There’s an array of choices. Just imagine: From the North Pole to the South Pole, from the east to the west – there are countless destinations waiting to be explored. There are destinations for every taste, style, budget, interest, tolerance level and physical ability.
If you’re a travel rookie, yet to have embarked on an overseas trip, your first international travel experience can be a defining moment in your life. First experiences always set the tone – your first abroad trip can either cause you to catch the travel bug or vow to stay in the comfort of home.
My first international trip was to Singapore with two friends when I was 16. Growing up in Malaysia, traveling to Singapore wasn’t a scary trip since it’s the equivalent of an American traveling to Canada. The logistics of this international trip were simple. Besides going through the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority in Woodlands, at the Malaysia/Singapore border, and getting out of the car for a few minutes, all I had to do was be driven to a friend’s house, arriving less than an hour after stopping at the checkpoint.
What are the best travel destinations for international travel rookies?
The responses from Trippy users Stephen “Sven” Minor from Florida and Jenna Davis from Ontario are a good start when answering this question.
Well, the answer to this question is based upon where you live (West Coast requires longer plane ride if you are not going to Canada).
This is going to be the first and likely last time I say this but I always think it helps to follow the ‘tourist trail’ when you’re a new traveller, especially if you’re a new SOLO traveller .. let me add female to that as well!
When I’m travelling solo, I often wish I could take the ‘off the beaten path’ route but at the same time it’s important to stay safe.
Before you decide where to go, consider these points shared by Stephen and Jenna:
• What are your likes (i.e. skiing, snorkeling, mountains, beaches, etc.)?
• What are your dislikes? Would you prefer a destination where English is the main language?
• How near or far do you want the destination to be from home? Would you consider destinations that are over 6 hours away by plane?
• Will you be traveling alone, with a companion, or as a part of a guided group tour?
I’ll add two more questions to the above:
• What’s your budget?
• How long do you want to travel for?
So, here are 11 top destinations for international travel rookies suggested by Trippy users
Singapore is one of the safest destination in the world. This small island city-state has a population of just under six million people, yet is clean and orderly.
Singapore has an easy to use public transportation, top-notch street food, and diverse cultural attractions. One of the advantages of traveling to Singapore is that almost everyone speaks English.
In Asia, I agree Singapore is definitely a nice toe-dip for “beginners” – safe, clean, diverse, and friendly, with minimal language barriers.
But even I – admittedly a bit jaded and preferring more exotic destinations – still love to return often for the food. The locals have a long proud history as *serious* foodies (and the hygiene is super clean), so treat every meal as an opportunity not to be missed. The vast choices are inspired by cuisines from around the eastern hemisphere. In my personal opinion, it’s the best place to eat in the world!
2. New Zealand
If you live in American and don’t want to take a long-haul flight, you won’t make it to New Zealand. It takes over 13 hours to fly from Los Angeles to Auckland. It takes even longer if you live on the East Coast, as you’ll need to fly to the West Coast first to catch a connecting flight.
But don’t let the long-haul flight stop you from visiting New Zealand. Trippy member, Nathanael Boyle from Boston said:
New Zealand. Hands down.
Nearly the entire country is setup for new travelers of every kind to plugin to the backpacking or independent travel networks, and see everything it has to offer. It’s a remote destination that offers everything from beaches to mountains (okay, no deserts), from culture to solitude. People are distinctly different (even to Aussies), yet friendly and English-speaking. Plus it’s arguably the most beautiful country in the world.
And most importantly, you can learn to do any sort of travel or adventure or exploration from here, in preparation for the harder places, with less infrastructure.
New Zealand is known for its natural beauty, outdoor activities, world-class Sauvignon Blanc, Maori culture and the Hobbiton Movie Set. Regardless of where you are in the country, you are never far from one of New Zealand’s abundance of beaches. I also enjoy New Zealand’s food like lamb chops, meat pies, fish and chips and kumara chips.
You can easily spend anywhere from a week or a year in the North and South Islands.
Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, Ireland will delight those who love cliffs, pastureland, mountains, old castles, ancient books, small towns, pubs and Guinness Stout.
