I’m a believer that every gal should take a trip alone at least once in her life. It’s truly liberating. You don’t need to compromise with anyone else and can see, do (and eat!) everything you want, at your own pace. It’s confidence building; getting out of your comfort zone helps you realize you really can take on the world!
I am realistic though and know that there are many places in this world where it’s not safe for a woman to go alone. Even though I’ve put together this list of the best places to visit in Asia as a solo female, I do stress that you still need to remain vigilant – keep an eye on your belongings, be careful about going off with anyone by yourself and avoid hitchhiking. Make sure that your hotel room door is locked and that your food and drinks never leave your sight. Do what you would normally do at home to keep yourself safe.
That being said, here are my top five recommendations for places in Asia to visit all by yourself, especially if you’re doing the solo thing for the first time:
1 - Bali, Indonesia
Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” inspired droves of single ladies to visit Bali to find themselves, and for good reason. The beautiful, lush island is the perfect balance of relaxing beach days, upscale restaurants, wellness activities, cultural gems, indulgent massages... I could go on and on. With so many visitors and a vibrant café and nightlife scene, Bali is a great place to meet other travellers. There are countless wellness retreats where you can learn yoga, meditate, reconnect with yourself and encounter other singletons. It is safe to walk around, locals are friendly and violent crime is rare. If you’re adventurous, you can easily rent a scooter and get around independently.
Watch out for: tourist scams and getting ripped off, which unfortunately does happen. Traffic can get horrendous especially around the Kuta and Seminyak areas, so watch out for rogue cars and scooters while you’re walking or driving.
Get off the beaten track: head up to Northern Bali for a couple of nights to escape the crowds. A three hour drive from Seminyak (traffic permitting), check out Singaraja, the former colonial capital of Bali and the secluded resort of Lovina Beach.
Looking for other interesting things to do in Bali?
2 - Hong Kong
As a Hongkie by birth, I’m always happy to return to one of the safest cities you can find. The crime rate is one of the lowest in the world and most of that is petty crime. There are plenty of cheap, safe and clean transportation options available to get you everywhere in the city: the extensive subway (MTR) network runs from 6am to midnight and metered taxis are everywhere. With a sky-high population density, it’s perfectly safe for you to walk around alone – as you’ll never really be alone (in the city centre, there are people everywhere, always!)
Watch out for: your phone, wallet and drink when you’re at a crowded market or out at night, especially in bar areas like Lan Kwai Fong. There have been instances of spiked drinks and stolen valuables, like in any big city.
Get off the beaten path: Of course every first-time visitor will head up to The Peak, but have you heard of Victoria Peak Garden? Formerly the gardens and grounds of the summer residence of the Governor of Hong Kong, Peak Garden offers a tranquil, green oasis in the middle of the bustling city. From Victoria Peak, it is a 20-30 min walk uphill along Mt. Austin Road.
Cities in Japan are famous for being so safe that six-year-olds can ride the subway to school alone, and Kyoto is no exception. You will feel perfectly at ease exploring Kyoto’s magnificent temples, traditional streets and manicured parks alone at your own pace. Petty and violent crime is rare, locals are respectful and public services are impeccably clean. Two of Kyoto’s commuter rail lines, the Hankyu Line and the Keihan Line, have women’s only cars, you will find hotels or guesthouses with women-only floors, and it’s not at all unusual for local Japanese ladies to dine by themselves, particularly at lunch.
Watch out for: some rare instances of stalking, groping or flashing. Unfortunately occurrences of sexual harassment still happen in crowded or public places.
Get of the beaten path: referred to as the "Venice of Japan", Ine no Funaya (伊根の舟屋) is a hidden floating fishing about 130km from Kyoto city. Around 200 traditional boathouses line Ine Bay and create a gorgeous, tranquil view. Some of them serve as guesthouses as well, and you can also see the bay by boat tour.
4 - Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, land of misty mountains and colourful hill tribes, is a fantastic choice if you’re intimidated by visiting Thailand solo. The Old City is small and easy to navigate around, and people are quite friendly. With over 300 temples to check out, it’s more relaxing when you can set the pace (usually when visiting temples we see two and my husband is DONE so I’m very happy to explore places like this by myself!) With the cultural sights, nature attractions and markets to explore, your days will be filled pretty quickly.
Watch out for: tourist scams. Ignore free shopping or sightseeing help from strangers and do your research before buying or signing up for anything.
Get off the beaten path: and take a hike! There are endless hiking trails in and around the hilly forests of Chiang Mai for you to explore. Don’t want to do it alone? Join the Doi Suthep Walkers – every Saturday morning they organize a free group hike (find out more on their Facebook group.)
Of course I couldn’t complete the list without a shout out to our home base. Referred to affectionately as “Asia Lite”, the city-state is a hodgepodge of traditional Asian cultures (namely Chinese, Malay and Indian) with skyscrapers and Lamborghinis thrown into the mix. As arguably the safest country in Asia, the government has worked incredibly hard to keep the place safe, clean and humming along efficiently. Taxi drivers will NEVER try to rip you off (my dear hubby has left his phone in the back of a cab at least three times, and it has always miraculously found its way back), and you will be hard pressed to find a police officer on the street because, well, they’re not needed. Do as the locals do and chope (save) your seat in a food court with a tissue pack or umbrella – I promise you it will still be there when you come back!
Watch out for: some instances of petty theft. As the government likes to remind us in its ongoing public awareness campaign, “Low crime doesn’t mean NO crime!” Also watch what you bring into the country – some prescription drugs and e-cigarettes are banned, and drug offences including trafficking come with hefty punishments, including the death penalty.
Get off the beaten path: Head to Changi Village and take a bum boat to Pulau Ubin. Considered one of the last kampungs (villages) in Singapore, you can see what the bustling city looked like decades ago. Rent a bike and cycle around the rustic roads, shady palms and secluded beaches.
So there you go – now it’s your turn! Ready to head off on your own solo adventure? I hope you dare to take the leap!