With SO many amazing places out there, it can be very overwhelming to decide where to go on your very first solo trip. I totally get it; I was you once. Let’s take a look at 25 of the best cities for first time solo travellers.
I’ve separated the list strategically so you can jump to your favourite area:
– North America
– Central America / Caribbean
– South America
(This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.)
1. Toronto, Canada
This is a no brainer, considering this is where I live. Even before I moved to the big city, I would often visit by myself and absolutely loved it.
There’s just something about the buzz of downtown Toronto in the summer that I can’t get enough of. What the city lacks in the overall number of hostels in the downtown core, it more than makes up for in things to do on a budget in Toronto.
Read related: Free Things to do in Toronto
2. New York City, USA
A city of lights. A concrete jungle. Call it what you will, but New York City is a great destination for first time solo female travellers!
I’ve been in the Spring, Summer and even the Winter. The winter is definitely cold but don’t let that deter you from spending a few days wandering around Manhattan.
The cold months mean you get cheap solo travel deals. If you go around Christmas, expect the opposite of that. But ice skating in front of the tree in Rockefeller Square is really beautiful, just make sure you dress for the cold.
Summer in the Big Apple is unbeatable. I could walk for hours with no goal in mind at any time of day and not feel unsafe because in addition to being the “city so nice they named it twice”, it’s also the city that never sleeps so there are always people out.
Not sure where to stay? Q4 Hotel and Hostel in Long Island is awesome and there’s a subway station a couple blocks away that will have you in Times Square in 15 minutes.
3. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Not a city per se, but a collection of towns surrounding Lake Atitlan. Pick any town and enjoy a few days of life along the water.
I picked San Pedro but you may prefer Panajachel or San Marcos. No matter where you end up, you can’t go wrong with backpacking to this part of Guatemala.
Book a hike up Indian Nose for a stunning sunrise. Amazing way to start the day! It’s only a 30 minutes hike, so it’s a great option for those who aren’t into vigorous morning cardio.
For those who prefer a more adventurous volcano trek, head to Volcan San Pedro. Guide not required but you may want to take a friend.
Don’t forget to try the tire swing. If it’s a clear day, photos of you swinging off the side of a volcano will look amazing!
Not sure where to stay? I stayed at Mr. Mullet’s and really enjoyed the vibe, location and set up.
Read related: Hiking Volcan Acatenango, Guatemala
4. La Fortuna, Costa Rica
One of the top hotspots in Costa Rica, and for good reason. It’s the perfect mix of jungle and volcano with just enough hustle and bustle to make it one of the best spots in Costa Rica for those visiting the country for the first time.
Stay at Arenal Container Hostel and enjoy being near the action, but not in the middle of it. It’s the perfect combination!
The most popular thing to do in La Fortuna is the Two Volcano Tour. You’ll end a full day of amazing sightseeing off with a wonderful soak in the natural hot springs.
More importantly, be sure to visit the Bogarin Trail. It was my favourite thing in La Fortuna, hands down!
Read related: Two Weeks in Costa Rica
5. Havana, Cuba
Cuba is so much more than all inclusive resorts on white sandy beaches. It’s a wonderful contrast of old and new, creating a unique culture and experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Havana is Cuba’s biggest city. There’s always something going on and it’s safe for solo female travellers. Plan to spend a few days here experiencing the local Cuban life before moving onto other parts of the island.
Hostels aren’t very popular in Cuba and hotels are very expensive. Instead, stay at a casas particulares (a guest room in the home of a local family).
From exploring Old Havana on foot, to a driving around in a classic car, to a night out at Tropicana (such a fun, high energy show!), you can’t go wrong spending time in Havana, it’s a fantastic city!
This comprehensive guide on backpacking Cuba is a great resource for planning for a trip to Cuba.
6. Santiago, Chile
Plain and simple…Chileans know how to have a good time. This means it’s super easy to meet people if you are travelling alone for the first time.
I had such an amazing time in Santiago, I am itching to go back!
Hopefully, you have clearer weather than I did. It was hazy so I didn’t get the iconic, contrasting photos of a bustling city with the Andes mountains in the background.
