8 Amazing Destinations That Are Perfect for Solo Travel

Over the past few years, I’ve started to travel solo more and more. I absolutely love exploring new places on my own, and there’s something really special about taking the plunge and going on a solo trip.

I thought it might be useful to share some of the amazing places that I’ve been to that have been great for solo travel, in case you’re thinking about booking a trip, or need some inspiration as a seasoned solo traveller!

Some of the places on my list are entire countries perfect for navigating as a solo traveller, others are specific cities that I’ve been to and would recommend.

 

Stockholm, Sweden

I didn’t really know what to expect when I visited Sweden for the first time and spent a solo weekend in Stockholm,  but I was completely blown away.

Yes it was an expensive city, but it was well worth it.

It felt safe and clean. There’s so much to see and do, with a gorgeous old town and lots of interesting museums.

It felt solo-travel friendly in a lot of ways. Some museums open until late evening, giving you something to do at the time that if often most challenging and lonely for a solo traveller, especially if you’re not interested in going out partying.

There were restaurants that catered to lone travellers, and it’s the kind of city where you can just wander and marvel at your surroundings.

 

Must-see: the Fotograsfika photography museum

Must-do: go on the Millennium film and book tour around the city

Must-eat: the signature dish at Meatballs for the People

 

Read more: A Weekend in Stockholm

 

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Basel, Switzerland

Although not as well known as Geneva or Zurich, Basel seems to attract plenty of tourists with its beautiful old town and many museums.

I travelled there in January which is off-season, and although it was really cold, it made exploring even better as I avoided the crowds.

Like with a lot of cities in Europe, the old town makes it an ideal place for solo travellers to just wander and get lost.

It also felt very safe- possibly one of the safest places I’ve travelled to solo. It feels comfortable to walk around after dark (although you should take the usual precautions you’d take anywhere) and it’s well serviced by public transport too.

 

Must-see: the beautiful Basel Munster in the heart of the Old Town.

Must-do: wander along the Rhine to check out the beautiful views either side of the river

Must-eat: delicious street food at Klara. The dumplings from Mister Momo are a winner!

 

Read more: A Guide to Spending a Weekend in Basel, Switzerland as a Solo Traveller

 

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Iceland

I’d heard lots about Iceland with quite mixed reviews before I visited earlier this year. If I’m honest, the only real reason for my trip was that I could do a free stopover on the way back from Canada!

How wrong I was to underestimate this beautiful and unique country, it exceeded my expectations in every way.

It’s perfect for solo travelers in that’s safe, Reykjavik is a great city to explore on your own and there are numerous tours run by different companies to visit the island’s main attractions.

I was also quite surprised by the abundance of solo traveller friendly restaurants and cafes; I’d pretty much expected Iceland to just cater for couples and groups. There are a couple of cool street food markets, including Hlemmur Food Hall, which is perfect for a quick and tasty meal after a busy day of exploring.

 

Must-see: the views over Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja church.

Must-do: a Golden Circle tour with snorkelling in the Silfra fissure.

Must-eat: a famous (and delicious!) hotdog from the Baejarins Betzu Pyslur stand.

 

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Canada

Whilst I’ve only visited a small part of the country, Canada has a reputation as a safe and friendly country in general.

I found this to be true whilst I was there, never feeling worried about being alone and finding the locals to be really welcoming. For those of us who are English or French speakers, the ease of communicating is also a plus!

I visited Toronto and Montreal, two of Canada’s big cities. Both felt really safe and had plenty to see and do for solo travellers. Montreal in particular felt very solo travel friendly, with loads of cool places to eat and explore.

 

Must-see: Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal

Must-do: Segway tour around Toronto’s Distillery District

Must-eat: Poutine at La Banquise in Montreal

 

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Thailand

For me, Thailand is Asia for beginners. It’s extremely well set up for tourists and there are solo travellers everywhere. It seems to be the setting off point for those travelling longer-term and I think it’s a great place to do or start your first ever solo trip.

Accommodation is varied and cheap, as is the delicious food. You’ll no doubt meet plenty of like-minded solo adventurers and if not, there are plenty of affordable organised tours that you can join.

