Experienced independent travelers have the entire world as their playground, feeling completely at ease with visiting new destinations and meeting new folk. These are the people who can walk into a bar alone and by last orders, have a new crew of friends. This kind of character is on the rare side and if you are new to solo travel or have any degree of anxiety about it, you are not alone. We’ve pulled together a few destinations that are perfect for your first trip, along with some handy tips.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Lombok and the Gili Islands, Indonesia
Villa Atas, Selong BelanakPejanggik, IndonesiaGreat and affordable Villa in southern Lombok on Selong Belanak beach. Great Place that sleeps 6 comfortably or more if you want to squeeze. Fantastic staff, and just a short walk from the beautiful beach. Great for a long weekend getaway from Jakarta. Just 25 minutes from airport. As easy to get to as Anywhere in Bali. Small beach break decent for newbie surfers.
More info villaataslombok.com
Lombok is popular with independent travelers, especially those who want to surf, snorkel or dive. Gili Trawangan, Gili T, as it is called for short, has no motorized vehicles operating on it; you get around by bike, horse, carriage, or by foot. You can walk the entire island in about two hours.
Mount RinjaniSembalun Lawang, IndonesiaThis is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. It’s a 3 day trek, and you reach summit (3726 m) early morning on the 2nd day. The views of the crater lake and active volcano are absolutely incredible and truly take your breath way. The sunsets and sunrises are incredible. But be careful, this mountain is not well maintained and there is no such thing as a trail. #extreme #hiking #camping
Solo travel tip: Reach out to friends and acquaintances.
A simple “Do I know anyone in _____?” on Facebook can yield unexpected results. This method can find friends (and often couches) in otherwise totally anonymous destinations.
You’ll find it impossible to go anywhere in Jordan without experiencing some of its famous hospitality. The huge Nabatean and Roman archaeological site of Petra really does live up to the hype, and will appeal to people who love rugged, natural beauty and hiking, as well as to history buffs. Lawrence of Arabia described the mountains and orange/pink sands of Wadi Rum as “vast, echoing and God-like”; Jerash is one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the world, and the Dead Sea one of the strangest natural wonders.
Solo travel tip: Cook.
Your experience of travel will be altered hugely when you start to prepare a lot of your own meals. Not all, of course, since tasting local cuisines is hands down the best part of traveling, but many. Wandering local markets, you can improve language skills, feel rooted in your home-of-the-moment, and saved serious money. Choosing an Airbnb with a kitchen facilitates this, as does staying with friends.
3. Edinburgh, Scotland
The Royal MileEdinburgh, United KingdomMain city center street in Edinburgh full of pubs, cafes, small shops, etc. Beautiful, historic buildings line the street as it leads up to Edinburgh Castle. Do not miss! #free #history #walking #architecture #citycenter
Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, has the reputation of being — not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world — but one of the friendliest. Personally, I’d recommend skipping air bnb, in this instance, and booking a hostel. Edinburgh, “The Burgh”, as locals call it, is a great place to meet people from all over the world. Book a hostel, join a pub crawl and make a heap load of new pals.
Solo travel tip: Mine for connections.
Social media is a multifaceted beast, but it really comes in handy for certain kinds of travel. Ask Facebook friends, “Does anyone have any connections in ___?”. The more you travel, the more your network grows — exponentially, it would seem. Apps like travelstoke allow you to connect with locals willing to share info or even host travelers a la couchsurfing.
If you’re looking for the best places to travel alone in Central and South America, don’t overlook Guatemala and its ancient Maya ruins. It’s an inexpensive place to travel, which means you could stay for a while to learn Spanish or even volunteer.
Pacaya volcanoEscuintla, GuatemalaWhy hiking the Pacaya Volcano is one of the ultimate hikes in the world!
This active volcano 20 minutes outside of Guatemala city can be hiked round trip in 3-4 hours depending on if you take a jeep up the first half of the hike. Once you reach the petrified lava flow at the base of the volcano, you will surprisingly come across the tiny “Lava Store” where artisans Fernando and David make jewelry out of petrified lava and coconut shells. This world famous store is dangerously perched at the base of Pacaya. Since the store opened in 2010, it has been “relocated” almost a dozen times due to the volcanic activity and lava flows taking it out. From there, it is about an hour hike straight up uneven shifting rocks to the mouth of the crater. You have to be careful, since the volcano is spewing noxious gases and could erupt at any time, but the beauty and views from over 8,000 feet high of the nearby volcanoes and potential danger of this hike has voted it one of the top 20 best hikes in the world by National Geographic.
Solo travel tip: Get lost and like it.
Getting lost is a common consequence of going in blind; even if we don’t like it, we can bring our sense of humor along for the walk and discover off the radar spots.
Now is the time to visit Cuba. “The country has changed more in the last five years than in all its history,” Cubans say, as foreigners enjoy home stays, five-star hotels spring up in Havana, tour buses queue in formerly off-the-grid towns, airports expand, and culinary traditions widen. And it’s about to change even more, not only because of the growth in tourism since US/Cuba relations were liberalized, but because that liberalization could be threatened under a Trump administration.
Hotel Los JazminesViñales, CubaIf you find yourself in the tobacco capital of Cuba, the rooms in this hotel just outside of town offer amazing views of the surrounding countryside. #cuba #vinales #pool
Solo travel tip: Be bold — ask questions.
Every piece of information we could possibly need is available on the ground. No need to read travel forums, or even look up directions (although by all means do both if it sets your mind at ease). Depending on where you are in the world, there are metro maps, info centers, or throngs of aggressive taxi drivers at every possible port of arrival. Barring that, the local person sitting next to you on the bus/plane/train/ferry is usually an excellent resource.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife TrustNairobi, KenyaBaby elephants! I could hardly contain my excitement when they all came barreling down the hill to the daily feeding area. These baby elephants are all saved, nourished and put back into the wild. You can watch the feeding an hour daily at 11, so be on time or early to make sure you get a spot. All proceeds go to help the elephants.
