7 Best Visa-Free Countries For Your Next Solo Adventure

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Travelling solo is liberating, fun, exciting and awesome. Then at times, it can be tough, trying, and exhausting, but absolutely fulfilling. If you ever found yourself thinking of go off and explore a part of the world by yourself, I’d definitely recommend it.

I’ve been to Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia on a few trips alone. I love travelling alone; it’s the most open way to see the world.

To be honest I deliberately travel solo, because I want to experience the world without the influence of a friend or partner’s tastes, prejudices, or preferences. When you’re with someone, it’s easy to focus on that person and forget about meeting other travellers. Travelling alone, you’re more likely to be on a voyage of self-discovery.

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But there are usually two main concerns every solo traveller has. The first is safety: the simple fact is that there are countries that are statistically safer than others for travellers.

The second concern is a bit less tangible but just as critical: is the country you’ve chosen a happy place? Is it a country where you’ll be made to feel welcome, a nation where you can easily interact with the locals, where conversation flows easily even if you’re struggling with a new language? For truly rewarding solo travel, it’s crucial that you can connect with the culture and not feel like an outsider.

To find the answer to these two questions, I looked at the numbers from the Global Peace Index, which ranks 162 nations for their peacefulness, and the Happy Planet Index, which looks at the environmental impact and human well-being in 151 countries to measure where people live long and happy lives.

I then come up with 7 best visa-free destinations for South African solo travellers which present an amazing mash-up of geography along with radically different cultures, languages, and customs. Safety and happiness prevail in all of them, making any of them ideal for your next solo adventure.

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NO. 1 COSTA RICA

Safety Ranking: 42
Happiness Ranking: 1

You could argue that the concept of adventure travel was born here in Costa Rica, a.k.a. the world’s happiest country. This Central American destination has been drawing travellers for decades to surf on the Pacific coast or join a rafting company for a day on the white water of the Reventazón or Pacuare rivers. If comfort is a priority, book one of the country’s storied adventure lodges and head out for day trips in the cloud forest.

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NO. 2 CHILE

Safety Ranking: 30
Happiness Ranking: 19

As a rule, Chileans tend to be friendly and welcoming, a plus for adventurous single travellers eager to explore this 3,000-mile-long country of deserts, mountains, and endless coastline. Whether you head north to the magical Atacama Desert or south to untrammelled Chiloé Island or Patagonia, save a little time for Santiago, safe and easy to navigate. You might well find yourself as a guest at a family asado, or Chilean barbecue—and becoming part of a local family may be the ultimate definition of a friendly country. 

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 NO. 3 INDONESIA

Safety Ranking: 54
Happiness Ranking: 5

This one I have a personal testimony. Let’s see its the temples, yoga on the beach, and cheap food, lodging, and massages. Then add an international roster of backpackers, hedonists, and spiritual seekers. It must be Bali, the single most popular destination for every solo traveller in Indonesia. If you prefer someplace less touristy, take a 25-minute flight to Lombok, an island off the coast of Bali that feels like travelling back in time to 1970s Indonesia.

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NO. 5 ARGENTINA

Safety Ranking: 43
Happiness Ranking: 18

Café culture and a European vibe are reasons that solo travellers flock to Buenos Aires, where tango salons stay open late. But life outside of the city of Evita can be equally fascinating, whether you fancy the wine region of Mendoza, the starkly beautiful landscapes around Salta, or horse rides with gauchos.

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NO. 6 LAOS 

Safety Ranking: 38
Happiness Ranking: 27

Laos has something of a cultlike status among single travellers. Like Vietnam, Laos was a war-ravaged place that has emerged as a peaceful haven. Unlike Vietnam, it has managed to retain much of its original culture and to preserve its environment, among the most pristine in Southeast Asia. Highlights include a classic riverboat trip down the Mekong, a visit to the royal city of Luang Prabang, and hanging out with an international cadre of travellers in the capital of Vientiane.

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NO. 7 PANAMA

Safety Ranking: 57
Happiness Ranking: 9

Adventure travel is a prime reason for solo travellers to visit this Central American country, from whitewater rafting on the Chiriquí and Chiriquí Viejo rivers to ziplining through the tropical treetops. Then there’s the growing surfing culture, especially in Bocas del Toro, where the Caribbean vibe, intense nightlife, and beach culture are tempting for young singles. Be sure to catch the obligatory view of ships transiting the Panama Canal—and to explore Panama City’s atmospheric Casco Antiguo (Old Town)—before or after your time on the coast.