Backpacking and traveling alone is not a new concept for 2020. Individuals have been traveling the world for centuries in search of transformative experiences. Many use travel as a means to see the world in a new light, transform their beliefs and to awaken their soul. However, many encounter set-backs while they are planning their itinerary for the best places to travel alone. It can be intimidating to travel alone without anyone else. Some set-backs solo travelers experience include lack of safety, language barriers, participating in activities, navigating alone and staying on budget.
We firmly believe that solo travel can be one of the most transformative experiences you can encounter. When you travel alone, you are on a journey of self-discovery and are constantly challenging yourself. On a daily basis you are willingly putting yourself in uncomfortable situations that will challenge your self-confidence, your well-being, patience, and resilience. You will become more in tune with yourself and discover skills you never realized you possessed before. You will learn your strengths, weaknesses, what you are really passionate about, what you really dislike and what you personally want to improve on. Now that all sounds great, as long as your basic needs are met. You want to feel safe. You need to know that the destination you are heading to is in line your travel goals, interests, language requirements and budget. If you set yourself up for success then there is no reason to need to travel with others. You are about to learn why traveling alone may actually be even more fun than traveling in a group. We selected these 7 best destinations to travel alone based on criteria including safety, language, ease of getting around, excursions and budget.
Are you ready to be the leader of your own flashpacker adventure? Let’s find the perfect flashpacker destinations to travel alone in 2020.
Destination #1: Thailand For Solo Travel
Why Travel to Thailand
Thailand has seen a boom of tourists in the last 10 years. Over 35 million tourists visited last year and that number is only increasing. Backpackers, luxury travelers, solo travelers, budget travelers, new grads, retirees, flashpackers, and group tours are all going on adventures here. And it's no surprise. This country is known for its smiling friendly locals, delicious street Pad Thai, stunning tropical islands, affordability and accessibility. We even have a Top 10 dedicated solely to Thailand.
Getting Around Thailand for Cheap
There are an abundance of daily flights worldwide that land in Bangkok (the capital city). The transportation between major cities is very well connected. You can take trains, buses or planes between main cities. Additionally, traveling short distances can be done through Uber, Grab Taxi or songthaews (a local shared bus/taxi) who offer a safe and reliable taxi service for nomads. When it comes to budget, Thailand is very reasonable. The largest portion of your budget will be spent on your plane tickets to and from Thailand, although you can minimize that cost as well with some tips and techniques from our How to Find Cheap Flights guide. Daily travel activities, transportation, food and accommodation are extremely cheap. For example: you can buy Pad Thai from a street vendor for under $2 USD in Bangkok and stay in for under $35 USD per night in Chiang Mai. The northern regions in the mountains like Chiang Mai and Pai are some of the best places to travel in Thailand alone because they tend to be cheaper and costs rise as you go south towards the islands.
In terms of activities there is plenty to see and do. Many travel to see the ancient temples, to take a Thai cooking class, to go on an urban city tour in Bangkok, to beach at the beautiful islands in the south, to see the elephants and wildlife, to go scuba diving, to homestay in a northern town, to go to a yoga or silent meditation retreat and much, much more.
What to Expect in Thailand
Thailand is a beautiful and inexpensive destination to travel to, has great transportation methods to travel between destinations, and is known for solo backpackers adventuring around. Additionally, due to the boom in tourism the country has a lot of English speakers, so not speaking English in the main cities won’t be a problem.
Destination #2: Iceland For Solo Travel
Why Travel to Iceland
Iceland, the small Nordic island country, is a great solo traveler destination. The majority of Iceland is actually green landscape, however there are parts of it covered in snow and ice like the crater of Hverfjal. Outdoorsy nomads flock to this destination to experience their geothermal baths, see the fjords and volcanoes, whale watch, view beautiful waterfalls like Hraunfossar (“Lava Falls”) and go in the famous Blue Lagoon. Check out our Iceland in 4 Days Itinerary to help you plan your trip.
