Solo Female Travel

Top 5 Countries for First-Time Solo Travelers to Visit

For a lot of first-time solo travelers, actually making that first booking to somewhere unknown can be terrifying.

There’s so much to worry about! Will you be safe? What will you do when you get there? How will you meet people? Will you be scammed, or have your stuff stolen? Eek!

To encourage you worrywarts to make the first step into independent travel, I’ve put together a list of 5 places to visit for a first-time solo travel adventure.

Why these countries?

The goal is to start off with an easy win: somewhere that has a strong tourist infrastructure, good public transit, lots of other travelers to meet up with and a small language barrier (as long as you speak English).

It may seem like “cheating” to go to these places, but if you’re riddled with anxiety about your first time going abroad, then starting with a low-difficulty location can help a lot. I’ve been to all these places myself, too, so my recommendations come from my own experience!

That said, I do recommend going somewhere OTHER than an all-inclusive resort. Those tend to be isolated from the surrounding area, and you won’t get much of a sense for the local culture. Take a little bit of a bigger step and stay somewhere you can actually interact with the locals.

Okay, onto the list!

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Singapore

Singapore is a great place to visit because:

a) it’s a transit hub, so you can get there very easily from a lot of starting points

b) English is an official language and mostly everybody speaks it VERY well (and all the signs are in English, too)

c) they have a wonderful public transit system which is super cheap and easy to use

d) lots of great food! Such good food!!

and

e) some really fun tourist stuff to visit, including a beach, a Universal Studios park, and fun historical neighborhoods!

Plus, since Singapore is a small country, you can do most of the tourist stuff within a few days. That can be a great option if you only have a few days of vacation available, or want to go visit a second country.

Is Singapore too expensive to visit? No way! Read all about traveling Singapore on a budget here.

Top 3 things to do in Singapore:

  1. Visit the Botanical Gardens, an UNESCO World Heritage Site
  2. Walk around Chinatown and eat at a hawker center
  3. Go to Gardens by the Bay and watch the night show

Malaysia

Malaysia is right next to Singapore, so if you’re going to one you might as well visit the other. šŸ˜‰

Like Singapore, English is one of the official languages in Malaysia and many people speak it very well. Malaysia is also overall safe for solo travelers, and there’s lots of things to see. They have big cities, historical sites, amazing nature and hiking, and beaches!

Malaysia has tons of great food from all sorts of cultures, including Indian, Chinese, Malay and Indonesian! And finally: there’s very good transit options between cities, making it easy to get around on the cheap.

Recommended cities to visit in Malaysia:

  • Kuala Lumpur, the capital
  • Malacca, a historical city and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Georgetown, Penang, another historical city and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Cameron Highlands, if you like hiking

Be sure to go to Malaysian Borneo if you’re interested in nature, wild animals, and want to try something other than big city life!

Japan

Okay, this one is a little trickier for some people because English isn’t widely spoken, and the culture differences make people worried they’ll accidentally offend someone. However, Japan is an overall super safe country with many beautiful places to visit, good food to eat, and fun souvenirs to get. Also, the locals generally give tourists grace for social faux pas, as long as you don’t go overboard.

The tourist areas are well-equipped to handle non-Japanese speaking visitors, so don’t worry too much about that. Be sure to download Google Translate before you go, learn a few key phrases like hello (konnichiwa) and thank you (arigato), and you’ll be set!

Some cities to visit in Japan:

  • Tokyo, the capital and a huge metropolis with a massive public transit network
  • Osaka, a foodie’s heaven
  • Kyoto, one of the cultural highlights of the country
  • Hiroshima, the city of peace
  • Miyajima Island, which you can do as a day trip from Hiroshima
  • Nagasaki, an old trading port and one of the atomic bombing sites

Check out my Japan budget travel guide for ideas on how to save money on your trip.

Thailand

This is a popular first stop for a big Southeast Asia trip for a reason: Thai people are super friendly, it’s overall very safe (except for a few common scams), and the tourism industry is BOOMING.

While English may not be as prevalent in smaller towns, most people speak at least a little English and most signs and public transit announcements are in English as well as Thai.

It’s also a wonderful place to eat, especially if you like spicy food! And because it’s a popular backpacking stop, you’ll find TONS of other travelers to meet up with once you get there.

Some cities to visit in Thailand:

  • Bangkok, the capital
  • Ayutthaya, a historical capital with amazing ruins
  • Sukhothai, another historical capital with even more amazing ruins
  • Chiang Mai, a popular spot for expats and a fun foodie haven
  • Pai, a hippie backpacker town turned spiritual retreat
  • Chiang Rai, a northern town close to Myanmar

Thailand also has a lot of beautiful beaches and small islands to visit! I don’t really do water activities so I can’t recommend specific ones, but if you’re looking for beach life then Thailand is a good bet.

Read some of my posts about Thailand here!

United Kingdom

A somewhat unusual choice for a first-time international trip, maybe! But if you’re VERY nervous about not speaking the local language, well…everyone in the UK speaks English. šŸ˜‰

England was actually my first country for my first international trip! And I had a wonderful time roaming around looking at historical churches, old Roman ruins, and little country towns where my favorite authors used to live. Plus, the trains were VERY fun!

Recommended cities to visit in the UK:

  • London, the capital (and WHAT a capital!)
  • Salisbury, to see Stonehenge
  • York, a beautiful historical town
  • Newcastle, to visit Hadrian’s Wall
  • Isle of Wight, a nice island getaway (a British version of one, anyway)
  • Edinburgh and Glasgow, for the friendly Scottish folks

Tip: Learn how to save money on accommodation in the UK over the summer months.


If you’re an experienced solo traveler, what country would you recommend for newbies? Drop a comment below with your ideas!

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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