Women Traveling Alone Part II – great destinations

This is the second in a series of posts specifically for women solo travelers. The first post, Women Traveling Alone Part I – 10 tips offered ideas that make travel for a woman easier. This time, the theme is great destinations for women solo travelers – especially first-timers.

I find it relatively easy to answer questions about how women can get the most out of the solo travel experience. I find it a bit more difficult to suggest where they should go. After all, I haven’t been everywhere.

So, in this post I share with you some of my favorite destinations that I also think would be great for solo travel novices. To broaden out the perspective and identify more great destinations for women, I also offer the results of a little crowdsourcing I did using Twitter.

October, 2012: Since publishing this post I have written much more about solo travel destinations. Please check out:

Great destinations for women traveling alone – a few of my favorites.
Most of my recommendations for women traveling alone for the first time are places where English is spoken, or, it would not be surprising to find someone who speaks English. Being able to communicate in your own language is helpful – especially if you are a newbie.

Here’s my list.

  • The Lake District – if you are at all outdoorsy – or even if you’re not – the Lake District is a fabulous place to visit for it’s natural beauty and local charm. It’s easy to see why this area was the inspiration for much of Wordsworth’s poetry. Walking by day. A pint at the local pub by night. It’s a perfect solo travel destination.
  • Chicago - I love New York City but it is almost too obvious for a list like this. I recommend Chicago for it’s fabulous downtown, waterfront, architecture, great use of the river, cycling, arts scene, blue/jazz scene, sports traditions… and they have a wonderful free greeters program to introduce you to the city as well.
  • AmsterdamAmsterdam is a city rich in history, fresh with pop culture and on the leading edge of social change. It is a place where women, pedestrians and cyclists are all respected. Yes there’s the red light district but it’s also very family friendly. Unlike Paris which is a city to look at, Amsterdam is a place to infiltrate – at least that’s how I felt when I was there.
  • St. Remy & Arles, France – I absolutely love France and the part of France I love the most is the south near Arles and St. Remy de Provence (they are about 30km apart). Arles is the bigger city with a Roman arena. St. Remy has roman ruins as well though smaller. The area is famous for inspiring Vincent Van Gogh who lived there from 1889 to 1890, a year of intense productivity of master works. It’s beauty lies in the landscape, history and French countryside charm.
  • Cross Canada by Train – Traveling coach across Canada is a fabulous experience for a woman traveling alone. On route, you make friends, pick up a card game, have cocktails at 5pm… In first class where people have bedrooms its not quite as social. Traveling coach is very communal. If you’re worried about sleeping upright for three nights well, it can be done. A carry-on is the same height as the seats so a perfect extension if you’re lucky enough to get a double. But, we can make do with what we have. Beside me a lovely couple from Newfoundland sat and slept side by side for four days.

Great destinations for women traveling alone – recommendations from Twitter.

  • New Zealand – it’s safe, very friendly… simply spectacular all around. CarolineAttack.
  • Japan, Thailand, Vietnam… – I think Buddhist countries in general are good bets for women traveling alone zoezolbrod
  • Thailand and Malaysia were great for solo women travelers as well! cbrodzky
  • Chile – I was mostly in cities, but it felt incredibly safe & ppl were helpful. That said, I’ve traveled to ~15 countries alone…  I should add also that the hostel scene in Santiago is amazing (lots of women staffers at CheLagarto, where I stayed) jilliancyork
  • Australia was a great place to start as a woman solo traveler. I went there for 4 months. Then 3 months in New Zealand. MissAlisa75
  • Netherlands – Top pick 4 solo women travelers is Netherlands/small, English spoken,women there considered equal 4 a long time- most imp! Journeywoman
  • Seoul – is my recommendation for you; this city is probably one of the safest places to stay and look around. Experience thousands of years walking around old palaces. And You should try temple foods. medicomm
  • Singapore, Australia and Baguio in Philippines are perfect places for first time solo women travellers prime_sarmiento

 

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  • Sandra

    Hi there, I’m interested in traveling by myself to Mexico, and probably Yucatan. But from what I heard, it may not be as safe as it used to be. There is also an alert from the ambassy. Did you travel there recently overthere ? Any opinion that might helpful to make my decision ? thx !

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  • Angela

    Hi Ms Janice, do you have any information on solo travelling to Costa Rica? I’m about to hit the BIG 50 in May and decided I better plan my own outing as I’ve had many disappointments in the past waiting on others . I’m fortunate to be able to fly for free because I work for Delta, but I’ll only have a week and don’t want to spend my days traveling and don’t want to spend huge $$ on hotels. I can figure that part out, but is Costa Rica worth the travel and safety? I’m also open for suggestions. Thank You. 50Girl

  • Patricia

    I completely agree. I was in Iceland for 12 days in January and never saw a single cop! I’ve never felt so safe. The landscape is amazing, and the people are so nice.

