Deciding to travel the world for the first time can be a daunting experience, no matter how much confidence you have. You’re heading out into the great unknown –- to an unfamiliar place where you may not even speak the language. How will you get around? What if you don’t make any friends? What if you get scammed? What if everything goes wrong?
For first-time travelers, I recommend starting out in a country that’s easy to travel through. Don’t jump in at the deep end and head off-the-beaten-track to a destination that sees little tourism and will be hard to get around. Instead, you should look to visit a place with a well-worn tourist trail, where you’ll be able to navigate with ease, giving you more opportunity to experience the place you’re traveling through.
These are five of my favorites.
Hands down, Southeast Asia is the best region to travel through if you’ve never done it before. It’s foreign, it’s exciting, it’s cheap, and it’s easy.
In Southeast Asia, you’re guaranteed to make friends. It’s a rite of passage for backpackers all over the world, and there’s a well-worn path you’ll walk with them. If I had to narrow it down to just one country, though, I’d pick Thailand. It has beautiful beaches, tons of travellers to hang out with, a fascinating history, lots of temples, a delicious cuisine, it’s super cheap, it’s easy to get around, most locals you come into contact with will speak English… have I sold you on it yet?
Head to Thailand as your first stop and you’ll leave with happy memories and hundreds of friends. I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t loved it.
If you don’t fancy heading quite so far abroad, fly to Mexico instead. Despite its reputation in much of the United States, Mexico is very safe if you’re a tourist and planning on spending time with other tourists.
Playa del Carmen and Tulum are great for partying, with lots of Americans to meet and hang out with on the beach. They’re also close to several of the Mayan ruins, so you’ll be able to get a culture fix, too.
Guanajuato is a good option if you’re looking to escape the chaos of the beaches and challenge yourself linguistically. English isn’t widely spoken there, but everyone’s friendly and patient if you want to try out your Spanish.
Sayulita is a fun surfing town on the Pacific Coast, with plenty of travellers to hang out with. It has more of a hippie scene than a party one, with cheap food, a beautiful beach, and lots of nearby towns to explore.
Getting around in Mexico is easy if you take ADO buses – they’re some of the best buses I’ve ever taken! The food is cheap and delicious. The people are lovely and welcoming. It’s even very affordable as well!
Why New Zealand over Australia? It’s more diverse, the locals are friendlier, and it’s cheaper. New Zealand is a great country to visit for your first trip abroad!
If the idea of conversing in a foreign language intimidates you, then this is the country to visit. It’s pretty similar to the United States in a lot of way, and you’ll be unlikely to experience culture shock.
One of the easiest ways to meet people in New Zealand is to join one of the affordable hop-on hope-off backpacker buses that traverse the length and width of the two islands. It makes transport easy, you’ll meet friends and be able to move on together, and you’ll even be able to arrange excursions through the company.
Spain is one of my favorite countries in Europe, and not just because it’s one of the cheapest countries to visit in the region. From beaches to mountains, castles to cosmopolitan cities, Spain has so much to offer.
And the food! The food is incredibly cheap in Spain (if you go to Granada, you receive a free plate of tapas for every drink you order), and features predominantly around jamon and cheese and bread.
Public transport is easy to understand in Spain. Major cities have metros and comprehensive bus networks. Traveling long-distance between cities is a piece of cake, too – with buses and trains serving pretty much every destination you’d want to go.
Did I mention the jamon?
Slovenia doesn’t often make lists of top countries, but it’s actually my favorite country! Everyone who’s been to this country falls in love, and it has heaps to offer a newbie traveler.
Slovenia is beautiful. Take a look at the photos I took from my time in Ljubljana and Bled. In the space of a few hours, you can travel from a colourful city to the snow capped mountains and glimmering lakes of the Alps, to the beaches of Piran, to fascinating caves, to the vineyard-filled countryside of the east. No matter what sort of scenery you enjoy, Slovenia will have you covered.
The people are incredibly friendly in Slovenia, too. English is widely spoken. The food isn’t too intimidating. Public transport is easy to use. It’s a country that’s very into the arts, and you’ll hear music playing on every street. Slovenia is great if you’re not an experienced traveler.