I n recent years, the number of Millennial international travelers has been rising. As mentioned in my previous blog post, “88% of all 31k survey respondents from around the world said they travel overseas 1-3 times a year.” If they see a cheap flight deal on Skyscanner, they jump on it, and spontaneously look for high-rating budget hostels on Hostelworld.
They love experience more than material things. They like to socialize while traveling. They don’t want to miss any chance of getting eye-popping deals and meeting cool people everywhere they go. This experiential appetite is mainly driven by the ‘FOMO Epidemic’, which is perhaps something Baby Boomers did not experience as much as Millennials do when they were in their 20's.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is defined on Wikipedia as ”a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”.
Are these young travelers traveling to certain places for certain purposes? Where are the travel experts encouraging them to go and what are they encouraging them to do while traveling?
Based on many different credible sources online, below are some of the hottest countries in Europe, Asia, The Americas and Oceania they recommend solo travelers to head to in their 20’s and the reasons behind them.
>> Area: Europe
Rick Steves suggests, “Experience the magic of European cities at night. Go for a walk along well-lit streets. With gelato in hand, enjoy the parade of people, busy shops, and illuminated monuments. You’ll invariably feel a sense of companionship when lots of people are around. Take advantage of the wealth of evening entertainment: concerts, movies, puppet shows, and folk dancing. Some cities offer tours after dark.”
Ireland is famous for the welcome it extends to strangers including international travelers. Its hospitality is world-famed for warmth and friendliness, especially in Dublin. Head to a traditional Irish pub to converse with locals over a pint of Guinness because many of them are used to tourists, even in the most remote countryside.
Join walking tours and explore the literary greats, from Oscar Wilde to George Bernard Shaw, earning Dublin its ‘UNESCO City of Literature’ status. If you stay for a while, you might also get lucky and catch a traditional Celtic music session. With a vast network of bed & breakfasts, where to stay as a solo is easy. However, without your own transport, it can be tricky to get out to the remote west coast.
Average price of a pint of Guinness in Dublin: ~6 USD
Editors’ Choice: There are also three islands located off the west coast of Ireland called the ‘Aran Islands’. The Arans are very safe, secluded islands with friendly locals, and great destination for a cycling getaway — the most common form of transport on the islands. Lastly, the Aran Islands are home to the most impressive Iron Age fortress in all of Europe.
Norway was ranked 17th on the Global Peace Index and the OECD Better Life Index has also reported that the country has very low crime and homicide rates. With 21 national parks and iconic fjords pretty enough to break your camera lens, there’s no doubt you’ll manage to find peace and quiet here in Norway. It’s the ideal getaway if you really want to get away.
The best way for solo travelers to experience this 1,000 mile-long country is to aboard one of the Hurtigruten coastal steamers that sail up the coast of Norway, into the city of Bergen, and then stop at dozens of ports along the way. You could also sign up with a local outfitter for a multi-day trek along the fjords, with accommodations ranging from comfortable hotels to mountain huts. The northern lights are gratis.
Editors’ Choice: Head to the Lofotr Viking Museum in Borg and check out the recreated Viking village. Learn to throw axes and shoot arrows, then jump into the replica of a Gokstad Viking ship, with a rowing bench with your name on it. Boats depart daily from Gokstad’s boathouse from June to August. It’s only a 30-minute experience, but you’ll quickly learn to keep pace with your oar, just like the Vikings did.
Busy Barcelona is one the best places to travel alone. Its boulevards full of cafes are perfect for people watching. Its city beaches are also reachable via super easy-to-use public transport and a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle. In the evening, you can avoid eating alone in a stuffy restaurant by grazing on tapas in one of the city’s cool bars, as the Spanish do.
Join dedicated trekkers from all over the world and hike up 400 miles of trail that winds through the Pyrenees Mountains in northern Spain and southern France. Hikers have been walking this pass since the Medieval Age, with the ultimate goal of reaching the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the end of the Christian pilgrimage. Go independently with a solid map (can take up to 5–6 months), or take a 12-day section hike with On Foot in Spain tour providers if you’re pressed for time.
