Sometimes the best places to travel alone in Asia are places that no one knows about, the places where you may not be able to identify on the map, or the places you’ll meet people out of nowhere.
To the uninitiated, Asia, a region so diverse in cultures, history, language and most of all, people have a bucket load of experiences to offer.
From discussing the Indus valley civilizations or learning more about the Borneo rainforests, and even experiencing the village life amongst the rice paddy fields, there’s no better way to travel alone in Asia and experience it all by yourself.
At the most unexpected places, it is quite charming to meet new friends and you won’t even know where to begin the conversation but it’ll start any how, in the most uncertain ways driving you towards a comfortable certainty. That’s why travelling alone is an idea to be wholly relished, and that too in Asia.
I often get asked if it makes sense to go on a group tour: There are times when a tour makes sense: supporting the local economy, making your life 1/3 easier or just deciding to try a new experience, but other times it doesn’t make financial sense, and takes you to places where millions of people have already been there only to spoil the natural environment (case in point: tours and cruise ships at Maya Bay).
Word of advice: go solo; come back to tell your friends and family, the exclusive experiences you lived through.
For solo-travellers: The best places to travel alone in Asia
I have been told countless times how easy and lucky I am to be in a country that has a variety of food options, and all year round sunshine.
The heat and humidity can wear you out in the city centre, but if you take a one hour drive away with AirBnB experiences or MeetUp KL Hiking and Trail Running group to the jungles of Pahang in Malaysia, from Kuala Lumpur, you’ll experience cool rainforest estates and rows of inviting tropical trees.
That’s not all. As a solo traveller, it is so easy to get lost in the concrete jungle in Kuala Lumpur, and experience the usual shopping malls and street food, but if you get away from the crowds, I’ll suggest spending time in Sabah, Kota Kinabalu and visiting Danum Valley, located deep inside a 130 million year-old rainforest as well as hiking the majestic, Mount Kinabalu.
Why visit Malaysia as a solo traveller?
English-Language widely spoken, making less likely for you to get lost
Variety of cheap food
Endless hiking trails and mountains like Bukit Tabur and the Mulu Pinnacles
Great sandy beaches in Perhentian Island
Mountains, amazing cycling lanes, street food, canyons, gorges and stunning coastal lines, surfing - Taiwan has it all.
The biggest part of Taiwan’s main population, about 23 million lives on the west coast while the east coast remains scenic, pollution-free and crazily beautiful.
You’ll find yourself being safe in the company of the locals. According to the Global Peace Index, which measures countries based on their level of safety and peacefulness, Taiwan is in the top 25%.
Crimes are rare and violence against tourists are unheard of making it a dream destination to visit, especially if you love visiting offbeat spots and experiencing some of the most amazing coastlines.
Infrastructure-wise, Taiwanese has made it easy for people to cycle in their country with the home-grown brand Giant and sprawling network of dedicated paths. You’ll find plenty of cyclists and Facebook groups dedicated to cycling and don’t shy away from joining a group if you’d like to cycle along the East Coast.
That’s what I did, read more about what it was like to ride the coastal highways in Taiwan.
Why visit Taiwan as a solo traveller?
Friendly people who are well-mannered
Public transportation is great, use the Easy Card to ride metro and trains
Ease of connecting with solo travellers in hostels
Scenic views and multitude of activities (hiking, cycling and surfing)
Great, cheap food
The real draw for me were the scenic landscapes, laidback life, interesting hilltribes and minimal traffic compared to Laos neighbours like Vietnam and Thailand. It is almost like a secret nation in Asia, landlocked and interestingly different in terms of history and culture.
If you’re travelling alone in Asia, Laos is your best destination to start with without feeling overwhelmed. Guesthouses and small hotels are the best way for meeting other solo travellers and local people.
Accommodation typically costs 50,000 kips (US$5). It is so easy to share a tuk-tuk and meet other people. I remember interacting with a solo traveller from Hong Kong who was on a month-long trip and met other people at the hostel, and they decided to learn how to ride a motorbike in Laos because of it’s small back alleys and quiet roads.
Starting your journey in Luang Prabang is a great way to ease yourself into the towns beautiful Wats and street market while reserving other days for jungle treks and the infamous Kuang Si waterfalls. And for the next few weeks, spend your time in Muang Ngoi, a hamlet that stretches across the Mekong and in other villages such as Nong Khiaw, Phou Khon and Phonsavan.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, perhaps cycling in Laos might be your thing just like what I did for 5 days.
Why visit Laos as a solo traveller?
A solo traveller haven, easy to make friends
Get off the beaten track and visit coffee plantations and the three-tiered waterfalls
Learn history about the bombing missions and ordnance in Laos
Great local brew and cheap food options
India, a land that brings about memories of my first solo trip to the Himalayas. I have heard from countless travellers on how India is only for the seasoned traveller, not for a first-timer who wants to travel alone in Asia.