Tourism accounts for the largest share of the country’s foreign earnings as thousands of visitors arrive to see up to a quarter of a million wildebeest make their annual migration between Kenya and its southern neighbor, Tanzania. You can easily join a big group or arrange for a guide to take you out into the wilderness alone.
Masai Mara National ReserveNairobi, KenyaAbout 5hrs drive from Nairobi, the Masai Mara has incredible biodiversity. Did a 4 day safari and saw lions, elephants, hippos, rhinos, cheetah, giraffe and so much more. While hiring a tour company from the city is “easier”, you’ll save money by going to villages near the park entrance and hiring a local Masai to take you in. They’re also allowed to drive where others can’t b/c it’s their native land. Makes for all around more culture and adventure #kenya #safari #masaimara #lions
Solo travel tip: Talk to strangers.
They’re not scary — usually. When they are creepy, it’s usually pretty clear to my intuition. Strangers are typically one of three things: treasure troves of insider information, friends you haven’t met yet, or an excellent story for later. Instructions for talking to strangers: eyes up, shoulders down, words out.
7. Barcelona, Spain
Plaça de CatalunyaBarcelona, SpainOne of the city’s most famous landmarks, this plaça is cool to hang out at when there’s less people. There’s always a million pigeons, so you’ll inevitably kick a few. From here, you can take the air bus to the airport or the metro to go outside of Barcelona. On one side of the plaza is Fnac, a big store for books, electronics and other fun things. #free #statue
Visit southern Spain anytime of the year. The skies are usually clear, winters are short and mild, summers are hot but bearable. Barcelona was designed for pedestrian pleasure. Its iconic Ramblas and paseos have wide sidewalks and medians dotted with benches and shady trees — perfect for leisurely strolling, people watching, and window shopping. You can also escape the hustle and bustle by heading out to one of the city beaches on the super easy-to-use public transport. In the evening you can avoid eating alone in a stuffy restaurant by doing as the Spanish do: grazing on tapas in one of the city’s cool bars.
AlbaicínBarcelona, SpainThis neighborhood has heavy Moorish influences, written all over its narrow, cobblestone streets and quiet hangout spaces by running water. The area is tranquil and neighbors know each other. It gives off a sense of community and old time charm. Get lost in the streets (trust me, you will even if it’s not by choice) and take some photos during siesta time – you’ll be the only one around. #free #history
Solo travel tip: Let go of “should’s”.
Often mile-long checklist of “must sees” and “must dos” limits potential for spontaneous discovery. Excursions can happen organically — often with new friends.
8. South Island, New Zealand
Milford SoundQueenstown, New ZealandDay tours leave from Queenstown stopping in the unearthly rainforests of fiordlands national park on the way to Milford sound (Piopiotahi in Mauri). #fullon #lordoftherings #8thwonder
Whatever you’re into, chances are you can find it in New Zealand — dramatic coastal cliffs, alpine lakes and peaks, surfable beaches, active volcanoes and geothermal features, lush rainforest and old-growth forest, walkable glaciers, underground caverns…it’s all here. But what really sets New Zealand apart is the fact that all of the above is in such close proximity, and is so easily accessible. You can go surf to summit in a single day, drive from snowy mountain passes to temperate rainforest. What that means is you get to pack an incredible amount of adventure into every trip.
Shotover Canyon Swing & Canyon FoxQueenstown, New ZealandWelcome to the highest commercial cliff jump in the most extreme adventure capital of the world (AKA, welcome to what nightmares are made of). I opted to do the canyon swing over bungee jumping since you can customize your experience by going off in various different ways — my first round was by being pushed off a slide, second round was hanging upside down and crying with no shame. #extreme
Solo travel tip: Set up an Airbnb.
Set your price, browse your options, and choose a host who seems interesting. I’m still in contact with several of my Airbnb hosts, and owe unique memories (like tasting the best chocolate gelato in the whole world) to them.
9. Kathmandu, Nepal
If you’re an experienced altitude trekker, the Annapurna circuit can be tackled independently, but it’s wise to hire a porter or set out with an organised group.
Solo travel tip: Keep up with hobbies.
Dancing tango, salsa-ing, climbing, you’ll connect with people you’d have never met otherwise.
10. NYC, United States
Xo #NYC #manhattan
NYC is probably the #1 place in the world for solo travelers. Infact, I’d actually recommend going alone over visiting with friends. It’s challenging, exciting and a wild adventure, enjoy!
Solo travel tip: Become a regular.
There is something uniquely grounding in being a regular customer (in a cafe, restaurant or even corner store) — in simply being recognized. When our default mode is anonymity, feeling seen, known, familiar offers a powerful sense of place. Especially when I have a few weeks or months somewhere, I find myself accumulating these “regular” spots. Though utterly departing from all known routine is a key — even necessary — element of travel for me, glimpses of familiarity within the unknown provide welcome — even necessary — moments of respite.
11. Santiago, Chile
The typical tourist route of Santiago includes walking or taking the funicular up Cerro San Cristobal, the Virgin-topped hill that overlooks the city, a spin through some of the museums such as the PreColumbian art museum for traditionalists, or the Colo-Colo soccer museum for lovers of that sport. The city’s easy access to both mountains and beach make it a great starting off point, and those headed further north to the desert or further south to Patagonia, or to one of a couple of easily-accessed wine valleys close to Santiago, often spend a couple of days here on their way. Don’t be shy. Chileans are very welcoming. Be brave and introduce yourself to locals, they will relish the opportunity to practice their English.
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