Travelling isn’t just about the things you do or the places you see; the people you meet along the way are a huge part of what makes a trip memorable. Plus, if it’s your first time travelling alone it can be daunting trying so many new experiences while going solo.
It won’t be long before you discover that swell of euphoria that goes hand-in-hand with flying solo. But in the meantime, try picking a small, friendly town for your first trip.
A place that will coax you out of your comfort zone bit by bit, without the crash-landing sensation that comes with arriving in giant capitals such as Delhi or Mexico City.
Here are five friendly towns that do exactly that (and Flash Pack runs trips to all of them, so you can start with us before continuing on alone)…
The best friendly towns to visit
Hoi An, Vietnam
With its maze of lantern-lined streets, the charming town of Hoi An – halfway down the coast of Vietnam – is a gorgeous place to kickstart your solo adventure. Grab a bike and pedal round the narrow lanes, framed by colourful stores and cafés. Like all of Vietnam, the people here are friendly and welcoming, but it’s more chilled than the chaotic cities of Hanoi (to the north) and Ho Chi Minh (down South).
Whether you’re sipping on a mango smoothie on An Bang beach, ambling along the mellow riverside or grabbing a massage in one of the thatched stalls that line the marketplace, it won’t be long before you wind down to life, Hoi An-style. And from here, the whole of South-East Asia beckons…
Don’t miss: Getting a custom wardrobe designed for a fraction of the cost back home. Hoi An is a tailoring capital, and you can get beautiful fabrics made up into suits, maxi dresses and more.
Colombia is all about colour, and the vibrant town of Guatapé is no exception. This friendly town is only a short bus ride away from Medellín so there’s no excuse not to pop by. In Guatapé, the streets are filled with pastel-coloured homes bedecked with zocalos that depict the story of whoever owns the building; partly why Guatapé is known as the most colourful town in Colombia.
Nearby is Laguna Guatapé, a perfect spot for a private boat trip. For one of the best views in the world, head to El Peñol. It’s a steep climb up a set of stairs set into the rock, but the view is truly spectacular.
Don’t miss: For a spot of people-watching, head to Plaza de Zocalos, a small square where you can partake in a cup of rich Colombian coffee served up by locals.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
From spellbinding safaris to the magnificent beauty of the Garden Route, South Africa is rife with opportunities for adventure. But cities such as Durban and Johannesburg can feel overwhelming to the rookie solo traveller. The leafy town of Stellenbosch is one of the friendliest towns to visit, and a good way to ease yourself into the action.
Surrounded by the rolling vineyards of the Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch is only a 40-minute ride away from Cape Town and it’s like a tiny, laid-back slice of its bigger coastal sister. Make yourself at home in the oak-lined avenues of this easy-going university town. A glass of something chilled is practically mandatory in this region, and you’ll find yourself in the stellar company of Stellenbosch’s student population who throng the pavement cafés, creating a lively night scene.
Don’t miss: A visit to the Boschendal Estate, a 17th-century Cape Dutch farmstead. Here you’ll get to experience a private cellar tour, with exclusive wine tastings.
Kosgoda, Sri Lanka
Embrace the spirit of adventure in the small coastal town of Kosgoda in Sri Lanka. This slice of paradise is one of our favourite friendly towns and should be on any solo traveller’s bucket list. The sandy beaches are also home to turtle conservation projects, so you can meet new people while helping these beautiful creatures.
Lap up the sun surrounded by the most incredible wildlife, before taking a surfboard out on the water and ending your day at a beachside bar.
Don’t miss: Hop on one of the nearby river safaris to glide through wetlands, surrounded by imposing mangroves and a whole host of flora and fauna.
If you’re in need of a little TLC, head to the friendly town of Tepoztlán in Mexico. It’s known as a Pueblo Mágico (magical town) and plays host to a plethora of healers, artists and musicians. Its laid back nature, rich culture and creative nature is truly a balm for the soul.
And if nature is what you need, Tepoztlán has that too. Surrounding the town is El Tepozteco National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for the incredible wildlife living deep in its rainforests. For the best views, take a hike to the summit of El Tepozteco, an Aztec pyramid where you’ll truly be able to take in the beauty of your surroundings.
Back in the town itself, there are craft markets lining bohemian streets and colourful floating gardens to explore. With such a variety of things to do and see, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make new friends.
Don’t miss: Wind down with a temazcal experience. This is an ancient sweat lodge ritual where the heat from hot volcanic rocks creates a kind of natural steam room, helping you expel aches and pains.
Photos: Flash Pack and Shutterstock