This is what Trippy user Emily Della Fera from Otavalo, Ecuador said about Ireland:
I think Ireland is a great first trip for people! No language barrier if you are from the U.S. and the people are super friendly. I got off the bus in Dublin and was looking for the hostel I was staying at, and someone came up to me and said that I looked lost and asked if he could help. I told him where I was going and he walked me there! I traveled all through the country and everyone I met was the same! Very willing to help you out, find a place, or treat you to a pint!
Ireland.com has a great resource listing 30 free things to do in Ireland. Here are 5 of them
- Visit Game of Thrones’ Territory – Winterfell, Dragonstone and Vaes Dothrak in Northern Ireland
- Check out the ancient books, scrolls and more in Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
- Visit Titanic Pier in Cobh, County Cork
- Join the Harry Potter, Excalibur, Leap Year, The Quiet Man, Dracula, and PS I Love You movie trails
- Whale watching in West Cork, a protected sanctuary since the 1990s. Look out for Fin, Minke, and Humpback whales
From Ireland, you can hop on a ferry to Wales and continue your journey to little villages in England and Scotland.
While there is the element of the language barrier, it’s also part of the adventure. Generally, people are very friendly and it’s possible to get around knowing minimal Japanese (i.e. Train stations usually have the English word along with the Japanese characters)
Hint: Look for students if you have a question – they’re more likely to feel confident speaking English.
Besides the natural beauty, historical sites, and amazing places to eat, I think the biggest advantage of this being a first international trip for rookies is safety. Japan is notoriously safe – travelers would not have to worry about being pick-pocketed or scammed. The second biggest advantage would have to be transit – it’s clean and efficient and will take you to most places you want to go. You can also purchase a Japan Rail Pass in your own country.
Check out Japan Rail Pass for affordable transportation around Japan.
5. Great Britain
Great Britain includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And within England, you have London, Northern England, Central England, Southwest, and Southeast. In Scotland, there are the Highlands, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Applecross, Inner Hebrides and Shetland.
Jason Haas from Virginia said England, Scotland and Ireland are great places to start because:
There are enough similarities to the US that you won’t be blown away but enough differences to make you appreciate other cultures. Also, if you are into history, castles, or just beautiful scenery you are in for a treat. Europe, in general, is great because you can see such a variety of cultures and landscapes in a small geographical area.
Kristi Dabertin from Chicago wrote:
I usually recommend London, there’s no language barrier (or should I say not much of a language barrier!), it’s a fascinating city with lots to do, you can read all of the signs, the food is varied but not exotic and there are a lot of direct flights from the US. It’s different enough that you feel like you are in a foreign country but not so different that travel newbies would feel overwhelmed. It’s where I went for my 1st trip and after that I was hooked!
To me, London is very much like New York City. If you live in a small town and have never ventured out to the big cities, the sprawling city of London can be intimidating if you’re traveling solo. Jacey and Scott Mahaffy recommended Scotland because:
The Scottish folks are about as friendly as you will find in this world. They instantly become your best friend after a 5 minute conversation. And…the country is spectacularly beautiful, easy to access (multiple flights to multiple cities), has easy rail access (no renting cars). I think it prepares a first time traveler well for the next trip too. Scottish accents can be hard to understand, so they may have to work through a bit of a language barrier-but they will-so it gives them some confidence to try an actual foreign speaking nation later.
Australia is a large country with six states, each with its own unique offerings. To make the most of your first trip to Australia, ask yourself these questions before you plan your trip:
- What are your interests? Examples: nature (parks, wild animals, coral reefs), cities, architecture, wineries, beaches, history, aboriginal culture, food, etc.
- How long do you want your trip to be?
- What is your budget?
Michael Heyward from London mentioned Australia:
…it is a long trip, but great fun, relaxed, safe and did I mention fun?
Great food, interesting and different wildlife, fantastic beaches, weird sports (great cultural experiences to be had).
FUN, safe… you really can’t go wrong.
7. Costa Rica
Named the “World’s Happiest Country” by Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica is a delightful destination for anyone who loves the “pure life” (pura vida) – good beaches and surfing spots, eco-friendly resorts, protected forests, organic coffee farms, and more. Speaking fluent Spanish is a plus in Costa Rica. You can still get by with only English, though, especially in the northern Pacific and Gold Coast regions. Many younger generation Ticos (Costa Ricans) have a great command of the English language even in the lesser known tourist regions in the country.
