Before you get to a new place, you hear all sorts of stories from fellow-travellers offering up their tips and tricks and best travel practices for going it alone, oftentimes receiving messages of warning. Don’t walk alone at night. Never carry your passport and large amounts of money with you. Stay in a group of people you trust. While these bits of information are helpful and wise, they can also create a culture of fear and preconceived notions before you even step foot in a new country. You should always be cautious and aware of your surroundings, but it’s also important to open your eyes, mind, and heart to new experiences, lest you miss out on something wonderful.
We’ve put together a list of some of our personal favourite, jaw-droppingly beautiful places that are sometimes regarded as being unsafe for solo travellers. Keep your wits about you and be conscious of where you are, and you’ll be sure to have exceptional experiences wherever you go.
1. Van Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is an Adventure traveller’s dream! Whatever your passion, from whitewater rafting, quad biking through mountains and jungles, to swimming in icy blue lagoons, Vang Vieng is the place to do it. This little mountain town has everything you need to fulfil your cravings for outdoor activities, not to mention the people of Laos are incredibly calm, welcoming, and laid back. It’s impossible to feel stressed in a place as beautiful and relaxing as Vang Vieng. In addition to its natural beauty, Vang Vieng is relatively easy to get to if you’re travelling on your own. You can hire a private driver, find local tour companies going to this area, or take a public bus from Luang Prabang or any of the other major cities.
Whichever way you get there, you’ll be in for a uniquely Southeast Asian experience. Driving through the mountainous countryside en route to Vang Vieng almost makes you feel as though you’re in Andes Mountains in Peru due to sheer size alone. It’s a breathtaking sight and a humbling feeling to be surrounded by the magnitude of this place.
2. Istanbul, Turkey
Being aware of the cultural customs you should respect in Turkey can be helpful for solo travellers. If you dress modestly, you’ll find you’ll have the most incredible time with no hassle. Turkish people are some of the warmest, welcoming, friendly, and openhearted people you’ll ever meet on the road. From exploring Topkapi Palace to wandering through the Hagia Sophia, you will instantly fall in love with this place and its people the more you discover. A perfect place to start is in the country’s capital, Istanbul.
What a beautiful city, and talk about the food! Mouth-watering dishes will grace your palette at every restaurant. Aside from the food, the culture, history, and architecture in Istanbul are some of the most varied and beautiful in the world. While in the city, The Grand Bazaar and Spice Market are two attractions you must see. Be prepared for a friendly haggle or two with local shop keepers for the best price on spices, herbs, and gorgeous handcrafted artisan goods. Between these two iconic cultural gems, you can spend your entire day wandering through endless hallways and rows of shops.
3. Ella, Sri Lanka
While the whole of Sri Lanka is a solo traveller’s paradise, if you want a one-of-a-kind, affordable and fun experience we would recommend visiting Ella. Taking the train into this little mountain town is a [totally instagrammable] must! You’ll get gorgeous natural landscapes and a view of the whole town from above, fulfilling that solo traveller’s rite of passage of taking local transport in a foreign place. Once you arrive, stay at a local hostel in the town and wander up and down the little shops and resto-bars for a fun night out with the locals. While here, pack your camera and get out into nature to explore Kithal Ella Falls and Ravana’s Cave Temple, or go for a hike to Ella Rock for sweeping views of the mountains and town below. If you like chasing sunrises, go for a sunrise hike to the top of Little Adam’s Peak and watch the sun come up over the valley.
4. Fort Kochi, South India
When you’ve had your fill of wandering around the tropical landscapes of Sri Lanka, the next place you need to check out is Fort Kochi, in the southern province of Kerala, India. This sleepy little beach town is a solo traveller’s paradise. You can pass your days here in a relaxation or yoga retreat, or simply enjoy some great local cuisine. Here you’re sure to find local creatives, artisans, and interesting historical gems dotted around the town. Go on a walking tour of the area, grab some lunch at any of the awesome restaurants or cafes, and just enjoy the scenery.
If you want a change of pace and to explore different surroundings, why not try a river cruise and explore the backwaters of Kerala? Here you’ll get a chance to see how the local fishermen earn their keep and get a glimpse into their daily lives and you drift smoothly through the channels.
5. Lake Malawi, Malawi
Malawi is a lesser-known tourist destination in Africa, but we should give it more credit. One place in particular that stands out is Lake Malawi. This massive freshwater lake spans almost the entire length of the country, boasting gorgeous white sand beaches and crisp, clear water in which to swim, but beware of freshwater alligators!
Lake Malawi is a place you would want to go for extreme relaxation. We’re talking reading a book in a hammock, suntanning on the beach, and napping under the shade of a palm tree relaxation. If you can, go for a walk with a local guide and get a glimpse into a day in the life of the local Malawians. Locals here are some of the most wonderfully fun, lively, and friendly people and seem genuinely appreciative of tourists visiting their country. They’re curious about where you’re from and love to ask you questions and have conversations with you to practice their English skills.
If you’d like to care for injured and orphaned animals while you’re there, check out the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre
If you love travelling but you want to do a more than just sight-see, we offer different types to trips from ‘voluntourism’ with education-based itineraries to various conservation projects all over the world. No matter your preference, we’ve got you covered!
Follow Rose’s adventures on her blog