 

Must-see: the beautiful islands

Must-do: stay overnight in a floating bungalow on the lake at Koh Sok National

Must-eat: street food Pad Thai

 

Read more: 9 Great Reasons to Visit Thailand 

 

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Vietnam 

Like all of the well-trodden parts of South East Asia, Vietnam has plenty of solo travellers. I travelled there both completely solo and as part of a group. Both felt really safe and it was very easy to get around the country.

Visiting Vietnam feels like you get to experience more than one country; each area is so diverse, even down to the regional food dishes. It makes it the perfect place for an adventure on your own, you’ll certainly never be bored!

The prices are also super cheap, including for accommodation. This means that even if you’re travelling solo, you can travel in relative style without blowing the budget.

 

Must-see: Hoi An ancient town

Must-do: spend a couple of days on a junk boat in Halong Bay

Must-eat: eat your way around Hanoi on a street food tour

 

Read more: 14 Unique Things to See and Do in Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Tips

 

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Hong Kong

For me as an English speaker, Hong Kong gave a real sense of the exotic, whilst being super easy to navigate due to the lack of language barrier.

The city is super high tech and modern with great public transport, but has the buzz and grit of an Asian city. A perfect combination in my opinion!

There’s so much to see and do that you’ll never get bored, and you can even take a day trip to the weird and wonderful country of Macau for an additional solo adventure.

It’s easy to find amazing food places where eating alone if comfortable too.

 

Must-see: the Lantau Big Buddha

Must-do: ride the funicular up to Victoria Peak for breathtaking views

Must-eat: dim sum at Michelin-starred (but super cheap) Tim Ho Wan

 

Read more: A Guide to Hong Kong and Macau for First-Time Visitors

 

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Now for a bit of a wildcard solo option not too far from Hong Kong, in case you’re looking for somewhere totally safe but a little more challenging…

 

China

Talk to people who have visited China and they’re likely to say that it’s a challenging place to travel. That said, it’s not impossible, especially as more and more tourists visit!

And as a solo traveller, you should feel really safe. Unlike many places, it also seems like the type of place where females travelling alone are pretty much as safe as males.

China is home to some absolutely incredible sights, and there is such a variety of places to visit that you’ll never be bored even when you’re travelling solo. Add to that the country’s fast and efficient infrastructure (trains I’m looking at you!) and relatively inexpensive costs, and you can see why it’s a great place for solo travel.

I liked the fact that on my solo trip, I was completely pushed out of my comfort zone due to the stark culture change and lack of English spoken. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I enjoy a bit of a challenge when I’m travelling, and China more than delivered on that!

 

Must-see: pandas in Chengdu

Must-do: hike the incredible Great Wall

Must-eat: Peking duck and pancakes

 

Read more: A Guide to Visiting Beijing and The Great Wall of China as a Solo Traveller

Pandas, Spicy Hotpot and Face-Changing Opera: How to Spend Three Days in Chengdu, China

A Complete Guide to First Time Solo Travel in China

 

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I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve travelled solo in any of the places I’ve included, or if you have any spots you’d add!

Pandas, Spicy Hotpot and Face-Changing Opera: How to Spend Three Days in Chengdu, China

Chengdu, China. Chances are that you haven’t heard of this Chinese mega city if you’ve never visited the Middle Kingdom before. Whilst Beijing and Shanghai, even Xi’an, are on most tourists must visit in China lists, Chengdu doesn’t often seem to make the cut. But it should do!

The city has so much to offer and if you’re planning on travelling around China, I’d encourage you to add it your itinerary.

The city’s modern and quite a lot of the locals speak English (unlike in a lot of places in China), which makes it relatively straightforward for foreigners to navigate. There’s lots to see and do, plus the region is famous for its mouth-numbing spicy food. Not to mention that the city is home to a Giant Panda Breeding Centre. Pandas- enough said.

If you’re planning to visit Chengdu, a few days will be enough to explore the highlights of the city but I think you could spend longer if you’re not on a limited time-scale. My time is Chengdu was short and sweet, so I’ve put together a guide to spending 3 days in the city, which covers the main things to see, do and eat, plus some general tips!

