Did you know that we, women, are making up nearly two-thirds of travelers today? If you also do a quick Google search on ‘solo female travel’ you can see that in the past 5 years, the interest in this topic has more than tripled.
Even when we’re traveling with a male partner it is 85% of the time us who’re in charge of planning the trip and making the decisions, as cited in the Skift Trends Report 2017.
It is interesting to see that more women than men are interested in immersive travel experiences and connecting with local communities. We have reached a time that we want to be inspired by the places we visit and the people we meet and truly connect.
I wanted to create a guide for women traveling alone in Asia that cover unique and safe travel destinations and experiences that let you truly connect with a country, recommend some handy travel apps and travel items that shouldn’t be missing. Curious? Have a further read.
Immersive travel destinations in Asia for women travelling alone
Mystic & unexplored Bhutan
Bhutan is the last sacred kingdom tucked high away in the Himalayas that still has kept its culture and tradition throughout years of isolation. Bhutan has only slowly allowed an increasing number of visitors. It is a country that is different and mystic and holds many surprises. What makes this country truly unique is that it measures its progress via its Gross National Happiness. A study of 2015 shows that 91.2 percent of Bhutanese were narrowly, extensively or deeply happy. “We have to find new ways of organizing our drives and energies toward peace and harmony, says Dasho Karma Ura, the president of the Center for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research. Well, no wonder that it is one of the safest countries in Asia and one of the best places for women travelling alone.
If you are looking for a country that is not overrun by tourists, Bhutan is the place to be.
There is a reason that the number of travelers is low, as the daily visa fee in high season is 250 USD (290 USD for solo travelers) a day and 200 USD (240 USD for solo travelers) in low season. This seems high, but it also includes your complete trip with hotels, three meals a day, a tour guide and transportation.
When traveling to Bhutan don’t miss out on the Phobjikha Valley. It is a magical place about six or seven hours by road east of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. It’s best to visit the valley in the fall when the cranes arrive, or in early spring before they leave.
Another gem is the Haa Valley. This remote area is relatively untouched and looks straight out of a well-cinematographed movie! It is also known as the Hidden-Land Rice Valley. The Haa valley has several excellent hikes to try out.
Taktsang Lhakhang is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark. It is a Himalayan Buddhist sacred site, and located in the cliff of the upper Paro valley. To see this stunning temple, you have to climb-up for 2 to 4 hours, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Bumthang is also a unique place to visit. You will drive past deep forests and valleys, hills filled with Rhododendrons, charming hamlets, and serene farmlands. A stunning journey!
Bhutan offers you the chance to still see their original culture where you can sleep in homestays and travel with a local guide.
Vietnam has a striking and diverse landscape. You will find green paddy fields, dragonflies, buffalos and hatted farmers in the Mekong Delta. In contrast to this you have the inland karst-mountains of Cao Bang and Halong Bay in the north that offer great hiking opportunities and beautiful mountain tracks. You can explore tribal villages near Sapa and Bac Ha or the lesser known Ha Giang area.
Also for its food Vietnam is amazing to visit. Some must try dishes are Pho, a simple staple consisting of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef. Nom hoa chuoi also shouldn’t be missed. The dish consists of peeled banana flowers that are thinly sliced then mixed with green papaya, carrots, and cilantro along with chicken and a heavy-handed pour of a salty fish sauce dressing and crunchy peanuts. At last Try Bánh Cuốn. This is made of thin sheets of steamed rice cakes served with crispy fried shallots, chopped cucumber, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, meat all drizzled with fish sauce. A great way to understand Vietnamese cuisine a bit better is learning it first hand from a local during a cooking class or food walk.
To see a side of Vietnam you otherwise wouldn’t easily see, explore Ha Giang area. Here you see less travelers than in Sapa and you can meet local hill tribes not adjusted to travelers yet. Do a trekking through this amazing part of Vietnam or stay with a local family to experience Ha Giang hospitality.
Instead of visiting Ha Long Bay I recommend going a little bit further north to Bai Tu Long. It is a bay with the same amazing karst mountains as Ha Long Bay, but then unknown. Visit the island of Quan Lan where people still live their traditional lives.
