Solo travel comes in a variety of forms. It can be a boundary-pushing adventure, a rite of passage, a hobby-related escape or a last-minute weekend getaway for one. It's also a sector that's on the up, with the Adventure Travel Tourism Industry (Atta) revealing that more adventure travellers are opting to go alone, thanks to increased availability of resources and more media coverage about solo travelling.
The solo trend was reflected in a survey undertaken by Skyscanner on behalf of The National, which found that more than 76 per cent of respondents had travelled alone. The survey, which ran for a little over two weeks, polled more than 800 travellers and also revealed that more than 68 per cent of those questioned had travelled solo more than five times. It also looked at why some people have opted not to travel solo and found that more than 10 per cent of people felt too nervous to travel alone, and a further 7 per cent had safety concerns about venturing around the world on their own.
Travel experts at Wegoplaces recently published the Solo Travel Safety Report, detailing the safest, riskiest, most peaceful and most hostile countries in the world, based on data from the 2019 Gallup Global Law and Order report. For would-be solo travellers, it could be time to book that flight to Singapore, as the island city-state was ranked safest thanks to its strong sense of security. On the other hand, nervous travellers would be best advised to avoid crisis-hit Venezuela, while anyone wary of crime would want to skip Afghanistan, Uganda and South Sudan. Here are the top 10 safest countries in the world for anyone thinking of planning a solo sojourn.
One of the best things about solo travel is being able to do your own thing: wander unexplored roads, stop and gaze at towering buildings or try to wind your way around an incomprehensible fold-out map. In Singapore, the world's top place for safety according to the Gallup report, you can do all of the above without having to worry about falling in harm's way. A great pick if it's your first foray into solo travel, Singapore is easy to get to with direct flights from all over the UAE. Changi Airport is consistently named the world's best, and welcomes solo travellers with a sense of ease that prevails throughout the island city nation. With all of its sights in a single city, it's easy to navigate and has a fantastic metro station; there's also a large English-speaking population if you need to ask for directions. Expect a tropical climate, gleaming skyscrapers and rooftop bars, beside traditional hawker stalls selling authentic Malay, Chinese and Indian food. Visit Singapore's Chinatown, and flex your wallet on Orchard Road safe from pickpockets – strict punishment laws ensure crime levels are almost non-existent.
Everything from the urban beat of Oslo to the wide views of the North Cape beckons visitors to Norway, which ranked as the second safest destination on the planet. With low crime rates, the biggest danger that tourists are likely to face will come from the elements, especially in winter, when the weather can take a sudden turn for the worse. If you're exploring the country's fjords or taking to its snow-covered slopes, be sure to check the forecast. City seekers should head to Oslo. While it lacks some of the cool credentials of its Scandinavian sisters (we're looking at you, Copenhagen and Stockholm), it's undergoing an exciting reinvention – a stroll through the streets of Grunerlokka conceptualise this perfectly. The country's second largest city of Bergen is another worthwhile stop as the gateway to Norway's pristine waters and breathtaking fjords, and there's also seven countrywide Unesco sites to explore.
Despite its starring role in the oft-terrifying Game of Thrones, Iceland is a safe bet for travellers going alone. The Nordic island is virtually free of violent crime and its unarmed police force are perhaps busiest on Instagram – the account previously went viral with shots of officers eating ice cream and wearing party hats. In the city of Reykjavik, attractions are easily walkable, the streets are brightly lit and there is a serious culture of fun, with Icelanders kicking off their evenings around midnight and music being something of a must. The country has also been continuously ranked the most peaceful in the world since 2008. Away from the capital, the only danger that exists is response time for remote locations, so solo travellers should make use of knowledgeable guides for exploring volcanoes, climbing mountains or driving across ice-covered ravines.
