Solo female travel is all the rage these days. More and more women are taking off on adventures alone and learning just how empowering it can be. Destinations like Portugal, Thailand and Bali are at the top of every list of best destinations for solo female travellers. Don’t get me wrong, those are great places to explore. But what if you want to get away from those crowds and find somewhere a bit more undiscovered? This list of off the beaten path solo female travel destinations is for you!
Most of the places on this list would be challenging, but doable, as your first solo trip abroad. But if you’re an experienced solo traveler, these are some of the best female solo trips out there!
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Great for: History, local interactions, desert scenery.
Best places to visit: Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea, Jerash.
Daily cost: $30 a day on the low end, $50 a day would be comfortable.
Best guesthouses: Farrah Hotel in Amman, Valentine Inn in Wadi Musa.
Best food: Hashim Restaurant in Amman, falafel from everywhere.
Bonus tip: If you’re invited to eat in someone’s home, bring a gift. Reciprocity is important in Jordanian culture.
Jordan is probably the friendliest country I’ve ever visited and is among the best places for females to travel alone. You literally can’t walk down the street in Amman without hearing constant calls of “Welcome to Jordan, come have tea.” It’s not part of a sales pitch or a scam – it’s people genuinely wanting to get to know you and introduce you to their country (and their entire extended family, in many cases).
The friendly people aren’t the only reason Jordan is a fantastic off the beaten path solo female travel destination. The country packs in more A-list attractions than anywhere in the region (except perhaps Iran?). Petra is the obvious starting point, but the Roman ruins of Jerash and Um Qais make great day trips. Ancient castles abound. The diving and snorkeling around Aqaba is world-class. You can swim in the Dead Sea or hike through the desert at Wadi Rum.
Considering all it has to offer, Jordan is still pretty off the beaten path. But it has enough tourist infrastructure that solo women won’t have too much trouble getting around. A good network of buses and minibuses covers the entire country. Driving standards are reasonable. In a pinch, you can always hitchhike – I did it a few times and it never felt unsafe. Just make sure you sit in the backseat to avoid giving a male driver the wrong impression.
It’s easiest to base yourself in major towns (Amman, Aqaba, Wadi Musa) and take day trips to outlying sites. If you try to base yourself in smaller towns, you may run into a lack of tourist-friendly hotels (i.e. the budget hotels may mostly be brothels). This is probably fine, but you may be more comfortable in a backpackers’ hostel an hour down the road.
Most Jordanian women cover their heads and shoulders, but otherwise dress pretty liberally – jeans and t-shirts are common. Travelers aren’t expected to wear headscarves. You’ll connect more with local women if you wear long pants or skirts and cover your shoulders.
Jordan is generally a very safe destination for off the beaten path solo female travel. You don’t have to worry about street crime or petty theft. Walking around alone after dark is safe. It’s mostly politically stable. The one caveat is Jordan has been absorbing huge refugee populations from Syria for years now, and it’s taking a toll. It’s unlikely to affect your travels, but occasional demonstrations break out – they’re best avoided. And don’t visit refugee camps without a local contact –it’s really shitty to treat refugees like tourist attractions.
Street harassment is culturally unacceptable in Jordan. On the one occasion that I experienced it, an older man overheard the offending teenage boys and yelled at them, then apologized to me for their behavior. More common is flirtation and genuine attempts to start relationships. If you don’t want to go down that path, avoid smiling – it’s not rude to keep a straight face, it just signals that you want to keep the conversation in the friend zone (which is pretty universally accepted). Additionally, greet men by putting your hand over your heart rather than shaking hands, hugging, or kissing on the cheeks. But overall, male attention isn’t something to worry about when backpacking Jordan as a solo woman.
In short – You’ll never be bored in Jordan, and your exploration will be accompanied by the world’s friendliest people.
Great for: Authentic off-the-beaten-path adventure, local interactions.
Best places to visit: The Bolaven Plateau, Kong Lo, Muang Ngoi Nua, Luang Prabang.
Daily cost: $20 a day on the low end, $30 a day would be comfortable.
Best guesthouses: Rainbow Guesthouse in Muang Ngoi Nua, Sabaidee in Pakse
Best food: Cafes in Luang Prabang (shout-out to JoMa), Indian food in Vientiane.
Bonus tip: Local guides can help you connect with communities in ways you wouldn’t have a chance of doing on your own. If you’re traveling in rural areas, take two guides – one who can translate English to Lao, and a second who can translate Lao to the local language.
