Solo Travel in Asia
Budget: From $25 to $90 a day
Cheapest – India / Laos
Most expensive – Japan
Languages spoken: Russian, Chinese, Mongolian, Thai and many more.
Solo Female Friendly ratings:
- Southeast Asia = 5 out of 5
- South Asia & Central Asia = 2 out of 5
- Eastern Asia = 3 out of 5
Asia is the largest continent and is divided into several regions, from the ‘Stans’ in Central Asia to Indonesia in the south.
Buddhist temples and culture can be found all over Southeast Asia and this region is by far the cheapest on the continent.
There are so many places to see that you’ll be spoilt for choice: visit Cambodia for Angkor Wat, Vietnam for Halong Bay, Laos for Vang Vieng, marvel at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, visit orangutans in Borneo and take a river cruise in Singapore.
Asia is a melting pot of cultures, and each region brings a different experience.
Solo Travel in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is a traveller’s dream. It’s welcoming, cheap and very easy to get around. Many travellers follow a certain trail, so it’s easy to meet people and perfect for the first-time traveller.
The most popular backpacking countries are Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia.
Myanmar is a country drenched in rich Buddhist culture that forms part of the Golden Triangle and borders the Northern tribes of Thailand. The Philippines and Bali attract those searching for more of an island beach holiday.
Thailand has more to offer than hill-tribe treks and rice paddies. Surrounded by limestone karsts, the islands have a party atmosphere that will satisfy the hardest clubber or, if it’s the tranquillity that you need, head to the lesser-known islands, south of Bangkok.
Thais are especially friendly, but you do need to be careful at night so don’t accept any drinks bought for you from strangers.
Be prepared to get ripped off in tourist areas, too. You may be surprised by the amount of landmine victims in Cambodia and Vietnam, so be prepared for poverty and begging. Unfortunately, this region also attracts older men looking for young Thai or Cambodian girls, so you may not feel comfortable in certain areas where it is openly displayed.
Bali is beautiful, but Kuta does have hard sellers, so be firm or just ignore them if you don’t want to buy anything. Kuta is very touristy and anything goes here, but dress conservatively if you visit the rest of the island. Ubud is the cultural heart, with temples and parks and you may prefer to stay here to avoid the crowds.
Asia is a great continent to explore, but you may prefer to join a group tour to travel with others.
Recommended Asia Tours
- G Adventures – Worldwide group tours throughout Asia for all ages
- Stray Travel – Southeast Asia tours and tours to Borneo & Bhutan
- TruTravels – Offers flashpacker and fitness and sailing trips to Asia
- Wendy Wu – Fully escorted tours to Japan, Sri Lanka & other Asia destinations.
Travelling in Southeast Asia
Getting around Southeast Asia is easy. Air Asia regularly has cheap internal flights, which is perfect if you are restricted by time. As an example, you can fly internally to Kuala Lumpur from Jakarta for just $80 one way.
Throughout most of Southeast Asia there are good bus systems which take you across the border from Thailand to Malaysia. There is also a railway line here to Taman Negara National Park and the Perhentian Islands.
From Malaysia, you can take the train to Singapore, which also has a reliable bus system. Local buses operate in Indonesia, along with tourist buses and boats to the islands. If you’re looking for a lift, climbing aboard a pick-up truck is common in Thailand.
Taking the overnight train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is an adventure, but perfectly safe if noisy. Day seats transform into beds with plenty of air and the view of rice paddies as you ride north through the country. The train also heads to Surat Than and Trang in the south and Ubon Ratchathani in the east.
There are overnight boats that operate across the Andaman Sea from island to island. Prepare to be sleeping on a mattress on the floor close to other travellers. Long-tail boats take you across shorter distances, but they do get overcrowded. Don’t expect health and safety to be top of their agenda here.
In Myanmar, travelling by bus is the best way to travel economically to see the country, but it can be a bit of a bumpy ride. To some major tourist destinations, such as Bagan, Mandalay, Taunggyi (Inle), Naypyidaw and Yangon, the coaches have quite comfortable seats. You wouldn’t want to hire a car here as the road infrastructure isn’t ideal.
In Vietnam, you’ll find cyclos: three-wheeled bicycle taxis to take you on short distances. You can also hire a motorbike and a driver for a few days or a few hours to take you around the country. Vietnam can be time-consuming, so consider an overnight train journey if you’re travelling up to Hanoi.