Getting Around Iceland For Cheap
Due to the remoteness, taxes, and the economy of Iceland; produce and going out to eat is fairly expensive. We suggest packing dry food with you, buying food from the local grocery stores and preparing your own meals, to make the trip more affordable. The most common way of traveling around Iceland is renting a car or a campervan and following the Golden Circle Route. We suggest visiting natural hot springs that have no entrance fees, and are less touristy like Landmannalaugar hot water springs. Lastly, Iceland is full of natural hot pools like Drangsnes Hot Pools, which is a naturally heated pool that is free to relax in.
What to Expect in Iceland
You will fly into their largest city Reykjavik then figure out your transportation from there. They are known for being a quaint, intimate country and have a small town feeling. Everyone knows everyone, which makes traveling there alone less intimidating. One of the biggest benefits of solo traveling here is that there will be no language barrier. Everyone speaks English and it has been awarded the safest country year after year. Locals trust their neighbours enough to leave their car and house unlocked. If you are feeling brave you can even try and learn Icelandic from the locals, as Icelandic is their national language. The ONLY downside to Iceland is that it can be heavy on your wallet and there are no toilets in the wilderness, so you need to mentally prepare for that.
Destination #3: Japan For Solo Travel
Why Travel to Japan
Japan’s low crime rates make it a very safe destination to travel alone, and it’s food, culture and history have been bringing tourists in for centuries. It has been ranked in the top 10 of the world’s safest countries, which is very comforting for solo travelers to know. History, innovation, art, technology and exquisite food make Japan a top destination. Many come to explore tea houses and temples in Kyoto, visit the Japanese gardens, go on a backcountry ski trip to Hokkaido’s volcanoes, or to experience the busy streets of Tokyo. Some accommodations unique to Japan include staying in a traditional ryokan or staying in a capsule pod. Last but not least, trying Japanese food is a must. Top dishes to taste include sushi, sashimi, ramen, okonomiyaki, and green tea.
Getting Around Japan For Cheap
Japan can be made budget friendly if planned and researched properly. For example; taking the Shinkansen bullet train may seem tempting, but each ride can be costly depending on your destination, so opt for other modes of transportation while you are there. Instead, purchase your Japan Rail (JR) Pass prior to arriving in Japan. Although not as quick as the bullet train, this is the most economical way to travel across multiple cities in Japan. Beware that tickets sell out quickly in late April to early May during Golden Week, during Oben in mid August and New Years until the start of January.
Staying in capsule pods,a unique experience on its own, or sleeping at a traditional ryokan (Japanese inns) are great ways to stay on budget. If you’re looking for ways to eat cheaply, try finding a conveyor belt sushi restaurant or opt for low cost, yet delicious, street food.
What to Expect in Japan
Japan is one of the only countries where it is normal to go for dinner alone. This is comforting for nomads as many feel insecure eating alone as they are not accustomed to it in North American culture. We definitely suggest learning a bit of Japanese or having Google Translate and navigation apps handy, as many transportation signs are only in Japanese. Travelers have stated that English communication skills are weak, so this is one of the only downfalls of Japan. That being said, Japan’s culture is very polite and even though the locals may not understand what you are saying completely they will smile, nod, bow and speak in gestures to try and accommodate you. Lastly, Japan’s transit system is state of the art and you will never have any delays or problems traveling from city to city.
Destination #4: California For Solo Travel
Why Travel to California
Everyone is always California Dreamin’ and there is a reason why. California has a flourishing tourism economy and the amount of tourists visiting every year is continually growing. This diverse Golden State has something for everyone, especially for the creative and outdoorsy types. You can visit San Diego for the Golden Gate Park and amazing beaches. Go whale watching at Big Sur. Be trendy and go to Los Angeles (LA) to visit Venice Beach, Beverly Hills and the Santa Monica Pier. Travel to San Francisco for Sunset Cliff National Park. For nomads with cultural interests there are multiple art galleries and museums to visit. It’s also very popular to travel to the Southwest or Pacific Coast via the Pacific Coast Highway. If you are looking for a relaxed and beautiful off-the-beaten path option then Humboldt and Lost Coast are for you.