Somehow, little Laos has still managed to avoid the mass tourism that’s taking over the rest of Southeast Asia. Maybe it’s because travel logistics here are harder and it’s less comfortable. Maybe it’s because the country lacks big-name attractions like Angkor Wat or amazing beaches like Thailand.
Don’t be fooled by this lack of attention. Laos is the true gem of Southeast Asia, and one of the best places in the world for off the beaten path solo female travel.
Luang Prabang is perhaps the most charming city not just in Asia, but in the entire world. Vang Vieng has recovered from its former days as a druggie hangout and transformed into an outdoor adventure capital. But to really get the most out of Laos, you’ll want to head off the beaten path – into some of the most remote and wild places left in the region.
Explore the longest cave in Asia at Kong Lo. Rent a motorbike and drive down dirt paths through the jungle in search of undiscovered waterfalls. Forego the bus transportation and explore northeast Laos by river – even if it means waiting days for the next public boat. Trek to remote hill tribe villages that set the bar for sustainable tourism in the Nam Ha Protected Area. All along the way, you’ll meet locals who will run out of their houses to call out “sabaidee” (hello).
For solo female travelers, Laos offers the right balance between off-the-beaten-path and ability to meet other backpackers. The travelers who make it off the Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng-Vientiane route tend to be more adventurous. But you will spend more time alone here, sometimes navigating difficult transportation with few locals who speak English. It’s all part of the adventure.
Laos is still a very poor country, so standards are quite low when you get off the beaten path. Along the Bolaven Plateau motorbike route, I ate nothing but pho for four days straight. Bucket showers are the norm in rural areas, and many places rely on generator power (meaning they only turn it on for a couple hours a day). Transportation includes the backs of pickup trucks, longtail boats that leave when full with journeys measured in days, not hours, and rattlebang buses that don’t go faster than 30 km/hour.
But the rewards are immense. For one, the lack of mass tourism means locals are genuinely friendly and welcoming – even when they speak no English. (A few words of Lao go a long way.) Additionally, the idea that tourists are walking ATM machines hasn’t quite caught on in Laos. You will experience a fraction of the hassle compared to its neighbors. Bargaining is a fact of life, but it’s more about a friendly negotiation toward a mutually agreeable price than a cutthroat battle to get things as cheap as possible. Rip-offs and scams are rare. And you don’t really have to worry about any more serious crime at all.
In short – if you want to get way off the beaten path in a touristy region with occasional breaks from rugged journeys, Laos is for you.
Great for: Hiking, Andean culture, urban exploration.
Best places to visit: Mindo, Quilotoa, Otavalo, Quito
Daily cost: $25 a day
Best food: Shenandoah Pie Shop in Otavalo, Tianguez Café in Quito, Casa Hood for gringo food in Baños, Café Tortuga in Tena
Bonus tip: Solo women should be careful about heading out on excursions alone with male guides. Insist on forming a group or hire a female guide instead.
Peru has Macchu Pichu. Argentina and Chile have Patagonia. Colombia has the Lost City and amazing beaches. Brazil has the Amazon. What does Ecuador have (other than the Galapagos, which is really a separate trip)? Well…
Mainland Ecuador’s total lack of high-profile attractions keeps it under the radar on the South America backpacking circuit. But the truth is, this country has most of what its better-known neighbors do – all without the crowds, and in a country small enough to easily cover on a two-week holiday. It’s a great option for adventure holidays for solo travelers.
Quito is one of the greatest cities in the Americas, with plenty to entertain you for a few days. The Quilotoa Loop offers high-altitude hiking around a gorgeous crater lake – but you can always find a warm bed and a decent meal for the night. Tena is a charming jungle town and the ideal base for whitewater rafting trips through the Amazon. And Otavalo has one of the largest highland markets in the Andes – where you can see all manner of goods being hawked by locals in traditional dress.
Better yet, Ecuador is extremely affordable by South America standards. Buses run about $1 per hour (and distances are short). You can usually find a private room in a guesthouse for under $10. Self-catering keeps food costs down, but even if you eat out, a meal rarely costs more than $4.
Transportation around Ecuador is easy to navigate for inexperienced backpackers. Gone are the days when competing bus companies would recklessly race each other through the mountains. Today Ecuador’s buses are convenient and safe. No need to book tickets in advance – just show up at the station and listen for someone shouting the name of your destination.
If you’re looking for travel buddies, head to Baños, Mindo, Latacunga (where you can form a group for Quilotoa) and Otavalo. Outside of these hubs you might be on your own for days at a time.
But what makes Ecuador the South American highlight for solo female travelers is the total lack of machismo culture that is common in many of its neighbors. Ecuadorans are reserved and laid-back, and while a little friendly flirtation is not uncommon, street harassment is virtually nonexistent.