Either way, Santiago has a peaceful vibe to it, and it doesn’t feel like a city of over six million people at all.
Until the sun goes down.
If you love nightlife, Santiago is your city!
I stayed at Rado Hostel. This is one of my favourite hostels of all time. Expect a lively area, loads of restaurants, bars, clubs, and a central location meaning you can walk almost anywhere.
Take a walking tour (watch for the building that looks like an old cell phone, and Chile’s largest flag in Plaza de la Ciudadanía), hike Cerro San Cristobel, or wander through El Cemetario General for a look back in time.
No matter what you enjoy doing, you can’t go wrong with Santiago!
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina
The capital of Argentina. The birth place of the tango. The Argentinians are such a proud, hospitable crowd that you will definitely leave Buenos Aires with amazing memories.
A big sprawling city with many barrios (neighbourhoods), it’s easy to spend a few days here absorbing the local culture and vibe.
Take a walking tour and see some amazing history, try some local treats, and end up at the infamous Recoleta Cemetery.
Or, forget the tour and just wander around. Just make sure you end up at El Cuartito for at least one meal.
Naturally, everyone wants to see Buenos Aires most colourful neighbourhood – La Boca. It’s a fantastic area, but don’t get lost in the notoriously unsafe neighbourhoods surrounding La Boca, like I did.
Thanks to a local woman who pointed me in the right direction, nothing happened. Still, it was definitely a lesson on safety as a solo female traveller.
8. Rome, Italy
A capital European city so rich in history, the modern day has no choice but to build itself up and around the ruins of the past. The beautiful contrast of past and present mean that your first trip to Italy will be unforgettable.
I’ve stayed in posh little hotels near the Colosseum and budget hostels beside Roma Termini (the main train station). Both are perfectly fine, which is great if you are on a tight budget. You’ll be so busy exploring one of the most fascinating cities in Italy, you won’t be in your room much anyway.
Rome is one of my favourite cities to put down the map and get lost in. I’ve walked from sun up to sun down and was never bored.
From Vatican City to the Colosseum and the Pantheon. From Trevi Fountain to stunning piazza after piazza. With food that will make you go weak in the knees, the Italians will have you falling in love with their culture and city and planning a trip back before you can whisper ciao!
Read related: Two Weeks in Italy
9. Paris, France
Paris has the reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe. But the city of lights can be done on a budget with a bit of research.
Stay in a hostel with a kitchen. Visit some of the crepe stands scattered around the city for a cheap and delicious meal on the go. How about a visit to a local grocery store, followed by a picnic in the park overlooking the Eiffel Tower?
If a birds eye view of the city from atop the Eiffel Tower is on your list, purchase tickets ahead of time. They are often booked well in advance, especially during busy season (May – September).
If you enjoy museums, the Louvre will be on your radar. I was underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa, but the museum itself is very beautiful. Refer to the museums’ website here to see if you are eligible for free entrance..
Like many European cities, Paris is highly walkable. What better way to explore a city than on foot? For those attractions that are too far to walk, Paris’s subway system is easy to navigate, clean and safe.
10. Vienna, Austria
If you are backpacking Austria, Vienna is easy to explore on a shoestring budget and is a perfect city for any first time solo traveller.
There are two Wombat’s hostels in Vienna. I stayed at the Naschmarkt location and really liked it. Even though there is a subway station across the street, I explored Vienna mostly on foot.
For great local food, try one of the many stalls at the Naschmarkt (conveniently across the street from Wombat’s).
Want to see a ballet or opera at the Vienna State Opera but are backpacking Europe on a budget? Arrive 90 minutes early and buy a standing room ticket for 3 euro. This is how I saw my very first ballet.
Other things to do in Vienna include exploring the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace, and Belvedere Palace – both are beautiful. If you are a horse lover, check out the tour of the Spanish Riding School. I loved it, the horses are just stunning!
Read related: Vienna for Solo Travellers
11. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a backpacker budget friendly city with medieval architecture and a wonderful vibe. It’s a very walkable city, which I loved.
