5 Great Places for a Safe Solo Vacation

May 24, 2016

What are the safest destinations for solo travelers? Asian and European countries tend to be lowest on crime worldwide, according to the 2015 Legatum Safety & Security Index. The Index rates each country on several quality-of-life factors: economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, health, security and safety, personal freedom, and social capital. Below is a list of safe destinations for your solo travels, along with tips on how to stay safe and things to see and do.

1. Hong Kong

ocean

Hong Kong

The world’s safest destination in 2015; not only will you be safer from crime, but your money will go far in Hong Kong. Locals tend to be welcoming and friendly toward foreigners. Street crime in Hong Kong is rare; as a solo traveler, the worst you are likely to encounter is those who try to fob off fake watches on you (or being overcharged for knock-offs at street markets).

As in most places, protect yourself from pickpockets and wear your valuables in a money belt or neck stash. Be cautious at your hotel or hostel; a lone woman might feel safer in a hotel. Don’t walk alone at night in deserted areas; stick to the main circuit. Public transit via the subway (the Mass Transit Railway, or MTR) is a safe and user-friendly network. Ferries and buses are good, too.

Things to do:

Lantau Island: Head here if you enjoy hiking and need to get away from the tourist circuit for a while.

Private Kitchens:  If you can afford it, get a chef to personally prepare your dinner in his or her home.

food

Roasted Goose

Historical Colonial Sites: Visit The Blue House, a 1920s four-story Lingnan-style building which houses the Wan Chai Livelihood Museum.

1881 Heritage is a former Marine Police Headquarters, where you can learn about history and also browse shops and restaurants. See the 44-meter Clock Tower, once a railway station and now a Declared Monument.

Temples: These places of worship only scratch the surface of what you can explore: Visit Hong Kong Island for the Hung Shing Temple at Wan Chai or the Lo Pan Temple; in Kowloon, you will find the Hau Wong Temple.

Architecture: From colonial to modern, Hong Kong is home to more than 7,600 skyscrapers, high-rises, and other interesting structures.

Museums: Hong Kong’s plentiful museums can teach you about art, science, history, “special interests” and more.

Food and Drink: The Quality Tourism Services (QTS) Scheme makes it easy for you to find clean restaurants with top quality food and excellent service.

Shopping:  Visit the shops and cafes on Star, Moon and Sun streets in Wanchai.

The Underground and Tourism Board Calendar are good sources to learn about activities and events.

2. Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

If you want to visit a foreign country with natural beauty and safety, you might visit Iceland’s gateway and capital city. Although Reykjavik is more the size of a village than a city (population of 120,000), it has all the ingredients of an urban area.

Crime in Reykjavik is almost nonexistent.  People are polite, tend to have a Nordic reserve, and look out for each other.

If this is your first solo trip to another country, Reykjavik is a good place to start. Use common sense. For all of the area’s Nordic reserve, you will find a noisy, rowdy bar scene on weekends. Keep your wits about you in bars. Avoid parks at night, especially Austurvöllur Park; don’t walk alone in other deserted areas at night.

Things to do:

Head downtown for all the action: shopping, museums, theatres, galleries, restaurants, bars, and more.

Museums:  The National Museum of Iceland will teach you about the history of the Icelandic nation from the Settlement to modern times.  Head for the Maritime Museum to learn about Icelandic maritime history. The Icelandic Phallological Museum features a collection of phallic specimens for a variety of mammals found in Iceland.

Natural World: Drive out of Reykjavik to explore Iceland’s mountains, volcanos, glaciers, and more. Go horseback riding, whale watching, river rafting, or glacier climbing.

Geothermal Spas/Swimming Pools: Visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, one of the twenty-five wonders of the world, or visit one of the local pools.

Spa

Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa

Food and Drink: Order the lamb at Vid Tjornina. Try Icelandic Fish & Chips or the more upscale Fish Market. Get a hot dog at a stand. Eat a hamburger with a fork and knife as the locals do. Stop at Lebowski Bar for movie trivia night.

Bio Paradis is an artsy cinema downtown.

Check the listings of the free local paper Grapevine for local happenings.

3. Helsinki, Finland

Finland

Helsinki, Finland

This beautiful, clean Scandinavian capital city is a great spot if you want to relax and decompress. Known for its Art Nouveau architecture, Helsinki was named the World Design Capital for 2012 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

People here are polite and welcoming. The central part of town is quite populated and considered very safe. Only walk alone at night in busy, populated areas where there is better public transit. You will avoid most trouble if you avoid drunks and being drunk.

Kaisaniemi Park near the Central Railway Station is dodgy when alone after dark. Although Kallio has been gentrified, avoid it alone at night.

Summer is an ideal season to visit Helsinki. Although a summer visit means you won’t see any Finns swimming naked in the snow fresh out of the sauna, there will be saunas; Finland is home to an estimated two million of the Finnish baths.

While serene in the colder months, Helsinki comes alive in the warmer months with its lively festival season. Theater, jazz, dance and arts festivals draw a crowd in the summertime.

Things to do:

Museums: There is no shortage of them; here’s a full list.

Restaurants: Here is a guide to the best, according to TripAdvisor.

Shops:  Stockmann is a giant department store you might visit.

Yarn and craft shops are vital to Finnish culture. Knitting is immensely popular in Helsinki—and not just among women. Try Menita or Fiinaneule for knitting and craft supplies.

Helsinki Walking Tours: See Helsinki’s major attractions, from architecture to art galleries.