Getting Around California For Cheap
California is known to be pricey, so be flexible and book flights on cheaper days of the week. Many solo travelers stay in AirBnBs or inexpensive hotels, or book a campsite. There are generally plenty of social environments that are great spots to meet other travelers. Locals are friendly and love to give you recommendations on where to travel next. There is transit between the cities, however, many solo travelers choose to rent a car to go at their own pace and to travel off-the-beaten path. In the larger cities like LA, San Diego or San Francisco, order Uber Pool or Lyft Line, which are ride sharing options at a fraction of the regular price. These 3 larger cities also rent out dorm rooms at low prices. Finally, eating out in California can get expensive if you try all the trendy restaurants and health food spots. Mix in some local cafes and food trucks to save on food costs.
What to Expect in California
Know that if you are coming from abroad you will either fly into Los Angeles Airport or San Francisco Airport. If you are an American who lives in a neighboring state you can travel to California via car, bus, train or local flight. Don’t worry about getting lost or not having an itinerary as there are tourist centers in every major city. Expect to try some of their award-winning local wine. They produce over 17 million gallons of wine each year and offer multiple wine tours in Napa or Sonoma Valley. We recommend going on a biking wine tour for a new experience. California is great place to travel alone in the us, however the high prices are its down-fall, so be mindful when booking accommodations and eating out.
Destination #5: New Zealand For Solo Travel
Why Travel to New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the world’s most popular destinations for solo camping travelers, campervan travel and nature lovers. Some of the top camping destinations include Matauri Bay Holiday Park, Urupukapuka Bay Campsite, or Te Araroa Holiday Park. Besides being a camping destination, New Zealand is also known as Home of Middle Earth™ to all Lord of the Rings fans. Travelers can actually visit this site and experience it for themselves. Aside from being a famous movie destination, this country has also been ranked #2 on the Global Peace Index, which reassures nomads that traveling alone here will be safe. New Zealand is a perfect destination for an outdoorsy nomad who enjoys hiking, climbing glaciers, skiing, mountain biking, swimming at beautiful islands, and dolphin watching. There are lots of visitor centers to ask for directions and travel advice. According to Trip Advisor reviews, Franz Josef Glacier is one of the top glaciers to visit. We also suggest seeing all the wildlife that New Zealand has to offer. You can go on tours to see penguins, kiwi birds, seals, dolphins, whales and much more. Overall, New Zealand is a unique place to explore for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Getting Around New Zealand For Cheap
Meeting other solo travelers at local bonfires, your hostel, or camp sites is a great opportunity to socialize. You can organize trips with other nomads who share similar travel interests, share and receive travel recommendations, and make new friends. Many travelers rent a campervan or a car to get around off-the-beaten-track. If you make new friends when you arrive you can split the price of the campervan and save on transportation costs. Cooking meals by campfire or cooking meals with friends can help you save money while traveling as well. Eating out will become pricey, so opt to make your own food for a more affordable trip. Finally, camping is a popular means of accommodation in New Zealand, so you won’t stress about going over budget as campsites have low daily rates. Now maybe you are not a camper? No problem. Book a backpackers hostel, a budget motel or hotel, a holiday park which is a luxurious campsite, couch surf, book an AirBnb, work for accommodation, house sit for a Kiwi, or do a home exchange.
What to Expect in New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the safest places to travel alone and the word lonely will not be in your vocabulary when visiting. New Zealand is bursting with friendly individuals traveling and camping alone. The camping scene is very social and many nights are spent mingling with fellow campers by the bonfire. Language barriers will not be an issue as Kiwi’s main spoken language is English.
Beware of the variant climate zones in New Zealand depending on where you are staying. The northern parts have subtropical weather, the southern parts have cooler temperatures and the mountain areas have alpine temperatures. Be sure to check the weather conditions before you arrive and pack accordingly to the different climate zones. Budgets for this trip can go anywhere from budget friendly to high-end depending on the type of trip you are looking for. Ensure you do proper research and planning to remain within your travel budget.
