12 Asian Destinations for FIRST-TIME SOLO BACKPACKERS

In 2012, I traveled solo for the first time in my life.

I still remember how frightened I was before the trip. With only a small backpack, a Neil Gaiman book, a thousand dollars, and a will to get out of my comfort zone, I boarded the plane to Bangkok. As I was checking in, there were no butterflies in my belly, only a terrific worry that I might find myself unfit for the travel lifestyle and come running back home earlier than planned.

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at the idea that I practically chickened out. I mean, it’s Southeast Asia! It’s not too far from my comfort zone! but not only would it be my first time traveling alone, it would also be my longest journey yet — one full month across four countries: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. I was concerned about numerous things: safety, scams, funds, my being socially awkward.

Thankfully, they were overpowered by the thought that it was something I had to do not for this blog but for personal growth. I wanted to do things I had never done before, to be challenged again, to be alone again. At the time, I had been in a committed relationship for over three years, and I wanted some me-time even just for a month.

That trip opened so numerous doors, letting in an ocean of possibilities. The pals I made within that one month were pals I kept even up to this day. (One of them I had went to in Paris twice already!) The ideas that popped up in my head became cornerstones of the profession I had because built. and the learnings I collected along the way became the light that guides me during challenging times.

Of course, it won’t be the same for all of us. Solo travel isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly something that I can recommend that you try at least once in your life. but where to start? If you’re like me who is nervous about everything, you’ll be glad that there are destinations that are terrific for first-time solo travelers — with minimal language barrier, highly organized trip options, and a thriving backpacking culture.

We asked some of my blogger pals for places that are best for a solo travel debut, and these are 12 of our suggestions.

Bangkok, Thailand

It’s practically impossible to build this list without a mention of Bangkok, the epicenter of Southeast Asia’s backpacking scene. This is where the typical backpacking trails in the region begin and end. Bangkok is so used to tourists, you can check out sites on your own easily.

“For first time international solo travelers, there’s no other city I would recommend,” says Aleah Taboclaon of solitary Wanderer. “In Bangkok, everyone’s totally free to do their own thing. Locals won’t blink at same-sex couples, and if you want to wear your yoga pants while out and about, you won’t get a second look. Of course, Thailand is much more than just Bangkok, but for solo travelers just learning their way, I would recommend Bangkok for their first international destination.”

What’s to love?

Affordable accommodations! even their hotels are not as pricey as their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Cheap but irresistible cuisine. The street food alone [is worthy of] several dedicated blog posts.

Plenty of interesting sites to see in the city. From the basics like the Grand palace and Wat Arun to obscure ones like the Phallus Shrine.

Vibrant nightlife!

Great jump off point for neighboring destinations like Ayutthaya and even Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Wat je moet weten

Scams. When God showered the world with scams, Bangkok got way much more than its share. but they’re pretty easy to avoid. You just need to be familiar with them before you go.

If you’re after non-touristy sites, this isn’t for you. Bangkok gets millions and millions of visitors every year.

More info: Bangkok Solo travel Tips

El Nido, Philippines

The Philippines is said to be on the wrong side of the South China Sea, disconnected from its neighbors. getting here takes much more time and effort, but those who do are rewarded with an unforgettable tropical getaway. Backpacking is still an emerging concept in the country, but not in El Nido.

El Nido has been a haven for backpackers for decades. It’s the top choice for Micaela Rodriguez of Senyorita. the best thing about El Nido is that you can still have loads of fun even if you’re going solo. many trips operate on a system that puts strangers together on a boat for a day-long island adventure. and the prices are regulated, ensuring that tourists do not pay much more than they should. It’s something a solitary soul don’t need to be concerned about.

What’s to love?

Incredible beaches, karst cliffs, and dive sites. There’s no running short of wonder here.

Sites are “bundled” together in trip packages. trip A for Miniloc Island attractions, trip C for Matinloc Island, and so on. You just need to choose the island trip and they’ll prepare everything for you, including lunch.