Stroll across the Charles Bridge and wander around the hilltop castle.
Don’t miss the beautiful clock tower in the Old Town Square. But do mind your things when you are watching this “astronomical” time piece. Pick pockets prey on the fact that your attention is diverted.
And of course, you can’t say you’ve been to the Czech Republic if you didn’t have at least one beer. Beer is basically a food group in Prague. There are many beer gardens throughout the city, one of the most popular being Letna Park because of the great city views.
I stayed at Hostel Downtown and highly recommend it. It has a very social atmosphere, the beds are super comfortable and the whole place is clean and safe.
12. Budapest, Hungary
A fun city popular among backpackers throughout Europe, Budapest is known for its beautiful thermal baths and spas. In the summer during the day, this place is absolutely fantastic.
However, I also visited Szechenyi Bath for a New Year’s party and do NOT recommend this for women. I spent the evening fending off wandering hands under the water.
Explore Budapest on foot with a walking tour or on your own. Every Budapest guide and blog will tell you not to miss the chain bridge, the Shoes on the Danube memorial and the Citadella. They are right!
If you’re animal lover, the Cat Cafe is a fun experience. If cafe’s aren’t your thing, maybe ruin bars are?
Budapest is full of em, the most popular being Szimpla Ruin. Spend the evening in an old factory converted into a bar with a funky, lively atmosphere and enjoy a drink.
I stayed at Maverick City Lodge. The location is absolutely perfect and the bunks are some of the best I’ve seen, but the showers are awful.
13. Athens, Greece
Athens has successfully created the perfect union between ancient history and modern day that cannot be rivalled.
Although popular for its economic drama, backpacking Greece is even more popular. From rich history to amazing food to excellent nightlife, Athens on a budget is completely doable!
With incredible sites like the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, The Parthenon and the Olympic Stadium, solo travellers can’t help but be impressed by the amount of history here, and the modern city that has built itself around it.
Whether you are coming onto the mainland from the islands via ferry, or leaving Greece via Athens International Airport (I did both), getting around the city on public transportation is really easy with a clean, safe and modern subway system.
Read related: Santorini on a Budget
14. London, UK
I spent a week in London and feel like I barely scratched the surface. It’s one of those cities you can return to again and again and never experience the same thing twice.
I stayed in Kensington and walked or took the tube to get everywhere.
Here’s a big plus for that backpacking budget – most of the museums and galleries are FREE in London.
I am not a museum person so I opted for the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. All three were fantastic!
Note that you can only go into Buckingham Palace in the summer months, and entrance isn’t exactly cheap. I splurged and do not regret it one bit.
I had a picnic lunch in Trinity Square Park one day, which is just beautiful. Another day, I spent an afternoon exploring Camden Market. I had a great time wandering around looking at all the different stalls and sampling snacks as I went.
15. Helsinki, Finland
Here’s a fun fact – Helsinki is the most northern capital of over one million people in the world.
Although backpacking Finland is not cheap, it’s definitely worth stopping over for a couple days.
A common question is, ‘what is there to do in Helsinki’? Travellers don’t go to Helsinki to check popular tourist sties off a bucket list.
Instead, solo travellers go for the experience, the food and the people. Finns are known to be some of the friendliest in Europe. Two days here and you’ll have new BFFs for life.
Finland is also known for its sauna culture. They’re everywhere. Embrace it and enjoy it. Also don’t forget to stop by Senate Square (this is where Helsinki Cathedral is).
If checking out the area surrounding Helsinki sounds like your thing, take a ferry to one of the islands for an afternoon. Soumenlinna and Lonna are popular and awesome to see.
16. Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is probably the best city in the world to experience true pub culture. Spend a weekend in Dublin enjoying a Guinness or two. I guarantee you’ll have the time of your life.
Perhaps even take a self guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse to learn about that pint you’re enjoying?
With an incredibly rich history – complete with vikings! – Dublin is clearly a medieval lovers dream. One of the most popular things to do in Dublin is to join a free walking tour to get the lay of the land.
After a late night, spend an afternoon lounging in one of the many vibrant, lush, green spaces throughout the city. Phoenix Park is the biggest and most popular.
