5 friendly towns for solo travel newbies

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Anyone who’s ever travelled alone will know well its rich delights, but it can be a daunting prospect the first time you try it. Will you find anyone to chat to? What will dining alone be like? How will you fare without the safety blanket of a go-to travel buddy?

It won’t be long before you discover that swell of euphoria that goes hand-in-hand with flying solo. But in the meantime, you may benefit from starting in a town that’s relatively small and welcoming.

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)…

  • Hoi An, Vietnam

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    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.

  • Taormina, Sicily

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    The sun-dappled alleyways of Italy are always a safe bet when it comes to solo travel, and no more so than in the hillside town of Taormina. This small Sicilian hub overlooks the Mediterranean sea, with gladiatorial ruins and epic views of Mount Etna. Grab an espresso (straight up, Italian-style) in the elegant piazza, before ambling over to the majestic Greek theatre, a 3rd Century work of showmanship where chariots once raced.

    Both atmospheric and relaxed, this is a great place to begin your solo adventure in. There’s plenty of scope for head-space but when you fancy some company, you can hit up a handful of welcoming trattorias and bars. It’s one of those friendly towns that makes you happy from the moment you step foot in its maze of winding streets.

    Don’t miss: A hike to nearby Isola Bella (“Beautiful Island”) for emerald waters and laid-back beaches. When the heat of the town gets too much around mid-afternoon, retreat here for a dip and an Aperol Spritz.

  • Stellenbosch, South Africa

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    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 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 easygoing 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 light hike through the surrounding Franschhoek Valley, stopping for vineyard tastings along the way. Welcome to the world’s sunniest and most scenic pub crawl.

  • Luang Prabang, Laos

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    Gentle Luang Prabang sashays to its own beat; a rhythm that is marked by gilded temples and fragrant bursts of bougainvillea. With its French colonial architecture and monks in bright saffron robes, this former royal capital of Laos is a lovely spot to begin your solo voyage in.

    Start with a freshly squeezed lychee juice from one of the cafés down by the Mekong river, before roaming the streets to soak in the easy livin’ vibe. You might pass a group of locals playing petanque or a 16th Century temple or two, alongside small boutiques and yoga schools. Come evening, make a beeline for the bustling night market, where you’ll find local artwork, silver jewellery, intricately crafted lanterns and more.

    Don’t miss: A boat trip or tuk-tuk ride to the Kuang Si falls, a majestic three-tier beauty spot that cascades into a series of natural swimming ponds fringed by tropical foliage.

  • Paraty, Brazil

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    If you want to be swept up by an infectious party spirit and some of the most beautiful beaches known to man, you can’t do better than Brazil. But the hedonist cities of Rio and São Paulo may well knock you for six as a solo travel newbie. Better to get a taste of the pleasures ahead minus the larger-than-life drama, in the tucked-away town of Paraty.

    This artists’ haven is nestled on Brazil’s southeast coast, some hours south of Rio. A UNESCO town, it consists of quaint cobbled streets lined by whitewashed houses, and a harbour that is the gateway to a tropical beach paradise. Order a glass of Portuguese rosé at one of the pavement bars, or wander around galleries and exhibitions as you get to know the local creatives who call Paraty home.

    Don’t miss: A boat trip around Paraty’s nearby islands, with secluded coves and white sandy beaches stretching across a coastline of thick green palm fronds.

    Photos: Flash Pack and Shutterstock

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