“Wait, you are going to [insert country]? By yourself? Solo travel?? Ooooh, just be careful. Don’t get kidnapped, don’t leave the house at night and don’t look at people strange.” Jep, that is advice I got and you know what. I didn’t list to any of it. And you know what else? I am fine. This is my survival story.
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Be Street Smart in Your Solo Travel
I must say I travelled to a fair share of quite safe countries. As I am writing this, I am quite close the most dangerous street in all of Sweden. Scary thought, right? I am so brave. But let’s put that into perspective when I throw you a quote of an Italian exchange student: “The most dangerous street in Sweden is even safer than the safest street in Italy.”
Now, I can’t back this sentence up with facts (or whether this is statistically true at all), but it has my point right there: don’t just assume things are the way they are because someone told you. Especially the media! You know those people who like to fill their headlines with words such as “terror”, “tragic” and other hyperboles. They want to sell dramatic stories, not meek recountings.
5. South Korea
Cheap public transport, hostels full of fellow travellers (who love KPop) and amazing food, what’s not to love about South Korea? For starters, you should explore Seoul (I mean your plane probably arrive there anyway). Whether it is the historic hanbok villages, the challenging wall hike, a three day trip to Jeju island (and there are plenty of things to do on Jeju) or the eccentric shopping and foodie districts, there is something for everyone.
It’s not hard to spot foreign travellers either even if you are not staying in a hostel. But you could be shopping at the Dongdaemun market or stocking up on super cheap electronics in Yongsan and you’re fine.
Just watch out for cars racing out of alleys from seemingly nowhere. And people do speak English, only not as much and as good as you’d like them to. You’ll still get along just fine. (Did I mention how amazing the metro system is?)
Getting around Korea is also pretty easy with many intercity buses that are also affordable. A Seoul backpacking itinerary, for instance, could include coastal trips down to Jeju island or plenty of hikes in national parks, like Seoraksan near Sokcho.
4. Hong Kong
I cannot praise Hong Kong enough. I just LOVE it. It was my very first country outside of Europe and I prepared for the big culture shock. After all, it’s Asia and so it must be very different? Wrong. Even when I was on my Caribbean Cruise, a couple of the crew members had the exact same story: it was their first big country abroad by themselves and they loved it!
So why does everybody seem to love it so much? Because it is so easy to get around, so cheap to travel (did I how amazing the metro system is?), so much to see, so much good food and everyone speaks English and is really helpful. And they look sooooo well dressed even when you are sweating like a pig and swear you have never felt uglier (which might be a very annoying fact, I just realised).
3. Japan – Land of the Rising Deer
One country I can highly recommend for solo travel is Japan, hands down. Never did I feel threatened or queezy while getting lost in Tokyo. Ok, there’s one exception. I was attacked by a deer because it wanted the cookies I was munching on. Nobody steals my cookies! Here’s video proof of my brave fight (I had the security woman help me out, but don’t tell).
If you’ve got hair that looks ‘interesting’ such as short bleached hair or a pink wig, then you can be sure that random people will occasionally try and take sneaky pics, which gets a tad annoying but there was never any form of harassment. And people are always really nice even if they don’t understand a word you’re saying. They might actually find the one Japanese English speaker in the crowd for you to spare themselves the embarrassment of talking a foreign language.
2. Australia – Roos, Crocs and Goons
Backpacker mecca Australia should be high on your country list for solo travel. And gumtree will be your new BFF. Here you can find cool people to hire cars with and do epic road trips along the Great Ocean Road with. Or you can find temporary roomies. Facebook is also full of groups full of adventurous young people (added bonus: you can stalk their facebook profile to see if they are not an axe wielding maniac).
Just a word of caution: Gumtree might be a great source but be also really careful and ask tons of questions. Otherwise I might have ended up chauffeuring an abusive alcoholic from an isolated farm to the next roadhouse pub. (That were actually the job requirements. True story.)
1. New Zealand
Even more so than Australia, New Zealand is just perfect for first time solo travel. Unlike Australia, it is hard to get lost or killed in the wilderness. There are hiking paths everywhere, no dangerous animals (unless you are a kiwi bird) and the people are one of the nicest I have met throughout my travels.
I have met many a female solo traveller who traversed the two islands by hitchhiking all the way and they never felt uncomfortable. I have not actively tried it but when I was stranded twice (one after a three hour hike along a highway with only cows as company and tooting truck drivers and the other when busses decided to have a day off and a mountain was in my way), a nice and trustworthy looking woman suddenly manifested by my side and dropped me off at the hostel door.