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7 Popular Destinations for Solo Travel – 2017

You might remember an earlier post where I talked about why I travel solo. Solo travel is becoming increasingly common across the world. As a closing post for 2017, I have created a short list of some of the most popular destinations for solo travel this year. Read on to learn about the top 5 global and 2 Indian destinations that were popular among solo travellers in 2017.

 

Siem Reap

One of my personal favourites, this one. This small town in Cambodia offers a variety of things to see and do, the most famous being the fascinating temples of the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom complexes. The people are gentle, friendly and very hospitable; you’ll never feel unsafe or lonely. With plenty of nightlife, good food and a variety of accommodation available for every budget, it isn’t surprising that Siem Reap consistently figures amongst popular destinations for solo travel.

Getting there: Siem Reap is connected by air with Phnom Penh as well as neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam. You can also travel here by bus from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

The picture below is from a solo trip there in 2014.

Angkor Thom temples

 

Tokyo

The Japanese capital makes a great base for a solo trip. Not only is it very safe and well-connected by local transport, but the Japanese culture itself is based on tremendous respect and politeness, therefore making Tokyo ideal and safe for solo travellers. From Tokyo you can make easy day trips to Kamakura, Odawara, Mt. Takao etc. The city and its surrounds are also highly instagrammable – cherry blossoms anyone?

Getting there: All major airlines fly to Tokyo, usually into Narita airport. Tokyo is further connected with other towns by road and rail.

 

London

The British capital has always been a favourite for all kinds of travellers. While definitely not cheap on the pocket, the city is extremely easy to navigate (via Tube or on foot) and full of things to see and do. Apart from offering a rich collection of historic sights and major museums, London also acts as a base for trips to nearby places like Oxford, Windsor, Bath, Brighton, Stonehenge etc. The city also has a vibrant nightlife, with everything from clubs to theatre and everything in between. Travellers also like to try out some of the local foodie favourites and indulge in shopping while in London.

Getting there: London has two major airports with multiple flights from across the world.  You can also fly direct from India on airlines like British Airways, Jet Airways, Air India and Virgin Atlantic.

London
A cloudy morning in London

New York

I have yet to see a city with more energy than New York. It’s intense, it’s electric, it’s always busy and it’s one of the most popular destinations for solo travel across all age-groups and genders. From strolling in Central Park to walking the Brooklyn Bridge, from shopping at Macy’s to visiting the farmers’ market at Union Square, from museums to restaurants to Lady Liberty, there is so much to see and do that one visit doesn’t feel enough! Public transport is convenient, but I’ve found walking more convenient. While hotels in New York City are not exactly cheap, you can always try Couchsurfing or staying a little outside Manhattan if you want to stick to a lower budget.

Getting there: New York has multiple flight connections with the entire world through two major airports.  You can fly direct from India on airlines like Air India and United Airlines.

 

Barcelona

This Mediterranean city is known to be one of the friendliest places on earth, and ideal for solo travel. One of the biggest draws here is the fascinating architecture – 7 of the World Heritage Sites in the city are associated with Gaudi. The Catalan capital is also a haven for foodies, offering world-famous cuisine and friendly tapas bars to hang out in. You can also head out from the city to relax on Barceloneta beach, hike in Montserrat, visit Sitges, explore Gerona (GoT fans would know of this location!) and so on. Due to its laid-back feel, Barcelona is also a very popular destination for solo travel among students.

Getting there: Barcelona has an international airport with links to major airports across the world. There are also fast train connections with major European cities like Paris and Milan.

 

Puducherry

The small seaside town of Puducherry offers visitors a little bit of France in India. This former French colony, known internationally due to the Auroville community, offers a variety of things to do for every kind of traveller. Wandering through the French part of town (also called White Town) you will pass ancient churches and gaily painted homes constructed in a typical European style. There is a lot of French-influenced cuisine on offer, as well as the serenity of the Aurobindo Ashram. A lot of travellers visit Puducherry to visit Auroville and the Ashram and take a meditation course. The town is lately also becoming popular for adventure activities like scuba diving, surfing and canoeing.

Getting there: The best way to get here is to fly into Chennai and take a cab or bus to Puducherry. The drive along the coastal highway is extremely scenic.

Surfing
Photo by LECHAT Valentin on Unsplash

Kasol

This tiny hamlet by the Parvati river is often referred to as the Goa of the Hills. With its “hippie” vibe and chilled out ambience, Kasol is one of the most popular destinations for solo travel for young people. Visitors can stay in homestays or budget hotels, and indulge in activities like trekking, hiking, visiting neighbouring villages etc. There are a number of cafes and bakeries offering international cuisine (especially Israeli) apart from Indian food. Kasol is perfect for when you want to escape from the din of life in a typical Indian city.

Getting there: Kasol’s nearest airport Bhuntar (Kullu) is connected by air to Delhi. You can also take an overnight bus from Delhi to Bhuntar, and take a taxi to Kasol.