 

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Where is Chengdu?

Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province which is situated in the south west of China. The population is around 14 million (pretty standard for a Chinese city!) but it doesn’t feel overly hectic when you’re there.

 

When to visit?

According to many, the best time to visit Chengdu is during September to November when the temperatures are reasonable and there isn’t much rainfall. Autumn seems like a generally good time to visit China but the weather is quite changeable, so be prepared for sun, rain and a little cold!

 

Getting there

Chengdu airport is a large international one with flights from around Europe running daily.

The best way to reach Chengdu is by train if you are already in China. Trains in China are fast, clean, on time and not too expensive. As distances are vast, trains are much more efficient than taking a car or bus.

Internal flights aren’t very reliable as the military routinely shut down the air space at random times, meaning delays are common.

 

Getting around the city

As with many cities in China, there is a reliable and cheap metro, making getting around the city easy. You can walk too but the distances are vast and there can be a lot of traffic.

Be aware that cars and scooters randomly mount the pavement and drive along it at times, despite there being traffic police everywhere!

Frustratingly, you seem to need to buy paper tickets for the metro and the machines have huge queues. But apart from that, the metro is pretty straightforward to use. Note that you have to pass through security (with a separate scanner for your bags) each time you enter a metro station and go down to one of the lines.

 

Where to stay?

There seemed to be plenty of accommodation choices in Chengdu, from huge international hotel chains to quirky hostels. I found that accommodation in China wasn’t that cheap, especially compared to south east Asia, but it’s still affordable.

I stayed in a double room at Chengdu Lazybones Poshpacker Hostel and couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The rooms were really decent for a hostel, and the prices were more than reasonable. The location was good, although not super central; there were places to eat nearby.

The hostel staff also speak good English, and they are really helpful. The common area downstairs was great, and I met plenty of like-minded travellers. They serve tasty food too, and even put on free events over the week, like a hot pot night.

 

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Things to see and do in Chengdu

Visit the Chengdu Giant Panda Base

A trip to Chengdu wouldn’t be complete without visiting the gorgeous pandas at the breeding centre. It’s the city’s main tourist draw, and for good reason.

The centre is similar to a zoo but the centre does seem to carry out some amazing work in helping to preserve pandas. You can read more about visiting the centre in my post here.

 

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Explore Wenshu Monastery

Said to be the best-preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu, Wenshu Monastery is well worth a visit when you’re in Chengdu.

It’s free to enter and it’s pretty extensive, with plenty to see. Be sure to explore the quieter mini courtyards dotted around.

They also serve a delicious vegetarian buffet for lunch, which is a great option if you’re looking for somewhere to eat. It costs 50rmb (around £5.60) and you can have unlimited food. You even get some of the cost back if you take your plate back with no food left- a great way to encourage people not to waste food!

There’s a metro station, Wen Shu Yuan, close to the monastery. You need to take line 1. There are also buses which stop nearby.

 

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Experience a unique Face-changing opera show

One of China’s most popular, Sichuan opera is a must-see when in Chengdu. It originated at the end of the Ming and beginning of the Qing dynasties, and is still a strong tradition.

The highlight of the show is the unique face-changing act, whereby the performers slightly move and the masks on their faces change. It’s amazing to see and I can’t really describe the act in a way that does it justice! Just go and see a show, you won’t regret it.

You can get tickets online, from the theatres or via your accommodation. It’s probably best to book directly, as you can neve quite be sure what seats you’ll get when booking through your hotel or hostel (I sadly ended up paying quite a lot for a not vert good view!).

 

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Wander down the ancient alleys

There are a number of ancient alleys in China, lined with shops, restaurants and teahouses. The Wide and Narrow Alleys are the main ones in the city, and as a result, are crowded with tourists.

Despite the crowds, be sure to spend some time exploring this ancient area of the city. There are plenty of places to grab drinks, food or snacks too.