Trippy users Kyle Ganshert from Costa Mesa and Justin Schmid from Phoenix both agreed that Costa Rica is one of the best destinations for travel rookies.
If you’re looking for great beaches and other natural wonders, Costa Rica for sure. It’s pretty heavily tourist-ed so you can get by just fine without knowing any Spanish.
There are also tons of guided and organized tours if you want to check those out or if you decide to do activities on your own, there are tons of easily found resources (both on the interweb and in person) on what you can do and how to get there.
It’s foreign enough to push you out of your comfort zone without ever becoming too uncomfortable.
My first international trip as an adult was Costa Rica. I spoke a bit of Spanish and had a minimal budget … things went just fine. It’s not far from home, it’s friendly, it’s familiar (linguistically for a guy from the Southwest). I think it’s a great place to get started in international travel.
I would recommend Peru for travel rookies. It’s a land of diversity where every region has its own history, culture, and attractions. Some of the top attractions in Peru are Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, Cusco, the Amazon rainforest and Lake Titicaca. Guided tours in Peru are affordable and there are options for any age group.
Tucan Travel, a UK-based tour operator has many tour options for travelers of every taste, budget, comfort level, and interest. My family and I traveled with Tucan Travel for 46 days, taking a guided tour that started in Rio and ended in Lima.
We wouldn’t have seen as much as we did had we not joined a tour. If you prefer traveling alone, I suggest joining a group at the beginning of your trip to Peru, getting familiarize with the culture and surroundings, then venturing out on your own. It is not possible to hike the Inca Trek without a certified tour guide. It is advisable to get your Inca Trek permit at least six months in advance.
Bali is a popular destination for Australian travel rookies because it is relatively cheap and only a six-hour flight from Australia. Some travelers love it so much that they live in Bali long term. Over four million tourists from around the world visit Bali very year and the number is still growing. The island’s population is just over four million.
This tourist-friendly island in Indonesia is a magical place for travel rookies who like the beach, Balinese culture, cheap beer and delicious local food like nasi campur, babi guling (suckling pig) and nasi goring. Most the Balinese are people are Hindus and in every neighborhood, you will see sacred offerings, ritual, and ceremony.
10. The Bahamas and the Caribbean Islands
The Bahamas is easy to get to for Americans, Canadians, and Europeans. Travel rookies will easily adapt to the laid-back, fun and relaxing environment in The Bahamas and the other Caribbean Islands. Go island hopping in the Caribbean after visiting the Bahamas.
Mark Reynolds from Nassau said:
The Bahamas. I may be a little biased as a citizen and resident, but the Bahamas is an ideal destination for first time travelers outside of the U.S. Only 179 miles from Florida, it is about a 45 minute flight from Miami, or for those nervous of air travel, a short crossing by boat. To sweeten the deal for first time travelers, there’s also no visa requirements for visitors to the country.
While the capital Nassau has it’s examples of colonial architecture and fine dining in the form of Café Matisse, Mahogany House and Graycliff, it’s essentially an overpopulated city and a ‘Tourist Trap’ with few redeeming qualities.
My suggestion is to hop an inter island flight or ferry (there are over 700 islands in the Bahamas) to Eleuthera, Long Island or the Exuma. Within an hour you can then step back in time and visit small friendly communities and idyllic empty beaches, explore caves, snorkel reefs and feast on the bountiful local seafood simply prepared including spiny lobster, grouper, snapper and stone crab.
If none of this is enough to entice you, there’s always a hammock in the palm trees and cool ocean breezes.
Trippy members Staci Nicole from Cleveland and Katherine Belarmino from San Diego recommended Italy for the following reasons:
- No major language barrier because most people speak English in popular tourist cities like Rome
- Locals are friendly
- Food is delicious and not too exotic
- Simple rail system
- Iconic tourist sights
Italy is famous for its food, wineries, olive groves, iconic sights, renaissance-style villas, and ancient art.
Don’t hold back. Take the plunge and buy those plane tickets for the trip you’ve always wanted to take. Pick a destination and go explore the world. Still having doubts? Become a Trippy user and ask us your pressing travel questions.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi