The number of solo female travellers around the world has gone up a massive 88% since 2015. And if you’ve already checked Bali, Bangkok and Singapore off of your solo travel bucket list, read on for our advice on the best alternative destinations in South East Asia to go solo in 2020…
South East Asia has long been a favourite destination for solo female travellers. So we weren’t surprised to learn that Thailand is top of the list for the bestselling travel destination of 2020 so far, according to travel tour company Contiki.
But where should you add to your holiday list for next year, if you want to travel to South East Asia but you’re keen to avoid the crowds?
These locations might be slightly out of the way, but they make ideal destinations for solo female travellers. All of them have friendly vibes and an abundance of activities, and offer something a little different to the more popular destinations in South East Asia.
From beautiful beaches in Boracay, to tailor-made clothing on a budget in Hoi An, this guide offers something for every women looking to explore a new corner of the globe.
Ready to be inspired to book your next solo female travel trip? Scroll down to find out more.
The best solo female travel destinations: Hoi An, Vietnam
The ancient town of Hoi An in Vietnam’s south central coast is known for its historic architecture and tasty local bites. Best part, though? The shopping.
Here you’ll find scores of shops offering tailor-made services for dresses, leather bags, shoes and everything in between. A bespoke dress will set you back around £20-30, while made-to-measure sandals are around £8.
Eat: Vietnam’s iconic bánh mì sandwich can be found in just about every street corner. Emerging in the 19th century during the country’s French colonial period, bánh mì consists of fillings like Vietnamese sausage, chicken, pork pâté and vegetables served in a baguette. Head to Banh Mi Phuong, made famous by a visit from the late Anthony Bourdain on an episode of his No Reservations show in 2009.
Stay: Four-star properties, like Hoi An River Town Hotel, are reasonably priced even for a single traveller.
Do: After shopping in the Old Town, treat yourself to a spa session at Ma Spa.
Getting there: From London, fly via Hanoi, Bangkok or Hong Kong. These flights to Da Nang are two hours or under. In Da Nang, take a 40 minute drive to Hoi An.
The best solo female travel destinations: Boracay, Philippines
For exceptional diving experiences and world-class beaches, look no further than Boracay. The island is home to White Beach, which reopened in October after a period of closure due to environmental concerns. You won’t be lonely here: Boracay has a bustling nightlife, with everything from beachside watering holes to all-out bar crawls on offer.
Eat: Go to Real Coffee & Tea Cafe for calamansi muffins. Made with the natively grown citrus fruit, they have a distinct tangy flavour with a hint of honeyed sweetness.
Do: Book yourself on a diving trip – or better yet, hire a boat that takes you out to sea. You can get a bangka – a Philippine-style double-outrigger boat – for about £26 per person for three to four hours, though you would have to get a group of five together. Make some friends! To book, look for operators along White Beach.
Getting there: There’s no straightforward way. Fly direct from London to Manila, then take a 40-minute flight to Caticlan or Kalibo Airport. From Caticlan, which is closer, take a 15-minute car ride to Caticlan Jetty, where a small boat ferries you to Boracay in 15 minutes.
The best solo female travel destinations: Kagoshima, Japan
Kagoshima has plenty of claims to fame. The seaside city is a foodie haven: this is where you’ll find some of the best Tonkotsu ramen in the world, as well as the Kurobuta black pork, which originally comes from Berkshire but has become a specialty there. Translating as “black pig,” Kurobuta is to pork what Wagyu is to beef – it’s known for its tenderness and rich flavours, thanks to large amounts of marbled fat.
It is also where well-preserved historic samurai residences – some of which are occupied by their descendents – can be found. While you might need a translation app occasionally, the city is easy to get around while the people are friendly and polite.
Stay: JR Kyushu Hotel is located in the heart of the city with convenient transport links.
Do: Take a 30 minute ferry to Sakurajima, the most active volcano in the country. Head to Ibusuki Beach, where you can experience sand bathing – where the body is submerged in warm, black sands. It’s believed to have healing properties thanks to the minerals.
Getting there: From London, fly via Tokyo or Nagoya – the domestic flights to Kagoshima are under two hours.
The best solo female travel destinations: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Borneo is unique in the fact that it is divided into sections ruled by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Mount Kinabalu is located 80 kilometers from Kota Kinabalu, which is in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island. It’s celebrated for its natural scenery, so if you’re into outdoor pursuits, this is the place to be.
Eat: Malaysian cuisine is a cultural melting pot thanks to its rich history, so it’s a must-try. Kedai Kopi Kim Hing Lee, which opened in the Eighties, is known for its pork noodles in soup.
Do: For the experienced climber, tackle the 4,092-metre Mount Kinabalu, which takes two days. Visit the 438-square-kilometre Danum Valley rainforest in Sabah – one of the oldest in the world.
Getting there: Fly from London to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur – both are around two and a half hours from Kota Kinabalu.
The best solo female travel destinations: Jeju, South Korea
Located south of the Korean peninsula, Jeju is a gem of an island. It’s a mix of beautiful hiking trails (at the heart of it sits volcano Hallasan), serene beaches and finally, haenyeo – the female divers Jeju is renowned for. The island’s women have a long traditional of taking up diving for seafood as a profession – so much so that it has become a symbol of the place.
Eat: If you love fresh seafood, Jeju has plenty of them. But for a taste of local flavour, try sea urchin and seaweed soup at Yuri-Ne.
Do: See the deep-diving women in action at Jungmun Saekdal Beach, where there are also plenty of water activities.
Getting there: From London, fly via Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong.
The best solo female travel destinations: Sanya, China
They don’t call this “the Hawaii of China” for nothing. Located on Hainan Island, Sanya is an emerging tropical destination with a flurry of hip hotels opening up. Many properties are beach resorts with all the mod-cons that make it hard to leave, but do venture out for surfing lessons and a dose of culture.
Eat: Dolphin Sports Bar & Grill, a happening spot that serves western fare.
Stay: The Sanya Edition (above), opened by Ian Schrager – a founder of Studio 54.
Do: Head to Bing Lang Gu, villages where the Li and Miao ethnic minority groups reside. There are cultural performances and exhibitions.
Getting there: Fly direct from London to Sanya.
This feature was originally published in November 2018
All images: Unsplash