Solo Travel Destinations By Difficulty

Any city in the world can be a solo travel destination. But if you’re new to the idea and want to dip your toes in the water before jumping in, you’ll want to visit a city that’s easy to navigate. Or you can cannonball if you want. To make it easier to choose your first, or fifth, solo destination, I sorted some places I’ve visited into Easy, Medium, and Difficult. This list works for group travelers as well, but solo travelers need to be more attentive and responsible. Find the best places to travel alone for you!

Table of Contents

Criteria

Here are the factors I consider to choose which city ends up in which category, in no particular order. The decisions are totally subjective based on my experience, but are guided by these criteria. If a city’s not on this page, it’s because I’ve never been.

  • English, English everywhere
    I knew a lot of countries teach English early on, but I was still surprised that a lot of people are pretty fluent.

    • Easy:
      • Most, if not all, people in the city speak English.
      • Signs have English on them.
    • Hard:
      • English speakers are rare or nonexistant.
      • Signs are not in English.
  • Navigation
    I’m directionally challenged. When I’m in a group, I usually depend on someone else to take me where I want to be, but when I’m alone…

    • Easy:
      • Public transportation is easy to use.
      • It’s easy to get from one place to another without getting lost.
    • Hard:
      • Public transportation doesn’t exist.
      • Easy to get lost.
      • Tourist spots are far apart.
  • Easy to get information
    If you plan your trips down to the minute, this might not be as important to you. If you’re like me, you like to work out an outline of your next destination at your current destination: what to eat, what to try, and what to wear.

    • Easy:
      • Internet is readily available.
      • There is a tourist office. Alternatively, the city is a popular spot and there is plenty of information online.
    • Hard:
      • Internet is unavailable.
  • Cultural differences
    Every culture has its differences, but depending on where you’re from and where you’re going, you’ll need to do more or less research.

    • Easy:
      • No need to worry about what to wear.
      • Fewer “rules” to remember. (Tipping, bowing, what hand to eat with, who pays for a meal, etc).
    • Hard:
      • You can wear what you usually wear.
      • More “rules” to remember.
  • Safe
    • Easy:
      • Friendly relations with your country. Your country has an embassy there.
      • Not in a state of war.
    • Hard:
      • No diplomatic or consular relations with your country.
      • Generally safe for everyone.

Easy

Europe

Italy

Bologna

Bologna is a small city with lots to look at. Look up the 7 secrets of Bologna for a fun little walkable scavenger hunt.

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Rome

There are plenty of public transport options, and there’s lots of information on the capital and largest city of Italy. Side note: Just because they put bread on the table, doesn’t mean it’s free.

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Spain

Barcelona

Making your way through Gaudi’s many many fascinating works alone will keep you busy. Be sure to try some Catalan dishes that you won’t find in the rest of Spain.

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North America

Canada

Montreal

It’s easy enough to get around and while I could be wrong, I just kind of assume Canada’s pretty safe. There are very few people who don’t speak English (although I have had to use my rusty French once to ask the cashier a question), and there’s plenty to do.

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Toronto

So much to do, so much to see. Again, easy to get around, and our friendly northern neighbors are known to be… well, friendly. Plenty of information available since it’s such a common tourist destination.

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Medium

Asia

China

Beijing

Beijing is HUGE. You won’t be bored there. It’s also a lot more tourist-friendly than some other cities in the country. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to communicate with the locals. And if you take the metro, know that it can get packed like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s easy for perverts to feel up your ass when you literally cannot move away. Luckily, my instant and loud reaction (“what the fuck!”) was enough to make them stop. As in any big city (or I guess anywhere, really), make sure your belongings are safe.

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South Korea

Seoul

Cleavage is a no-no, and shoulders are a maybe. People are understanding if you’re not from the country, but you’ll still want to look up cultural norms. However, signs are in both Korean and English and the public transportation system is great. And the internet is bombbb. There’s WiFi pretty much anywhere.

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Europe

France

Arles

Arles is a small city, so it’s not surprising that the signs are in French. The descriptions placed around the city about the history of Arles and Van Gogh are also in French, which was a good way to practice my French skills, but not great for someone who took Spanish or anything but French. Luckily, Arles is small enough that you can walk everywhere, but there’s still plenty to see. Also, they do have a tourist office and have printable, tourist-friendly maps on their site, which is available in five different languages.

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North America

United States

I won’t include English as a factor here.

West Virginia – Fayetteville

Downtown Fayetteville is walkable, but you’ll need a car to go to the New River Gorge or Hawk’s Nest State Park. It’s also relatively small, so it may be hard to meet follow travelers. That said, there are a lot of group activities available, like kayaking or ziplining, where you can meet other people. My sister and I had a great time with Ace Adventure Resorts (ziplining video).

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Difficult

Asia

China

Tianjin

Very few vendors and people on the street speak English. This makes it difficult to communicate to your cab driver, but you can just show him or her your destination if you can’t read it. While some road signs may have English translations, not all transportation maps will. Luckily, it’s as safe as any big city and I didn’t have to pay attention to what I was wearing unless I was visiting a temple. And while we all know about the Great Firewall of China, you can get the information you need by using Bing instead of Google.

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Europe

Sweden

Kiruna

Kiruna is a small town in Swedish Lapland. It’s far enough north that you can see the northern lights in the winter and the midnight sun in the summer. The highlight for me was probably petting the reindeer. It is very quiet though, and it’s not exactly a tourist spot. You may feel a bit lonely. And if you go in the winter, a solid pair of boots and a nice coat will be necessary.

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