The one challenge with traveling as a solo female in Ecuador is that very little English is spoken. Even most of the guesthouse managers I encountered expected me to speak Spanish. The good news is Ecuadoran Spanish is very clear and easy to understand. I hadn’t studied Spanish in six years when I went to Ecuador and still had very little trouble, but it’s worth at least doing a few weeks of Duolingo before your trip if you speak no Spanish.
In short – Ecuador offers the full range of South America highlights in a small country that sees few tourists and is easy to navigate. What could be better than that?
Great for: Adventure travel, culture, history.
Best places to visit: The Danakil Depression, Lalibela, Harar. Tigray if you want to really get off the beaten path.
Daily cost: $30 a day, plus $400-$600 for the four-day trip to the Danakil Depression.
Best guesthouses: Taitu Hotel in Addis, Gheralta Lodge in Hawzien, a cultural guesthouse in Harar.
Best food: Taitu Hotel and Tomoca Coffee in Addis, Unique Restaurant in Lalibela, Gheralta Lodge in Hawzien, Ersayem Restaurant in Wukro.
Bonus tip: Contact Hailu Gashaw ([email protected]) for a tour of Harar that gets you under the surface and connects you with locals. He’s a fantastic guide and a genuinely great human being who will make your visit unforgettable.
Truly one of the world’s most fascinating and unique countries, Ethiopia excels at off the beaten path solo female travel. You’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else this interesting where it’s this easy and safe to travel alone as a woman.
Ethiopia was the only country in Africa that was technically never colonized. It’s home to several ancient cities – Lalibela, Axum and Gondor — that have left wildly underappreciated historical sites. The variety of outdoor activities on offer is endless. Harar is arguably the world’s most culturally interesting city. The food and coffee are amazing. And a four-day road trip through the Danakil Depression is still #1 on my best-travel-experiences-ever list.
As a solo woman traveling in Ethiopia, you are likely to attract lots of attention – but the good kind, not the creepy-guy kind. Men, women and kids will all want to chat with you. You’ll be constantly invited to coffee ceremonies and meals with local families. Enough people speak enough English that you’ll rarely have a serious problem communicating. At the same time, threatening and harassing behavior is rare.
Travel around Ethiopia is straightforward and affordable. Cheap domestic flights connect the major cities. First-class buses cover shorter journeys for about $1 per hour. If you must, you can use government-run buses and minibuses to round out the transport options – but driving standards are lower.
On a day-to-day level, traveling around Ethiopia is extremely safe. I wasn’t even the least bit nervous about walking around alone at night in any of the cities I visited. But there are a couple caveats: one, the cities get very dark after sundown. Definitely bring a headlamp so you can find your way back to your guesthouse. Two, Addis Ababa has a serious pickpocketing problem – leave your valuables in the hotel. Third, Ethiopia is not 100% politically stable. Large protests have erupted in several cities over the last few years, and the government occasionally cracks down violently. If tensions are high when you visit, steer clear of affected areas.
Finally, while a trip to the Danakil Depression is unforgettable, incredible, once-in-a-lifetime stuff, it does come with more risks than travel elsewhere in Ethiopia – it’s just a few miles from a hotly contested border with Eritrea. Kidnappings and murders used to be common. The last serious incident was in 2012 and all trips are now accompanied by a military unit, but keep in mind how remote you are and how little chance of help you have in the event of an emergency. In my book it’s totally worth the risks and I never felt unsafe, but you should do the research and make your own determination.
The one downside of backpacking around Ethiopia is that you won’t meet many other travelers. I visited in August (low season) and barely even saw any other foreigners in Lalibela, the most-visited city in the country. The extremely friendly locals mean you’re unlikely to get lonely, but if you’re susceptible to culture shock it can be a challenge.
In short – Ethiopia is sure to be one of the highlights of your world travels, and it’s very easy for solo women who aren’t afraid to get off-the-beaten-path.
Great for: Europe without the crowds or high prices. Amazing off-the-beaten-path adventure.
Best places to visit: Sighetu Marmației, Săpânța, Brasov, Bucharest.
Daily cost: $25 a day.
Best food: Food is not a highlight of Romania. Self-catering is easy. You’ll always be able to find a kebab stand in a pinch.
Bonus tip: Cluj Napoca has a very active and fun CouchSurfing community. Join one of their meetups to experience the city’s quirky nightlife.
Europe makes the top of most solo female travel lists. After all, the risk of culture shock is low, it’s easy to get around, and it’s generally safe. The only problem? Europe can be outrageously expensive.