 

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Enjoy some spicy hot pot

Spicy hot pot is Sichuan’s most popular speciality, and you can eat it all over the city. The hot pot isn’t for the faint-hearted, it really is very spicy (I quite like spice but my mouth was on fire after a few mouthfuls!).

The idea is to share with others; you add meat and/or vegetables to the spicy broth and let them simmer away, before spooning in to your bowl ready to eat.

If you’re travelling solo, I’d recommend having hot pot at your hostel if possible, or joining a food tour. You can get one person hotpots but I feel like the experience wouldn’t be quite the same enjoyed alone.

 

Stroll through the People’s Park

Situated in the centre of Chengdu, the People’s Park is a green oasis amongst the bustling city. It was built in 1911 and was the first public park in the city.

It’s absolute gorgeous and even when busy, feels quite peaceful. There are lots of gardens, lakes and even teahouses. You can also rent boats.

It can easily be reached by metro, use line 2 and get off at The People’s Park station.

 

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Relax with some delicious tea

Enjoying delicious tea is pretty much a necessity in China, and its no different in Chengdu, where there are plenty of teahouses.

For something a bit more modern, I’d recommend Ben Gong’s for delicious iced tea.

 

Take some time out with a coffee by the river

If you’re more of a coffee lover, you should head to Little U Coffee. There doesn’t seem to be many places to have a coffee in Chengdu, but this place serves a great one.

It’s right by the river in quite a peaceful location too. Keep an eye out for the colourful opera masks painted along the side of the river nearby.

 

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Take a day trip to see the Leshan Buddha

If you have time (I didn’t unfortunately), make sure that you take a day trip out to Leshan Buddha, which is an incredible 71-metre high stone structure.

You can read more about the Buddha here.

 

What’s Chengdu like for solo travellers?

As I visited Chengdu solo, I thought it might be useful to add a little bit on what to expect if you’re visiting alone.

Like with the whole of China, I felt really safe as a young female traveller in Chengdu. Expect to be stared at as Westerner but that’s pretty standard in China.

I found that more people spoke English in Chengdu than other places I visited. The city is quite modern and forward-thinking, which seems to make it pretty easy to travel around, even solo.

Visting Chengdu’s Giant Panda Base

When I decided to book a trip to China last year, seeing giant pandas was on my must do list, along with visiting the Great Wall!

So much so that despite reading a lot about China being super difficult to travel alone, I decided to forgo an organised tour so that I could tick both of those things off within the short time I had.

Disclaimer: China is not that difficult to travel around independently and it’s really safe for female travellers.

Read my tips for your first trip to China here.

The majority of tours that I came across didn’t include Chengdu and the city doesn’t seem to be that high on the list for tourists. If you’re planning to travel around China, I’d highly recommend adding Chengdu to your itinerary.

And I mean, who doesn’t want to see giant pandas in their home country?! The city has so much more to offer too, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

 

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Now, I’m not a fan of zoos and am very conscious about the ethics of animals for entertainment etc. but after carrying out substantial of research before my trip, it seemed to me that Chengdu Panda Base is ethical, and has a positive impact.

I generally don’t agree with keeping wild animals in captivity but felt that Chengdu’s base does a lot of work to help these beautiful animals by carrying out research and working to preserve pandas.

I still hold that belief after visiting the centre, and am all for the work the centre does to breed pandas and ensure that we don’t lose these amazing creatures.

In this post, I’ll cover a what the current situation is for pandas, what the base is trying to do to help and some practical information about visiting the centre. There are plenty of cute pictures too!

 

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What’s the current situation?

Although giant pandas are no longer on the “Endangered list”, they are still classed as “Vulnerable” by WWF, with just over 1,800 left in the wild.

There are a number of reasons why there aren’t many pandas left in the world but the main driver is loss of habitat. Humans have cleared many bamboo forests, and pandas are unable to adapt to new habitats where there is no bamboo, as it is their only source of food.

They also have some trouble reproducing, and where a panda gives birth to twins, only one will survive in the wild, stacking the odds against them even further.

With that in mind, it seems like a degree of human intervention, especially when the species was classed as Endangered, was require to stop giant pandas dying out. That’s where research centres like the one in Chengdu come in.