  • Patricia

    I was in Iceland last month and am currently in Ireland. Both are wonderful places for solo travelers. Reykjavik, Iceland was my first international solo travel destination, and it was incredible. I absolutely love Ireland and would stay forever if they’d let me!

  • Melissa

    Did Iceland as a solo female in 2011… Highly recommend, easy to navigate, great food and friendly people…oh, and so safe the police do not even carry guns

  • Liss

    Hi Grace is this still available? i am an Australian women coming to Mexico end of September 2012..

  • Susan

    Grace, is this something you still do, rent your guest room? I am interested in attending a Spanish immersion program.

  • solotraveler

    Hi Marrie, You can also Google “find a travel partner” and you will find a couple of sites where you can post your request. Good luck

  • marrie

    Im looking for a roomate trip who want to share the cost trip to the caribe… leave a message if you are interested!

    thank you

  • Grace Walker

    As a woman living alone, I offer my guest room to women traveling alone. I am in Queretaro, Mexico. It is a beautiful Unesco Heritage city. It is very safe and the Central Hitorical area has a lot to offer. And if you want to larn Spanish, there is a school one block from my house. My guest house is in the Central Historical; center.

  • solotraveler

    Hi Merrie,

    In the Solo Traveler comments you asked me about helping you find a cruise partner. I’m afraid that I can’t be of much help though I have two suggestions. Maybe by joining the Solo Travel Society on Facebook you can ask your question there. I’m not sure if you’ll find someone but possibly. You could also look into Norwegian Epic as they have a solo travel section of that ship.

    Good luck,
    Janice

  • Merrie

    I would like to try a single cruise ship and I am looking for a partner for get the trip for share the expenses.
    I would like a kind of a rommate on my trip and I would like it even a woman or a man! Around 30’s but not olders than 30’s.

    Please let me know if you can help me.

    Thank you!

  • solotraveler

    you identified two on my shortlist – Iceland and Japan. I really want to go.

  • Michelle

    I traveled to Finland and it was great. Beside the lovely art work Rome was a major disappointment for me. Either you are a ‘rich American’ or hit on by men thinking you are a rich American. I’m gonna give Italy another try but out of the big cities. Japan was great…friendly people. England, Scotland, Wales…wonderful. Thinking of Iceland or Ireland next.

  • Linh

    London and Iceland. :) I’m headed there in oct. Iceland is one of the safest places in the world. London .. Well everyone speaks English there :)

  • Ashley

    Interesting thoughts shared here on solo travel for women. I can’t say that I like the idea of there being places that are specifically good/safe/welcoming for women. Granted, there are places I would likely avoid as a woman traveling alone, but generally speaking some basic awareness and common sense (that we exercise on a daily basis, I hope) is enough to keep yourself safe in any city anywhere in the world. It bothers me that we still think it is new and exciting (and dangerous) for women to travel alone. I traveled Spain, Paris, Rome, and all over Ireland and the British Isles by myself when I was 20 and was fine. Never felt threatened, unwelcome, or unsafe. Common sense and awareness. That’s all I think anyone needs when traveling solo, male or female.

  • Nina

    I’ve definitely updated my list of places to travel :) Thanks

  • http://www.tedsimages.com Ted

    That’s exactly the point. And most of the results under “solo travel men” are actually about women traveling alone. Google gets confused because they indeed mention men. As in advice for women about how to meet and/or avoid them.

    Solo travel is, in theory, gender-neutral. But in practice it’s a bit different.

  • solotraveler

    Thanks again.

    That’s hysterical about Google offering to correct your search to “solo travel women”. My guess is that their algorithm tells them that “solo travel men” is rarely searched while the opposite is true of “solo travel women”.

  • http://www.tedsimages.com Ted

    Why would attracting women to this site through search engines be “a sell-out tactic”? I have long believed that the evangelism of enthusiastic female solo travelers to to their more hesitant sisters can only benefit men who now either silently travel alone or avoid travel for lack of a companion. The travel industry, with its myopic fixation on couples and families, has marginalized, penalized, or simply ignored solo travelers of both sexes. So anything that encourages women to take trips alone could eventually add up to a sufficiently numerous “demographic” that the executives and marketeers will no longer be able to dismiss as irrelevant.

    Of course, I have to wonder whether the unintended result of any such success might be that the woman traveling alone becomes recognized, accepted, and even welcomed while the male soloist remains a marginalized and somewhat dodgy anomaly. That’s what comes to mind when I see solo travel nearly always discussed under the “women’s travel” heading, or in a guidebook section labeled “For Women Traveling Alone.” And that’s what the chip on my shoulder is made of.

    You’re quite right about the crime statistics. If anything, it’s possible that a woman is actually safer because she’s appropriately wary and alert. A man may feel that none of that caution is necessary– after all, his mere eye contact is sufficient to repel friend and foe alike!– and thus make himself more vulnerable to criminals. The fact is that someone by him/herself is inherently more vulnerable to pickpockets and muggers simply because he or she is an easier target. There is safety in numbers. That needn’t scare anyone away from going alone, but “wary” is more appropriate than “worry.”