So if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly solo female travel holiday, forgo Italy and France and head east. Romania offers the perfect mixture of things to do, comfort, affordability, and adventure.
If you’re new to solo female travel, start with southern Romania. Bucharest is finally getting the attention it deserves as a great capital city. The free walking tours offered by Walkabout are perfect for making travel friends while learning the history of Romania. And the modern art museum behind the enormous Parliament building is one of Europe’s best.
When you’ve had your fill of big-city life, head to the “Transylvania Triangle” – Brasov, Sighisoara, and Sibiu. All three are charming historical cities, and they offer ample day-trip opportunities, including to “Dracula’s Castle.” This part of Romania is still very easy to travel in, with good train connections, and family-run hostels make it easy to form travel groups.
But if you want to see the best Romania has to offer, you’ll have to strike out on your own for the little-visited region of Maramureș.
Maramureș is a mostly rural region where the locals get around by hitchhiking. If you’ve ever wanted to try traveling by thumb as a solo woman, this is one of the safest places in the world to do it. Simply get in line at the pickup spot and hop in a car with other hitchers. If you’re nervous about this form of travel, it’s easy to share a ride with local women.
Travel in Maramureș is extremely rewarding. Locals are friendly and there are almost no other tourists, meaning you get authentic exposure to Romanian life. It’s cheap and relatively easy to get around.
But this area is very off-the-beaten-path. Don’t expect to find travel buddies in hostels (hostels don’t really exist) or to meet other backpackers on buses (buses don’t really exist either). Very few people speak English. I wouldn’t recommend it for first-time solo female travelers. But if you’re up for a challenging destination where you can get to some of the least-visited corners of Europe safely and independently, and spending days on the road without another English speaker around doesn’t phase you, it’s a great option.
In short – whether it’s your first time traveling solo as a woman or you’re a seasoned traveler looking for a unique experience, Romania’s got you covered.
Great for: Pretty much everything. Mexico is huge and diverse.
Best places to visit: Mérida, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Mexico City, Pátzcuaro.
Daily cost: $30 a day inland; $40 a day on the coasts.
Best food: This could be a whole post in itself. Favorites include chile en nogada from Hosteria de Santo Domingo in Mexico City; chilaquiles from Cueva de Chango in Playa del Carmen; and aporreadillo from Fonda Marceva in Morelia.
Bonus tip: Bus travel is very expensive. Travel slowly to save money, and consider flights to cover long distances.
No list of best places for off-the-beaten-path solo female travel would be complete without my favorite country in the world. Mexico is an ideal first-time solo female travel destination, but it also offers enough remote adventure to satisfy the most seasoned backpackers. It’s one of the world’s best destinations to travel alone.
If you’re new to traveling alone as a woman, head for the Yucatan Peninsula. This bite-sized region offers incredible beaches, colonial cities, and Mayan ruins (including Chichen Itza). It’s very safe. Air-conditioned, on-time buses cover the entire area. And meeting other travelers is easy.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, try heading to central Mexico. Mexico City is one of the world’s most enjoyable megacities, with a museum for everything and months’ worth of amazing food to explore. Puebla, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, and Morelia are all within a day’s bus trip and are equally worthy of exploration.
Outside of Mexico City you’ll encounter few other travelers, but that just means more opportunities to connect with locals.
Don’t believe the headlines — Mexico is generally a safe country to travel in. Men won’t bother or creep on you. The risk of robbery is low. Violent crime targeting tourists is rare. Keep an eye out for travel warnings related to the drug trade and gang violence, stick to first-class buses, and follow the usual big-city rules in urban areas, and you’re unlikely to experience any problems.
Mexico’s beaches – from Cancun to Puerto Vallarta – have a healthy dose of party culture. If you’re solo traveling, keep the alcohol consumption under control and don’t accept beverages from strangers. Drunk backpackers can be the biggest hassle you’ll face.
In short – Mexico is easy, comfortable, safe, and has enough to do that you could easily spend a year exploring. There is no better place to try your hand at solo female travel. Go once and you’ll want to keep returning.
Great for: Jungle trekking, beaches, culture, food
Best places to visit: The Perhentian Islands, Georgetown, Kota Bharu, Taman Negara National Park
Daily cost: $15 a day is doable, $25-30 a day would be comfortable
Best guesthouses: My Place Guesthouse in Kota Bharu, Fatima’s on Pulau Perhentian
Best food: Kapitan’s in Georgetown for amazing Indian food. Laksa in Melaka. The Thai market in Jerantut. Grilled seafood on the islands. Roti canai from any street stall.