 

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How is the Chengdu Research Base of giant panda Breeding trying to help?

Chengdu Panda Base, as it’s known by its short, informal name, is a not for profit centre geared towards the research and breeding of Giant Pandas. It was established in 1987 and it’s goal is “to be a world-class research facility, conservation education centre, and international educational tourism destination”.

The base has essentially created a natural habitat for giant pandas and red pandas. I’m by no means an expert but I felt that the enclosures were large and well-maintained, with plenty of space for these beautiful creatures to roam (not that they like to move around much haha!).

They aim to encourage breeding and ensure the survival of both cubs when a panda gives birth to twins.

 

 

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What’s the best time to visit?

You can visit the centre year-round but September is a good time in general to visit Chengdu (and most of China), plus you’ll likely see newborn pandas in nursery!

In terms of time of day, arrive at the centre as early as possible. The pandas are most active early on, and you’ll also miss some of the crowds that appear later on.

 

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How do I get to the centre?

Hotels and hostels offer tours to the centre. I went with my hostel and we were essentially driven there, left to roam around and then driven back, which was ideal.

Visting the centre through your accommodation is very convenient, but it is also the most expensive option.

You can travel there via bus or metro, details below:

By bus

1. Take bus 87, 198, 198a, or 655 to Xiongmao Jidi ( Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding) Station.

2. Take bus 9, 18, 25, 32, 64, 64 Express, 70, 85, 87, 99, 146, 150, 156a, 156b, 166, 193, 527, 650, 1030 or 1035 and get off at Dong Wu Yuan (Chengdu Zoo) Bus Station. Then, change to bus 198 or 198a to the base.

3. Take bus 60 or 87, and get off at Longqing Road Shulong Crossing. Then, walk along the Xiongmao Avenue for about 15 minutes to the base.

By metro

Take Metro Line 3 and get off at Dong Wu Yuan Station. Get out from Exit B and then take bus 198 or 198a direct to the base.
Or you can take the same metro to Panda Avenue, and then take bus d025 to the base.

 

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What should I expect when I visit?

There are several different enclosures to see, and each has facts about specific pandas, with quite a few funny and almost insulting lines included. Be sure to read them!

There’s also a room where you can view a video about the centre, which is really informative.

If you do visit when there are newborns, make sure you swing by the nursery. Swing by being the operative word- you really are only allowed a glimpse before being moved along by staff!

Be prepared for huge crowds, this is China after all. Although not as bad as in some other tourist sites in the country, I found that there was still a bit of pushing and shoving as people try to get the best views and photos.

 

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Is there anything else I should know?

  • Wear comfortable shoes- the centre was relatively hilly and there’s quite a lot of ground to cover once you’re inside.
  • Photography is allowed but make sure the flash is turned off.
  • The centre is open daily 7.30am to 6pm. As I said, be sure to to get there early; at opening time if possible.

 

Things to do in Dubai for Solo Travellers

Today’s post is a little different, as it’s my first ever written by a guest! It’s brought to you by Neha Singh from Dubai Wikia.

An avid trekker, explorer and a true foodie; Neha finds happiness in small endeavours of life and loves to pen them down as a cherished memory. A firm believer that “we have just one life to live and so much to do”, Neha lives every moment to the fullest.

The Middle East is somewhere that I haven’t yet had chance to explore, so it’s great to have Neha to share some of the great things for Solo Travellers to do in Dubai!

 

1. Visit The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU)

Before you sign up for any Dubai tour or start on your own, it’s a good thing to learn more about the city. Visit SMCCU to understand the local culture, customs and religion. We recommend that you book the lunch-time tour, which includes a full Emirati meal as well.

It’s a great way to get introduced to the region’s indigenous cuisine. Ask your questions of
the friendly team at SMCCU and they’ll help you understand how a fishing village turned
into one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

 

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

 

2. Half-day City Sightseeing Tour

After the cultural understanding lesson, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the city. Sign up for a half-day sightseeing tour.

