A decision to travel solo, especially if you’re a woman, comes with lots of words of caution, advise and more often than not, downright disapproval. All of this, often from people who have never travelled solo themselves. They can be well-meaning of course but its best not to take these words too seriously and to pack your bags and head out anyway.
If you are a solo female traveller on a budget, do not think that fact means you have to compromise on your safety in any way. There are lots of places where taking public transport, sleeping in hostels and even camping and hiking solo is affordable and extremely safe. Here are my Top 5 Budget destinations for solo female travellers based on safety, affordability and accessibility to other travellers if required, as always I’ve tried to include some of my favourite offbeat things to do:
Hong Kong Islands: As far as safety goes, Hong Kong is way up high on my list. Not only is it safe to wander through the city by yourself but because of the sheer number of travellers and expats in the city, it is extremely easy to make friends as well. I had stereotypes about Hong Kong before I went there and I discovered that there is so much more to it than just being an Alpha+ city & a financial hub.
I made most of my local friends while camping and hiking the Sai Kung Peninsula. Most people when they think of Hong Kong think only of the bright city lights but that’s just bits of Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula; there’s also the New Territories and nearly 200 other islands which make up Hong Kong. A lot of Hong Kong still stays unexplored such as the aforementioned Sai Kung Peninsula, parts of Lantau Island and Tsing Yi island among others. I’ve hiked and camped as a solo female traveller in Hong Kong and been absolutely alright (save an incident with a feral cow). Hong Kong does have a reputation for being expensive but it is entirely possible to make the most of the islands on a budget. Here’s a post on my favourite offbeat and budget things to do in Hong Kong.
Indian passport holders: We can get a 14-day visa on arrival
Thailand: You might hear all sorts of stories about Thailand but bear in mind only the good ones. Thailand was the first place I went to as a Solo Female Traveller and it was brilliant. Since then I’ve been back several times because this is a country that just keeps on giving.
For a lot of people I know, Thailand begins and ends with Bangkok. “Oh, I’ve done Thailand, been to Bangkok plenty of times”. Even if you go an hour away from Thailand and I am not talking about Pattaya – I REALLY dislike Pattaya- to Kanchanaburi, you’ll start discovering the Thailand I so love. And Thailand is cheap, so cheap. Pad Thai has gone up by 10 or 15 baht in the past few years but Thailand still remains affordable for travellers on the tightest of budgets. As a solo female traveller in Thailand, I stayed in remote countryside homestays, partied with new friends till the sun went down (and came up again) and spent days aboard boat trips. If you’re looking for something more adventurous Thailand offers some of the most affordable and stunning diving opportunities in the world. I went on a dive trip aboard a boat called The Manta Queen where we lived on the boat for 3 nights doing 4 dives every day, including some night dives that involved underwater torches, parrotfish sleeping in mucus bubbles and glow in the dark plankton.
When in Thailand you’ll meet plenty of solo backpackers along the way. Khao San Road in Bangkok is the biggest backpacker hub in Thailand and you can always find several meetups/ events being organised all across the country on Couchsurfing.
Indian Passport Holders: We can get a 15-day visa on arrival.
Turkey: Turkey appeals to the subtle romantic in me. I love it. The kebabs are cheap and spending (or investing rather) a week or ten days in the east meets the west city of Istanbul alone is well worth it. People in Turkey are generally very respectful and you’ll feel safe at most times of the day. Men will approach a single female traveller but they’re not aggressive and will back off the minute you let them know you’re uncomfortable. I wore a pretend wedding ring in Turkey and it helped a lot.
If you’re one of those people who’re perfectly happy with their own company at all times then Turkey is ideal for you. It’s made for writing in journals, getting lost in photographs and speaking to locals who are always up for a chat. For those after (almost) literally otherworldly landscape, you’ll love Goreme in the Cappadocia region. The ancient rock formations here feel like they belong on another planet altogether. They also look …umm…quite phallic in appearance making it a source of constant travel jokes and giggles.