Ranked as the fourth safest place to visit, Finland has also been ranked the happiest country in the world for the last two years in reports by the United Nations. The Nordic country has year-round appeal: visit in winter for aurora borealis spotting opportunities, or go in summer to see the midnight sun. For solo travellers, locals are easy to meet and usually come with a loveable sense of humour, something that's reflected in the tourism board's novel "Rent a Finn" initiative, which is offering travellers the chance to visit Finland and meet one of eight ordinary residents who have signed up to be Finnish happiness guides. With an insatiable love of sauna, the country is also a good place for those seeking relaxation. In the capital, as with any big city, there are a few shady spots worth taking note of, but nothing overly worrying. The southwest city of Turku comes with medieval appeal and buckets of charm. Finland is also an archipelago of more than 40,000 islands and 188,000 lakes, making it ideal for outdoor adventure.
Known for its mosques, mausoleums and Silk Road influences, Uzbekistan has long been a destination hidden from view, but it is now opening up its borders with relaxed visa policies for foreigners. Low-cost carrier flydubai became the first airline to offer direct flights from the UAE to Tashkent in March this year, making the central Asian nation ripe for a visit. Listed as the fifth safest country for solo travellers, reports of crime against tourists are reassuringly low and travellers, including solo females, can easily wander unharassed. In the capital, visit the Chorsu Bazaar or take in history at the Amir Timur Museum. The Tashkent Tower offers amazing views and, further afield, Samarkand offers a gorgeous landmark of Islamic architecture and Silk Road history. Avoid the borders of this landlocked country, where safety ratings drop.
6. Hong Kong
Vibrant and densely populated, Hong Kong is ranked the sixth safest country in the world. A visit to the autonomous territory in southeast China offers a trip that cranks up the pace with glaring neon city lights, gleaming skyscrapers and bustling markets. Despite the frenzy, crime levels are low and solo travellers can walk around without fear. There are also pockets of greenery to help you find your Zen, like the Nan Lian Garden or the Tsz Shan Monastery. A fusion of east and west, Hong Kong is a good introductory destination for solo wanderers looking to ease gently into an Asian itinerary.
One of the wealthiest countries in the world, Switzerland is also one of the most nonviolent, so while you might struggle with having no-one to split bills with, you won’t need to worry about staying safe. In winter, the central European nation offers travellers alpine-surrounded skiing amidst snow-capped peaks, while summer is all about hiking, biking and swimming in immaculate lakes. Getting around is simple – the Swiss Travel Pass lets you take any mode of transport to anywhere in the country. Beautiful Geneva, known for its watchmaking traditions and chocolate-making finesse, is also nicknamed the City of Peace.
Saying that Canada is safe for soloists is a bit of a sweeping statement, given that the country is the world’s second largest, but the North American nation reports low crime rates across the board, with almost non-existent levels in popular vacation spots. Avoid Halifax in Nova Scotia, the only east coast city to be listed in the country’s crime top 10, and you can travel fairly safely. If vast wilderness and remote beauty are for you, head to lake-filled Banff National Park surrounded by the peaks of Rocky Mountains. For French-inspired culture, Montreal has lots to offer, the cascading waters at Niagara Falls are a must and downtown Toronto buzzes with urban life while being ranked the safest big city in North America.
If endless adventure is the purpose of your solo trip, Indonesia proposes 17,000 volcanic islands filled with pristine beaches, undiscovered jungles and indigenous wildlife. Each isle offers its own take on culture, religion and nature, so travel pursuits are endless. The archipelago is hugely popular with travellers, so it's a good choice if you're looking to meet fellow nomads. Despite witnessing terror attacks last year and having an active volcano alert in place, overall, Indonesian residents reported feeling far safer than in most other places around the world.
Denmark came in at number 10, with the Scandinavian spot also listed in the top five peaceful rankings. An effortlessly cool capital city where many signs are in English, give Copenhagen a try; and the city’s walkability makes it great for unplanned exploration. The Danes are a friendly lot and quick to help with information – they also love their coffee, so you won’t have trouble sourcing a good cup to kick-start your morning. Wander down to the old fishing port of Nyhavn Harbour, with its lines of narrow, brightly coloured houses, for some great picture opportunities, and then head out of the city, where more than 400 islands make Denmark a great playground for solo adventurers.