It’s harsh and sometimes an assault on your senses, but we shouldn’t negate the feedback and straitjacket India for what the media reports on. The harshness of the landscape, smell and crowds can be downright beautiful as long as you follow a few general street-smarts.
There’s no simple answer and the point is India CAN BE a safe destination for a solo traveller, even for female travellers. The best tips I found that worked for me is to have a local friend in each place you visit and stay in hostels where it is easy to connect with other travellers.
The beauty of the Himalayas in India is indescribable. It is wild, at times stunningly desolate and the history and culture of the various Indian mountain tribes is dynamic. You’ll notice that the country is so large, and vast that it is hard to believe that Indians themselves are unaware of the beauty of the hidden finds and mountain peaks available at their disposal.
The best place to start is to begin with chaos and be at the center of it all in New Delhi, the gateway to the Himalayan ranges. It can be overwhelming and when you’re done, head further north and north-east to take in the glory of the mountains. Be sure to visit from Feb until April or August to October, and avoid the monsoons and hot summers at all cost.
Why visit India as a solo traveller?
Safe as long as you stay in the right hostels; don’t go out at night and be sure to be among familiar people
Get to hike the Himalayas for cheap, compared to Nepal
Food is delicious
People will change your perspective
If India is too overwhelming and you still want a taste of adventure, then Nepal checks the box as one of the best places to travel alone in Asia.
Traveling solo in Nepal challenges and pushes your limits, physically of course. It’s a country where people will go out of their way to help you and make you fall in love with their mountains, culture and momos (dumplings).
Hitting the trails and hiking the majestic Annapurna range with other like-minded travellers are easy to find. It wouldn’t be wise to hike alone, and instead make a few friends and adapt your travel plans accordingly.
It is also easy to find English speakers, and you don’t really need much street smarts to get by here.
While shopkeepers in the main centre town might try to overcharge you by a dollar or two, it is unlikely that someone will try to rob you. This is probably a place where it is OK to get lost and let the friendly Nepalese help you.
Why visit Nepal as a solo traveller?
Mountains and solitude
Different off-beat experiences
Friendly Nepalese people
Unlimited adventure experiences
It is crazy to think that everyone would visit Indonesia only to visit Bali. I am guilty of doing that, but I did not visit Bali for it’s famed backpacking culture, as I wanted to hike some of the most stunning volcanoes in this region.
Indonesia, on the whole, has the largest number of historically active volcanoes with the current count at 76 and 17,000 islands. It’s hard to just pin your hope on Bali when there’s so many lesser-known islands to visit. Places like Flores, Lombok and Komodo Islands might be slightly touristy but there are a stunning range of adventure activities to experience, even if you’re on a backpacking trip in Indonesia.
For a solo traveller, it can be quite confusing dealing with the rupiah, making you feel like a millionaire overnight. But you’ll learn to manage it eventually. The other travel tips that I can think of is trying out their motorbike taxi (GoJek) which is a pretty thrifty and exciting way of seeing Indonesia on a two-wheeler or even participating in fun activities in Indonesia such as diving.
Why visit Indonesia as a solo traveller?
Variety of landscapes from beaches to mountains
Affordable solo retreats
Great place to meet solo travellers
Easy transport options
It has long been on my mind to visit Central Asia and a destination that I have been meaning to go and recently I visited the land of nomadic culture and roots. Kyrgyzstan is easily one of the most exciting destinations for explorers, trekkers and nature.
Once part of the Soviet union, the main capital, Bishek, is filled with intriguing Soviet-style building and an interesting evolution of how the country has slowly changed in the past decades.
One of the most exciting things about traveling in Kyrgyzstan is that the country is only just developing as a tourist destination so it’s still very different, affordable and it’s easy to connect genuinely with local people. Learning about the nomadic tribes and staying in a Yurt is an experience on its own. The Kyrgyz are mountain folk and began their modest lives as nomadic tribes living off the land.
The indigenous population still make up 72% of the country’s population, and community based tourism is a great way to see how the local people live.
Why visit Kyrgyzstan as a solo traveller?
Learn about the country’s nomadic tribes
Visiting UNESCO heritage sites and endless mountains and lakes
Ease of meeting solo travellers
As with any travel destinations, planning in advance to ensure you avoid the peak season and wet seasons are something you might need to take into consideration.
Safety is of paramount importance if you travel alone to these places in Asia, but be sure to keep an eye on the latest local news, go with your gut feel and enjoy the uncertainty of travelling to new and offbeat places. You’ll have stories and experiences to share.
Have you been to these destinations alone? If yes, what are your experiences like? Share with us in the comments below!
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