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7 Travel Destinations For Solo Women.

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With the media lately giving a lot of attention to women travelling alone and women travelling together (without men), I thought I’d contribute my 2 cents too, with a list of travel destinations friendly towards single women, and women travellers in general. Not just from the perspective of safety, but also from that of accepting that there’s nothing wrong or strange about solo women travellers.

After my first solo trip in India, many people asked me what it was like to travel alone as a woman. Liberating, was my first thought. To travel alone is to realize that the “big bad world” has a bigger heart, that there is nothing quite as empowering as the confidence to experience an unknown place by yourself, and that you don’t need a man to figure out directions!

Here’s a list of friendly destinations for solo female travel and girlfriend getaways, around the world and in India:

1)   Singapore

This small island nation in Southeast Asia can seem almost too good to be true as a single woman: it is as safe as it is cosmopolitan. With glittering shopping malls and massive year-round sales, well-preserved cultural districts, tranquil seaside escapes, and a happening nightlife, there is enough to keep you on your toes. Its vicinity to Malaysia and Indonesia makes it a perfect base to explore the rest of Southeast Asia. If you’ve been there before, there are always new reasons to visit – after spending six years studying and working in Singapore, I revisited to marvel at Gardens by the Bay, the latest addition to the city skyline and an architectural marvel, and sample trendy concept bars and cafes popping up everywhere on the island. The best part? The island’s reputation of safety precedes it, meaning convincing your parents to let you go alone should be a breeze.

Gardens by the bay photos, pictures of gardens by the bay

Gardens by the Bay – these supertrees can process solar energy and harvest rainwater.

2)   Bahrain

What has the conservative Gulf region got to offer a single woman traveller, you might ask – the warmest hospitality, utmost respect, and some much-needed perspective, in that order. Bahrain offers a flavor of the Middle East and a history lesson dating back to before 2,500 BC, minus the tourists of Dubai and Egypt. In fact, tourism is in such a nascent stage that the residents are genuinely happy to welcome foreigners into their homes and lives; I always found myself conversing, befriending, sharing meals, and even hitchhiking with the locals. It is here that the east really meets the west – Arab men and women wearing traditional costumes drive foreign cars, converse in Arabic slang and accented English, and hang out at European cafes serving fusion Middle Eastern cuisine! In the vicinity of the coast lie spectacular uninhabited islands, while inland, souqs (street markets), pottery villages and restored traditional houses stand alongside bustling malls, artsy neighborhoods and quirky cafes and bars. A state-of-the-art causeway connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, and driving on this engineering spectacle is as close as you can get to its conservative neighbor as a solo female.

Bahrain photos, Bahrain photo gallery, Bahrain tourism

The modern meets the traditional in Bahrain.

3)   Southern Spain

Not quite taken by Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara? Then hear this: Spain has more to offer than a sun, sea and sand getaway, a reason to party, and bull fights. Along the Andalucian countryside, I was marveling at Arabic architecture and Roman ruins, biking around picturesque vineyards and olive fields, and tapping to the beat of the flamenco in a cave hammam (Turkish bath), all in one day. Much safer than bigger European cities, the countryside villages and towns in Spain’s south have a way of easing outsiders into the good life – lazy lunches and long siestas.

Flamenco photos, Flamenco dancer photos, Flamenco dance photos

A Flamenco performance in a cave-hamam in Cordoba, Spain.

4)   New Zealand

You don’t have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to crave a trip to Middle Earth; Googling for pictures will suffice! Undoubtedly heavy on the pocket, the entire country is one big postcard with its emerald green mountains, rainbow-studded skies, and turquoise blue waters. Famous for having more sheep than people, this is where you go to get away from it all, literally, and pamper yourself with the finest wines, cheeses and chocolates, without once doubting if you’ll be safe. If you can afford it, of course! 

Lake Pukaki, New Zealand photo gallery

Lake Pukaki, New Zealand. Photo by Jenny Huang.

5)   North Kerala, India

North Kerala is one of the few regions in India where as a solo female traveller, I felt genuinely welcomed, with a greater sense of admiration than concern! Ditch the houseboat-lined backwaters along Alleppey and Kumarakom, for the sleepy, coconut-fringed hamlets of the state’s north. Here, the backwaters flow like full-fledged rivers and are clean enough to swim in, uniting with the Arabian Sea across virgin white-sand beaches. The hill countryside is home to well-preserved forests and tribal villages, and many families in the region offer homestays on their tea estates and coffee plantations, together with heartwarming hospitality and delicious home-cooked food.

North Kerala, Kasaragod photos, Kerala India photos

The backwaters of Kasaragod, North Kerala.

