The best places to travel alone will be fun, safe, and easy to get around without knowing the language.
To find the best places to travel alone in 2016, I picked towns that were most likely to kindle wanderlust: beautiful cities with friendly people, that are kind to beginner solo travelers, and have lots to explore beyond the safe confines of the tourist attractions.
What you won’t find in this list are the typical destinations like Paris and London. While the big tourist cities are easy to navigate and generally have more amenities catering to American visitors, after a while they’re just kind of boring!
Believe it or not, when you’ve waited in line for half a day to get into the Louvre, learned how small the Mona Lisa really is, and had your fill of fresh baguettes–Paris is just another big city overrun by tourists. If you find yourself craving something a little more off the beaten path, then this is the list for you!
The best places to travel alone If You’re New to Solo Travel:
What makes Them great for first-time solo travel:
1.) Primarily English-speaking
2.) Generally safe (especially important for solo female travelers)
3.) Accepting of travelers without being predatory (while there will always be people who try to take advantage of tourists, it’s much more common in some places than others)
4.) Easy to meet people and find things to do
Most people think of Amsterdam and their minds immediately jump to legalized marijuana or the Red Light District, but there is so much more to the Dutch capital than the movie “Eurotrip” would have you believe. (I highly recommend seeing it if you enjoy a comedy! It’s available to stream for just $3 here on Amazon.)
Amsterdam, with its latticework of canals, colorfully painted buildings, and cobblestoned avenues of chic shops and cafes, is a city that lends itself well to wandering. For the culturally inclined, the Museumplein district houses no less than 3 art museums (including Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, and the largest collection of Van Gogh’s in the world) not the mention the city’s largest green space, Vondelpark!
Those new to solo travel will find that people speak English as interchangeably as Dutch. The city is also welcoming to its tourists, and has its fair share of expats, so it’s pretty hard to feel alone even in a city of foreigners. While Amsterdam is “touristy” in the sense that there are many visitors, it still has its shares of nooks and crannies for the traveler willing to explore it!
Ranking above even my home town of New York City as one of my favorite party towns in the world, and best places to travel alone, is the capital of Hungary. Budapest is home to ruin bars with so much character, it would make a Brooklyn hipster cry tears of joy. You can relax the day away in the many saunas and communal pools of the city’s famed thermal baths, or visit them at night for some epic spa parties (“sparties”).
If you’ve ever wondered what a water park for adults would look like, Budapest’s biggest indoor water park Aquaworld throws a party like no other where you can drink, soak, splash, and sauna the night away with hundreds of strangers (you can check when the next one is at their website here). Many party hostels also organize groups to go together by bus so check with where you’re staying!
Hungary is also incredibly affordable, which is only compounded by the very favorable exchange rate of the florint to the U.S. dollar now. Add incredible architecture, friendly people, a smorgasbord of delicious food around every corner (including my favorite sandwich shop in the world Bors GasztroBar) and Budapest is a winning destination, and one of the best places to travel alone whether it’s your first time, or your hundredth.
3. Costa Rica
While infrastructure in most of the country isn’t at the level of the wealthiest first world nations (plumbing in most areas still can’t handle toilet paper!) Costa Rica is still one of the most developed third-world countries in the world. If you’re looking to go beyond the touristy cities as a traveler, you’ll have to get used to different standards of living. Costa Rica is a great place to get accustomed to “roughing it” because you won’t find yourself alone!
A confluence of factors (free 90-day visa for Passport holders, close proximity to tropical weather and surf-worthy beaches) makes this country a favorite among American travelers. According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board, over 2.6 million visitors visited the country last year, of which 40% were Americans (Source: Tico Times).
Almost anywhere you go, you’ll find budget travelers backpacking their way around the country, expats (many of which are retirees), and the amenities that have popped up for their convenience. For example, most hospitality workers speak English, and tourists can see a doctor in most parts of the country for a flat fee. All of which makes Costa Rica one of the best places to travel alone for English-speakers!
4. Kuala Lumpur
Think of English-friendly KL as your “gateway drug” to the rest of Asia. Malaysia itself is a mixing pot of multiple Asian countries (as exhibited in its culture, food, and ethnicities), but it’s capital’s biggest boon is being a mega-hub for travel to, from, and throughout the rest of the continent, with especially easy access to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and beyond.
For round-trip flights as low as $50 USD (e.g. KL to Phuket, Thailand) or even half that to other parts of Malaysia (e.g. like UNESCO World Heritage site Penang), a RT flight to KL from where you live can easily turn into a circuit around Asia. The airport is also extremely easy to get to and from by train, and signs are easy to read because they use Roman letters like English.
I recommend spending a few days here exploring the local food and culture, getting the best view of the city on a hike, and talking to some people before booking a flight to your next stop. Flights are so cheap that it doesn’t matter when you buy, and getting on-the-ground intel from other travelers is one of the best ways I’ve found to discovering new places. You might even meet someone who’s heading somewhere you’ve always wanted to go and decide to join them!
I’ve written before on why Berlin is a solo traveler’s dream but I’ll say it again. Germany’s capital is where individuality goes on sabbatical to find itself. Whether you’re a hipster or a yuppie, a free spirit or an old soul, there is a neighborhood for you in this town, making it the best places to travel alone.
Besides being steeped in history (ever heard of the Berlin wall?) or perhaps because of it, Berlin is a quasi-religious mecca for artists of all kinds, from galleries to graffiti, to its world-renown techno and nightlife. Most people here speak English, and you’ll be surprised how many of them are expats (both Americans and Europeans) who just fell in love with the city on a visit and never left!
What are your nominees for the best places to travel alone for first-timers? Let us know in the comment section and we may publish it in a future article with credit to you!