    I do know with some certainty that there are men interested in solo travel. I know this because an article on my Web site about solo travel gets a growing number of search-engine hits from queries like “solo travel men.” Indeed, if you type that query into Google, it’s the first “actual” result. But what I find most interesting is that before it shows you my article, it displays “Did you mean: solo travel WOMEN” followed by two sites offering women-only tours! (And this was the case even before I added the mention of this phenomenon that shows up in the Google listing.)

  • solotraveler

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

    I whole-heartedly agree.

    With the exception of these posts (and including these posts as you have pointed out), all of what I have published on Solo Traveler has been for both men and women.

    The series for women traveling alone came because women seem to need a special invitation to travel alone. (I’d like to catch these women off the search engines. A sell-out tactic? I hope you don’t think so.) The one for men was because a man on Twitter complained that all the posts are for women. So, with the help of a male solo traveler, I gave it a try.

    BUT… as you have pointed out, writing posts with these as themes required gender stereotyping – something I would rather stay away from.

    Yes, I’m careful when I meet men. I do feel somewhat more vulnerable as a woman. But, from statistics I’ve read, we’re not any more of a target than men are.

    With 90% of the comments on Solo Traveler coming from women, I am so pleased to hear a strong male voice state their position.

  • http://www.tedsimages.com Ted

    I apologize for intruding in the ladies’ room. But I have real difficulty understanding what makes any of the destinations in the article specifically appropriate for women. I have been to the Lake District, Amsterdam, and St-Remy (including the adjacent ruins of Glanum, which are anything but small). Although I wasn’t traveling solo when I visited those places, I see no reason why a male solo traveler would not appreciate them.

    Or could it be that these places lack sufficient opportunities to get drunk, take drugs, get laid, or ride a motorbike? Based on your “tips for men,” these appear to be the primary motivation for those half-dozen men who actually travel solo. (All kidding aside, I do appreciate that you at least acknowledged the existence of the male solo traveler, something largely absent from other forums on solo travel. But to me, that acknowledgement seems similar to the way some travel companies acknowledge the existence of single people by offering them a choice of paying the usual “supplement” penalty or sharing accommodations with a stranger. Either way, I suppose it’s the thought that matters.)

    I realize that nearly all writing or discussion about solo travel is by and for women. But other than the understandable fear of a particular type of assault, the concerns of solo travelers of both sexes really are much the same. Indeed, I’d even suggest that most of the tips for women in part 1 of this article are more relevant to men than the tips ostensibly offered for men. At least for those of us who aren’t looking to get drunk, take drugs, get laid, or ride a motorbike. True, I don’t care much about my hair, though I do need to keep my beard trimmed so it won’t be uncomfortable. But I do need to make sure I bring comfortable, well broken-in shoes to avoid painful blisters. And I carry a “man-purse” in the form of a camera bag that I indeed chose carefully!

    I think what’s really going on is that women inherently feel the need to share their feelings and bond with other women. So they’ll eagerly write books, articles, and Web sites extolling the empowerment and spirituality they’ve found in solo travel, all of which are mainly intended for sharing their discoveries with other women. (That’s not a criticism, but merely an observation that may also explain why women live longer than men.) Whereas men who travel solo– all five or six of us– just quietly go alone on trips and don’t feel the need to talk about it. That’s surely the reason no media conglomerate has seen fit to publish a book about solo travel for men. Few would buy it; but I’m sure many would take it to a remote corner of the bookstore, conceal it behind a more innocuous volume, and peruse it furtively.

  • http://maiden-voyage-travel.com Emily

    I totally agree with your suggestion of the Lake District! I was there two summers ago with my mom. One day I felt sick and she went off and spent most of the day herself, and she had a wonderful time. Everyone we encountered was so friendly, and we felt so safe. It was gorgeous, to boot!

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  • http://travelingonashoestring.blogspot.com/ The Girl In Orange

    Probably Milan & Paris too. They are shoppaholics heaven :)

  • Robin Huffman

    Japan is definitely a fantastic place to go as a single woman. I went alone in April (during cherry blossom season). My 15th country (not all of them alone though) and among my favorite. Even if people don’t know English, they will go out of their way to help you (gesturing, etc.). I had several instances where I didn’t even ask for help and I was offered help nonetheless.

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca ayngelina

    I second New Zealand, I traveled there alone and felt totally safe.

    I also started my RTW in Mexico and spoke no Spanish yet felt really safe. Oaxaca is a particularly amazing city if you love food.

  • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

    Great idea for a blog post. I like the idea of narrowing down the places that are relevant and safe for women. I personally enjoyed Washington, DC, as a single woman. Very easy to get around, relatively safe, very interesting.