If historical library’s are your thing, stop by the library at Trinity College. It’s basically the mother of all libraries. What better way to spend a cool or rainy morning in Ireland?
To stick to your travel budget, make sure you stay in a place that has a kitchen. Food will likely be your biggest expense in Dublin.
17. Lisbon, Portugal
A beautiful city along the ocean makes for amazing scenery and fresh air, Lisbon is known as the city of hills and may seem intimidating at first, so be sure to bring your most comfortable shoes.
A popular thing to do in Lisbon is to watch the sunset from one of the many amazing viewpoints.
Or, head to the beach and try your luck at surfing (or watching – definitely my choice!). How about spending an afternoon exploring Sao Jorge Castle – this is also where you’ll get the best views of the city.
Want to keep your food costs down but still want to eat like a local? Try a taberna. It’s a traditional restaurant owned by locals, so you know the food will be amazing. Order the bacalhau but save room for dessert. You can’t leave Portugal without trying a pasteis de natas.
18. Edinburgh, Scotland
Though part of the United Kingdom, Scotland is decidedly different. The Scots are very proud of the capital city of Edinburgh, and with good reason.
Rich in history and the arts, Edinburgh is the epicentre of Scottish culture. Backpacking Scotland is a safe, budget friendly option for solo female travellers.
The National Museum, the Scottish National Galleries and St. Giles Cathedral are all free. For a fantastic view of the city, hike up to Arthur’s Seat. Also for great views, climb the Scott Monument.
On cold days, warm up with a scotch tasting tour or a haunted Edinburgh tour.
If you aren’t travelling to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, avoid the month of August. This 3-week festival will see prices skyrocket.
19. Luang Prabang, Laos
I loved everything about Luang Prabang. It is much friendlier, safer and more interesting than the capital, Vientiane.
One of the most popular things to do in Luang Prabang is to give morning alms (sai bat) to the local monks. Please be respectful of the culture and practice. This is not a tourist attraction, but a longstanding buddhist tradition.
Utopia bar is the perfect place to meet fellow backpackers. When it closes, share a tuk tuk with your new friends to the bowling alley on the outskirts of the city and keep the party going.
Watch out for that Laotian beer though, it will give you an awful hangover.
So I’ve heard. 😐
Laos is known for beautiful waterfalls, and Luang Prabang is no exception. Take a tuk tuk to Kuang Si or Tad Thong outside of town. If you only have time for one, Kuang Si is the one you want. It is a series of terraced pools with brilliantly blue water that you can swim in.
Hike up Mount Phousi in the middle of town for a great sunset view. Then head to the night market for cheap eats and shopping.
You may leave with many beautiful handmade scarves.
So I’ve heard. 😉
20. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cambodia blew my mind. The rich ancient history of Angkor is incredible and unlike anywhere else in the world.
Chances are, you are in Siem Reap for the Angkor temples. Depending on your travel speed, this can take anywhere from one to five days. I am a naturally fast traveller and was happy with three.
It is ridiculously hot in Siem Reap, so you will likely do most of your temple exploring very early in the morning and will want to relax at your hostel for the afternoon.
I have very fond memories of eating amazing food poolside at my hostel with the most random group of fellow backpackers from all over the world.
If the steep entrance price to Angkor doesn’t fit your budget, look into Banteay Chhmar as an alternative.
When the sun goes down in Siem Reap, Pub Street comes to life. This little stretch of lively bars, restaurants and shops deserves at least one evening. Also stop by the Old Market or in the shops alone and surrounding Pub Street.
Read related: Donating Blood in Cambodia
21. Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand. The land of smiles. I adore this country.
A fast paced and noisy city with incredible street food, amazing shopping and a vibrant culture, the city of Bangkok knocked my socks off and I can’t wait to go back.
I didn’t stay in the backpacker hub of Khao San Road. Instead I splurged and stayed at Bangkok City Hotel, a very clean and modern hotel near MBK Center.
After two months of dorm rooms all over Southeast Asia, it was a godsend.