Destination #6: Ireland For Solo Travel
Why Travel to Ireland
Have you ever heard the saying there are 2 kinds of people in this world? The Irish and those who wish they were. It is truly how you feel when you go to Ireland. The Irish love chatting with individuals who are traveling alone and just having a grand ol’ time. Pubs and beer are plentiful but there is more to Ireland than meets the eye. Many come to see the cliffs of Moher or to visit the capital city Dublin. Those looking for an ancient spiritual experience visit Newgrange UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is technically a passage tomb that is over 5000 years old, however many refer to it as an ancient temple. Whatever brings you to Ireland we are sure you will feel a sense of calmness as you wandering around the scenic countryside.
Getting Around Ireland For Cheap
We suggest joining a guided walking group tour of one of the main cities. It is a great way to meet and connect with solo travelers and many hostels offer these tours for free. Travelers like to stay in hostels and Bed and Breakfasts and get around by train, bus or plane. Overall, Ireland can be a fairly budget-friendly place if you plan wisely.
What to Expect in Ireland
Your safety should not be an issue in Ireland. According to the Institute of Economics and Peace, Ireland has been ranked as one of the top 15 countries on the Global Peace Index. The locals all speak English, and enjoy socializing at their pubs. The Irish are as friendly as they let on and a very close-knit community, so you will feel welcomed even when alone. Don’t opt out of “paying for a round.” Paying for rounds is part of their culture and locals will see this as rude and it is a faux-pas. Just be friendly and be sure to contribute to drinks. Be mindful of their rainy climate in some parts of the country. Their scenery is stunning, but you will want to pack a raincoat and your wellies.
Destination #7: Costa Rica For Solo Travel
Why Travel to Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been awarded one of the happiest countries in the world. Solo outdoor adventurers gather in Costa Rica to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest, go surfing in Tamarindo, to see monkeys, sloths, toucans and wildlife and wander through the rainforests. There are 12 different climate zones in Costa Rica and that is what makes this destination so appealing and diverse. Their micro-climates change from cloud forests to erupting volcanoes to tropical jungles to dry forests to rivers and waterfalls to warm sandy beaches. Even though the weather can change drastically in Costa Rica, it has a mild climate overall which is why many enjoy travelling here during cold winter months.
Getting Around Costa Rica For Cheap
Car rental is probably your best option as there are many off-the-beaten-track locations that are not accessible by public transit or plane. Another option is to look into shuttle transportation service. This is a small air-conditioned bus that operates on a daily basis that transports travelers between popular locations. If you meet other solo travelers then you can arrange a private shuttle bus and use the bus driver as your local private tour guide. To truly step out of your comfort zone and live in a new authentic environment we recommend staying in an eco-hotel. These lodges are usually located in the rainforests or by the ocean, so you get to experience the wild jungle or calm beach scenery. They are ideal for nature lovers who want to do yoga on the beach, live in the jungle and experience local cuisine.
What to Expect in Costa Rica
When you arrive in Costa Rica, the first thing you will hear from a local is “Pura Vida,” meaning Pure Life. However this is more than just a saying, it is a way of life there and they choose to live a life full of gratitude and life to the fullest. The locals are very friendly and most have a great base level of English in major cities, so you don’t have to worry too much about a language barrier. If you are looking to go on more remote adventures join a guided tour where you can meet other fellow solo travelers and have a guide who speaks English. With its multitude of climate zones you may be at a beach in the morning and arriving in a rainy tropical forest by the afternoon. Be mindful to pack clothes that will accommodate every weather situation. Finally, in terms of budget in Costa Rica it’s not the cheapest of the Central American countries, but there are plenty of opportunities to save on transportation and activities to keep costs down
Which Country Will be Your Next Solo Travel Destination?
Our list of the best places to travel alone are safe, budget-friendly, have interesting attractions and excursions, and minimal language barriers. Traveling solo can be transformative, so challenge yourself to travel alone, feed your desire to explore more and experience a new culture, broaden your knowledge of the other side of the world and make new friends in a new city that you have never visited before. You might surprise yourself.