Helsinki

Kamppi Chapel of Silence, Helsinki

Amusement Park: Relive your youth and head to Linnanmäki at the heart of Helsinki to ride a variety of wooden roller coasters. Get a good scare in the haunted house. Try a meatball at Kuula. Make cotton candy at Finland’s first cotton candy school.

Parks: Esplanadi Park is good for family picnics and people-watching. Alppipuisto Park is known to locals as the “hippie park.” Koffinpuisto (Sinebrychoff’s park) is the “hipster park.”

The Unusual:  Sivukirjasto is an interesting library/bar in Kallio. Enjoy one hundred different beers, cider, wine and lite bar food.

Rock Church (Temppeliaukio), a church built out of a rock, is a famous architectural attraction in the heart of Helsinki.

If you want excitement, Helsinki may not be for you; if safety is a concern, you might make it your first solo trip abroad.

4. Dublin, Ireland

Ireland

Dublin Castle, Ireland

Conversation (craic) is the national sport of Ireland; tourists are embraced in this Land of a Thousand Welcomes. In the capital city of Dublin, find Dublin Castle, beautiful landscape, lively festivals, clean beaches, friendly pubs of all sorts, museums, and more.

As in any big city, stick to busy main streets and well-lit areas. The south city center of Dublin is bustling with pubs, cafes, and shops and stays busy until quite late. You might book a room in Merrion Square, St. Stephen’s Green, or Christ Church, all good areas.

Dublin is quite safe; practice city street smarts, though. The city has an interesting layout, part village, part government housing; people of all classes within the same areas. For example, Dublin’s South Circular Road might feature three-bedroom estates, while just around the corner you’ll be in Dolphin’s Barn, an area with serious blight. Avoid Ballymun, Neilstown, and Darndale. Avoid the Temple Bar at night if over-the-top partying is not for you.

Do not carry valuables like cameras, laptops, or expensive jewelry openly in any area, especially in the touristy city center. Drink in moderation. Don’t wander in dark, deserted places. Keep money and things you can’t afford to lose in a neck stash or money belt.

Things to do:

Museums: Try National Museum of Ireland – Natural History, the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology,  Chester Beatty Library, The Little Museum of Dublin, and more.

The Book of Kells in Trinity College Dublin has archaic books galore in a stunning setting. The Book of Kells is a famous medieval manuscript worth a look.

Restaurants and Pubs: Get breakfast (and strong coffee) at Keoghs. Try a pub lunch at Hop House / Kimchi. For craft beer, stop at The Black Sheep. The Pig’s Ear is a great spot for dinner. Eat Moroccan food at Dada. For a modern brewpub, go to JW Sweetman; for old style, try The Swan.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

Parks/Nature: Visit the National Botanic Gardens. Phoenix Park is twice as large as New York City’s Central Park.

Dublin Falconry: See birds of prey at this home to 26 raptors, including hawks, owls, falcons, and buzzards.

National Stud & Gardens is a horse-breeding facility, along with a horse museum and garden area (a Japanese and native garden).

Tours: Visit the Jameson Distillery and bring home an official Irish Whiskey Taster Certificate. For something unusual, tour Glasnevin Cemetery. Take a bus tour to the monastery & village of Gledalough.

Music: Take an intensive short course in a traditional Irish instrument like the tin whistle or the bodhrán. Listen to rock and metal music at Rock Bar at Bruxelles.

Before you travel to Ireland, read up on its history to fully appreciate the cultural references.

5. Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden

Royal Palace, Stockholm, Sweden

East of the Baltic sea lies Stockholm, which spreads out over 14 islands in Lake Mälaren. Stockholm is compact, accessible and walkable, with fresh air, green space, castles, galleries, museums, fashion, low crime, and progressive ways. Where else can you fish and swim right in the middle of town?

Like any large city, Stockholm has a lot of pick-pockets. Pickpocketing is common in touristy areas (like Old Town). Carry your valuables in an RFID blocking neck stash or money belt.

The Swedish police published a study in 2014 on criminal activity in the community and they mapped out areas that are considered less safe in Sweden. The parts of Stockholm with the highest crime are Norrmalm and Södermalm in the central city.

Do not travel on the underground alone late at night, especially if you’re female.

Beware of black taxis (they’re illegal). Order a cab directly from a major Stockholm cab company like Taxi Stockholm, Taxi 020, and others.

Things to Do

Drottningholm Palace: Visit Sweden’s most well-preserved royal castle dating back to the 1600s. The King and Queen live in the rooms in the southern wing; the rest of the palace is open to the public year round.

Natural World: Take the ferry from Stockholm to Åbo or Tallin and see Stockholm’s archipelago.

Museums: Stockholm is museum heaven. Highlights: Vasamuseet (maritime museum); Tekniska Museet (museum of science and technology); Moderna Museet (museum of modern art); Fotografiska (museum of photography); Armemuseum (army museum); many more.

Kid Stuff: Gröna Lund offers fun for the youngsters and great views of Stockholm from the tops of the rides.

Food and drink: Where to eat in Stockholm.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

Shopping: Try the Old Town district.

Attend the Royal Swedish Opera.

See a Swedish movie.

Enjoy nightlife: Guide to bars, clubs, live music, and more.

Tours: Take a train from Stockholm to Kiruna (northern Sweden) and tour the world’s largest iron ore mine.

Staying safe when you travel, at least in part, depends on you. Practice city smarts that you’d practice at home, and you’ll greatly minimize being targeted for crime when you travel.

Written by Katie Anton