need to apply for a Visa on Arrival (VOA). Some countries make it more complicated, like China for example, where you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance. You can easily find this information by searching the internet, but if it’s an important trip you may want to consider using a professional service like VisaHQ or CIBT to do the paperwork for you.
Don’t have a passport yet?
Look up the requirements for applying for a passport in your home country. In the United States, you can do this by mail or in person, if it is an emergency, but you’ll have to have proof that it is, indeed, an emergency. Keep in mind that expediting your passport via mail still takes 4-6 weeks. Not having a passport doesn’t mean you can’t travel…I’d recommend going on a short warm-up trip domestically to get you started!
Finding the Best Flight Deals
When to Book Flights
It’s safe to say that last-minute deals on flights aren’t what they used to be. Normally, airlines jack up the prices to take advantage of people who are traveling because of an emergency or are having their company pay for the flight. That being said, look to book 2-3 months before your departure date.
According to the 2018 CheapAir.com Airfare Study of over 917,000,000 flights, your “prime booking window” for international flights is 2-3 months away from your departure date. For domestic flights, your “prime booking window” is 3 weeks to 3 months in advance. In general, you don’t want to book too early or too late!
When to Fly
According to Kayak.com’s data scientists, “Travelers planning a week-long domestic trip should depart on a Saturday and return on Monday to score the cheapest airfare (roughly 16% lower than average). For international week-long trips, we recommend departing on a Tuesday and returning on Wednesday to save some money. These flights were 21% lower than the average.”
Obviously, it’s a good idea to avoid holidays. Solo travelers should also look to fly when other people don’t want to. When I was younger and had a greater tolerance for sleep deprivation, I’d jump on any 6 AM departure or red-eye flight I could!
The Best Websites for Booking Flights
I’d love to tell you that there was a secret to finding great flights, but it’s actually pretty simple. Find a flight booking engine that you like and then check individual airline websites who may not work with search sites, or may withhold some flights from these third party websites. Our top two choices are Google Flights and Skyscanner. Southwest, for example, does not work with Google Flights or sites like Expedia to keep the prices of their flights down and avoid paying them commission. Delta is also withholding some flights from these aggregators for the same reason.
Apps and Newsletters for Finding Deals on Flights
If you are looking for great deals on flights, then consider signing up for a newsletter like Scott’s Cheap Flights. It’s full of daily deals departing from your city, and I had an awesome time learning from Scott in my interview of him for The Millennial Travel Guidebook.
For more on finding the best deals on airfare, check out my mini-guide to Travel Hacking: Saving Money and Finding Cheap Flights.
Accommodations for Solo Travelers
Staying in hostels
Wondering where to stay as a solo traveler? If you are traveling alone, my best advice is to select a place that is safe and easy to meet other travelers. For this, I’d recommend searching for a hostel on HostelWorld. Now, I know what you are thinking--dorm beds, dirty rooms, drunk people, and random hookups? Not necessarily. These days, many hostels are vibrant communities with co-working spaces, hip cafés with healthy food, good coffee, yoga, and day trips led by expert guides you can join. If you want to make sure you sleep well, I recommend booking a private room, at least on the weekends when your bunkmates may tend to be out later. For safety purposes, female solo travelers should pick same-sex dorm rooms instead of mixed gender rooms. Be sure to spend plenty of time in the common areas--you won’t make friends locked away in your room!
If you are looking to experience the great outdoors and stretch your travel budget, I highly recommend camping. Many solo travelers are concerned about camping by themselves, but if you take proper precautions, you should be able to overcome these fears. Staying in a campground in a state or national park, or private operation like KOA campgrounds, will almost guarantee that other people will be around, at least within shouting distance. If it makes you feel any better, it’s never a bad idea to carry pepper spray when you travel--just check the local laws and don’t bring this in your carry on luggage!
If you are looking to spend time deeper in the wilderness, I also highly recommend it. There is nothing like the solace of being alone under the stars. Just be sure you tell someone where you are going and when you will return. This might be out of your comfort zone, but challenging yourself to spend time truly by yourself is one of the many deep rewards of solo travel.
If you are traveling in an RV, camper, or trying out “vanlife”, understand that in addition to public and private campsites, you can also get creative and find free places to park, which people in this community call “boondocking”. Parking an RV and sleeping in a Walmart parking lot isn’t my ideal campground, but many people do it. If you are on a tight budget and want to meet local people, consider staying at someone’s place for free through a community called Couchsurfing, founded by Casey Fenton, one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever conducted on The Millennial Travel Podcast.
