As a female solo traveler, safety is an ongoing priority. For me, feeling safe is about being able to walk along streets without having to constantly check my surroundings, or carrying my camera on my shoulder without concern.
There are several places I’ve felt extremely safe as a female solo traveler. I would add, however, that no matter where you go in the world, you should make an effort to be knowledgeable about your surroundings and have safety protocols. (To this end, I’ve written more about how to safely travel solo.)
Here are the places I’ve felt safest as a solo traveler.
1. Kerikeri, New Zealand
New Zealand is generally considered a safe country. I was marooned there for 2 years during the pandemic so got to explore the north and south islands fairly extensively. I felt especially safe in Kerikeri, a growing town in the north of the North Island, and I chose to live most of my time there. I found that whenever I had the slightest problem, someone was willing to help, and it was as if their life’s mission was to make sure I got what I needed.
This is the only country I’ve been to where I frequently left my bag, full of valuables, on a cafe table while I went up to the counter to order, and always found everything intact when I sat back down.
Pro Tip: While the South Island is stunning, try to see the more remote parts of the North Island, which are often overlooked by tourists. Less visited places like Whanganui, Whangārei, and the west coast near Ōmāpere offer wonderful views and spectacular natural formations.
2. Hanoi And Hoi An, Vietnam
Though I speak six languages, Vietnamese isn’t one of them. So I worried about how I would figure things out alone in the cities of Hanoi and Hội An. I didn’t need to worry, since there’s a lot of English spoken (though I tried to learn a few words of Vietnamese as I traveled). Vietnam is both a stunningly beautiful country and also one where you can feel safe traveling alone.
The scariest part of Vietnam, at least in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is crossing the street with all the motorbikes. On my first day in Vietnam, a member of my hotel staff came outside with me and guided me through the traffic! I ultimately learned that there’s a rhythm to things and found my moment to step off the curb and into traffic, and nobody hit me. Ho Chi Minh, however, was a different story. I found myself at the corner of a street with 10 lanes of traffic and felt paralyzed. Miraculously, a motorbike pulled next to me and signaled that I should cross the street, using him as my traffic shield! No words were needed, and I felt blessed to have their help.
I rode the night buses and trains from Sa Pa down to Ho Chi Minh City, making stops along the way, and never felt unsafe or worried about my bags. Sa Pa, Hạ Long Bay, Hoi An, and Ba Na Hills were some of my favorite places.
3. Bangkok And Chiang Mai, Thailand
I wasn’t sure what to expect in Bangkok when I visited in October 2019, but I loved it and felt very safe on foot, on public transport, and even walking in the most touristy areas. In other places I’ve been, crowds have made me worry about pickpockets. One of my tour guides in Chiang Mai explained that part of the reason it’s so safe is that Buddhist values, such as good behavior, are important to people in Thailand. If you go, take a boat ride on the Chao Phraya River and visit all the amazing temples along the way. Floating markets are another must-do activity!
In Chiang Mai, you’ll want to see the elephants — just make sure you choose a reputable company. This is also an excellent place for a cooking class. Finally, don’t miss the White Temple in Chiang Rai.
Pro Tip: There’s a train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai that makes this trip very easy.
4. Edinburgh And The Highlands, Scotland
Scotland is another country where people go out of their way to be helpful. I spent 6 weeks traveling around Scotland in 2018 and just returned in October for several weeks this year. On the trains, the staff is exceptionally helpful, even assisting with placing bags onto the overhead luggage rack!
What made me feel safe is that strangers were approachable, even chatty. Right from the immigration agents to chivalrous men and friendly passersby. Edinburgh also has evening ghost tours, so people are out in the city center later in the evening.
I traveled around the Highlands, hiked the Cairngorms, sampled Scotch in Pitlochry, Aberfeldy, and Dalwhinnie, and even took boats to islands such as Muck, Skye, and the Isle of Arran. I highly recommend hiking the Cairngorms, driving to Glencoe for its stunning views, and visiting the Orkney islands.
