Most of my travel has been done solo and it has been a very rewarding experience. I’m a firm believer that everyone who has the means to travel should go solo at least once.
Some may argue that in being white, English-speaking and European my viewpoint is from a position of advantage. But as a woman I still have to factor in safety and culture of acceptance. In that respect, the experience of the solo female traveller differs greatly from that of a solo male.
In this post, I list the countries which I believe are the best solo female travel destinations from my own experience. I also look at popular countries which don’t make the list. Most of the countries listed here are in Europe as that’s where I’ve done most of my travelling.
My ranking factors are safety, culture of acceptance/tolerance, ease of transport, price, enriching experience, and tourist-friendly in terms of willingness/ability to help visitors. For all of the destinations, follow your own government’s advice. The list is in alphabetical order rather than ranking.
AUSTRIA: It was Austria’s rich history of classical music that prompted my visit (Thanks Mozart). While there, the country’s urban and rural beauty appealed to my visual sense. As for the sense of taste, the selection of cakes and pastries was as astonishing as the locals’ inability to gain weight from this calorific cafe culture. I felt safe in Austria and the locals were helpful in providing information. My tall frame found Austria to be a great destination for clothes shopping.
BELGIUM: Belgium is under-rated for tourism considering it is home to one of the most beautiful cities in Europe: Brugge/Bruges. Belgium is small and mostly flat so travel is relatively easy. It’s a pretty easy-going country where the bad things in life are cheap and plentiful, namely saturated fats, refined sugars, cigarettes and alcohol.
The locals were very helpful and tolerant but a linguistic etiquette exists. Belgium comprises of Flemish-speaking Flanders (north) and French-speaking Wallonia (south). Using French in Flanders and Flemish in Wallonia will be frowned upon so stick to English if in doubt. I’ve always found Belgium to be safe in terms of personal safety, taking the usual precautions. However, in 2016 Brussels experienced terrorist attacks with the perpetrators linked to the 2015 Paris attacks.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: If this list was in ranking order, the former Yugoslav state of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) would be number one. For a country that experienced a genocidal civil war within my lifetime, it’s a surprisingly friendly and safe country. As I say in my Visiting Bosnia post, it was here I learned the true meaning of the kindness of strangers.
The country is as geographically beautiful as it is socially hospitable. Cost-wise, it’s one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. And because it’s still considered an off the beaten track destination, it attracts an open-minded adventurous type of traveller. Highly recommended.
CROATIA: Another former Yugoslav state, Croatia’s scenery is as spectacular as neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina with one advantage: Croatia has an extensive coastline. Unlike BiH, Croatia is a popular holiday destination and the prices reflect this, although the price level index is still well below the EU average.
I took to Croatia like a duck takes to water and returned a number of times. Culturally, the Croats have been doing tourism for decades and can cater for every type of traveller. I never felt threatened at any stage and would rate it as one of the safest countries I’ve visited. My Planning a Trip to Croatia post covers essential travel advice.
DENMARK: This Scandinavian country is by far the most expensive of the solo female travel destinations on this list and the fourth most expensive country in Europe according to this price index.
But its inclusion is due to its friendly people who are as open-minded as they are helpful. English language fluency is exceptionally high and there’s an air of inclusive coolness about the place. Despite the impression given in the hordes of Danish crime novels and TV series I felt quite safe. My one and only Denmark post covers my trip to Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens at Christmas.
ESTONIA: A former Soviet country which feels Scandinavian, I found Estonia to be a very easy country to travel around, very safe, and with possibly the highest level of English fluency of all the countries on this list. Estonians are unobtrusive and prices are below the European average. Check out my Visiting Estonia post for further information.
GERMANY: When visiting Europe you cannot omit a trip to Germany as it has shaped the continent in so many ways. Culturally, Germany is an excellent choice for solo female travel. It’s an exceptionally tolerant place where strong female voices are not only welcome but get elected to run the country. Travelling this vast land is easy as most forms of transport were invented here. And as a plus, prices are on par with the European average. Further information can be got from my Germany Travel Tips post.
ISRAEL AND OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY: Surprised? Israel and the West Bank are not off the beaten track destinations. They actually receive millions of pilgrims every year and have a pretty decent tourism infrastructure in place for this. To be honest, tourists have access all areas whereas locals experience restrictions. Given the huge security presence, personal safety was never a question and locals were incredibly chatty. The only drawback? Israel’s high prices. Destinations covered are listed under my Israel and OPT section.
SINGAPORE: This exotic city state is one of the safest and cleanest places I’ve visited. Given the high density of population it also has a comprehensive public transport system. Modern and multicultural, Singapore’s success is due to its global outlook which solo female travellers fit right into. Check out my Singapore Sights post for a list of attractions.
SPAIN: Although I’ve never made Spain my home, it certainly feels like it. Even without this intangible connection, Spain ticks all boxes for me. Spain has been slow to embrace social change but as a solo female traveller I’ve rarely encountered a conservative mind-set. Safety-wise, take the usual precautions and avoid the large resorts if you want tranquility. Further practical information and thoughts can be found in my Spain Travel Tips post.
FRANCE: A tough call for me. France has as much variety and attraction as Spain for solo female travellers but I omitted it from this list for two reasons. Firstly, a level of language fluency is required and I can see how this could limit and frustrate travellers. Secondly, I haven’t felt entirely safe in some parts of certain cities from a personal safety point of view. However, the more I travel there the more this feeling subsides.
IRELAND: I find it difficult to judge my own country from an international traveller’s perspective and have omitted Ireland on this basis. I’d love to hear other traveller’s experience so please leave a comment below. For Ireland travel tips check out my Planning a Trip to Ireland post.
UK: The currency conversion makes the UK an expensive destination for all types of travellers. In terms of equality, the UK scores well and they’ve already had two female Prime Ministers. Despite London being one of the world’s great cities, I’ve never truly felt safe after dark there and in many of the UK cities. This is a shame as the country has a lot to offer solo female travellers.
CUBA: Those of you who have read my Cuba Solo Travel guide will know exactly why this country is listed here. I did not find it safe. End of.
ITALY: What is one of the world’s most popular countries doing down here? Although my experience in Sardinia was positive, Italy generally struggles to understand the concept of solo female travel. The Italy experience radically improves when in male company. More thoughts and information can be found in my Visiting Italy for the First Time post.
GREECE: I had a similar experience to Italy but will give the country another chance sometime in the future.
SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL DESTINATIONS: FINAL THOUGHTS
Fear not if your country isn’t mentioned. The list is based on the countries I’ve visited. For some countries, they may have come short in some of the criteria. For others, I may have had mixed experiences.
For lesbian travellers, there is an added layer of consideration which I haven’t factored in. As a general rule of thumb, gay-friendly destinations are generally solo female friendly but sadly the converse situation isn’t always true. My post on Tolerance Tourism discusses the issues surrounding LGBTI travel in more detail.
With almost 200 countries in the world, this blog post is a work in progress. If, as Mark Twain says, travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, then we need to continually assess destinations in terms of gender equality. So watch this space.