Average price of the tapas in Barcelona: ~3 USD and up
Editors’ Choice: The capital of Andalusia, Seville reflects all the romantic notions of Spain, as it plays home to Moorish architecture, bullfighting, and flamenco. Easily navigable from Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon, Seville offers colorful ceramics, cobbled alleyways and mouth-watering markets, which is just a perfect place for photographers and foodies.
The country’s most popular destination, Dubrovnik has plenty to offer solo travelers. Dubrovnik is an historic walled city jutting out into the deep blue waters of the Adriatic as christened by Lord Byron as “The Pearl of the Adriatic”.
Walk the city walls, visit the islands by ferry and go sea kayaking around the stunning bay. “Sail. Party. Repeat.” That pretty much sums up the Yacht Week — which has routes all over the world. With an infrastructure geared for tourists, you could even take day trips to Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Also enjoy the breathtaking scenery, motorbike adventures, spontaneous cliff jumping, hiking and rock climbing tours with Croatia Traveller, and high potential to find far-flung travel buddies which may also have something to do with its growing popularity. You could also take one big item off of your bucket list: Sip sundowners while watching the sunset along the dramatic Dalmatian coastline.
Editors’ Notes: Try to avoid high summer when cruise ships dock and passengers spill out into the narrow streets; the best times to visit are April and September when the weather is warm and the cafés and restaurants are open for the season.
>> Area: Asia
Hostelbookers suggests, “Asia is one of those countries most women think will be a problem as a solo female traveler, but most find when they get there that it is one of the most comfortable places to visit. Asia is home to some of the friendliest and most peaceful locals in the world, and although some women may not enjoy the same privileges as westerners, female travelers are usually welcomed with open arms.”
Bali is the single most popular destination for Western solo travelers in Indonesia. Many international backpackers, hedonists, and spiritual seekers come to Bali to visit temples, do yoga on the beach, get cheap food, lodging, and massages.
If you want to surf, snorkel or dive in beautiful, clear waters, you can take a 25-minute flight or 4-hour ferry to Lombok, an island off the coast of Bali that feels like traveling back in time to 1970s Indonesia. With such diversity, both Bali and Lombok are staples for solo travelers from across the globe and introduce its ease of life for people to drift into.
Editors’ Choice: If you’re a creative person who appreciates a good organic cup of Joe, Indonesia’s rural coffee bean farms are a must visit. Forest Voices, an eco-minded, fair trade organization, connects travelers and farmers in storytelling workshops. You’ll use writing, photography, and video to highlight the land’s different ecosystems and promote environmentally conscious farming.
Thailand’s beaches and islands are on the traditional backpacking route and whether you choose the Gulf coast to the east or the Andaman coast to the west, you are bound to find people to chat with over a cold Chang beer if you’re travelling alone. According to Skyscanner, the most popular islands include Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Tao, Koh Pha-Ngan (for the famous Full Moon Party), Phuket, and Koh Lanta. The ’land of smiles’ is also fifteen degrees north of the equator so there’s a tropical climate with plenty of sunshine almost year-round.
If you take a 1-hour flight from Bangkok, there is Chiang Mai, a very safe city to walk around the back streets discovering hidden temples and healthy restaurants. When you feel like meeting others, hop on a single or multi-day trek for some bamboo rafting, elephant riding and a visit to long neck villages. To get your shopping fix, also don’t miss the Sunday night market that showcases local artisan wares and exquisite Northern Thai food.
Average price of a 630ml ‘Singha’ beer from a 7-11 store: ~1 USD (~2–4 USD for a 300ml ‘Singha’ in an average bar)
Editors’ Choice: Khao Luang Cave in Phetchaburi is at the gateway to the sublime Phra Nakhol Khiri National Park. Its 90 feet underground is the most beautiful temple littered with nearly 200 Buddhas that catch the light from the cave chamber. Many editors mention that this kept secret is other-worldly beautiful.
Japan is hands down one of the safest and the most friendly countries on earth for foreign visitors and those traveling alone. You’ll need 3-4 days in Tokyo at the very least. Indulge in the cuisine with sushi, ramen, and tempura which is all better than you’ve ever had in your life.