Are you planning any solo trips in 2018? If yes, I’d love to know where!

 

Some of the most popular solo travel destinations in the world

 

Things women travelling solo will hear

I wrote an earlier post about why I choose to often travel solo. Solo travel by women is getting increasingly common across the world. In India, while the number of women travelling solo are gradually growing, we still stand out sometimes as a bit of an oddity in the eyes of the more traditional thinkers. Hence, we also get to field a lot of curious queries. Here are some things that women travelling solo would often hear:

1. Aren’t you afraid of getting robbed or mugged or killed or something? Well, not exactly afraid, but one does exercise normal caution. Same as anyone else travelling with other people would. Depending on where I am, I might end my evening earlier than if I’d been with a group of people. But that’s just being practical, not afraid. Basic safety precautions are necessary not just for women travelling solo but for any traveller.

2. Don’t you have a husband? This usually happens when I am travelling within India, although I did face similar questions in Cambodia too. I guess they meant well. No, I don’t have a husband, and I am not going to let the absence of one imply that I cannot travel. Even if I were married, some of my travel might still be of the solo kind.

3. How does your family allow you to do this? Again, mostly heard this in India. My family, you will be happy to know, are very supportive and just glad that their daughter is independent and does things that make her happy. My mother follows my travel blog. Some amount of apprehension is normal I guess, and I ensure that I always stay in touch with them and leave my itinerary and other details with my sister.

 

 

Cambodia solo travel
A happy memory from a solo trip to Cambodia

 

4. Don’t you get lonely? Well, if it’s a long trip, sometimes you wish you had someone to talk to. But in this day of 24X7 connectivity, there is always a way to do that over Skype, Whatsapp or plain old phone calls. Most of the time though, I am really happy being by myself. Sometimes I meet up with other groups or even women travelling solo, and hang out for a bit. It can be interesting, and I would probably not have this opportunity if I was with family or a group of friends.

5. Would you like to go out tonight? Yep, happens a lot. A single woman travelling by herself will often attract invites of the sort. Entirely up to you to decide how to handle them. Most men will back off nicely once they know you’re not interested in a holiday fling. Unless you are?

6. How do you manage to finance your trips? Erm, the same way anybody else would. By working hard and saving money and forgoing some things in order to afford to travel. Why would it be any different for a woman?

7. Wow, that’s really a brave thing to do! Hmm, maybe the first time I travelled solo it was a brave decision, because I really was clueless. Now, not so much. Travel gives me joy, and how can you not do something that does that for you?

If you are reading this and have had similar experiences, do leave a comment! If you haven’t, leave a comment anyway!!

You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook. For travel inspiration check out my Instagram feed

 

Travel solo

Why I travel solo

I travel solo quite often for various reasons. While an Indian woman travelling by herself for leisure still often elicits some surprise/shock/concern from others, I’ve never let that bother me. In fact I believe that solo travel has made me better in many ways.

This is what I believe happens, when you start to travel solo

  • After the initial discomfort of being all by yourself, you move on to being able to enjoy your own company and the pleasures of being the sole decision-maker for your holiday plans. Want to capture a sunrise? Go for it! Prefer to spend the morning lazing at a café instead of visiting a museum? Sure, whatever you like!
  • You become a lot more confident. Travel can bring along with it missed connections, lost belongings, budget issues, security concerns and lot of other things. Dealing with it all and still having a good trip teaches you that you are stronger and smarter than you think you are. You learn to trust your gut.
  • You start getting to know yourself better. With nobody else’s preferences to worry about, you can plan your trips just the way you want to. In the process you learn more and more about your own likes and dislikes and what makes you happy. You also figure out things like how good a communicator you are, what your travel style is, what are the things you have trouble dealing with, and so on.
  • Gradually your perspective on life begins to change. When you go out into the world, meeting and talking to people, learning about different places and cultures, you realise what is superficial and what really matters in life.
  • You learn that there are a lot of good people out there, and travelling alone does not necessarily mean not having folks to chat with. All you need is a willingness to smile and communicate.
  • You realise that your fears about travelling alone were mostly unfounded, and that you’ve ended up actually having a great time.

If you have not tried solo travel yet, go ahead and give it a shot. Be sure to let me know about it!

Featured image by Yaoqi Lai on Unsplash

Remembering my first solo trip: Scotland – Part One!

I love travelling solo. Why, you might ask. I have listed a few reasons here. This post though is about my first solo trip, which happened in the summer of 2010. I travelled to London, stayed with a friend for a couple of days and then took a week’s trip (alone) to Scotland. It turned out to be one of my most memorable trips ever.

How it began

Early on a June morning I took the morning train out of King’s Cross to Edinburgh. The journey takes about 4 hours, and the trains are very comfortable. The train was also a great way to see more of the countryside, which was truly beautiful. I realised that all the cliches I’d read about were true: rolling meadows, cows in peaceful pastures, picture-book cottages and houses with sloping shingled roofs.