Affordable accommodatioNS.

Locals are friendly and hospitable.

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Because of limited direct flight options, El Nido can still feel a bit isolated. It’s around 6 hours from Puerto Princesa by land and 8 hours from Coron by boat.

Been here 3 times and there are still power interruptions, so make sure you choose a hotel equipped with a generator.

Don’t forget to bring some mosquito-repellent lotion.

More info: El Nido Tips

Siargao, Philippines

Another Philippine destination that has delighted in an enhanced backpacker traffic is Siargao, recommended by Sabrina Iovino of just One way Ticket.

“Siargao is a wonderful place for first-time travelers in the Philippines,” Sabrina declares. “It’s a stunning island with friendly locals and a unwinded surfers vibe. even if you don’t surf, check out Siargao, there is plenty to do for non surfers.”

More info: Siargao guide for Non-Surfers

Photo by Sabrina Iovino
What’s to love?

If you’re after sun and sand, this is your paradise.

Not as touristy as other beach destinations in the Philippines. Not yet, at least.

Affordable accommodations. Sabrina adds, “If you want to meet people, stay at Kermit resort or alternatively at Paglaom, the latter one provides dorm rooms, it’s easy to connect with fellow travelers.”

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Limited flight options. It isn’t as easily available as other islands in the Philippines.

Hong Kong

Whenever readers ask us for first overseas travel ideas, Hong Kong is always a top-of-mind recommendation. and it looks like we’re not alone. girl Rising ambassador and PS I’m On My way founder Trisha Velarmino agrees. “There is only one explanation why a first-time solo traveler ought to go to Hong Kong,” she shares. “You will have numerous nights you won’t remember with the people you will never forget. The drama, the charm, the beauty, the breathless energy, the impolite but welcoming people — I knew I always wanted to write a story set in Hong Kong.”

What’s to love?

Expansive and reputable transportation system

Unlike other urban hubs like Tokyo and Singapore, Hong Kong enjoys a much lower cost of living.

East meets West feels!

Great food, if you know where to look.

Not much language barrier. English is widely spoken.

More info: Hong Kong and Macau travel Guide

Siem Reap, Cambodia

The gateway to the Angkor Temples, Siem Reap is another crowd favorite for a reason. before my visit, I knew what to expect, yet I was still blown away by the sheer size of the Angkor Wat, the elaborate details of Bayon, and the interesting charm of the other temples. Yet, what lingers is the feeling of being welcome.

Ron Cruz of Flip’n travels couldn’t help being poetic when describing the city. “She’s neither snob nor clingy, she’s both foreign and peculiarly familiar. She will embrace you regardless if you arrive donned in a crisp t-shirt or shabbily wrapped in a beer stained jersey. The travelers are young, the culture is old, locals are tolerant, society is ever fleeting. The history is gilded in gold and drenched in blood and recently so wounded that all emotions are not judged.”

And for those with separation anxiety issues, Ron adds, “She’s warm enough to be received with sincerity and cold enough to easily let go.”

What’s to love?

Angkor Temples. There are numerous of them so make sure you have at least a day to see the major sites.

Friendly locals

Lots of affordable accommodations

Wat je moet weten

Scams, especially those that use children. You might encounter these at one of the temples you’re visiting. Some will offer to trip you around but will charge exorbitant fees after.

Penang, Maleisië

Traveling Light‘s Claire Madarang has high praises for Penang! “The streets of UNESCO world Heritage site George Town, is a terrific place to get lost in for hours – even for days, as there is just so much to see!”

“Walk around and take in the stunning heritage houses, the colorful street art, and the different places of worship, like churches, temples, and mosques, as Penang celebrates diverse cultures and religions. And, eat the delicious and affordable street food, as this place is known not just for its heritage but also its food. transportation is efficient, with numbered buses going around and also to and from the airport. affordable solo traveler-friendly accommodations are also available. And, locals are typically friendly and helpful.”

