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Where should a single woman travel alone?

Solo travel is on the rise, and female travellers are leading the way. But picking a destination can be a puzzle. Where should a single woman travel alone?

Sam Jeans
· 12 min read

The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on the travel industry, but our appetite for travel shows no sign of abating.

In 2020, Forbes found that solo travel was on the rise - and that female travellers were leading the way. The coronavirus pandemic has fuelled the growth of solo travel. TravSolo users reported that the increased flexibility of solo travel was important to them and that managing social distancing and hygiene was easier alone.

The solo travel trend has been gaining momentum for some time. In 2014, Lonely Planet found that solo travel was rapidly rising, and solo travelling females now outnumber men by 2-to-1.

Moreover, the average age of solo travellers was increasing. According to Condor Ferries, as many as 86% of solo travellers are older than 35, with an average age of over 45. These stats show that solo travel is more than worthy of serious consideration no matter how old you are.

All in all, solo travel is very much in trend - it can be one of life’s most potent and memorable travel experiences. More and more people don’t want to miss out on that - and rightly so!

If your gut feeling is that you want to experience solo travel, it's time to get the ball rolling!

Why do women solo travel more than men?

It’s an excellent question.

Studies in neuroscience and psychology have repeatedly found that women are often more independent than men. This begins as early as two years of age.

Culturally and socially speaking, the independence of women is hard-fought, the result of many centuries of resisting and fighting against various forms of oppression and discrimination.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, when exploration and travel became more viable to the masses, it was still largely only men who could travel freely. Female travellers were rare, and some, like Lady Hester Stanhope, had to impersonate being a man to guarantee safe passage. She became a hugely influential explorer of the Middle East, but her story is seldom told, purely because she is a woman. 

An article by Vox posited that women crave solo travel now to help reanimate the legacy of past solo female travellers - to make up for lost time.

This reignited motive for adventure, combined with women’s innate independence, alongside their planning and organisation skills, have propelled them way ahead of men when it comes to solo travel.

Why travel alone?

Travelling alone is a bucket list experience - something that everyone should try at least once.

When you travel solo, you’re accountable only to yourself, as well as the culture and landscape that you’re embedded in.

Your thoughts are louder, clearer and more focal when you travel alone. The entire experience is more candid, vivid and intimate.

You’ll also have greater clarity, freedom and flexibility as a solo traveller than when you travel with others.

Authentic solo travel differs from the quiet time you can spend away from your significant other or family when you’re on your usual holiday. The continuity of solitary travel has a different character; it has a natural free-spirited flow and a stronger sense of adventure.

There is nothing weird about travelling alone, either. Interacting with other cultures as an older person may also bring forth a more intellectual or considered approach - something you may miss when travelling with your family, partner or friends.

As you explore a new place alone, your thoughts will unfold in layers of intrigue, heightening your senses and ultimately broadening your perspective and knowledge.

Additionally, many cultures worldwide have great respect for older individuals, which is a positive experience in its own right!

Solo travel to find yourself

To some, the phrase “solo travel to find yourself” sounds fantastic - that’s exactly what we want to do! To others, it will sound a bit lofty.

Whichever way you look at it, there’s a reason why “solo travel to find yourself” is such a widely searched term on Google - it’s because solo travel is a genuinely effective way to get in touch with your inner self. 

This type of experience is essential no matter how old you are. Reflecting upon life as an older solo traveller can be a profound and worldly experience. You can rediscover your independent self and enjoy a holiday on your terms.

Still, there are many other motives behind solo travel than the quintessential quest for personal or spiritual enlightenment.

Solo travellers may wish to tackle an important life project, a lifelong ambition of writing a novel or poetry, perhaps. Some solo travel just to read, draw, or even do crosswords and sudoku!

Others have something more extreme in mind; white water rafting, bungee jumping, mountain climbing, trekking, paragliding - the list of crazy activities you can undertake as a solo traveller is pretty much endless.

Loud or quiet, extroverted or introverted, spiritual or practical, there’s a solo travel experience for everyone!

Solo travel for women: where to go as a solo woman traveller

Established your desire for solo travel? Awesome!

Now it’s time for the first fun part of any solo travel adventure: brainstorming a destination and planning your trip. 

You might already have a dream destination in mind, or you might want to dip your toes into something a little closer to home first before committing yourself to a bolder trip.

When you’re planning your destination, you might have one dominating thought in your mind: what destinations are safe for solo female travellers?

Over 60? Read our article on singles holidays for over 60s here.

Safe destinations for solo female travellers 

One of the most pressing issues for solo female travellers is safety.

It is true that women are statistically more at risk than men when travelling alone, particularly when it comes to forms of sexual harassment and assault. 

The risk will vary from place to place, but even European destinations like Ayia Napa in Cyprus and Murcia in Spain have been in the headlines recently regarding sexual assault.

Movements surrounding women’s safety whilst travelling are fortunately ushering forth positive change. The International Travel and Health Insurance Journal found that the safety and security of women solo travellers are generally improving, but that caution is essential.

