I was just 19 when I first started traveling alone, and I can still remember the looks I would get when I would proudly announce this. Often I was met with a glance like I had grown a second head, or a wide-eyed “wow, you’re so brave” or even a head shake and “oh your poor mother.”
Well over a decade later I can safely say I’m still doing things that make my mum shake her head BUT also very proud (I think). Sorry I’m not sorry!
And while my travel has changed, shaped, grown and evolved in many ways, I’m still (and always will be) a diehard solo female traveler, and I will always stand up for and try to inspire other women to do the same, always open to sharing safe destinations solo female travel.
Solo female travel is life-changing, it can really make you as a person, teach you lessons that would have been difficult to find otherwise, and above all, inspire you to confidence and to believe in yourself, as well as to find your inner Beyonce.
I stand by these words.
According to Google, interest in solo female travel has risen by 131%, hitting an peak of 100 million searches in 2018.
Can I get a fuck yes?
Ladies, let’s keep leading the charge shall we? I’m a firm believer in leading by example, the stronger we are and the more supportive community we build around solo female travel, is better for everyone. And shame on you, New York Times, for your vile fearmongering. Women who travel alone AREN’T THE PROBLEM. MEN WHO ATTACK WOMEN ARE THE FUCKING PROBLEM.
Calm down, Liz. Where was I going with this?
So anyways, nestled amongst the heart emoji replies, OMG how can I have your life messages, and general vulgarity that lands in my DM’s and inbox, I often find my favorite question of all. Where should I go as a solo female traveler. Now there I am the expert.
Here are my choices for 10 safe destinations solo female travel. Enjoy!
1. Come hang down with me in New Zealand
My adopted home of New Zealand is an incredible place for women to travel solo and also happens to rank No.2 on the Global Peace Index (GPI). Built for year-round adventure, you can hike through pristine landscapes, ski or snowboard, go whale-watching, or slow things down with a winery tour, and feel safe while you’re doing any of the above.
Crime is minimal here, and it often makes the news if someone steals free range eggs from an honesty box on the side of the road, well, at least it makes the news here in little Wanaka where I live; I suppose South Auckland is a different story.
Violent crimes here are negligent compared to where I grew up outside Washington D.C., where I have never felt to walk outside to my car at night, and as a general rule I’ve found most kiwis to be honest and helpful here, and it’s definitely feels the safest of all the countries I’ve explored, especially for solo female travelers.
If you really need a kick in the butt, come see me at my next Travel Bootcamp in Queenstown in October 2019.
2. Go frolic in Iceland with the elves
Bubbling thermal springs, jaw-dropping rugged scenery and the chance to see the Northern Lights are just a few of the attractions in Iceland, listed the safest country in the world on the 2018 GPI. Don’t be deceived by their general belief in the fairy folk, Icelanders are actually some of the kindest, die-hard drinkers I’ve ever met.
It was one of the first countries I visited when I quit my day job to travel and took a road trip through some of the most remote parts of Iceland under the midnight summer sun.
In many ways Iceland feels a lot like New Zealand in terms of its wild landscapes, few humans, lots of sheep and small crime rates. There’s something to be said about places with small populations and a be kind to stranger attitude still.
3. Dance until dawn with new friends in Uruguay
If you have a yen to travel to South America, World Packers says Uruguay is one of the safest countries in the region for female travelers. Expect a warm welcome in this small country, tucked in between Brazil and Argentina, where you can relax on the beaches of Punta del Este, go hiking in the Parque Nacional Santa Teresa, or see a tango show in Montevideo.
Boasting one of the lowest crime rates in the Americas, Uruguay is a good safe start for solo female travelers looking to hit up South America.
4. Prepare to be blown away by the wild beauty of Norway
Home to World Heritage-listed fjords and unspoiled national parks, Norway is a magnet for those in search of dramatic natural landscapes. Hi!
Scandinavia often reigns supreme in many ways from healthcare and a high standard of living, to universal happiness and low crime rates, a perfect combo for women like us.
5. Fall in love with the magic of Switzerland
Spectacular lakes and mountains and picture-postcard villages, as well as its No.12 position on the GPI, make Switzerland an attractive proposition.
Here, you can hike, ski in the Alps, go boating on the many lakes, grab a bike and go exploring, or take advantage of the amazingly efficient trains, all in the knowledge that solo female travelers find this an easy and safe country to navigate, not to mention exceptionally efficient and very very tidy.
Just don’t go out to a fancy restaurant where you’ll likely be robbed when you go to pay the bill. Switzerland is many things, but cheap isn’t one of them.
6. Go on the hunt for the perfect street food in Hong Kong
Big cities can be some of the safest places to travel for solo females and Hong Kong is no exception, but it’s always good to use commonsense.
Hong Kong is one of my favorite big cities in Asia and I’ve felt safe here both during the day and after dark, on the hunt for dumplings and bao.
Enjoy the amazing shopping and lively culture, but don’t carry too many valuables, advises Lonely Planet. If you’re navigating the city at night, Lonely Planet says the MTR is safe, or if you’re walking, stick to well-lit streets.
7. Get your backpacker on in Portugal
With its spectacular coastline, medieval castles, delicious cuisine and a capital city, Lisbon, that’s hipster central, Portugal also rates highly for safety, occupying fourth place on the GPI.
Former foreign correspondent and diplomat Leyla Giray Alyanak from Women on the Road says Portugal is the safest country she’s travelled in, but advises taking the normal precautions of keeping an eye on your valuables and not putting yourself in risky situations.
One of the friendliest countries in the world, Canada is also one of the safest, coming in at No.6 on the GPI. Being mainly English-speaking gives it an instant advantage for travelers, plus there are safe and efficient transport systems in the cities as well as between destinations.
Major attractions include the spectacular national parks, world-class skiing and vibrant, multicultural cities.
As an American, I’ve come to love my neighbor to the great white north, and I have spent a few winters exploring around Alberta and BC, two magical regions worth visiting. Definitely hope to go back again soon!
Snow sports, onsen, hiking trails and incredible food… what’s not to love about Japan. Plus, CNTraveler names it No.1 in its top 15 spots for solo women travelers. Getting around is fast and efficient with the excellent public transport system, and the Japanese are notoriously helpful to travelers.
Lonely Planet advises that some peak-hour trains have women-only cars to protect female passengers from chikan (men who grope women on packed trains). And, although Japan is relatively safe, they advise the usual precautions and preparedness.
The land down under also makes CNTraveler’s top 15 travel destinations for women, and also comes in at No.13 on the GPI.
With year-round sunshine, you can hit the beaches in the southern states in the warmer months, and follow the sun by heading north when the mercury drops in March/April. Australia’s brilliantly set up for single travelers, with backpacker hostels in most popular spots and buses or budget airlines to get you around this vast country.
What did I miss? Have a favorite? Where do you think is the best country for solo female travelers? Spill!