These days, you can find just about any type of accommodations on Airbnb, so don’t just limit yourself to staying alone in an apartment. I always sort by “Unique stays” and look for nature lodges, organic farms, tipis, yurts, tiny houses, and boats! If you are staying somewhere as a solo traveler, you may want to consider a place where the host is present, and they can give you recommendations about the local area. If you want to share a space with someone else, don’t select “entire place” during your accommodation search. You may end up being someone's roommate in a foreign country which could be a lot of fun, or you may even find yourself in a homestay situation, where you can embrace the local culture. You may walk away from your trip with a local brother or sister as if you went on an exchange program.
Hotels are my least favorite option when traveling alone because it can be quite difficult to meet people unless you hang out in the lobby. At Under30Experiences we do our best to select boutique accommodations that are locally owned, not big-box chains like the Holiday Inn. I like Airbnb because I know the majority of my money goes to a local person, not a corporation. If staying at a hotel, do your best to avoid the large chains so you can keep your money in the local area and avoid the “Ikeaization” of the world--where everything looks the same wherever you go.
Alas, if you need to stay near the airport, or are just looking for a place to rest your head for an evening, then be sure to collect your hotel rewards to earn free nights. The major hotel rewards programs are as follows:
- Marriott Bonvoy (formerly known as Starwood): The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Courtyard by Marriott, Westin, and Renaissance Hotels.
- Hilton: Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites, and Home 2.
- Wyndham Rewards: Days Inn, Dolce Hotels, La Quinta by Wyndham, Ramada, and Wyndham Grand.
- IHG Rewards: InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Hotel Indigo, and Kimpton.
Other ideas for where to stay as a solo traveler:
There are plenty of other ways to earn a free place to stay in exchange for being helpful. While you might not legally be allowed to work in a foreign country, many people volunteer at hostels in exchange for accommodations. Lots of travelers in our community have volunteered on organic farms like Rancho Margot, Costa Rica or participated in the WWOOFing network, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms to learn permaculture and regenerative agriculture. You should also look into sites like WorkAway and trusted volunteer programs like GVI. Just keep in mind that if you are going to volunteer abroad, do your research on the cause and the sustainability of the project. Here are our tips for finding a volunteer program abroad.
Finally, besides Couchsurfing, as we mentioned previously, people around the world are looking for responsible solo travelers to house sit for them. I’ve seen a lot of great opportunities to take care of plants and pets on Trusted Housesitters.
Final things to consider as a solo traveler
Transportation while traveling
Planes, trains, and automobiles… they are all options, but which should you pick? As a solo traveler, we urge you to consider your impact on the environment, while maximizing the amount of fun you have on your trip. For this reason, we always recommend taking public transportation wherever possible. Trust me when I say, you won’t have much of a cultural experience riding around in your Uber Black. The real travel experiences occur rubbing shoulders with the people who live in a place, whether it be the local bus, train, ferry, or tuktuk.
Sure, road trips make sense when you have your own car that you already pay for, but please be careful if you choose to drive around a country alone and take frequent breaks. If you can travel by train, gaze out the window, and chat with the surrounding people. This is one of the most stress-free, eco-friendly ways to travel.
Finally, if you do need to take private transportation when you don’t have time to take public transportation or it’s late at night, opt for a ride-sharing app like Uber, Lyft, or Southeast Asia’s Grab. These apps are available in most developed parts of the world. This way you can avoid being ripped off in the local currency, and your whereabouts will be tracked digitally. Taking taxis and even mototaxis can be a lot of fun, just use your intuition and stay safe.
Before you go, it’s important to consider booking travel insurance. Most tour operators and group travel companies will require you to book at least $200K in travel insurance coverage. This insurance should cover personal injury, medical expenses, luggage, repatriation and evacuation expenses. If you are going to travel solo, you should consider a plan from our two most trusted companies--World Nomads or Wanderwell.
The most important thing to know about travel insurance is that you’ll want to book it as soon as possible after you book your trip. This way, if you are injured before your trip, you’ll be covered. If you book your trip, then break your leg at home before booking your travel insurance, you will not be covered.
Finally, if you are concerned about a future coronavirus outbreak canceling your trip, which qualifies as a “known pandemic” in the eyes of travel insurance companies, then you’ll want to consider Cancel For Any Reason insurance (CFAR). Please note that this type of insurance is not available in all states in the US.
Looking to deepen your knowledge with a book on solo travel? Check out The Millennial Travel Guidebook: Escape More, Spend Less, & Make Travel a Priority in Your Life.