I believe when people travel alone instead of a bunch of his pals or whole family those trips tend to be more enriched in experience and value. Human beings, when moving in a pack of familiar faces tend to get too comfortable to venture out into new areas or strike up a conversation with locals, learning intimately through ones’ interactive experiences whilst exploring.
And this is definitely the opposite for solo travelers, who will feel right at home provided they pick the perfect destination to visit. Enter our round-up. We’ve made a list of the best countries in Asia for independent explorers (though we’d love to hear where else you’d recommend in the comments below!).
Anyway, we love the following five destinations, and we reckon you will too:
We have put this Southeast Asian entry on the top of the list, but visit Vietnam and you’ll see why it makes the cut. It has nature and the culture, the food, and the fun. It’s also pretty easy to get around, thanks to a well-developed train system, and it’s varied enough that it’ll satisfy every sort of traveler.
Big city lover? Cool, head to Ho Chi Minh City or bustling capital, Hanoi. Super into Vietnamese cuisine? You’ll go crazy for this 12-day food trip and the food and coffee guides to the country. Or are you more into nature and picturesque scenery? The mountains of Sapa, world heritage site of Halong Bay, and idyllic beaches of Nha Trang have got you covered.
The Vietnamese also speak pretty good English, so getting around and doing your thing as a solo traveler really isn’t hard. One thing we would advise is to emotionally prepare for motorbikes aplenty – they’re the most common form of transport here, so either join the crowd and rent one or become brave enough to ensure that crossing the motorbike-filled road doesn’t take an hour (a very real possibility in Hanoi).
Besides, there are few suggested motorbike routes to travel from Saigon to Hanoi to enjoy the good scenery. Once passing among the two mountains you can enjoy the stunning beauty of quiet, mighty landscape of limestone and coastal roads. In between, you can pull off your bike and grab your long range observation binoculars. If you are lucky you can spot some rare Mountain Bamboo Partridge at peak.
Lastly, it’s worth bearing in mind that Vietnam is very much a developing country, meaning it provides travelers with a wealth of ways in which to offer their support. Our favorite way of doing so is by hitting up KOTO restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, an organization dedicated to giving jobs in hospitality to street kids.
Who doesn’t want to go to Cambodia? Even those that have been are keen to go again. And that’s a testament to the country’s excessive beauty, rich history, friendly people, and up-and-coming cuisine. It’s a fantastic place for solo travelers to explore – in part thanks to its diversity. You’ve got the big city buzz of capital city Phnom Penh, the stunning temples of Angkor Wat, and the peaceful, plentiful beaches of Sihanoukville. Something for everyone.
Plus it’s safe, too. Reports of harassment are incredibly rare, and even though travelers aren’t super common outside of Siem Reap, you’ll barely notice anything unusual, thanks to the kindness of locals. It really is easy to get off the beaten track here. Once you’ve seen the temples and visited the Killing Fields (devastating, but a must) you can explore little-known sites.
Our recommendations for solo travelers is seeking something special? Battambang, the second largest city – brimming with riverside charm and colonial architecture – and Kampot, where you can help blind Cambodians make a living by getting a traditional massage.
Not only is Japan as safe as it is developed, it’s perfect for the solo traveler in oh so many ways. First off, eating alone in Japan is actually quite routine. This alleviates one of the biggest worries for those on the road since a ton of eateries actually cater to solo diners specifically. We advise checking out ramen restaurants because they tend to be composed mostly of single counter seats. Alternatively, check out a trip dedicated to Japanese cuisine, so you can enjoy the freshest sushi around, and in the company of other solo travelers.
Stroll around any big city, such as Tokyo, and you’ll see just how many people walk alone. It’s very safe to do so, so you definitely won’t be judged as a solo adventurer. Females can even go one step further if worried about safety and check out ladies-only transport and accommodation options. And although English isn’t spoken fluently, you’ll find that everyone is both respectful and eager to offer assistance, so all that’s left to do is chill out and explore the beautiful country. You can do so in just one week (if you’re time poor), but don’t leave without checking out an onsen, a traditional Japanese bath (guide here). In doing so you might be pretty glad you’re traveling alone – after all, you have to be 100% nude to indulge…
Because why not end on a high? If Myanmar isn’t on your radar yet, it really should be. It isn’t all temples, pagodas, ancient towns and quaint villages, but there are enough that you’ll be left feeling zen and inspired in equal measures. Locals here are honestly some of the kindest around (a refrain we’ve repeated too often, but one we really mean) and the 2,000+ brick and gilded ruins you’ll see at Bagan are truly life-affirming.
Solo travelers will be more than happy here, mostly thanks to the above, but also because of the authenticity on offer. It’s a given that Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay will likely be visited on a trip to Myanmar, but Intrepid’s Best of Myanmar trip takes you through so much more of the country than that. For example, the small group tour takes you to Kalaw, home of extraordinary hikes, tea plantations, and tiny villages. It also lets you sleep at a unique community lodge, where you visit a thanka farm, help out with an important tree-planting project, and even get a dinner cooked by nearby villagers. It doesn’t get cooler than that.
We’ll end this list with a country you may not have expected… South Korea. Yes, the East Asian nation has got us so excited in recent years that we dedicated an 8-day trip to its awesome food scene. Korean BBQ, kimchi, bibimbap and more – what’s not to love? We think both this trip and country are ideal for solo travelers because South Korea’s street food scene (as unintimidating as it is delicious) is easily navigable for those traveling on their own.
But it’s not all about the food, it’s about the people too. Plenty of young Koreans can speak some English, but even if they don’t, you’ll be hard press to find a country with friendlier locals. Their warmth is truly outstanding, so whether you’re hiking Mt. Gangcheon to Byeongpung Waterfall or browsing the seafood at Busan’s epic Jalgalchi Market, you’ll find them always willing to help you out. Bonus: the subways in Seoul, Daejeon, and Busan are super easy to use, thanks to announcements in English and a ton of signs – solo travelers needn’t worry! The glittering skyscrapers and irresistible energy of South Korea is calling.
And if you need some little retail therapy? Why not get your shopping fix in South Korea’s capital? From markets like Namdaemun to the stylish Myeongdong, Seoul has a wide array of options for fashionistas and shopaholics who want to look a bit like their K-pop idols. More than a just a shopping destination, Seoul is also a wondrous mash-up of cutting-edge technology and ancient traditions, home to vast nightlife districts, endless street food vendors, extraordinary architecture, serene Buddhist temples, and a trend-setting youth culture.
On top of it all, Seoul remarkably safe for solo travelers, in spite of its immense size.
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