Where to go on your first time travelling alone
Whether you're about to embark on a year long round the world trip, or just a long weekend on your own, solo travel can be daunting. Where to stay, where to eat and safety worries can seem overwhelming, but if you do the research, and take an open mind, you'll probably have one of the best trips of your life (and want to do it all over again!). I've picked some of my favourite spots (some of which were on my first ever solo backpacking trip). I hope you find it useful, and I hope it helps you decide on where to go! Happy travels! :-)
Stunning beaches, cheap accommodation and a backpackers paradise. In Thailand you can pretty much cherry pick whatever kind of experience you want. Want a meditation retreat and a jungle trek? Head up to Chiang Mai and beyond (you may end up staying here longer than anticipated). Want some stunning beaches and a friendly backpacker town? Head to Krabi. Want to get away from it all in a gorgeous sandy bay with crystal clear water? Head to Ko Mak (not a full moon party in sight!). You'll no doubt pass through Bangkok at least once. Getting ripped off by a tuk-tuk driver is a rite of passage but you'll be haggling like a pro in no time (just remember to always insist on direct trips - no stopping off at any 'friends' shops! ;-)
Ireland is one of the safest destinations for a solo traveller. A jaw dropping jagged coastline, beautiful remote villages and the most welcoming people in the world. It's pretty much impossible to avoid the 'craic' in Ireland. For wild beauty, head to The Dingle Peninsula, or County Donegal. Hire a car and make a road trip out of it.
Tip: Tony Hawks' hilarious 'Round Ireland with a fridge' is a must pack for your journey.
Forget the hopeless romantics, Paris is a great solo travel destination. It's also one of the easiest. Solo dining is a way of life here (and great for people watching). Remember to dress a la Parisienne and hop on a Velib to pootle around the Marais (for less than €2 for a day!). Immerse yourself in to the institution that is Le Cordon Bleu and master the art of macarons in half a day by joining a group lesson.
Wanna supercharge your chic? Christophe-Nicolas Boit has a chignon bar where you can pay just €20 for a 10 minute transformation. My fine hair was sprayed and pinned up in a blur of pins and hairspray. Julie Delpy was in the salon sitting two seats down. Surely it doesn’t get ANY more Parisian than that!
Tip 1: Make sure you watch ‘Before Sunset’ before you go.
Tip 2: Take my 'Weekend in Paris' playlist with you :)
4. Overland Australia
Australia is by far the easiest destination for your first time travelling alone. A high standard of hostels, easy transport links and thousands of miles to explore. Don’t miss out on the ‘Top End’ (the Northern Territory). For a raw outback fix, Kakadu National Park is worth at least a few days. The East Coast offers sunny surfer towns, vibrant cities and the gem of Queensland, The Great Barrier Reef. You can hop on a day trip to scuba dive this breathtaking underwater world. The high standard of Aussie tuition on offer is perfect for the first time diver.
Barcelona may have been in the headlines lately, but it still remains one of the safest solo travel destinations. Pull up a bar stool at one of the many tempting tapas bars (I loved Tapas 24 and Cerveceria Catalana). Whilst other people queue around the block, you can usually get a seat pretty quickly if you're on your own. Get up early to be the first to visit one of Gaudi's masterpieces, Casa Batllo. I also loved the beach boardwalk for cycling or running.
Tip: Don't miss Bar Pinoxto in La Boqueria food market. The dapper owner Juanito will be on hand to offer advice on the best small plates and a lunchtime glass of cava.
6. Northern Italy
A solo trip to Italy is a real treat. For a holiday feel, base yourself at Lake Garda (I stayed in Desenzano due to it's excellent rail links to the rest of the country). You can do as much or as little as you like here. Hop on a boat to Sermione and once you've explored the castle, and the Grotto of Catullus, treat yourself to a day at Aquaria Thermal Spa.
Feeling more adventurous? TrenItalia links Desenzano to Venice, Verona and Milan (all of which are around 1hr 30 or less), so perfect for day trips. If you catch an early train, you can be in St. Mark's Square for breakfast at Caffe Florian (touristy and expensive? - yes. Worth it for the atmosphere? Of course!)
Cambodia is still a country in recovery from it's recent scars. Which you will not be able to ignore when you visit. But the warmth and grace of the people will make you fall for this peaceful South East Asian beauty. Of course you can't miss Angkor Wat at sunrise, but there is so much more to Cambodia. Snorkelling, jungle treks and even Irrawaddy Dolphins. Hire a bike and take your time.
Tip: The buzzing Pub Street in Siem Reap is backpacker central. Avoid 'happy pizzas' (they have magic mushrooms on). Even if you take drugs at home, it's pot luck in South-East Asia, so not worth the risk.
8. New York City
In NYC you can be as anonymous as you like, and indulge in some fast paced people watching. This electric city just makes you feel alive. Of course you should head to the Top of The Rock, but don't just stick to the midtown highlights, explore Downtown, Harlem and Brooklyn. The LES Tenement Museum is one of my favourite spots. It gives you an insider view (from a fully restored 19th Century tenement) as to what life was like for immigrants arriving in the city in the 1800s. Eating out solo in NYC is a breeze. For brunch, pull up a bar stool at Cafe Habana in SoHo, or for later in the day, everyone is welcome at the lobby at Ace, which is super stylish and super laid back.
Tip 1: For a local experience, get an Airbnb in Williamsburg or the East Village (if you stay here please don't leave without popping into Caracas. Best Arepas in town, promise!).
Tip 2: Don't forget to take my NYC playlist with you :)
9. New Zealand
Another super easy yet super rewarding destination, New Zealand has Mauri magic, snowy mountains and white sands. It's so easy and safe to get around (with much shorter distances than Australia). And with an ethos on the outdoors, chic hostels and maybe the best baristas in the world, there is something for everyone. Try to visit both North and South Islands as they each have their own special feel. Need some downtime? Waiheke Island is only 30 minutes from Auckland and offers tramping trails, delicious food and wine, and dazzling views.
Tip: Although Rotorua (aka Roto-Vegas) is very touristy, don't miss it for the geothermal mud pools and therapeutic hot springs.
Uber cool and uber accessible, visit Berlin before it looses it's edgy feel. With sociable hotels like The Michelberger, and laid back summer beer gardens like Prater, you can fit right in. A city with a fascinating recent past, don't miss the DDR Museum, the East Side Gallery and The Jewish Museum.
Tip: You can't miss the numerous 'Photoautomat' booths around the city. The ultimate momento!
11. Overland Argentina
South America is so popular with backpackers, but the easiest to navigate, is Argentina. Take your time to explore. Buenos Aires is possibly the coolest city in the world, and full of spotless affordable hostels (I loved America del Sur). And don't miss a free walking tour of the city (ask at your reception).
If you're going to spend a decent amount of time here, fly down to Patagonia, and start your 'Fin del Mundo' tour at Ushuaia (don't miss out on horse riding and definitely don't miss the penguins). Work your way north until you get to Bariloche in the Lake District (glorious hiking and delicious chocolateries!). As a reward for all that outdoor activity, Head out on a vineyard tour of the wineries of Mendoza.
Are you planning your first time trip? Please leave a comment below with any questions! :-) Or do you have any first time solo travel destinations that you would add? Let me know below!
Thanks for reading. I hope this helps in planning your trip. And I hope you have a wonderful time!