I did visit Khao San though, because every backpacker has to at least once. It’s exactly as you would expect but at least I had good Pad Thai and experienced my first fish foot spa.
The Grand Palace will blow your mind and is a must see. The intricacy of millions upon millions of vibrantly coloured tiles!
Another popular thing to do in Bangkok is to watch a Muay Thai boxing fight. I didn’t because I was too busy watching entire neighbourhoods transform into busy restaurants and shopping markets as soon as the sun went down every night.
Also known as the Venice of the east, Bangkok has an intricate waterway. Hop on a boat and see the city from a different perspective while avoiding some of the noise and traffic congestion of the city. Win win!
22. Singapore, Singapore
That’s not a type-o. Yes, the capital city has the same as the state.
The Singapore airport (Changi Airport) alone will wow as soon as you step off the plane. Singapore is spotlessly clean and very high tech, making it unlike anywhere else.
Sticking to a budget here is not entirely a fable, though you will spend more here than other cities in Southeast Asia. Luckily though, there are a few things you can do for FREE here:
Wander through the different neighbourhoods, like Little India, Bugis and Chinatown.
Sometimes called the Garden City, the gardens in Singapore aren’t your average gardens! Check out Gardens by the Bay or the Singapore Botanical Gardens for a surreal experience.
If shopping and nightlife are on your radar, head to Orchard Road (although this area may not for those on a strict budget).
If you’re a foodie, the hawker stalls at the Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown are your go to.
23. Tokyo, Japan
Don’t underestimate the size of Tokyo – it’s HUGE! With somewhere around 10 million people spread across 48 some odd neighbourhoods, Tokyo is a mega city.
As a first time visitor, you may want to look at Shinjuku as your home base. This neighbourhood is central and has a bit of everything so it is a good base for solo female travellers.
If you like people watching and can’t go without your caramel macchiato with extra milk, there is a Starbucks right at Shibuya with perfect views of the intersection. Shibuya is known to be the busiest intersection in the world, and is certainly a site to see.
Harajuku is another famous area and should not be missed. Visit Yoyogi Park on a weekend when the locals, dressed in eye catching outfits, come out in full force.
Be sure to actually plan your visit to Tokyo, so you can maximize your time here. If you try to wing it, you’ll waste a lot of time commuting back and forth and spending extra money. In such an expensive city, this can put a big dent in your budget.
24. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I didn’t know there was an art to crossing the street. Then I went to Vietnam. It almost became a game.
In the capital city of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon), you either learn fast…or are the reason people swerve and fall off their scooters.
My learning style was to stand next to a local and move when they moved. Don’t worry, they know what you’re doing and most will help you when it’s time to move.
Shopping at the Vietnamese markets is something everyone should experience at least once. I found the stall owners at Ben Thahn Market to be the most aggressive, and the Russian Market were the most pleasant.
A city wide view from atop the Bitexco Financial Tower is a great way to see watch the sunset over the city. From this height, you’ll watch the sun go down and the city come alive.
If you’re a history buff, the War Remnants Museum is a good way to see the war from the Vietnamese’ perspective.
And, If you want to get away from the city, a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels is an interesting way to spend a day. There’s even a shooting range, if that’s your thing. I shot an AK47 and learned that guns are definitely not my thing.
25. Taipei, Taiwan
The island of Taiwan is compact and well connected, with Taipei at the heart of it all.
Is Taiwan expensive? Like any place, it can be. But with a bit of planning, it’s easy to spend a few days here and stay well within your budget.
The Taiwanese are a friendly bunch who love the market culture, even more so at nighttime. The biggest is the Shilin Market. Bring your appetite and curiosity and watch everything unfold around you.
If you want to escape the city and go for a hike, Elephant Mountain is the one to do. Yangmingshan National Park is also very popular because it also has hot springs.
Want a birds eye view of Taipei? Taipei 101 has an observation deck with amazing views.
Interested in trying some water activities? Why not try cycling (Taiwan’s cycling paths cover over 3,000km!). How about river trekking?
The list of amazing cities to see around the world goes on and on. Is your favourite on this list? Are there other cities that you would you consider to be one of the best cities for solo travellers?