5. Reykjavík, Iceland
The first time I went to Reykjavík, in 2015, I learned it’s difficult to find police anywhere because there’s virtually no crime. Since then, I’ve returned three more times, the most recent in September. People are kind, and due to the northern lights, there are people out at all hours during winter, making it feel even safer to walk around later in the evening.
Iceland is a fascinating country and requires multiple visits to see everything. This last trip, I went to Diamond Beach and the Glacier Lagoon, which, though tragic because their beauty comes from icebergs melting, are stunning. Must-do activities are the municipal hot pools in Reykjavík (less crowded and more authentic than the Blue Lagoon), the black sand beach at Vik, and chasing the northern lights.
Pro Tip: The northern lights can actually be seen any time it’s dark, not just in winter. In Iceland, this is generally from the end of August until early April. Iceland’s location provides excellent overhead viewing of the lights, but its unpredictable weather can get in the way.
6. El Calafate And Villa La Angostura, Argentina
While I’m aware that there are places in Argentina considered dangerous, especially in Buenos Aires, I found a different side of the country. During my travel, I met pairs of Argentinian women traveling together who looked after me. One pair of friends I made near Bariloche ended up being in the town of Villa La Angostura at the same time as me and walked me back to the place I was staying.
I met another pair of women in El Calafate. They were from Buenos Aires, and we met again when I went there. Even when I took a public bus to a beach, others on the bus saw I was alone and invited me to sit with them on the beach!
El Calafate is the place from where you can hike the Perito Moreno Glacier and take some of the glacier cruises. It’s also an adorable town geared toward tourists, and I felt very safe walking around and dining alone. I recommend trying yerba mate at Elba’r. The staff is lovely and will teach you how to prepare and drink it.
Pro Tip: Of all the places I was in Argentina, the dogs in El Calafate were the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. Be warned, if you pet one, it will follow you around for hours hoping for love and affection.
7. Easter Island, Chile
I had the pleasure of spending a week on Easter Island in 2019. This is the only place in the world I’ve been where, if you rent a car, you’re kind of expected to pick up hitchhikers, and those hitchhikers are other tourists!
The scariest parts of the island were the giant cockroaches, and some dark streets at night, which were scary because wild horses roam the island. Make sure to carry a flashlight!
One of the most fascinating sites I’ve ever seen is the Rano Raraku quarry, where the iconic stone Moai were made. I learned all the theories, which included aliens, of how they were transported from that quarry to their current resting places. It’s not cheap to visit, but you’ll never forget it.
Pro Tip: Take at least one tour with a guide. There’s fascinating history to be learned about the island and its people, which you won’t hear about if you resort to self-touring.
8. Zagreb, Croatia
I stayed in Zagreb for a week this summer. I arrived at my hotel after 10 p.m. and felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. Nothing was open, the street was quiet, and the concierge had stayed late to admit me to my room. The next day, I discovered I had lucked into a residential neighborhood, away from tourists, and that it was completely safe to walk around at night. In fact, it felt so safe that I enjoyed having an evening meal in the city center and taking the tram back to my hotel.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Zagreb, you might want to read more about my experience in Zagreb. Highlights for me were the free walking tour, the Museum Of Illusions, and The Broken Relationships Museum.
Pro Tip: Because Dubrovnik and Split are where most tourists go, you’ll find Zagreb less touristy and less expensive.
For more on the destinations mentioned in this article, read:
- A Visit To The Quaint Town Of Kerikeri, New Zealand
- 10 Best Things To See And Do In Hanoi, Vietnam
- How To Spend Two Perfect Days In Hoi An, Vietnam
- 11 Amazing Hidden Gems In Edinburgh, Scotland
- 7 Reasons I Love Exploring The Scottish Highlands By Water
- 7 Incredible Ways To Spend 72 Hours In Reykjavík, Iceland