6)   Himalayan Deserts, India

Ironically enough, the coldest regions of the Trans-Himalayas are home to the warmest people! Spiti and its better-known cousin, Ladakh, are enchanting places; home to stark terrain, magnificent landscapes, postcard villages, ancient monasteries, snow-hooded mountains, and star-studded skies. I couldn’t have picked a better region for my first solo trip, or my first hitchhike, for the smaller and more remote the villages in these Himalayan deserts, the more welcoming the locals. If the notion of atithi devo bhava (guest is god) ever did justice to a region, it was here, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re a solo female.

Spiti photos, Himachal pradesh photos

Komic, the highest inhabited village in Spiti.

7)   Meghalaya, India

While all seven northeastern sister states pay an ode to nature in the majestic backdrop of the Eastern Himalayas, Meghalaya stands out as a matrilineal society; descent is traced through the mother and women play the more dominant role in everyday life. That only means one thing: female travellers are not only safe, but also highly respected. True to its Sanskrit name, “the abode of clouds”, much of Meghalaya receives high rainfall, making it one of India’s richest biodiversity belts, its ancient forests protected by the hill tribes for their cultural and religious beliefs. An almost mystical aura engulfs the state during the rains, with the clouds coming low to kiss the verdant hills and picturesque villages.

Meghalaya photos, picture of Meghalaya, Meghalaya images

At Jowai, Meghalaya. Photo by Kinshuk Kashyap.

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Where have you travelled alone as a women, or in a women-only group, and felt safe? Or not so safe? 

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Also Read:

Traveling Alone in India: Am I Crazy?
On Solo Travel and Indian Women.
The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel.

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Join The Shooting Star on Facebook and Twitter for more travel stories and tips.

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I originally wrote this article for a special edition of The Times of India.

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41 Comments Post a comment
  1. Shreyas #

    Timely. I’ve been a bit rattled from the news of the Swiss cyclist who got gang raped in MP.It convinced me solo cycling in the country is unsafe for women. And though your post suggests otherwise in a few places, I’d always ask my friends keep a check on who is behind their back.

    March 21, 2013
    • Shreyas, I think it is unfair to generalize an entire country (in this case for solo cycling) based on one incident. What happened was terrible, but surely, it can’t keep us cooped up in our homes either. Precautions are important of course, but so is getting out there and braving it for the sake of the adventure!

      March 23, 2013
  2. daksh #

    Absolutely wonderful post Shiva :) Have only been two a couple of places in the above mentioned list.

    March 21, 2013
    • Thanks Daksh! Hope you’ll be checking out some of the others soon :)

      March 23, 2013
  3. Love this post, so glad you wrote it … and I have just put three new Indian destinations on my India travel wish list (which is getting longer the more I travel in India … what’s up with that?!?)

    March 21, 2013
    • I’m glad I’ve helped you find 3 new reasons to come back to India :)

      March 23, 2013
  4. I’ve felt completely safe in Nepal – though I didn’t go anywhere a man wouldn’t go alone, had a guide in the mountains etc.

    Malaysia – I never felt unsafe there, though didn’t go to the fundamentalist Muslim area in the north-east (I’m a white woman).

    Cambodia – the Khmer were wonderfully kind and welcoming.

    Laos – I had no problems in Laos, and its a beautiful country.

    (I gave up work in my mid-50s and went round the world on my own. And it was wonderful!)

    March 22, 2013
    • You’re an inspiration, Jo. I’ve loved travelling in Southeast Asia too, though I’ve done most of it with friends, so don’t quite have a flavor of what it would be like alone, especially in a smaller town / village. Glad to know you found it very safe :)

      March 23, 2013
  5. Nishu #

    I’ve only been to Vancouver alone but I would say most places in Canada are very safe for women traveling solo. I took public transport and/or walked everywhere, watched sea planes land, hiked in the nearby mountains, and enjoyed excellent food at reasonable prices. A few times, I was actually stopped by tourists asking for directions.

    March 22, 2013
    • I love when that happens; getting stopped by other for directions. Happened with me a couple of times in Spain!

      I’ve heard as much about Canada. Can’t wait to visit myself. You make it sound so beautiful :)

      March 23, 2013
  6. I have to add Pranpur!

    March 22, 2013
  7. I believe that the best travel writing is not one that informs, or makes you marvel, or shatters myths; it is one that inspires people to travel. This post did exactly that to me, Shivya. I so hope to cover at least 4 of these destinations in the next couple of years!

    March 22, 2013
    • I’m glad it did, Nishi! Awesome. Let me know if you need tips for any of them :)

      March 23, 2013
  8. Mansi #

    I traveled solo to Tokyo last year and to Bangkok with my girl friends.. they were awesome experiences and completely safe.. I plan to travel to USA this year for a month – east coast to west coast. Any suggestions?