For many travelers Hoi An is also a must see. I agree, it is a very cozy and tiny village, but already touristy. So if you still want to experience a quiet stay in the countryside then I recommend staying in An Bang village. It is just 15 minutes cycling to Hoi An.
It is also nice to further travel South and explore the Mekong Delta. Try to pick some places that still give you a true feeling of the country. It is for example possible to explore the Mekong by yourself rather than taking a tour package. The boats of both Lecochinchine and Jason Superstar are excellent. Instead of staying in a hotel I recommend staying in a homestay.
If you’re looking for some activity rather than just hanging in your hammock, then the island of Con Dao would be a great fit. It is one of the most beautiful and less developed areas in Vietnam. Rent a motorbike and find some of the most secluded beaches. Or read more on other best things do to in Vietnam.
For a small country like Cambodia it has a surprisingly diverse range of scenery. The wild northeast with its mountains is home to Cambodia’s ethnic minorities. The coast is blissfully undeveloped when comparing to its neighbor Thailand. A little inland from the coast are the Cardamom Mountain with dense tropical forest and unique wildlife. Cambodia is relatively safe to travel solo as a woman, but off course always pay attention.
When you are visiting Cambodia then the Angkor Wat is off course a must see. The best time to visit the temples is 1 or 2 hours after sunrise before the tourists are coming back from the breakfast break with their travel agency.
Another place you should visit is the tropical island of Koh Rong. It has white-sand beaches and only allows 50 people on the island so you have the island almost to yourself.
You can see the Irrawady dolphin in Kratie, and take the ferry to the little village of Koh Trong. It is a place where you can still see the traditional way of life of the Cambodian people. Tanya of Can Travel Will Travel has gives some great tips for Kratie.
Another great thing to do in Cambodia is taking a river cruise from Battambang to Siem Reap. A beautiful way to explore this country. Be aware to go in the right season when there is sufficient water in the river (avoid January/February).
In the province of Ratanakiri you can still see true local life. It is not easy to get to, but so rewarding. You can still experience Cambodia 50 years back.
When it comes to eating Cambodia also has plenty to offer. Make sure you try grilled bananas. This is one of my favorite snacks. Cambodians grill them on a skewer or fry them with sesame seeds. Another dish to try is Lort Cha, these short, fat rice noodles are stir-fried with leafy greens, bean sprouts, soy sauce and fish sauce.
In Siem Reap there are some great street food tours or you can take a cooking class in the countryside to dive into Cambodian cuisine.
Traveler Shipra Yadav shares her experience as a solo traveler in her blog ‘travelling solo in Cambodia’.
Indonesia also belongs to a country that is safe to travel alone. It exists of many islands (around 17.000!). Every island has its own culture and traditions. You can find tall cloud-swept mountains covered with jungle and green rice terraces, reaching out to stunning white sandy beaches and crystal blue seas. It offers for every type of traveler a suitable array of options. Especially Bali, Java and Lombok are well traveled and pretty safe.
Java is another great island that offers you many great opportunities to travel alone as a woman. Although many people avoid staying in Jakarta, it nowadays also offers some great experiences. Explore Jalan Surabaya, the biggest flee market where you can find anything from design classics to all things retro or stroll hip Kemang with upcoming fashion label boutiques, home decor shops and furniture.
Just two hours outside Jakarta you can have a great farm experience with amazing food and surroundings that will recharge you.
The area between Bogor and Bandung is surrounded by tea plantations. You can have a walk through the lush green tea plantations, learn everything about the tea production process and try some tea yourself!
Yogyakarta is another wonderful place not to be missed. It is the cultural hub of Java. You can for example see jewelry artists in Kota Gede, a little village famous for its silver jewelry. You can watch the jewelry makers make their craft on the spot or you can even join a workshop jewelry making yourself. It is a wonderful place to stroll around. Josh and Fili can offer you great accommodation in a family setting and put you in touch with local artists.