After a few days in the fascinating megalopolis of Tokyo, hop a bullet train (called ‘Shinkansen’) ride past Mount Fuji to experience the contrasting tranquility of old Kyoto. Lodgings, from venerable ryokan inns to modern hotels, are designed with single travelers in mind. You can also enjoy onsen, a communal hot spring bath, after some long days of exploring.
Price of Japan Rail Pass for 7 days: ~283 USD (~451 USD for 14 days)
Editors’ Choice: Hokkaido is the most northern and least developed of the country’s four main islands and although its capital city hosted the 1972 Winter Olympic Games and brews the famous Sapporo beer, Hokkaido is best known for the great outdoors. Hiking in Shiretoko, skiing in Niseko, and birdwatching in Kushiro are top activities if you want to embrace the elements in a remote and unspoiled landscape.
>> Area: The Americas
Due to the amount of everyday incidents happening all over the continent, some of the places in North, Central and South America have been rated the most dangerous cities in the world. This sort of fact might have held many people back from traveling to The Americas, especially all alone. However, the increasing number of international visitors to American cities such as New York (12.2 million) and Miami (7.3 million) has made aspiring travelers more confident about traveling to America.
#8: United States
The Southwest US is famed for the deep red sandstone desert dotted with flat-topped buttes and towering pinnacles. A range of great tours make this the perfect place to strike out solo. The beautiful, vast Grand Circle spans 5 states loaded with national parks and monuments, interwoven by designated scenic byways. It’s an attractive route to Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon, The Wave, and Zion National Park.
Legendary actress Myrna Loy once quipped, “If you’re bored in New York, it’s your own fault.” With so much to see and do in New York City, there’s little chance of boredom. From world-class museums such as the MET and MoMA and to iconic landmarks such as Statue of Liberty and Times Square, it’s impossible to experience everything New York has to offer in one visit.
Another city to not forget to visit is one of the world’s fastest-changing cities with the most innovative companies and stunning scenery of hills and bridges, San Francisco Bay Area. While the city has kept its nostalgic rows of old candy-colored Victorian homes, techies have been re-wiring the SoMa and Mid-Market neighborhoods for the future. The restaurants and music venues continue to impress San Francisco locals and visitors.
Editors’ Choice: Tucked away in the frozen lands of Alaska, the Mendenhall Glaciers has some breathtaking ice caves to offer, travel writers have mentioned that these locations will awaken your inner child and pump up your euphoria.
Being very safe, scenic, and home to some of the best winter scenery you can feast your eyes on, Canada is a great choice for active travelers looking to keep themselves busy with endless possibilities. If you are even more active than city travelers, experience the spectacular Canadian Rocky Mountains and glacier-fed lakes, wildlife at its wildest and small-town charm that only Banff can offer.
As a solo traveler visiting the world’s second largest country, you should set your sights on its cities — like Vancouver, tucked between mountains and water, with fantastic Asian cuisine and the sublime green space of Stanley Park. Or Montreal, for its thriving café and bar scene and distinctly French flair.
Smaller redoubts like Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital can be especially welcoming. It’s a thrumming university town that also happens to be great for sea kayaking.
Editors’ Notes: You really don’t need a car when visiting Banff. Almost everything is within walking distance, or you can take the Roam Public Transit service. Local and regional routes are available, and GPS technology lets you plan exactly when your bus is arriving.
#10: Costa Rica
Travel writers argue that the concept of ‘adventure travel’ was born in Costa Rica, the world’s happiest country. This Central American destination has been drawing Americans for decades to surf on the Pacific coast or join a rafting company for a day on the white water of the Reventazón or Pacuare rivers.
Aspiring surfers start learning by attending a 5 to 7-day surf camp in Costa Rica. In addition to daily instruction, many camps such as Anamaya, offer organic meals and oceanfront yoga classes. Tack on a trip into the rain forest for white-water rafting, zip-lining or a volcanic hot springs treatment, and you’ll return exhilarated and refreshed.
This is also one of (if not the most) safest countries to visit in Central America, filled with expats and wandering souls.
Editors’ Choice: A 2-hour hike into the park will unveil the brilliant blue waterfall called Rio Celeste and several natural hot springs, as well as plenty of Costa Rica wildlife including poison dart frogs, colorful blue morpho butterflies, and curious monkeys. Swimming is prohibited due to unknown effects of the volcanic minerals.
Chileans tend to be friendly and welcoming, which is a huge plus for adventurous single travelers eager to explore this 3,000-mile-long country of deserts, mountains, and endless coastline. Whether you head north to the magical Atacama Desert or south to untrammeled Chiloé Island or Patagonia, save a little time for Santiago, safe and easy to navigate.
Santiago is a sophisticated and accessible yet authentic South American city. It is a city consistently raved about by travelers for its advanced transportation networks, excellent restaurants, and beautiful public spaces. Head straight for Bellavista, a trendy bohemian quarter with bars, quirky buildings, and artistic graffiti. Within easy reach from Santiago are colorful Valparaiso and glitzy Vina del Mar.
Price of a round-trip bus ticket from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine: ~27 USD
Editors’ Choice: Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978, the Torres del Paine National Park is internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful, unique and uncontaminated places on the planet. It is a perfect place for lakes, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, forests and incredible wildlife, all of which make it an exciting destination for wildlife observers, active backpackers and adventure sportsmen alike.
>> Area: Oceania
Intrepid best explains why you need to visit Oceania. “You’ll need a big set of crayons to fill in the colour wheel of Oceania. Start with every shade of red imaginable: that will probably cover the ochre rocks and rusted deserts of the Outback. For the waters of the Pacific? Cobalt blue. But save plenty of turquoise and pale gold for the shallow sandbanks and coastal shoals of Timor and northern Queensland. Then there’s the pure white of New Zealand snow, the moss green of Tasmania’s southern forests and the inky brown of a classic Melbourne espresso. Oceania is life in full colour, just the way we like it.”
#12: New Zealand
New Zealand offers plenty of adventure for single travelers. There is everything from bungee jumping and boat cruising to bike riding and hiking to take up your travel time — chances are you won’t even think about the fact that you’re solo because New Zealand gives you too many opportunities to meet people through those adventurous experience.
The adventure capital also gives you two big options: skydive out of a plane or jump off a bridge. After you experience the exceptional beauty of nature and adrenaline rush, you can relax at a vineyard in Marlborough or partake in Queenstown’s bursting nightlife.
Price of Ritchies 7-Day Visitor Discount Bus Card: ~34 USD
Editors’ Choice: Many travel writers mention that Fox Glacier is considered one of the best places to skydive in the world. In addition to the stunning scenery including the Tasman sea, lakes and glaciers, many top notch instructors and facilities available in NZ (NZONE as an example) will make sure that you have the best skydiving experience possible, regardless of your skill and comfort level.
Australia’s east coast is a popular route with backpackers who typically travel overland in either direction between Melbourne and Cairns. Each of these big cities is the gateway to world-renowned destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Island, the Great Ocean Road, and the Daintree Rainforest.
Known for it’s artistic culture, award-winning food, live music and the best shopping in Australia, Melbourne is a safe, interesting, and lively city for women traveling alone. Take advantage of the city’s efficient public transport system and hop on a tram to the hipster St. Kilda neighborhood where you can cozy up in a cafe with a good book or jump on a ride at Luna Park.
It’s easy to meet fellow travelers on this stretch as everyone is in holiday mode, taking time to hang out in hippie retreats, surf towns and national parks. A great way to meet people is to join a sailing trip to the pristine Whitsunday Islands off the Queensland coast.
Editors’ Choice: There are just too many places to recommend in Sydney. However, at Circular Quay in the heart of the harbor, you can catch the ferry out to Manly Beach. Manly Beach is the place to be and just hang out on the beach or walk around the shoreline, with some beautiful homes to see along the way. The best part of this day trip is the ferry back to Sydney when you get to see the sunset behind the Harbour Bridge and Opera House altogether. It is such a breathtaking view.