Finally getting to Scotland was both exciting and scary. I didn’t know a single soul there, had never travelled alone this far from home, and had no idea what lay in store. So yeah, there were definitely some butterflies in my tummy as the train pulled into Waverley station. It was overcast and a drizzle started up almost immediately; luckily the hostel I had booked was just a 5 minute walk away.

Edinburgh the Medieval Beauty

My first evening in Edinburgh was also the day I fell in love with the city. Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town and the 18th century mostly Georgian New town are both World Heritage Sites, and one can spend days just exploring them. I stayed in the city for three days here and spent hours just walking everywhere.

On this first evening I was still too jet-lagged to do much, so I just took an exploratory walk up the Royal Mile.  The Royal Mile is a cobblestoned street connecting the Castle with the Holyrood Palace. It actually measures about a 100 yards more than a mile. The part of it closest to the castle is where you will find most of the souvenir shops, restaurants, T shirt sellers, and all the usual suspects. But it is still an interesting walk, with medieval buildings on both sides and dozens of narrow alleys (called Wynds or Closes) leading off from it. Go down any of these wynds and you never know what you might find. A part of the Mile is pedestrian-only.

Edinburgh solo trip image
Edinburgh – The National Gallery in the foreground

I also walked across Waverley bridge to the New Town side of things, and took a look at the Monument, the Royal Academy, the adjacent National Gallery, the Mound etc. Old Town and New Town used to be divided by the Nor Loch – the town’s water supply/sewage dump. This was eventually drained and converted into a beautiful green area called the Princes Street Gardens. It’s a great place to sit and people-watch. You also get great views of the Castle, and some decent ice cream!

By the time I finished my walk it was around 8pm, and it was still bright and sunny. To somebody used to night setting in by 7-7.30 pm in summer, it was strange at first to see dusk extending as late as 10pm here. It was a little disorienting, especially since all shops and cafes shut by 6pm.

My first day in Scotland turned out great. I managed the train connections safely, found myself in a beautiful city, and made friends with my hostel roommates, Amanda and Melissa. After three days exploring Edinburgh I continued into the Highlands and Skye. More on that, later! In the meantime, if you are planning to visit Edinburgh anytime soon, do check out this list of top things to do.

Getting there: Edinburgh is well connected by flight, train and National Express coach services

 

Monsooning in Meghalaya!

One part of India that I had not visited at all so far, was the north-eastern states. I broke that jinx this month by visiting Meghalaya, the predominantly tribal state carved out of Assam in the 1970’s. It seemed right to be visiting the wettest place on earth, in the middle of the monsoon season!

Shillong, the capital, is a busy little town with the usual urban paraphernalia of shopping centres, cafes, schools, markets, traffic jams…In fact, apart from chilling out at a few cafes in town, I spent most of my time outside Shillong in the midst of nature. This is where you will really see the true beauty of Meghalaya.

Everyone will tell you that if you are in Shillong, a visit to Cherrapunjee is a must. Aside from the fact that it was once the district with the highest recorded rainfall in the world (this position is now held by Mawsynram, also nearby), Cherrapunjee or Sohra as it called locally, also offers amazing views of nature in all its grace. Places you should not miss while visiting Cherrapunjee include the Wah Kaba falls, Dainthlen falls, Eco Park, Nohkalikai falls and the Seven Sisters falls. The drive from Shillong takes about 2.5 to 3 hours one way, and it is a scenic route.

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Meghalaya also has a large number of limestone caves and cavers from all over the world visit in order to explore them. I visited the Mawsmai limestone caves, and the stalactites and stalagmites were indeed imposing to see.

While in Shillong you can also take a trip to Mawlynnong and Dawki. Mawlynnong is known as the cleanest village in Asia, and after seeing the place I didn’t really doubt the title. From here you can easily get to the nearby Living Root bridge in Riwai. Living root bridges are natural bridges found in a couple of places in Meghalaya. Locals take the roots of Indian Rubber trees, and train and weave them into a mesh. They then plaster the mesh with mud and stones to form a natural bridge , allowing people to cross over streams. Ingenious idea, and the bridges are still going strong! Be prepared for a hike up and down several steps though!

Dawki is about 100km from Shillong and you can easily combine it with a Mawlynnong excursion. It offers scenic views of the Umngot river, and the India-Bangladesh border. Outside the monsoon season the river is very popular for boating.

Meghalaya is a must-visit destination that offers natural beauty, offbeat experiences and an opportunity to get away from the concrete jungle. The people you meet here will in general be really warm and friendly, and you will feel welcome wherever you go.

I know that I will be going back someday soon!

Getting there: Flight to Guwahati; 3 hour drive from Guwahati to Shillong

Where to stay: Definitely not in Police Bazaar area, unless you want to be stuck in traffic all day. The Laitumkhrah area is better. If budget allows, go for Ri Kyinjai near Umiam lake.

 

Two Traveling Texans