Solo female travel destinations in Europe

Europe is generally exceptionally safe. The safety of countries is usually measured using the ‘Global Peace Index,’ which uses crime rates and other factors to generate an overall score for each country.

Of the top 10 countries on the list, 6 are European, namely Iceland, Austria, Slovenia, Portugal, Denmark and Switzerland.

Iceland is one of the safest countries globally, and Reykjavik, in particular, is a very safe travel destination for anyone.

Iceland is pretty cheap to get to from the UK, and it provides a profound “out-of-Europe” experience with its volcanic landscape and hot springs. It can be pricey when you get there, but it rates as a superb choice for any solo female traveller for a shorter solo trip.

Indeed, most Nordic countries are very safe for solo female travellers.

If you want to head towards Eastern Europe, then there’s plenty of options for safe travel.

Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are all rated as safe destinations for solo female travellers.

Greece and particularly the Greek islands have always been a popular solo travel destination.

Paris, Lisbon, Berlin, Zurich, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Zagreb, Prague and Amsterdam repeatedly rank amongst very safe destinations for solo female travellers.

And don’t forget the UK and Ireland!

If you’re travelling to Europe, remember to read up on changes to travel post-Brexit.

Solo female travel destinations in Asia 

Asia is home to a near-endless selection of solo travel destinations. 

Solo travel in Asia may instantly conjure images of student backpackers heading to Bangkok in their droves every year - but the popularity of south-east Asian destinations has helped make them some of the safest destinations for solo travellers.

With some caveats, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam are all now considered generally very safe for female solo travellers. The thing is, because these destinations are so popular, there are so many support networks and meeting places for solo travellers - you’re never truly alone.

For the very safest Asian destinations, it’s well worth looking at Malaysia and Singapore as well as Japan and South Korea.

Singapore is a small, compact country that is incredibly interesting, and it’s one of the safest and friendliest countries in the world. It’s also famous for welcoming travellers. 

There’s no doubt that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world for solo travelling women. South Korea is closely matched - both have some of the world’s most fascinating cultures and are welcoming to travellers. 

Solo female travel destinations in South America

South America has traditionally been seen as a tricky destination for lone travel safety in general. Still, the stereotype of South America being a violent continent is often misplaced or exaggerated.

With some of the world’s most stunning natural landscapes and profound cultural heritage, South America is increasingly topping the list of solo travellers’ priority destinations.

Starting with the safest destinations in South America, Argentina’s Buenos Aires and Chile’s Santiago offer so much vibrant culture and are both very safe.

Cuba is also exceptionally safe, especially regarding violent crime. Uruguay is an often-underrated South American travel destination that is renowned for its safe and laid back atmosphere.

Peru is a solo traveller’s goldmine, its crowning glory being Machu Picchu - also considered generally safe for female solo travellers.

Jungle-enthusiasts or those who crave a more off-piste adventure can consider Costa Rica and Ecuador, both of which exceed the average safety of the continent.

Solo female travel destinations in North America

Both the United States and Canada are very safe for solo female travellers. Of course, some North American destinations are more firmly established on the tourist trail than others, and as always, these are the safest.

In terms of safety, travelling across North America as a solo female traveller is similar to travelling in Europe.

Solo female travel in Africa

From the stunning city of Cape Town in South Africa to the magnificent Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zanzibar’s incredible sapphire oceans, Africa is home to some of the world’s most incredible destinations.

To the north, you have Egypt and Morocco - both relatively short flights from the UK.

Africa probably ties with South America as the two continents female solo travellers shy away from. In general, though, Africa’s tourist hotspots have low violent and sex crime rates.

Starting with the safest, it’s Botswana that repeatedly tops the lists of Africa’s safest countries. Rwanda is also considered very safe; its capital Kigali has a relaxing and laid back atmosphere.

The island of Mauritius is on many people’s travel bucket lists and is also generally safe.

Solo travel in Oceania and the rest of the world

There are two extremely safe countries for female travellers that haven’t been discussed yet: New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand is one of the safest countries for women, and it’s hugely popular with solo female travellers. For outdoorsy types, New Zealand provides a near-infinite opportunity for everything from trekking to extreme sports.

Turning up the heat a little, Australia is also very safe for solo female travellers. Australia is the better of the two destinations if exquisite beaches are further up your pecking order than mountains.

As far as the ‘rest of the world’ is concerned? Antarctica and the Arctic are both rising in popularity as tourist destinations, the chief danger being polar bears or penguins, depending on which one you head to (as well as the extreme cold)!

Where should a single woman travel alone?

Solo travel safety is a pressing issue, especially for women. 

Choosing a destination should be a fun experience in itself - but discretion is essential, and you’ll enjoy your holiday more if you’re comfortable with your destination.

Whilst evaluating the safety of a country or city is a good start, it’s worth mentioning that every region or district is different, and you’ll need to research each specific destination on your journey. 

Reading up about the customs and etiquette of each country on your journey is also essential.

Good luck!

Sam Jeans

Sam Jeans

Sam is an experienced writer and audio producer with a passion for health, science, music and playing the drums. When he's not writing, he can often be found digging through history textbooks, scientific journals and boxes of vinyl records.