In Cambodia, you can hire a motorbike driver to take you around. They are a great way of reaching the temples of Angkor Wat for sunrise or sunset. Tour companies operate buses around the country. Just walk into any tourist office, and they can book one for you. Be prepared for bumpy roads.
The best way to get around the Philippines is by air and ferry. There are local jeepneys for short rides. Travelling in Southeast Asia is definitely for the adventurous solo, but it is also the perfect continent to cycle around, especially in the rural areas of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Afghanistan isn’t advisable to travel to, and Bangladesh isn’t as visited as the other destinations. Pakistan attracts hikers, especially for the north of the country, but you may want to take a tour here to feel more comfortable.
Many women travel to India to experience its diverse world of colour, spices and spirituality, and for many, it is a life-changing experience. if you are streetwise and remain vigilant, India is a beautiful country to explore as a solo female.
There is extreme poverty here, so be prepared to get hassled from beggars. In beach destinations such as Goa, you may be the centre of attention if you are just in your bikini.
Expect unwanted attention from men and avoid being over-friendly by keeping yourself covered up. Just south in the Indian Ocean is the island of Sri Lanka, a country of tea plantations, elephants and untouched beauty that attracts those looking for culture.
Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is an oasis of calm, with rivers, forests and monasteries dotted throughout the tiny country. It is one of the safest countries. Here you can find the magnificent Himalayan mountain range that runs along Bhutan, India, Nepal and Tibet. Once a former residence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet shares the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest, with its neighbour Nepal, a country famed for trekking.
Mongolia is known for Genghis Khan and the Gobi Desert. It’s the country to experience a night in a ger (or yurt) and horse ride across green plains. The Maldives are absolutely stunning and the definition of picture-perfect beaches, but they do attract honeymooners, so you may find yourself very solo here.
Travelling in South Asia
India is so vast that taking a train is the easiest way to get around, and you can even reserve on the internet before you go.
As a solo traveller, you could find yourself being the only Westerner on the train, so avoid the male-only carriages and if you’re travelling overnight, choose an upper berth in the sleeper carriage, which has more privacy.
Taking the train in India is an experience. You may even be sat next to a family watching the local life of India passing by.
Buses in Nepal are crazy. Small ones are overpacked and large ones drive erratically along mountain roads, so use internal flights if you don’t want to take the bus. Prepare to be squashed in if you choose to travel by minibus here, with passengers even crouched over standing up.
If you’re travelling to Sri Lanka, you’ll find the trains very overcrowded and not a pleasant experience. Hire a taxi driver or a tuk-tuk for just a short ride.
The only way to see Bhutan is on a tour unless you are invited by someone in the country. A tour will include your guide, accommodation and food and is usually in a private car or minibus.
Boats or seaplanes are the only ways to get around the Maldives, with seaplanes operating from Male, the capital.
East Asia comprises of: China, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. Experience nomadic life in Outer Mongolia, or Chinese cuisine, tranquil gardens and majestic landscapes along the Yangtze River in China.
Trek along the Great Wall, see the Terracotta Army or just get back to nature at Tiger Leaping Gorge. Enjoy the nightlife of South Korea, the buzz of Tokyo and the many islands of the Philippines.
East Asia is beautiful and culturally colourful, but it can be more challenging to travel to than Southeast Asia.
The language barrier in China makes communication difficult, and they tend to stare at foreigners, so be prepared to be the centre of attention. You’ll receive a lot less attention in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and soon win back your solo confidence in these cities.
Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are completely different, with people who will go out of their way to help you. A few of the local phrases will help to get by in these countries.
In Mongolia, you may find more hospitality outside of the capital. Mongolians who live in Ullanbator, the capital, appear to have a different view on Westerners and may not be as friendly as you expect. However, step outside of the capital and welcoming guests is part of the nomadic culture.
North Korea is only accessible with a tour company, but travelling here is controversial. Tours are used as propaganda and you are not allowed to go anywhere outside of the organised itinerary. If you do visit here, go with an open mind.
Travelling in East Asia
The best thing about Eastern Asia are the train systems and the bullet trains, which travel at over 200mph. Train travel is the best way to travel in China, Taiwan and Japan. China has overnight trains called sleepers, and you can also find sleeper buses.
