The 12 Greatest Destinations for Solo Female Travel
Travelling solo is a liberating experience - here are the greatest destinations for it
With more and more women taking off on their own these days, solo female travel is a huge (and growing) market - as are resources giving online advice for those about to take the plunge into the great unknown. Many of these tips apply to everyone roaming alone: book your accommodation, let people know where you are, be adventurous but be sensible and, most of all, use common sense. Here at Plum Guide, we always delve a little deeper, so we’ve come up with the best destinations with solo travel for women in mind. Some might surprise you, but all should provide an amazing experience with the least possible risk to you as a visitor. Always keep your wits about you, as well as an open mind, and your first trip unaccompanied may well lead to another sooner than you know it.
As one of the most admired cities in the world, Paris is perfect for a solo traveller looking in search of adventure (or just some good food). The French capital is a buzzing city, with lots of things to do and see - and you'll have plenty of time to explore it at your own pace. The city is full of museums and galleries to scout, as well as cafés where you can people-watch while sipping a coffee (or wine). If you want something more adventurous, visit one of Paris' many parks, catch a show at Opera Garnier, or take a boat tour along the River Seine. Central Paris (and the metro) are typically safe for solo female travellers, but it’s worth exercising some caution at night - stick to busy boulevards and well-lit areas, for peace of mind if nothing else.
With its winning combination of amazing outdoor adventures and a lively city buzz, the Icelandic capital is a microcosm whose (second) female prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, represents the Left-Green movement. The only member of NATO without an army, Iceland is low on crime, and big on social responsibility - it’s also bags of fun. Clean, green Reykjavík is not only postcard-pretty, dotted with unusual art and architecture (check out Sci-Fiesque Perlan, with its Wonders of Iceland exhibition and planetarium), but is also the dream spot for a bar crawl. Beer Day, marking the end of prohibition in 1989, is still celebrated every March. Local brews, including popular seasonal Viking, are poured into pint glasses and guzzled around bar counters, whether you’re a solo female visitor or a horde of thirsty fishermen. The next day, you can soak it off in the Blue Lagoon, one of many hot springs, and an easy hop from Reykjavík.
Safer and cheaper than neighbouring Spain, Portugal is easy to navigate and pleasingly varied. There’s an ocean to swim in, a major capital to explore, a wine culture to indulge in, and grand architecture to gawp at. From quaint, buzzy Lisbon, absurdly affordable local trains can take you to the palatial resorts of Sintra and Cascais in no time, or you can take the swish InterCidades service to dramatic Porto, and choose between the many wine tours. The port areas of both main cities should be sensibly negotiated late at night, else an all-pervading sense of manners and civility will underscore your visit. Designer boutiques, flea markets, and contemporary malls make Lisbon a shopper’s paradise - and whatever it is that you’re carrying with you back home, the airport is one of the closest to any European metropolis.
A land where street crime is a rarity, Japan is one of the safest nations to visit, especially if you’re a solo female traveller. So many features are geared to individual visitors - such as the capsule hotels (some with women-only floors), the local trains with women-only carriages in rush hour, and the women-only inter-city buses. A JR rail pass allows you to explore the country at leisure, and the trains are quiet and relaxing. Language and signage may be obstacles, so do a little homework before each trip, download maps, and print off what you can. That being said, you can get lost amid the boutiques of Takeshita-dori in Tokyo and still have fun immersing yourself in Japan’s latest fashion. Remember that some temples and shrines have high entrance fees, so choose your destinations carefully if budget’s an issue. And if you’re in Hakone, an hour or so from Tokyo, be sure to visit the hot springs to take in the unbeatable views of Mount Fuji.
Solo travel for women means striking the right balance between safety and entertainment. Gleaming Dubai ranks pretty high where this is concerned - there's next to no street crime, and leisure pursuits are geared towards families. In order to reinvent itself from energy giant to tourist destination, Dubai has had to relax rules of social behaviour you might see elsewhere in the Gulf - women can dress as they please, and alcohol still flows. The traditional souks of Deira and glittering mega malls offer handmade jewellery and the latest fashions, while Jumeriah and other beaches allow you to spend the day in a good book with the occasional swim. There’s adventure, too, with desert safaris scaling dunes in 4WD drives, and a whizz up to the observation deck of the world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa) always an option.
Of course, you shouldn’t drop your guard entirely, but elegant, lively Budapest is as safe a European capital as you’ll probably experience. The nightlife vortex is dotted with security personnel, transport employees man the carriages of the night trams, and single women enter the sauna (costumes on) to sweat off toxins as determinedly as men. The spas, of course, are a key attraction - think the ornate Széchenyi, and the Rudas with its panoramic communal jacuzzi. The Danube is another big draw, explored by tour boat or admired from a restaurant terrace. Budapest is also a great cycling city, thanks to current eco-friendly mayor, Gergely Karácsony.
Amsterdam is known as one of the most liberal cities in Europe (the Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage), which means that solo female travellers can feel totally safe - at all hours of the day and night. There are tons of museums and galleries that are free to visit, as well as the infamous cafes and cutting-edge bars and restaurants where you can get a meal for under €10. You'll find everything from hipster hangouts to bohemian cafes here - see, we told you this is one of the greatest places for solo travel for women.
Multi-cultural Hong Kong allows you to dip into the exotic flavours of Asia without too much travel hassle - and with English spoken almost everywhere. Yes, things might get a bit crowded along drinking and dining haunt Lan Kwai Fong - during public holidays, it’s mobbed - but with a hundred outlets to choose from, you can easily pop in somewhere for a glass or a bite. Designer and pop-up stores fill the PMQ district, and to observe it all from above, ride the Peak Tram to The Peak - enjoy gazing down at one of the world’s most eye-catching cityscapes.
Rome might be famous for its ancient ruins and monuments, but don't neglect the incredible museums - they hold everything from ancient Roman artworks to modern sculptures by acclaimed artists such as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. You'll also find plenty of other artistic wonders in Rome - the city is known as one of Europe's leading fashion capitals, so shop till you drop (or until your credit card maxes out) at any number of boutiques along Via dei Condotti or Via del Corso. Or, head over to Piazza di Spagna to feast your eyes on one of the most beautiful plazas in Europe, replete with an Egyptian obelisk and fountain sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Central Rome is generally a very safe place in the daytime, but be careful to stick to well-lit, busy streets in the evening if you're on the outliers.
To sample South America without the hassle of Buenos Aires or the risk of Rio, Uruguay is a great (if little-appreciated) destination for solo female travel. Knowing that it doesn’t have the 'wow factor' of the Copacabana, Uruguay truly values visitors - the sense of hospitality soon becomes apparent. It’s also the safest of all countries in the region, with a low crime rate - but this doesn’t spell boredom. Your stroll down tourist-friendly Peatonal Sarandí in Montevideo will reveal little galleries and boutiques, as well as museums and monuments. Broad sandy beaches line the riverfront (Playa Pocitos the best for swimming), and whale-watching offers a contrast to the chic beach life of Punta del Este - you'll be spoilt for choice.
Croatia is another great country for solo female travellers - it's full of jaw-dropping landscapes and old-world charm. Balkan culture is hugely welcoming and friendly towards tourists, and Croatia regularly tops the list as one of the safest places to live in Europe. There are lots of unforgettable things to do with your time in the capital Zagreb and the ancient seaside resort of Dubrovnik, as well as smaller Italianate cities like Zadar and Rovinj.
The strict laws of Singapore (no throwing away chewing gum, for example) mean that this is a safe yet lively destination if you’re thinking of solo female travel. Diverse yet mainly English-speaking, Singapore has long been catered to travellers on a stopover between Europe and Australia, so has plenty of quick and easy attractions - such as Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck, and the cable car to Mount Faber Park. There’s also fascinating history, with places such as the Raffles Hotel, still serving its signature Singapore Sling cocktails, and temples aplenty. Relaxing on the (man-made beach) on Sentosa Island is one of many leisure activities here, and Singapore Zoo offers night safaris past exotic creatures.