You’ll be taken to see many landmarks in a comfortable minivan or coach along with others. Be sure to keep your camera ready to snap pictures of the magnificent Burj Khalifa, the Burj al Arab, the Palm Islands and other landmarks. The tour includes a ride in a water taxi across the Dubai Creek.

Your tour will take you into the AlBastikaya District, which is Dubai’s oldest area and full of traditional character. A visit to the city’s spectacular Gold Souq and the Deira Spice Souq ends your half-day tour.

 

Dubai Sightseeing

 

3. Burj Khalifa At The Top Experience

The next, absolute-must activity in your solo traveller list should be the At The Top Burj
Khalifa experience. You’ll have to ride a 65-meter (213-foot) moving sidewalk, watching a
fabulous multimedia presentation that provides the history of the Burj Khalifa.

After this, you’ll ride one of the world’s fastest elevators to the 124th floor. At the observation deck, take in the unbelievable vistas below you. Grab one of the many powerful digital telescopes in the space and focus on the landmarks you want to see more clearly.

The observation deck is surrounded by ceiling to floor windows. There’s also a parapet outside which you can walk on if you dare.

 

Burj Khalifa at the Top

 

4. RIB Tour

Sign up for a tour of the Persian Gulf on a RIB (rigid inflatable boat). Board the boat from
Dubai Marina and enjoy the speed of the vessel and the waves that crash behind you.

You’ll get up close to the royal palaces, Dubai Lagoon, Burj AI-Arab, Palm Jumeirah, Hotel Atlantis and the World Islands during the cruise. Each boat can hold 10 people, so you’ll get a chance to make friends as well.

 

RIB Tour Dubai

 

5. Helicopter Ride

If you are the adventurous type, then sign up for a helicopter ride over Dubai to experience some spectacular views from above. Up to five passengers can enjoy a helicopter ride at a time.

Your pilot will hover over major landmarks so that you can get some good shots and
videos of them. Be sure to carry a good-quality video camera with telephoto lens with you!

 

Helicopter Tour Dubai

 

6. Zipline Down The Burj Khalifa

Many solo travellers look for adventure and Dubai has plenty of it.

Why not try ziplining down the Burj Khalifa? The building stands at 829 metres tall, and the XDubai zipline takes 40 seconds to descend from the top of the Burj Khalifa to the top of the Dubai Mall, at speeds of 80kph.

However, you’ll have to be chosen for this thrill – only 30 people are
chosen in a week from social media.

 

7. Drinks at Cirque Le Soir

Solo travellers need to mingle with other solos and travellers to share notes. It’s an essential part of travel education.

Meet other like-minded people at the Cirque Le Soir club, which is kitted out like a circus. Dancers gyrate on the many podiums that are scattered about, and various circus performers do their tricks.

Enjoy the international-level performances put on by sword swallowers, fire-eaters, stilt walkers and magicians all night.

 

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8. Visit Dubai Mall

Be sure to visit the world’s largest shopping center, Dubai Mall. It’s as large as 50 football
fields, and has over 1,200 retail outlets.

If you’re not keen on shopping, then check out the Emirates A380 in the mall. You can sit in the pilot’s seat and enjoy a 30-minute simulated flight.

If you love games, don’t miss a visit to the VR Park, where you can play a zillion virtual
reality games, including one where you fall off the Burj Khalifa.

 

Dubai Mall

 

9. Dubai Desert Safari

Include a desert safari experience into your solo travel Dubai list. Get acquainted with the mystery and beauty of the Dubai desert in a cosy 4×4.

If you like, you can participate in desert sports such as dune bashing and sand boarding. Experience what it’s like to ride a moody camel on the shifting desert sands. If you sign up for an evening desert safari, you’ll get to see a magnificent desert sun set as well.

Plus, there’ll be a lovely buffet meal, with a henna artist tattooing your hands and legs. Watch the belly dancer gyrate around the campfire to exotic Arabian tunes. Call it a night under the brilliant desert stars that shine just for you.

 

Desert Safari Dubai

 

10. Hit the beach

Kite Beach is a public beach which has all the amenities usually present at a private beach in Dubai.