You can also travel across countries with connecting rail routes. The Trans Mongolian begins in Russia and runs to Beijing in China, where you can hop aboard and travel down to Ullanbaatar in Mongolia. The journey from Beijing to Mongolia takes two days.
Japan has express train services and the futsu, which are the slowest but the cheapest option. Buying a Japan rail pass will save you money. There is also a good metro system, domestic flights and boats to get around. South Korea is also connected via a good train network.
You can get to China, Japan and Russia using the ferries, and if you’re going to Hong Kong, the best way to see it is on a cruise around Victoria Harbour on a junk boat. Rickshaws operate in Beijing, but be careful hopping in one as this is one of China’s scams, and they will rip you off even if you agree on the price beforehand.
Transport is difficult in Mongolia, so you’ll need a private driver or a tour to get around. There are buses from the capital to Terelj National Park, but the places aren’t signposted, so you need to ask where to get off. They also have a strange taxi system where any driver can be a taxi, so be careful that you don’t get ripped off.
Central Asia was once part of the ancient Silk Road and Uzbekistan has many preserved monuments from this era. This region also formed part of the former Soviet Union and still has Soviet statues within its capital cities. It is full of history, beautiful mountains and mausoleums and is cheap within the countries. The countries are also known for their dictatorships and visiting this region is definitely an education.
Turkmenistan is the most difficult to enter, with the government rejecting visas. The highlights here are the Darvaza Gas Crater, fossilised dinosaur tracks and Yangi-Kala Canyon. The other four countries are either visa-free or require an eVisa.
Kazakhstan is the largest of the Central Asian states, and is relatively poor and underdeveloped, but is home to welcoming locals, the oldest nature reserve and Astana, its futuristic-style city. Kyrgyzstan is known for hiking and has been described as the ‘Switzerland of Central Asia’, because of its untouched nature. Tajikistan also offers incredible nature and hiking.
If you choose to visit the ‘Stans’ independently, you may feel a bit lonely, as this region doesn’t see many travellers except for Uzbekistan, which is the country with the most tourism infrastructure. Tours only run on weekends in Kazakhstan, so pre-book them if you can.
Knowing a bit of Russian will help you to get by. Kyrgyzstan is one of the friendliest in Central Asia, and as women were independent in the Soviet Union, you won’t find yourself hassled here, but you could find yourself getting overcharged for goods in Uzbekistan.
Travelling in Central Asia
There is a reason that solos tend to take a Central Asia tour here. Travelling overland and trying to see more than one country can be challenging. Turkmenistan is very difficult to travel around and if you get accepted for a visa, you may only have five days to see all of it. Consider a group tour for this country.
Distances in Kazakstan are vast, although there are buses, trains and minibuses for the bigger cities. There is hardly any public transport in Kyrgyzstan, so you need to either hire a car or a private driver to get around. There are cheap internal flights from Osh to Bishkek, and it is also easy to get across the border to Kazakhstan via minibuses.
This is also the same in Tajikistan, which is the most difficult to get around. Although people come here for the Pamir Mountains, public transport is virtually nonexistent, so you need a car. The taxis are good here compared to the rest of the region, where anyone driving a car can be a taxi driver.
You can travel across Tajikistan to Uzbekistan by taxi (across the land borders). Once you are in Uzbekistan, it is easy to travel around with high-speed trains on the main routes, such as Bukhara to Samarkand. Buy your ticket at the train station beforehand to ensure that you have a seat. If you do hire a car, be prepared for security checks along the roads in Uzbekistan, but this is definitely the easiest country to visit here.
Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey sit in the West of Asia. This region is becoming more popular with travellers, who come for skiing in the Caucasus Mountains. There is some confusion over whether Georgia is in Europe or Asia, as it lies on the boundary. Turkey also lies on both continents and is the gateway to Asia from Europe.
What this area does offer is a relatively new tourism, especially in Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia was the first Christian nation in the world, and the country is dotted with churches and monasteries. It is one of the most historical and fascinating countries to visit, with a sombre past.
Its neighbour, Azerbaijan, is rich in oil and natural gas and is known as ‘The Land of Fire’. As well as the sensational Flame Towers, the country also offers mud volcanoes, cave drawings and futuristic buildings.
