Solo travel can be an incredibly fulfilling, liberating and life-changing experience, giving you a sense of absolute freedom and autonomy. While solo travel is usually a rewarding and safe experience for both genders, women, in particular, are more aware of the safety implications and risks involved and may feel discouraged by well-meaning friends and family or by common misconceptions about particular countries. However, travelling solo to another country as a woman is actually not as precarious as it may seem.
Unfortunately, unstable political landscapes and terrorism across the world add to our concern, making it harder to judge where exactly is safe to travel to. It is, therefore, no surprise to know safety is often the top priority for the solo female traveller, no matter how experienced or mature she is. While the safety rating of a country isn’t a fool-proof measure by any means (crime can happen anywhere, at any time after all), it can be reassuring for the first time solo traveller and for putting loved ones’ minds at rest, to visit a country which is deemed a low-level threat.
There are a number of global surveys that measure how safe a country is. One such is the Global Peace Index which provides a comprehensive analysis of the state of peace in 162 countries and compares them for the risk of personal violence. According to the Global Peace Index 2017, the most peaceful countries in the world in numerical order are:
Iceland has won the title of safest country six years in a row – and for good reason. The annual murder rate is very low at 1.8 murders a year and there is very little violent crime. An island with a unique and spectacular landscape full of geothermal activity, it’s an unforgettable solo female travel experience and one not to be missed.
2. New Zealand
The crime rate in New Zealand is also very low; in 2011 the crime level was down 5.6% from its figures in 2010, its lowest in 15 years. New Zealand is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast – the more extreme, the better! Hiking, skydiving, caving, bungee jumping and skiing are just a few of the activities on offer. It’s a popular destination for backpackers and budget travellers due to its affordability and boasts some of the lushest landscapes on the planet.
Portugal has a rich history and gorgeous coastline, with the ever popular Algarve for sun worshippers and Lisbon and Porto for weekend city breakers. Although like most tourist destinations Portugal is subject is an element of pickpocketing and petty crime, there are no serious internal conflicts – unless you count the odd altercation over the last pastéis de nata in the bakery.
One of the most scenic and richest countries in the world, Austria is home to stately mansions, ancient well-preserved fortresses, beautiful scenery, museums, concert halls and churches, making it perfect for culture vultures. The capital, Vienna, is compact and easy to navigate while the superb rail network makes getting around the country easy. The overall crime rate is low, however petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching occur frequently, particularly in Vienna.
With a very low crime rate and friendly locals (most Danes speak English and are glad to help tourists find their way around), Denmark is a very safe place for the solo female traveller. The capital, Copenhagen, is known for its beautiful waterfronts and classical architecture and has a very efficient public transport system. It’s also ideal for outdoorsy types, with cycling and hiking being popular activities.
Boasting a very low number of violent crimes, this picturesque country has a vast array of stunning baroque and gothic architecture and a café culture to rival that of Paris. The historic jewel of Prague is a city to get pleasantly lost in, wandering the winding cobbled streets for hours and exploring the charming independent shops, restaurants and bars.
Once under Communist rule, Slovenia has now made it into the top 10 of the most peaceful destinations in the world attributed again, to its low level of crime. An underrated, cosmopolitan nation in the centre of Europe, it’s home to both beautiful beaches and stunning mountains and one of the most picturesque lakes in Europe – the emerald green Lake Bled.
The second largest country in the world, Canada is known for its incredible scenery, mountainous landscape, friendly people and laid-back vibe. Visitors are spoilt for choice for things to do, with places like Québec, Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal to explore, awe-inspiring views at Banff National Park in Alberta, Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains, and winter sports aplenty for the adrenaline junkies. It’s a largely peaceful country and the overall police-reported crime rate in Canada has been falling for more than 20 years – in fact, in 2013 it was at its lowest point since 1969. That just leaves grizzly bears to worry about…
Crime is very low in Switzerland, as overall crime has fallen dramatically over the past 5 years. There’s more to Switzerland than just cuckoo clocks and chocolate – it’s one of the most scenic countries in Europe; full of mountain vistas, lakes, waterfalls and alpine peaks, and perfect for hiking and skiing. It’s one of the most expensive countries in Europe so doesn’t really attract a backpacking crowd, and with Swiss people being largely reserved, it’s perhaps a country more suited to the solo traveller who really likes solitude.
Japan, although very expensive to visit, is considered one of the most beautiful and friendly countries in the world and is known for its technology, pop culture and skyscrapers. It has a reputation for being a country with a respectful, helpful and polite culture and this is evident in how they treat tourists. From zen-like Kyoto to bustling Tokyo, majestic temples and shrines, lush national parks and mouth-watering food, there’s something for everyone.
For the latest foreign travel advice, always check gov.uk before travelling.