Bonus tip: Borneo is radically more expensive than peninsular Malaysia. Consider traveling on the Indonesian side to save money.
Malaysia has everything you could want out of a holiday: Southeast Asia’s (and maybe the world’s) best beaches. Untouched jungle. Epic mountaintop sunrises. Culturally intriguing cities. Charming small towns. Amazing food.
Connecting you to these great experiences is a reliable and (reasonably) safe transportation network. Skip the night buses from hell and the harrowing rides on the back of a motorcycle that are so common in Cambodia and Vietnam in favor of air conditioned, clean and comfortable buses. The boat companies servicing the islands make life easy with well-timed connections to onward transport. And when all else fails, tourist shuttles can get you between places that public transportation doesn’t cover. You never have to worry about being stranded in Malaysia.
Backpackers will appreciate the wide range of affordable accommodation. You rarely have to pay more than $5 for a bed in a dorm, and often simple private rooms come for roughly the same price. Cheapies are generally family-run and extremely friendly. You may be invited to have dinner with the owners or attend a local cultural event.
It’s fairly easy to meet other backpackers in the major Malaysian tourist hubs. You’ll tend to run into the same folks over and over again. Malaysia sees fewer 18-year-olds and more couples than elsewhere in Southeast Asia, and the party scene is very low-key (largely due to the high cost of alcohol).
The cities – from huge Kuala Lumpur to tiny Kota Bharu – feel safe enough to wander around alone at all hours. Even pickpocketing is a minimal concern, although you should still take basic precautions in crowded areas.
But perhaps the best thing about traveling solo and female in Malaysia is the 100% absence of street harassment. Literally every man I encountered was friendly and respectful. I didn’t have a single creepy experience in three weeks of backpacking around. If you wear shorts and tank tops you may invite a bit more male attention, but I covered my shoulders and to my knees and had no issues.
In short – if you want to visit Southeast Asia but you’re nervous about safety, Malaysia is the ideal place to for your first solo female adventure.
If you like volcanoes, gorgeous landscapes, Mayan culture and history, and charming cities, Guatemala should be on your list. It’s increasingly safe and trouble-free. The men are reserved and won’t give solo women a hard time.
The only reason Guatemala didn’t make this list of off the beaten path solo female travel is because I didn’t actually travel solo there – I was with my mom the whole time. So while I have no doubts about it being a great option, I can’t fully speak to the solo female backpacker experience.
Solo women take note: southern and eastern Africa are among the easiest parts of the world to travel in.
Namibia offers one helluva package – epic desert landscapes, wildlife, and fascinating culture. The one thing it doesn’t have: public transportation.
Namibia didn’t make this list exclusively because it’s very expensive to travel solo. You’d have to rent your own car and be comfortable bush driving alone. If you’re willing to take a tour or find a travel buddy, you’ll surely love this country – the locals are friendly and laid-back. But transportation is a barrier for solo backpackers.
Despite its horrible reputation, I firmly believe India can be completely safe for solo women. My experience was almost entirely free of harassment or threatening behavior.
While I mostly traveled around south India, I spent two weeks on the typical tourist route (Rajasthan, Varanasi, Khajuraho) and definitely experienced more harassment in touristy areas.
My behavior was a mix of cautious (I covered my legs and arms, didn’t display overt affection for male acquaintances, and tried to surround myself with women when possible) and reckless (I slept in train stations and outside bus stations, stayed in run-down local hotels with doors that often didn’t lock, wandered around cities alone at 2 am in search of hotels, and hitchhiked). The only two serious problems I had were a stalker-ish guy in Jaipur and an overly-clingy-and-very-drunk fellow backpacker in Khajuraho. Both can be chalked up to “this happens at home all the time.”
I found interactions with local men to be overwhelmingly positive. I’ll never forget the restaurant owner in Agra who served me after he closed because I’d been stuck on a 15-hour bus trip and hadn’t eaten all day, or the tuk tuk driver in Munnar who let me stay at his mom’s house for a couple dollars when all the hotels were full, or the weed tout in Varanasi who gave me and a friend a midnight tour of the ghats even though we weren’t interested in buying his product, or the guy who drove me down a mountain on his motorbike to catch a bus I’d missed.
The main reason I chose not to include India on this list is because aside from the solo female experience, it can be a very difficult and emotional place to travel. Six years after I visited, I still can’t decide if I loved it or hated it, for reasons that have nothing to do with personal safety. But I would strongly encourage solo female travelers who are interested in visiting India to do so – and not let its reputation be a barrier.
Do you have anything to add to this off the beaten path solo female travel list?
I’m always looking for new places to go on adventures myself and share with readers. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment!
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