10 Destinations for First-Time Solo Travelers

I’m a firm believer that everyone should try #solotravel at least once in their lifetime. If this is your first solo trip or your fifteenth, here are ten destinations perfect for solo travel to give you wanderlust.

When planning your first solo trip, there are lots of things to consider- your interests, your budget, but most importantly your destination!

Related: 6 Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

10. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap is a popular stop for Backpackers along the “Banana Pancake Trail”. The second largest city in Cambodia and it is the best place to stay to visit the Angkor Wat and the Angkor temple complex, one of the largest religious monuments in the world. The city itself has a few attractions too: a night market, the Cambodian War Museum, and vibrant nightlife along Pub Street.

This is a very budget-friendly destination: my hostel was only $3/night. Cambodia is partially dollarized (meaning they use US paper bills) and the tourism industry operates largely in English. I had no issues navigating the city and I visited Angkor with my hostel’s tour guide.

9. Chicago

Chicago, especially in the summer, packed with things to do for solo travelers. The Art Institute of Chicago, located within Millennium Park, is a must-see. At night, check out a show at The Second City, one of America’s most prolific comedy clubs. Round off your visit with a baseball game at Wrigley Field, a stroll along Lake Michigan, or a slice of Chicago deep-dish pizza.

8. Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is perfect for solo travelers because most of the attractions are free and self-guided. It’s also, in my opinion, one of the prettiest cities in America. It’s also only a short distance from Boston and New York City, both excellent solo travel destinations, if you’re planning an extended trip. While in DC, check out any of the 19 Smithsonian Museums (my favorite is Air & Space) and take a free tour of the US Capitol Building (reservations recommended).

7. Chiang Mai, Thailand

I went to Chiang Mai last May as part of a longer solo trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Chiang Mai is a medium sized city; perfect for anyone (me!) who is overwhelmed by the thought of navigating a city like Bangkok alone. There are lots of backpackers and digital nomads in the city and I found it very easy to make friends.

Chiang Mai is one of the best places in Thailand to take a cooking class: in my half-day course with Zabb e Lee Cooking School I learned to make six dishes and left with a full stomach, a recipe book, and lots of new skills. I spent the rest of my time in the city wandering around temples and a full-day tour of the Elephant Nature Park. There are a few other day trips I didn’t have time to do: the National Park, Golden Triangle, and The White Temple, but I met lots of other travelers who had positive experiences with them!

6. Madrid

Stay with me for a second here: if Spain was an episode of Gossip Girl, Madrid would be Blair Waldorf: cool, classic, and dramatic. Nearby Barcelona is a total Serena; the country’s wild child.

If you’ve never seen the show and have no idea what I’m going on about: Madrid, Spain is the epicenter of traditional Spanish arts and culture. Madrid has two world-class art museums: the Museo del Prado and the Reina Sofia. I also recommend adding a day trip to nearby Segovia (pictured), a quaint historic city with a roman aqueduct and cathedral. While in Spain, make sure you have an authentic tapas experience and drink lots of wine from the Rioja region.

5. Paris

The City of Love, The City of Light, The City Where I eat half my weight in croissants.

Paris is the perfect jumping-off point for European solo travel. With the largest number of museums and cultural sites per capital in the world you’ll never run out of things to see. When you get tired or hungry, seemingly every block has a cafe or patisserie to visit. Don’t forget an obligatory stop for macaroons at Laduree on the Champs-Elysees. It’s also incredibly easy to navigate: the massive Metro and bus system is easy to use and offers connections to all 3 of the city’s airports. Insider tip: download the city’s RATP smartphone app before you go to access maps, schedules, and route information.

4. Mexico City

In the US, Mexico City tends to have an (undeserved) poor reputation. I’m here to tell you that as a blonde gringa with minimal spanish skills I am obsessed with this city. Even better, there are cheap non-stop flights from most North American cities. I can fly round trip from Houston for less than $200! Top pics: Frida Kahlo Museum, Teotihuacan day trip, and the Museum of Archaeology. 

3. Seattle

The home of Starbucks, the Space Needle, and Salmon. Seattle also has as massive public transportation system- including light rail, buses, and ferries- that can transport you outside the city to hiking trails, beaches, and parks. If it happens to rain during your visit, spend your afternoon at the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly known as the EMP) or in one of the hundreds of coffee shops.

2. Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Guanacaste is the perfect jumping-off point to visit some of Costa Rica’s best beaches and national parks. For solo travelers, especially first-timers, Guanacaste is the perfect place to stay. There are regular shuttle buses from the Liberia Airport that will drop you off at your accommodation’s doorstep. I stayed at the Casa Aura Beachfront Premium Hostel in Tamarindo- just steps away from the beach- and was blown away by the level of accommodations and service I received. During your visit, you can also take surfing lessons and language classes.

Convinced already? Here’s everything you need to know before you go.

1. Copenhagen

I could spend hours exploring Copenhagen’s many diverse neighborhoods. The city features an interesting mix of old and new architecture as well as multiple large-scale urban sustainability projects (America, take note). The city is pretty easy to navigate but if you get lost, ask a local- danish people are really nice and very helpful. Outside the city, both the Kronborg Castle or the Louisianna Museum of Modern Art are easily accessible by train. I also squeezed in a day trip to Malmö, Sweden on my trip which is only 60 minutes away by train. Don’t leave without trying smørrebrød, a danish open-faced sandwich traditionally served on rye bread.

Do you have any experiences solo traveling? Leave me a comment with your experiences.

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