    March 24, 2013
    • Glad to hear that Mansi :) I haven’t been to the US yet, so will look forward to your suggestions!

      March 24, 2013
      • Mansi #

        I have just returned from my month long solo trip to the US. Visited about 10 states, most of them being really safe. I think every city has a few areas that you should avoid especially after sundown. The locals were always happy to help. :)

        July 18, 2013
  9. Thanks Shivya. Will surely do that. I have been thinking of going to Malana, the remote village apparently inhabited by Aryan descendants, and said to be the oldest democracies of the world. It is not considered a very hospitable land, and one has to be careful about their conduct lest they offend the natives.The plan is always deferred though. But this year I will, and I must! Do share some insights if you know of anyone who has been there.
    If not, I will share mine once I return! :)

    March 25, 2013
  10. North Kerala is truly an unexplored stretch of God’s own country. We went there precisely for that – its non-touristy and small town charm. You should visit this lovely heritage home if you happen to be there anytime again http://bit.ly/14SdcLF.

    April 5, 2013
    • The heritage home looks lovely! I’m hoping to visit North Kerala again, soon enough :)

      April 5, 2013
  11. I guess entire Kerala is pretty safe, infact Southern states tend to be much more friendlier and predictable

    April 9, 2013
    • I think it’s comparable to the northern states that are on the tourist circuit (Himachal, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand etc), perhaps with the exception of Delhi.

      April 9, 2013
  12. Hey Shivya,
    First of all, I love your name. Never heard it before :) I’ve been following your blog for quite a while now, so thought I’d drop in for a word. I’ve read a few of your posts and I love them. In fact, I’ve been gathering courage for travelling by myself through your posts. So thank you! Looking forward to more awesome memories/experiences.
    Cheers! :)

    April 22, 2013
    • Thanks Navmi, so glad to hear that :) Thanks for the note. It inspires me to keep doing what I do when I hear that my writing could inspire someone to take the plunge to travel, travel solo and travel responsibly. What’s your first solo travel destination going to be?

      April 22, 2013
  13. Love your writing, Shivya! It’s informative, witty, and makes compulsive reading! So am all the more thrilled to read your opinion of Bhimtal and a bit about us. Thanks!

    May 10, 2013
    • Thanks Padmini, glad to see you here! :)

      May 12, 2013
  14. Reblogged this on meghatyagi01 and commented:
    Next stop on my book tour……..

    July 10, 2013
  15. yes this post was really inspiring. I would love to visit all these places that you have mentioned here.

    July 18, 2013
  16. I have been travelling in many countries and Australia is my favourite one. I’d love to travel to India on my own so your your suggestion about these 3 destinations in India are very useful. Thanks! :-)

    November 10, 2013
  17. Melissa #

    Hello!

    Love your article. I am hoping to plan a solo trip for myself sometime this summer, however am terrified. I’ve never travelled to any unknown places by myself. Besides your list of safe places, do you have any suggestions in starting to plan a solo trip?

    Melissa

    December 2, 2013
  18. Anuradha #

    Hi Shivya,
    I have been following your blog for quite some time. And I have finally planned my first trip alone – the blogs I read here did give me that initial push to do something I have always had at the back of my mind. I am travelling to Kathmandu tomorrow and exploring bits of Nepal for a week alone before I am joined by my husband! I always look out for glimpses of Indian art and culture in places I travel to and have decided to start blogging about my tales of color and inspiration – beginning with this trip! A big THANK YOU for your blog!!! Keep inspiring :)
    Love,
    Anuradha

    December 23, 2013
    • So proud of you, Anuradha! Hope you have a great adventure and tell us all about it when you’re back :) Safe travels!

      December 24, 2013
  19. Saumya #

    I was really upset when i started googling for places to travel alone in India. Your blog is so welcoming, i have high hopes now. I am planning to visit meghalaya, hope all turns out well.

    May 8, 2014
    • All the best Saumya. I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve heard the people are really friendly and welcoming towards solo female travellers, being a matriarchal society and all :)

      May 12, 2014
  20. I have been travelling solo many countries and I want to travel solo in India. Thank you very much for sharing such a great destination about India here. I think this information will be helpful to me.

    May 19, 2014
  21. magnificent publish, very informative. I wonder why the opposite specialists of this sector don’t notice this.
    You should continue your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

    July 5, 2014
  22. Prerana Bisht #

    I have been thinking to take a sabbatical and go for long travel …but its been 3 years now :(,,, Though my “Single Travel” is definately on and plus you really inspired me :)….. This list is going to be very helpful for me …

    July 7, 2014

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