Here you’ll find great food trucks and cafes lining the beach front, turquoise blue waters, lifeguards, lounges, towels and everything else you need. Being free, Kite Beach is visited by almost everyone in Dubai.

 

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11. Explore Dubai’s Souqs

Be sure to visit the spice, textile and gold souqs of Deira and Bur Dubai. It’s a great way to
get into touch with the UAE market culture. Eat at one of the local cafes in either Bur Dubai or Deira.

Take a look at the biggest ring in the world displayed at a Deira store. Be awed at
the sheer amount of gold in the souqs. Exploring these traditional souqs is one of the best
things to do in Dubai for solo traveller.

 

Dubai Souqs

 
Conclusion

If you are a solo female traveller, you need to know that Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world. All the same, be sure to make plenty of friends and let people know where you are. Also, try to dress modestly especially when you visit the cultural center and mosques.

 

You can see more from Neha here.

A Guide to Spending a Weekend in Basel, Switzerland as a Solo Traveller

I’ve wanted to visit Switzerland for a while but the cost of doing so had put me off booking a trip until the end of last year, when I came across some cheap flights to Basel (£50 return from Manchester) and managed to find a reasonably priced hotel.

I didn’t know much about Basel, except for what I’d read in a few posts from travel bloggers that I follow, but once I started looking in to it, I decided that I needed to book a trip! The pretty cobbled streets and gorgeous buildings were exactly what I imagined a Swiss city to be, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I saw them in real life.

 

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Basel sits on the Rhine river in the north west of Switzerland, right by the French and German borders. It’s the third biggest city in Switzerland and is well-known for its art and culture.

I only visited for the weekend, so am by no means an expert, but still wanted to share my tips on visiting the city, with some extra recommendations for solo travellers!

 

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Getting there

Basel (Mulhouse Freiburg) airport is a funny one in that it serves three countries; France, Germany and Switzerland. Make sure you follow signs for Switzerland when leaving the airport, otherwise you could end up in the wrong country haha!

I flew with Easyjet from Manchester but there are quite a few options from around the UK and in Europe.

 

Travelling from the airport to the city

As always, you can jump in a taxi outside the airport but this will be your most expensive option.

Public transport in Basel is straightforward and inexpensive, so I’d recommend making use of one of the buses from the airport. I took a bus then a tram, and it took less than 30 minutes to get to my hotel. A quick look on Google maps will tell you the best route.

 

Getting around

There is an extensive tram system operating in Basel, which makes it super easy to get around. If you’re staying in a hotel in the city, you will be given a Basel Pass, which entitles you to free public transport for the duration of your stay, as well as discounted entrance to a number of museums and attractions. Not bad for free!

The city is also really walkable as it’s quite small and it’s definitely the kind of place where you’ll want to just wander and get lost down the pretty cobbled streets.

 

Accommodation

Switzerland is notoriously expensive and although there’s plenty of accommodation choice in Basel, it can be quite pricey. I stayed at the Dorint De Masse hotel as it was cheap but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to be honest. The staff were friendly and the location was ok but the beds were uncomfortable and it was a bit of a faceless, corporate place.

Booking.com and Expedia have loads of options. I wouldn’t worry too much about spending loads to stay right by the old town, as I said the city is really compact and its super easy to get around.

 

How long to stay

To be honest, one day would be fine; two is definitely enough. Given the size of the city, you can cover the main sights easily in a day or two. I was there for just under 48 hours and I did struggle to fill my second day a little bit. If you’re heading there in summer, two days would be perfect as you can spend plenty of time outside (it was January and very cold when I visited!).

Things to see and do

Marktplatz and Rathaus (Basel Town Hall)

Basel’s market place is dominated by the impressive Town Hall, known as Rathaus. The striking red/brown coloured building is 100 years old and the name Rathaus literally translates as “council house”.

It’s well worth seeing; it’s certainly one of the most impressive Town Halls I’ve ever seen!

I wandered inside to have a nosey after admiring the façade but you can take a guided tour for just under £4 per person. The tour is in German most of the time, you’ll need to take the Saturday tour if you require it to be English speaking. More information here.

