8 places I felt the safest as a solo traveler

As a female solo traveler, safety is a constant priority. For me, feeling safe is being able to walk the streets without having to constantly check my surroundings or carry my camera on my shoulder without worry.

There are many places that I have felt extremely safe as a female solo traveler. I would add, however, that wherever you go in the world, you should try to be aware of your surroundings and have safety protocols in place. (To that end, I’ve written more about how to travel safely alone.)

Here are the places I felt safest as a solo traveler.

Rainbow over the Honey House Cafe in Kerikeri

Rainbow over the Honey House Cafe in Kerikeri

Photo: Heather Markel

1. Kerikeri, New Zealand

New Zealand is generally considered a safe country. I was holed up there for 2 years during the pandemic, so I got to explore the north and south islands quite extensively. I felt particularly safe in Kerikeri, a growing town in the north of the North Island, and 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 like their life’s mission was to make sure I got what I needed.

This is the only country I’ve been to where I often left my bag full of valuables on a coffee 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 such as Whanganui, Whangārei and the west coast near Ōmāpere offer great views and impressive natural formations.

fog in SaPa mountains, Vietnam rice fields

SaPa, Vietnam rice fields

Photo: Heather Markel

2. Hanoi and Hoi An, Vietnam

Although I speak six languages, Vietnamese is not one of them. So I was worried about how I would figure things out on my own in the cities of Hanoi and Hội An. I needn’t have worried as a lot of English is spoken (although I did try to pick up a few words of Vietnamese as I traveled). Vietnam is both a stunningly beautiful country and also a country where you can feel safe traveling alone.

The scariest part of Vietnam, at least in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is crossing the road with all the motorbikes. On my first day in Vietnam, a staff member from my hotel came out with me and walked me through the traffic! Eventually I learned that there is a rhythm to things and found my moment to pull off the curb and into traffic, and no one hit me. Ho Chi Minh, however, was a different story. I found myself at the corner of a 10-lane road and felt paralyzed. Miraculously, a motorbike pulled up next to me and signaled me to cross the road, using it as a traffic shield! No words were needed and I felt blessed to have their help.

I rode the night buses and trains from Sa Pa to Ho Chi Minh City, stopping 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.

two elephants, one with trunk on camera, the other is a baby on the fence

Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photo: Heather Markel

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 around the more touristy areas. In other places I’ve been, the crowds have made me worry about pickpockets. One of my guides in Chiang Mai explained that part of the reason it is 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 a great place for a cooking class. Finally, don’t miss the White Temple in Chiang Rai.

Pro tip: There is a train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai which makes this trip very easy.

Edinburgh, Scotland by day

Edinburgh, Scotland by day

Photo: Heather Markel

4. Edinburgh And The Highlands, Scotland

Scotland is another country where people go out of their way to help. I spent 6 weeks traveling in Scotland in 2018 and just returned in October for several weeks this year. On the trains, the staff are extremely helpful, even helping to place bags on the luggage rack!

What made me feel safe is that strangers were approachable, even chatty. From immigration agents to chivalrous men and friendly bystanders. Edinburgh also has evening ghost tours so people are out in the city center later in the evening.

I toured the Highlands, hiked the Cairngorms, sampled Scotch at 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.

Northern Lights, Iceland

Northern Lights, Iceland

Photo: Heather Markel,

5. Reykjavik, Iceland

The first time I went to Reykjavik, in 2015, I learned that it is hard to find police anywhere because there is virtually no crime. Since then, I’ve been back three more times, most recently in September. People are nice and because of the northern lights, there are people out at all hours during the winter, making it even safer to walk around later at night.

Iceland is a fascinating country and requires multiple visits to see everything. This last trip, I went to Diamond Beach and Glacier Lagoon, which, although tragic because their beauty comes from melting icebergs, are amazing. Must-do activities are the municipal hot pools in Reykjavik (less crowded and more authentic than the Blue Lagoon), the black sand beach in Vik, and northern lights hunting.

Pro tip: The northern lights can actually be seen whenever it’s dark, not just in winter. In Iceland, this is generally from late August to early April. Iceland’s location makes for excellent viewing of the lights from above, but unpredictable weather can get in the way.

glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina

Photo: Heather Markel

6. El Calafate And Villa La Angostura, Argentina

While I know there are places in Argentina that are considered dangerous, especially Buenos Aires, I found a different side of the country. During my trip, I met couples of Argentinian women who were traveling together and looked after me. A couple of friends I made near Bariloche ended up being in the town of Villa La Angostura at the same time as me and they drove me back to where I was staying.

I met another couple of women in El Calafate. He was 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 that I was alone and invited me to sit with them on the beach!

El Calafate is where you can hike the Perito Moreno Glacier and take some of the glacier cruises. It’s also an adorable tourist-oriented city and I felt very safe walking and eating alone. I recommend trying the yerba mate at Elba’r. The staff are great and will teach you how to prepare and drink it.

Pro tip: Of all the places I’ve been in Argentina, the dogs in El Calafate were the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. Beware, if you pet one, it will follow you around for hours hoping for love and affection.

stone heads of Rano Raraku quarry, Easter Island

Rano Raraku Quarry, Easter Island

Photo: Heather Markel

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 have been to where if you rent a car you are expected to hitchhike 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. Be sure to bring a flashlight!

One of the most fascinating sites I have ever seen is the Rano Raraku quarry, where the iconic stone Moai were made. I learned all the theories, involving aliens, about how they got 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 guided tour. There is a fascinating story to be learned about the island and its people that you won’t hear about if you resort to self-guided tours.

City center, Zagreb, Croatia

City center, Zagreb, Croatia

Photo: Heather Markel

8. Zagreb, Croatia

I stayed in Zagreb for a week this summer. I arrived at my hotel after 10pm and felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. Nothing was open, the street was quiet, and the porter had stayed late to receive me to my room. The next day, I discovered that I had happened upon a residential neighborhood, away from tourists, and that it was perfectly safe to walk around at night. In fact, I felt so safe that I enjoyed having an evening meal in the city center and taking the tram back to my hotel.

If you are looking for fun things to do in Zagreb, you might want to read more about my experience in Zagreb. The 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:

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