For newbies starting off on their solo travel adventures, beginning the journey with apna desh may not be a bad idea. As women bloggers from India found out, familiarity was comforting on their first trip alone. Sonal Kwatra Paladini from Drifter Planet tells us, “I took my first solo trip when I was 24 and I picked Goa as my destination since I already knew the area well and felt safe there.”
For others who are not from the country, a visit to India was quite the learning experience! “At first I found traveling in India quite challenging but my consecutive trips have been much easier and now I feel at home here as I’ve got to know, love and understand more about India, I go slower and I’ve adapted the way I travel. When I visit India I tend to spend at least a couple of months as there is just so much to see and do and the sure fire way to ruin a trip to the country is to rush it,” says Anna Phipps from Global Gallivanting.
Photo credit: Sonal Kwatra Paladini
So where to head out and explore the desh ki dharti?
• Goa: This one is a top favourite and an easy-to-do destination. And Sonal has had some of her most unique experiences here. “There were moments when I was extremely self-conscious, paranoid and at times felt as if all eyes were on me. On the first day of my solo trip, as if sensing my apprehension, a few local sari-clad Konkani women who were selling anklets sat next to me. They asked me many questions and to my surprise, they were not aghast when they learned that I was alone. Soon I became less apprehensive as well and started enjoying their company. They put a red bindi on my forehead and made me look into the mirror. At that instant, they became my friends and I felt a sense of liberation in traveling alone.”
Clearly, there is something about Goa that makes everyone feel at home. Anna, for instance, when in India, makes the state her abode.
• Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh: If safety and the feeling of being at home among strangers is what you are looking at, then it is the mountains that you need to climb. As Amrita Das from the Travelling Ides of March says, “The landscape and the people are unbelievably welcoming, comforting and trusting.” Sonal’s special mentions include Dharamkot and Parvati Valley.
• North-East of India: You can be sure that a part of India where matrilineal traditions are still followed, will be a good choice for women solo travellers. The seven sisters are relatively unexplored, and are home to some of Asia’s largest forest stretches, dominating mountain ranges and intriguing tribal customs. Anna says that she felt incredibly safe in North East India and is now heading back for a second trip to meet the head hunter tribes in Nagaland. She found the people in this region very welcoming and genuine and no one even tried to sell her anything!
Photo credit: shankar s.
• Varanasi: This city is highly recommended by Anuradha Goyal from IndiTales. A must-have on your travel itinerary, she says! Perhaps the mystical nature of the Ganga Aarti coupled with the centuries-old traditions make it the perfect backdrop for some peaceful spiritual time.
• Rest of India: We know it is criminal to club the other states and cities into a ‘rest of India section.’ But when there is an epic of travel stories, there is only some justice that a chapter can do! As Anna puts it, ‘The people, colour, history and culture captivated me so much but most of all it is the diversity that keeps me coming back again and again.’ Other destinations that women bloggers recommend include, Kerala, Pondicherry, Ajmer, Khajurao, Udaipur, Hampi, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur, The Andamans, Rishikesh and Kodai Kanal.
Word of caution when travelling in India: Watch out for cab drivers and rikshaw pullers scamming you into checking into their preferred hotels or accommodations.
Bhutan may have shot into the travel limelight now, but women travellers discovered it much earlier. Anuradha, headed to Bhutan on her own nearly 10 years back. “This was probably the only kingdom left in the world and I went there before their first election,” she says. Catching a glimpse of an era slipping by would make it to our bucket list too!
Pristine beaches, delectable cuisine, warm friendly people, cheap travel options and safe countries- South East Asia is a fairy tale written for women solo travellers. Some top recommendations here include exploring the seen and unseen countries in this part of the world.
• Myanmar: Gilding pagodas, unexplored countryside and the surreal ability of a country (and its people) to keep its identity intact despite whirlwind changes, makes Myanmar a mystery that is waiting to be unravelled.
• Cambodia: The incredible temples of Angkor, the turquoise seas and the beautiful, undeveloped countryside, Cambodia is a traveller’s find! Anna says that the real highlight though is, “the amazing, genuine, charming Khmer people who have been to hell and back and are an inspiration to me.”
• Bali: Eat, Pray, Love may have pushed this city (and with it Indonesia) into the limelight, but Bali’s uniqueness lies in the diversity of experiences it offers travellers. From Ubud’s rice fields to Kuta’s party spots, you can create your own Bali tales. The island is home to many Hindus and you get to see a different take on the scriptures and traditions here. Makes for one fascinating glimpse into an unknown known world. And don’t be surprised if ‘Kuch kuch Hota Hai’ and the Bollywood Khans become a conversation starter. They are quite the rage in Indonesia!
Photo credit: Anna Phipps
• Malaysia: Anna feels that Malaysia is also an underrated destination. “Even though many travellers adore Thailand, I fell for Malaysia more! The people were amazing and many spoke good English, the food was tasty and really diverse and it was so easy to travel here and discover the great variety of natural attractions from pristine beaches, to jungles and volcanoes. I especially loved the mix of cultures, food and history in the heritage towns of Malacca and Penang and it didn’t feel as touristy as Thailand. “
• Philippines: Rutavi Mehta of Photokatha, says that this country has the ideal blend of culture, good food and stunning beaches. People are genuinely warm, helpful and happy! If you are heading to the country from one of the Indian metros, the easy pace of life will strike you as odd and comforting. No maddening rush here. Cities to check out include Manila, Boracay and Palawan.
Also read our solo woman travel guide to know more about tips from leading women bloggers.
Travelling to Europe alone
Europe is another destination that can be explored without being concerned about safety. If you are looking for a budget trip though, then you may need to plan this way ahead. Keep a track on Skyscanner for cheap flight tickets and explore hostels to book your stay. Getting a Euro Pass done will also cut down costs and help you explore multiple cities and countries. And the Schengen visa gets you into most places except the United Kingdom. So that cuts down application hassles quite a bit. Bloggers recommend almost all countries here, but we have picked out two favourites.
Italy: Amrita says it beautifully: The country empowers! “You can plan your entire day in advance and explore. And if you ever need to communicate with someone who you don’t share a common language with, that is never a worry! Italians are immensely friendly.” Grazie!
The ease of travelling as a solo woman travel in Amsterdam can make you believe that you have been living here for years! The city and its numerous attractions are well-connected by trams (that operate like clockwork), the tourist maps are detailed and people are infectiously friendly. From Van Gogh’s museum to the Anne Frank House, the city lets you explore one facet at a time. Anuradha highly recommends exploring museums as a solo traveller..
There is a world out there to explore! Women bloggers we spoke to urge you to try South America, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand as well! Download Skyscanner to get the cheapest fare and begin your solo travels now.