Solo travel can be one of the most wonderful, transformative and memorable experiences you can have. But it can feel daunting to take that leap into the unknown and, furthermore, to decide on where exactly you should go, especially if you're new to traveling alone.
Asia is probably my most favorite continent. It's where I first started traveling solo all those years ago, is where I live now, and is the region I have most extensively traveled.
Asia is full of wonderful possibilities for travelers of all kinds, but here are five of my recommendations for some of the best places to travel alone in Asia for first-time solo travelers.
I love, love, love Malaysia! It was one of the first places I traveled solo and is already a destination I have returned to and can imagine traveling to many times more.
I feel that Malaysia, especially the capital of Kuala Lumpur, is the perfect starting point for those wanting to visit Southeast Asia but without getting too far off the beaten track.
There's street food and markets and wonderful historical and religious sites, while at the same time, plentiful modern shopping malls to venture into when the heat starts taking its toll. It's also a solid beach destination for those looking to spend some time by the ocean.
The country is an eclectic mix of people of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian descent, which is also evident in the cuisine. There is just so much good food to try and it's not a destination in which I feel I need to be hyper-sensitive about food hygiene.
Why go to Malaysia (as a solo traveler)?
✓ Eclectic mix of cultures
✓ Cheap and delicious street food
✓ Relatively safe
✓ Beautiful beaches
✓ Lots of shopping available if that's your thing
Keep in mind: Dates for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. As the country has a mix of people of different religions, you'll find that Ramadan doesn't really affect your ability to find restaurants during the day like it can in majority-Muslim nations. It is, however, polite to keep in mind that many people are fasting during this time and to refrain from being too obvious about eating and drinking in public.
There may be a language and cultural barrier, but I always say that if I'm going to get lost anywhere, let it be Japan!
Although you may be confused at times, not understanding everything going on around you is actually one of the most fascinating parts of a trip to this East Asian nation. There is something so intriguing about visiting a convenience store and not knowing what you're going to end up with.
Japanese people are very friendly towards tourists and almost everyone I know leaves with a story of how somebody went the extra mile to help them get where they needed to go.
It's a safe, clean destination with an amazing and varied cuisine, and it's possible to get practically anywhere using public transportation. I don't know anyone who hasn't loved their trip to Japan!
Why go to Japan (as a solo traveler)?
✓ Safe, even at night
✓ Clean and high hygiene standards
✓ Interesting intersection between modern and traditional
✓ Excellent and vast public transportation system, including bullet trains
✓ Solo dining is typical and the food excellent
✓ Friendly locals
Keep in mind: Rules for public etiquette may vary considerably from your own country, culture or city. Take some time to read up on basic etiquette for taking public transportation and dining out, and general cultural faux pas' before your trip.
Mongolia may not seem like the first country on your radar when you think of solo travel or even travel destinations in general, but that's exactly why I think it should be.
While some other destinations in Asia are in the midst of an era of over-tourism, Mongolia remains a vast and under-discovered gem.
Since a guide and driver is practically essential for most adventures into the country's interior, you can take in the wild and rugged plains in the relative safety of a small group, while not feeling like you're on a ‘get on and off again' bus tour.
In fact, you'll likely be traveling by four-wheel drive and, at times, horse-back, if you so choose.
Why go to Mongolia (as a solo traveler)?
✓ Incredible landscapes
✓ Opportunity to travel to remote places in the relative safety of a small group
✓ Easy to make new friends as you'll likely be traveling with your group for several days or more
✓ Camp out in a yurt
✓ Ride horses against some of the most beautiful backdrops you have ever seen
Keep in mind: Mongolia is huge and you really need quite a bit of time to explore some of the countryside. I was there for 12 days and felt like that was absolute minimum to do a small group tour in the interior and explore the capital of Ulaanbaatar.
Sri Lanka is the perfect introduction to South Asia.
It may be a relatively small island but it has a lot to offer by way of UNESCO World Heritage sites, historic forts and temples, beautiful beaches, expansive national parks and lush rainforests.
Sri Lanka is home to an incredible amount of wildlife, including elephants, leopards and the blue whale. In fact, Yala National Park has the highest concentration of leopards of anywhere in the world!
You can really take whatever kind of trip you'd like here – from super budget-friendly to all-out luxury.
For those looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of larger cities, I recommend a trip into tea country, where you can wander the tea plantations, see Ceylon tea being picked and processed, and of course taste it for yourself.
Why go to Sri Lanka (as a solo traveler)?
✓ English is widely-spoken
✓ Interesting historic and cultural sites
✓ Incredible wildlife and nature
✓ Traveling by train is cheap and picturesque (albeit slow)
Keep in mind: Foreign women, particularly those traveling solo, may encounter unwanted attention. Keep your usual travel wits about you.
Taiwan has been my most recent solo travel escapade and I think that I can decisively say it is the easiest place to travel that I've ever been to.
Taipei's metro is clean, cheap, modern and incredibly easy to understand. Everything is so well-signed in English that navigating stations is a breeze. Plus the nation's electronic public transportation card (EasyCard) made getting around the city and all my day trips a very simple affair.
Taiwan has one of the best food scenes I have ever encountered, with night markets just about everywhere. Food is cheap, delicious and available well into the night.
It's the perfect blend of city and nature, with lots of hiking opportunities, and mountain and ocean views.
Best of all, the people are proactively kind and helpful, and I felt completely at ease traveling around alone, even at night.
Why go to Taiwan (as a solo traveler)?
✓ Very friendly locals
✓ Very good public transportation system
✓ Easy hiking opportunities close to cities and popular sites
✓ Very safe with many people out and about at night
✓ Relatively easy to use English to get around
✓ Excellent food
Keep in mind: Although public transportation is generally very easy to navigate, schedules may not be so frequent outside of major hubs. It's always good practice (in any country) to check the schedule and last departure before heading out on your adventure for the day.
Have you traveled solo in Asia? What destinations do you recommend?