 The market square itself is bustling and there was a really cool market on when I visited on a Saturday.

 

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Basel Munster

The beautiful Munster (cathedral) seems to be the main focal point of the old town. It’s open all week and entry is free. Be sure to exit at the back of the building for some amazing views over the Rhine and Basel.

 

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Get lost in the Old Town

One of my favourite things about visiting European cities are the Old Towns, you can’t beat them for just wandering around and admiring your surroundings. Basel’s Old Town is super pretty, I spent quite a while just wandering the cobbled streets taking photos and just enjoying the views.

I visited in January and I have to say that I was shocked by how little people there were, especially in the mornings! It was so nice to explore without crowds and crowds of other tourists.

Be sure to include the Spalentor City Gate on your walk around the Old Town.

 

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Walk along the Rhine

Another part of European city breaks I really enjoy is wandering along a river and taking in the views. Wander along the Rhine for wonderful views; especially across from the Old Town on the opposite side of the river.

My Swiss Alps have put together a great walking route, you can check it out here.

 

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Visit one of Basel’s many museums

For such a compact city, Basel has a lot of museums. Almost 40 to be precise!

I visited Kunstmuseum, which houses the largest collection of art in Switzerland. There’s lots of interesting art and admission was really affordable, at just 8 CHF (around £6) with your Basel Card.

 

Check out some street art

I have to say that when I planned my trip to Basel, seeing street art did not spring to mind. In fact, I hadn’t realised that Basel had street art and it was only when I was wandering in the city centre that I came across Gerbergasslein, one of the best know street art installations in the city (apparently!).

Commissioned by nearby bar L’ Unique, the installation is pretty amazing, with everything from sea creatures to famous musicians.

 

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Where to eat and drink

As with pretty much everything else, food is pretty expensive in Basel but there are some great places to eat and grab a cocktail. I only visited a few places but so this list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully it’ll be a good start for a weekend break in the city.

 

Klara

An indoor street food market and bar, Klara is a great place to grab a bite to eat. There’s a number of different food stalls, delicious cocktails and plenty of seating. The vibe’s really cool too, and I’d highly recommend it for solo travellers, as I didn’t feel at all out of place there on my own.

Prices aren’t cheap, in fact I was a little surprised but the food is great. I opted for the dumplings at Mister Momo and they were so delicious!

 

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Tibits

I’d highly recommend Tibits, a vegetarian restaurant, even if you’re a meat eater. It’s essentially a high quality buffet and you pay for your food by weight, which helps stop you overeating.

I really enjoyed the plate of food I had for lunch and washed it down with a delicious Mint Lemonade.

Bread’s free/doesn’t get weighed, so pile it up if you’re really hungry. There’s a brunch option too!

This is also a good choice for solo travellers, as there’s many different types of tables including long benches and the atmosphere is pretty relaxed.

 

Union Diner

Right opposite Tibits, Union Diner serves amazing burgers with rosemary salted chips. Again, prices aren’t cheap and this is essentially a fast food restaurant, but the quality’s really good!

It costs around £17-£20 for a burger, fries and drink. The portions are pretty big though, so it’s definitely fill you up.

Again I felt like this was a good choice for solo travellers, as well as for couples and groups.

 

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Solo travel in Basel

I felt really safe in the city as a solo traveller, even at night time. I was approached by three different groups of religious speakers/missionaries during the day time but they weren’t at all pushy, we just had a nice chat.

Just be sure to take the usual precautions when travelling alone and you should have a straightforward and safe trip.

You could join a free walking tour. They’re always a great way to see the city, meet other travellers and just generally enjoy being in the company of others when you’re travelling solo.

 

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Other tips

  • Sunday seems to be a super quiet day in the city and all of the shops (including supermarkets and convenience stores) are closed! Be sure to do any shopping and stock up on snacks on a Saturday if you’re in Basel for the weekend.
  • There are plenty of ATMs around the city, should you need to withdraw cash to get some Swiss Francs (CHF).
  • There’s often a service charge added to bills, so you’re not required to leave a tip. If you’re really pleased with the service, you can round up to the nearest Franc to leave a little extra.