Georgia is more understated and although the capital has its own fair share of modern monuments, the country is more known for its historic and cultural sites. Visit the David Gareja Monastery, the ancient cave city of Vardzia or the winelands of Kakheti.
Then there is Turkey which needs a whole month to explore. From the Blue Mosque in Istanbul to the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey has beach holidays, culture and ruins to explore. The only country where you may get attention as a solo is Turkey.
Turkey definitely feels more male-dominated, and you may find yourself waiting in queues as men take priority. Tour guides may be a bit sleazy, so just be firm and assertive. Turkish women wear what they want, but it’s still better to cover up to avoid any unwanted attention.
In Georgia, you may find the occasional man staring at you, but apparently they can now get fined for doing this. The country also offers homestays for travellers as a way of creating cultural exchange.
Travelling in West Asia
Travelling in between this region is quite straightforward. From Georgia, it is easy to travel to Armenia and Azerbaijan with minibuses or via overnight Soviet trains, which stop at the borders.
Trains are slow, but incredibly cheap within Georgia. If you are in a hurry, there are several minibuses from Tbilisi to Kutaisi and Batumi on the Black Sea coast. You can reserve train tickets through Railway.ge.
The infrastructure of the roads in Armenia makes it difficult to drive through some areas. There is a train network which goes to Vanadzor, Gyumri and Sevan, but it can be slow. Mini-vans operate inter-city, but you may find yourself having to go back to Yerevan (the hub) to travel to a different part of the country.
From Baku in Azerbaijan, you can either hire a car or take one of the buses which connect most of the cities (they are called marshrutkas). You pay your fare on the bus.
In Turkey, you’ll want to fly internally if you are planning to visit many areas in the country. Night buses are really safe, and they allocate you a seat number to ensure that you are sitting with another woman.
As you can see, there are so many regions of Asia, so decide on what type of experience and activities you are searching for and how comfortable you want your trip to be. Southeast Asia travel guide for solos
- Hill tribe trekking in northern Thailand
- Night safari at Singapore Zoo
- The temples of Bagan in Myanmar
- Sunset at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
- Staying with a hill tribe in Sapa, Vietnam
- Riding a two-humped camel in Mongolia
- Riding the Trans-Mongolian Railway
- Tiger Leaping Gorge in China
- Watching taekwondo in South Korea
- Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan
- The Registan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
- Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
- Seeing the Komodo Dragons
- Island-hopping in Thailand
- Visiting the rice fields in Bali, Indonesia
Seven Wonders of the World
- Mount Everest in Nepal/Tibet
- Great Wall of China
- Taj Mahal in India
Itineraries for Asia
One Week Asia Itinerary
Thailand – Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Bangkok, Ko Samet, Bangkok.
Cambodia – Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Battambang, Phnom Penh. Indonesia – Bali, Kuta, Ubud, Lombok Island.
Mongolia – Ulan Bator, Terelj National Park, Karakoram.
Uzbekistan – Bukara, Samarkand, or Kazakhstan – Almaty, Astana.
Georgia – Kutaisi, Tbilisi, David Gareja monastery.
2 Week Asia Itinerary
Below are examples of a Southeast Asia itinerary 2 weeks.
Thailand – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Mae Hong Son (via Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Surat Thani), Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao (Chumphon) via Bangkok.
Laos – Huay Xai, Pakbeng, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane (side trip from Luang Prabang to Nong Kiau).
Cambodia – Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kep, Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kratie.
Myanmar – Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Yangon. Sri Lanka – Colombo, Kandy, Kalutara, Galle.
Uzbekistan – Khiva, Bukara, Samarkand, Tashkent. Georgia – Kutaisi, Tbilisi, overland to Baku in Azerbaijan.
3 Week Asia Itinerary
Eastern Asia – Hong Kong, train to Yangshuo, Yichang, Xiling Gorge, Xi’an, train to Shanghai, train to Beijing.
India – Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Varanasi. Philippines – Manilla, Boracay, Baguio, Banaue.
Southeast Asia Itinerary For 1 Month
This South East Asia travel route is perfect for a month if you are planning on backpacking Asia.
Southeast Asia: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Khong, Huay Xai, Pakbeng, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, Tha Khaek, Savannakhet, Pakse, Champasak, Don Khong, Don Dhet, Don Khon, Kratie, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Sapa.
If I've inspired you to travel solo to Asia, click on the photos below for the solo destination guide for your chosen country.