This is a guest blog by Laura, our resident expert on female travel.
Deciding to go on a solo trip can be intimidating. Sometimes it’s not always by choice; it’s not always easy to convince someone to jump ship with you and take an extended vacation. However, solo travel can be really exhilarating, and I can’t think of a better place to take your first solo trip than Southeast Asia. It’s easy to get by on a budget, meet up with others, and travel around from place to place. If you are a woman and looking for a great place to go alone, Southeast Asia is a perfect place.
It’s budget friendly.
One of the downfalls about solo travel is it tends to be more expensive. You don’t have someone to share a hotel room with or to split a cab ride, for example. Compared to the Western world, Southeast Asia is cheap! Depending on your travel style you should be able to live off of $20-30 per day. On my cheapest day in SE Asia, I spent just $7 for lodging and food in Laos. And, if you plan to hang around a city for at least a month, you can rent an apartment at an extremely low rate.
It’s easy to get around.
You can take public transportation to pretty much any destination. Not only is it widely available, but I consider it fairly comfortable as well. Most buses are air-conditioned, and if you’re taking an overnight bus, there are sleeper buses available. I remember my first bus ride in SE Asia was from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Battambang. I bought my ticket at a travel agency around the corner from my hotel, and they said, “The bus company will pick you up at your hotel 30 minutes before departure.” I was caught off guard and thought, ‘What? You mean I don’t have to grab a taxi or lug my bags to the bus station? I don’t have to worry about getting lost and finding the right bus to get on? This is great!’ Most of the time, you can book a bus that will pick you up at your hotel.
Unless you really make an effort to get off the beaten path or venture into a town that’s unheard of, you will see tourists everywhere. I consider this a definite plus for a first-time solo trip. You shouldn’t have any problem meeting other travelers in guesthouses or around town. Not only is it nice to make friends (After all, who wants to talk to a brick wall the entire time?), but you’re also likely to find other travelers to join you to go sightseeing or to grab dinner or a drink in the evening. I think it’s also noteworthy to point out the stereotype of travelers you may meet in SE Asia. Everywhere I’ve traveled to I find a different type of tourist. I find the travelers in SE Asia to be more social and have more of a ‘travel hard, party harder’ attitude. Rarely will you find a guest in your hostel sitting around or sightseeing solo. Yes, plenty of travelers go alone to SE Asia, but they want to, and do meet others quickly.
While there is crime, as there is pretty much everywhere in the world, I feel extremely safe when I’m in Southeast Asia. I take standard precautions but I’m not afraid to walk around by myself or take public transport. I go out in the evenings and don’t hesitate to interact with the locals. As a female traveler, safety is key and I feel just as safe here as I do back home. If you run into any sort of theft, I’d venture to say it’s most often by a fellow traveler in your guesthouse. As long as you aren’t wandering drunk at 3am in the seedy area of Phuket, you will be alright. Simply take normal, common sense precautions.
There are friendly locals & a unique cultures
If you’re looking to really dive into a place that’s completely different, Southeast Asia will not disappoint. Mouth-watering street food and some of the friendliest locals in the world are probably my favorite things about this part of the world. It doesn’t matter if you come into contact with a local who knows zero English (as I did on a 10 hour train ride). They will generally still want to communicate with you. While I was in a village in Laos, I told a restaurant owner that I wanted to participate in the alms ceremony for monks. She invited me to her home at 5:30 the next morning, made rice for me to give to the monks, and showed me proper etiquette for this Buddhist ceremony. Most locals in Southeast Asia treated me like a member of the family. You won’t have to try hard here if your goal is to dive into the culture, and if you ask a local about some ceremony or event, you’ll most likely be invited to participate (even in weddings).
If you are considering a solo trip for the first time, Southeast Asia is a great place to start. As a female backpacker, I like that I feel safe here, can get by on a budget, and meet other people. It’s a great combination when I can achieve all of these things and discover an amazing culture in Southeast Asia.
Laura Walker runs the website, A Wandering Sole. She’s been backpacking around the world for seven months by herself and is not afraid just because she is a girl. You can get more travel tips from her website or check back here every other Thursday for more stories by her.