Claire in Penang
What’s to love?

Goede locatie. If you’re planning on continuing your journey, you can easily go to Langkawi (by ferry), Cameron Highlands (by mini-bus), or even Thailand (by train).

Voedsel! Penang is typically regarded by numerous as Malaysia’s culinary capital.

Affordable accommodations

Friendly locals

Read more: cute Cats of Penang in street Art

Guilin, China

My personal choice is Guilin.

China has some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world, and Guilin is a terrific 101. True, the language barrier can be quite challenging at first but once you’re past it, it’s not challenging whatsoever to fall in love with the city. Unlike China’s major cities like Shanghai or Beijing, Guilin is still relatively laid-back and not as polluted.

In Guilin, fantastic, beautiful areas are within easy reach. You can see the famed Li River and its towering limestone cliffs, the town of Yangshuo, and even the Longji Rice Terraces in Longsheng. numerous of these sites can be seen on group trips that you can join if you’re alone.

What’s to love?

Natural scenery is incredible.

Cheap transportation and tours. even taxi rates are not that bad.

Low cost of living

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Language barrier here can be frustrating. You can help yourself by using translator apps or asking a pal who can speak English to write things down in Chinese characters for you.

While train rides to other parts of China from Guilin are cheap, they can be overcrowded. In some cars, smoking is allowed. and some restrooms can cause a bit of a culture shock.

If you’re holding a Philippine passport, a visa is required.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Turkey has been battered by a series of attacks lately, discouraging potential tourists. It’s sad because in my opinion, Turkey is one of the most stunning countries in the world.

Take Cappadocia as an example. It has everything a first-time solo traveler can ask for. When we were there, we rode a hot air balloon for the first time, hovering above an unlimited sea of rock formations, from towering pillars that nature carefully molded into enormous chimneys for over 2000 years to spires that the early Christians carved through to create dwellings and churches centuries ago. It was surreal. Under the surface are dozens of underground cities, numerous of which are open to tourists.

What’s to love?

It is served by two airports. domestic flights are so cheap, skipping it ought to be a crime.

Tours are packaged and organized by color: red for Goreme, green for Ihlara, and blue for Soganli. Solo travelers can easily join one and meet other like-minded solo backpackers.

Goreme, the main traveler town, is small and easy to explore.

Low cost of practically everything, even tours.

Warm, friendly locals

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If you’re after hot-air balloons, know that the ride is highly dependent on good weather. There’s a chance it can get canceled in non-summer months.

Not numerous public transportation options. Hitchhiking is common but you might be in for a long wait.

If you’re holding a Philippine passport, a visa or an e-visa is required.

Hualien, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island bursting with unforgettable attractions. Taipei is a good base if you want to explore much of the capital and neighboring Yangmingshan national Park and Beitou.

Our personal favorite is Hualien on the east coast of the island. A local pal told me that there is a saying that Hualien lies on “sticky” ground, which refers to its ability to make visitors NOT want to leave. It’s one of those cities that feel much more like a big town. It’s unwinded and unhurried. It’s also the gateway to Taroko Gorge national Park.

What’s to love?

The Taroko Gorge is wonderful. We spent a full day just walking in between cliffs and on the banks of its streams yet it still felt like we needed much more time. absolutely magnificent.

Getting in is easy. It’s just 2 hours from Taipei, and multiply trains stop here a day.

Getting around is a piece of cake too. Hualien is small so much of it can be reached on foot. low-cost taxis abound in case you get tired.

Het is goedkoop! 100 USD go a long way if you know your way around.

Night markets!

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If you’re holding a Philippine passport, a visa or an e-visa is required.

Osaka and Kyoto, Japan

Osaka and Kyoto are Vins’s choices. and because they sit just next to each other, let’s just treat them as one destination in this list.

Osaka is considered the culinary capital of Japan, boasting several signature dishes including okonomiyaki and takoyaki. Op de andere

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