The coastal area and islands are blissful, safe and uncrowded making it ideal for solo female travellers in Turkey. One such place is Gökçeada in Tepekoy which is Turkey’s largest island and which even at the busiest time of the year manages to stay uncrowded and chaos-free. Gökçeada is essentially a Greek village in Turkey with barely 100 residents. Stay in one of the charming ancient Greek homes now converted into guesthouses, go for long picnics with books and take in the surreal sea-views. For those on a budget or camping enthusiasts in general, Gökçeada is fairly camping friendly and is home to a beach campsite too. If “offbeat Turkey” is what you’re looking for, then you’ll find it here.
Indian Passport Holders: If you have a valid U.K or U.S visa in your passport then you can get a Visa On Arrival in Turkey
Poland: Probably the most “expensive” destination on this list but that’s subjective depending on where you’re coming from. Poland has managed to keep the Euro out so far, therefore, no matter what currency you’re spending in, your money will go a long way in Poland. Lots of people told me that as a woman of colour travelling in Poland I might come across a racist incident or two. To the contrary, every single person that I met on my two-month stint in Poland was nothing but kind, friendly & helpful. Maybe the xenophobes were away on a collective holiday on some sort of racist package tour or maybe we give in to prejudices and stereotypes a little too much. Who knows?
Poland as a country is extremely underrated and there is so much that it offers. Culturally, there are cities like Krakow, Wroclaw, Poznan and Turin each with their ancient town halls, squares and quirky traditions. For the adventure lovers, the hikes in the Tatra region around Zakopane might be exactly what you’re after. Poland is safe and if at times you feel like you’re not meeting enough travellers on the road then your best option is to seek out buddies in hostels, meet up groups and if you’re in for a long haul, a language course.
Indian Passport Holders: We have to apply for a Schengen Visa or a Polish Visa at the Embassy before travelling.
Bali, Indonesia: For a number of reasons, Bali has a special place in my heart. And for those people who judge Bali as being too “touristy” , I judge you. For starters, if a place attracts tourists it means it has something to offer you, silly snob. Also, remember Bali is a big island so it is very easy to escape crowds, the people are the nicest and it is safe. Yes, you do have to keep your wits about in certain areas but that’s something we have to do even back home. For instance: when you’re out having a good time in Kuta, the party hub of Bali, keep a steady eye on your drink.
The best thing I liked about Bali is that other than Thailand it is probably one of the easiest places to make friends with fellow travellers and locals. Don’t get stuck in crazy Kuta (fun as it might be) and explore other lesser-known parts of Bali like Lovina, Wongaya Gede, Jetiluwih and Amed. My favourite Balinese memories are thanks to the locals I met and befriended there. The best Balinese food I ate was in their homes if not off the street carts in local markets. Also, should you be that way inclined, the only way you get to see the most genuine Balinese dance, theatre and music performances is when you go to the local village temples for ceremonies. When I was there it seemed there was something or the other going on at least three times a week if not more. In Bali, art is closely tied to religion and spirituality. In fact, in every Balinese family, there will be at least one singer, artist, musician and/or puppeteer if not more.
Bali is among my favourite places for several reasons not least of all for its people, culture, scenic beauty and food. Solo female travellers heading to Bali, trust me, you’ll be more than fine.
Indian Passport Holders: Indonesia offers us a Visa on Arrival for 30 days.
So there you go, my list of destinations for Solo Female Travellers on a budget. We can only try to not let money restrict our wanderlust. Another place that deserves a special mention here is Sri Lanka. I spent my first ten days in Sri Lanka as a solo female traveller and even though I was warned of dangers by a few locals, I felt safe. The only reason Sri Lanka didn’t make it to this list was that in my experience unless you’re in areas like Arugam Bay, it was a bit hard to meet other solo travellers. For the most part, it felt a lot more like a couples’ destination. Nothing wrong with that though. Here’s are some posts on two of my most memorable solo travel experiences in the country: one in a local north Srilankan homestay and the other on the train journeys across Sri Lanka. What places would you add to this list? Want to read my other posts and thoughts on Female Travel? Check this one out about Morocco and another on India.NOTE: Please check the current visa status before you take my word on it and book your tickets 🙂