As a day trip from Yogyakarta you can visit the Dieng Plateau. The Dieng Plateau looks and feels completely different to almost anywhere else in Indonesia. The Dieng Plateau is absolutely stunning: rolling hills terraced with vegetable gardens as far as the eye can see, boiling pits of mud and coloured lakes. It is home to several beautiful temples, crater lakes and hot springs. Best is to hire a private driver.
Lombok is the lesser known sister of Bali. Here mass tourism is still unknown. It offers beautiful and empty beaches, super friendly people and stunning nature.
Hire a scooter and explore the coastal road from Sengiggi to Pemenang. It offers a marvelous view over Malimbu and Nipah Beach and the 3 Gili Islands.
Another hidden gem on Lombok is Mawun beach. It is located west of Kuta and it has a soft white sandy beach and turquoise water. This beach is still mostly deserted.
Lombok has various amazing waterfalls, mostly in the northern part of the island near the foot of Mount Rinjani. Here you can find Tiu Teja, Tiu Kelep or Sendang Gile.
For more information about traveling in Indonesia Nomadic Matt has written a comprehensive guide full of information and travel tips,
Squeezed between the high wall of the Himalaya and the steamy jungles of the Indian plains, Nepal is a land of snow peaks and Sherpas, yaks and yetis, monasteries and mantras. From the bustling city of Kathmandu with its temples and lively markets to the tropical jungle of Chitwan National Park and the fresh air of the mountains in Pokhara. Also for a woman traveling alone it is a good destination. Celina from Germany who traveled alone in Nepal never felt unsafe and felt even more welcoming than in her home country.
Visit old Kathmandu with its narrow alleys, noisy markets, and beautifully carved temples. Stroll around the little backstreets of this old quarter, visit local markets and have a cup of chai at one of the street stalls. If you are looking for a unique stay you can have a wonderful homestay experience just outside Kathmandu surrounded by mountains and serving amazing homemade food.
Another place not to miss is Pokhara. Peaceful Pokhara is located besides a deep green lake, nestled among forested hills and with the Himalayan peaks at the back. It’s a great place for trekking or dive into local cuisine with a home cooking class that will teach you generation-old traditional recipes like dal bat, momo’s and more. Make sure you stay for some days to make the best out of your stay in Pokhara.
More off the beaten track is the Ilam district in the eastern part of Nepal with rolling hills covered with tea plantations. Here you can stay on the tea plantation of Deepak for example. A great and unique way of tasting local life.
Nepal has a lot to offer and is a wonderful destination for the curious and adventurous traveler. Travel blogger Dave has written a guide about traveling alone in Nepal if you are looking for more information about exploring this country by yourself.
Handy travel apps for a solo female traveler
Nowadays there are some very handy apps for woman who travel alone. Below my favorite ones.
When traveling around you sometimes don’t want to bargain about the price, especially in Asia. As a female traveler you can also worry about being taken to the wrong place. To avoid this I love Uber and Lyft where you know that the drivers have been verified and you’re able to track were you’re going.
Another handy app is sit or squat that helps you to find a clean bathroom in the neighborhood as a clean nearby public bathroom can be hard to find.
It is always a challenge not to forget anything when packing your bag. PackPoint helps you decide what you need to bring for your trip depending on the weather, your length of stay, and any activities you are going to do.
I often use Google maps for getting directions, but in case you don’t have internet then maps.me is the solution as it also works offline.
Safety for solo female travelers is a very popular topic. The app Safearound lets you assess the risk level in over 100 countries around the world.
In case you want to connect with other female travelers on location or find a female travel buddy then Tourlina is your app. It can even hook you up with female locals who would like to connect.
Rome2Rio helps you figuring out how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and automobile. Love it!
Travel items that shouldn’t be missing in any female travel bag
I am currently exploring to live a more waste-free life. Since then I am using a great shampoo bar from Babongo that is also great for traveling. It really creates foam which makes your hair easier to wash.
Also shower gel can easily be replaced by a liquid free one. This is a recipe so that you can make it yourself. Cheap and simple!
When you are traveling in countries where you can’t drink tap water this bottle comes in handy as it refills itself from moisture in the air.
One of the best adapters I have seen is the Loop adapter plug. You can use it in any country in the world and you can charge to up to three devices at once.