11+ Best Countries for a First Time Traveler

While, theoretically, you can say that any country is good for a first time traveler, in truth it isn’t so. A lot of countries are quite easy even for newbies, but others can drain even the most seasoned ones. I had always wanted to write about this topic, but I’m glad that Danny Newman, a fellow travel blogger, had volunteered to write the article for me.

Here, then, are your choice of countries to visit if it’s your first time to travel internationally!

The beauty of travel is that it’s different for everyone.

After all, we are individuals, traveling for our own reasons, wanting different things, having different interests, seeking different adventures…and so on.

Depending on the person you are — your personality, desires, dreams, likes, dislikes, anxieties, and financial constraints, among others, your experience of travel should, and will, be unique to you.

As a result, no single destination will be
perfect for everyone’s first trip and no single list could cover every option
that would be best for everyone. Instead, it really is about finding something
that will work for you.

Having said that, guidance here and there never hurt anyone. Having some options can be handy for any aspiring travelers unsure where to start. With this in mind I’ve put together a list of countries that seem especially suited to the first time traveler.

Each location won its spot based on particular ‘first-time-traveler-friendly’ factors, such as price, ease of travel, safety, and of course, some ‘wow-factor.’

Ultimately, knowing who you are and what
you want is the best starting point for making any travel decision, especially when it comes to deciding where you
want to go. However, if you’re seeking ideas for your first travel destination,
I really hope this list helps!

In no particular order, here are my picks for the best destinations for a first time traveler.

Travel in Your Home Country

The rice terraces in Antique, Philippines.

Okay, this one
might seem a little out of left field. But hear me out!

There’s an assumption that travel has to entail exploring far away, exotic lands. However, remember there’s a lot in your own backyard that’s also worth seeing.

This fact is
usually overlooked.

As well as learning new things about your country, traveling at home mitigates many of the challenges travel can sometimes bring. There’s no language barrier to navigate, no cultural misunderstandings, no currency issues or bank charges for cash withdrawals — the list goes on.

For a first time traveler, this can be a perfect place to start when it comes to mastering the art of travel.

Go Backpacking in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam

These Southeast Asian countries are absolute favorite destinations among travelers — both experienced and first-timers alike. And for good reason, too.

They’re cheap, full of friendly locals and it’s easy to meet like-minded travelers. Bangkok, for example, is best for new solo travelers. You can be as alone as you want, or reach out to others if you want a travel buddy. It’s really easy!

There’s crazily cheap accommodation and low cost of living, plus an intense and rich history. Angkor Wat, for example, is magnificent, and well worth waking up at 4am for. Vietnam, too, has a lot going for it, from Hanoi and all the way down south.

Each country is relatively easy to get around and beautiful in all manner of ways. It’s also relatively easy to move between each country, so you can travel around most of them on the same trip.

Like I mentioned, SE Asia is definitely well-traveled, which has both positive and negative implications.

The good: all of the above.

The bad: burgeoning tourist industries risk sullying proud cultural traditions, wonderful heritage and stunning natural environments; for those seeking more than a party, it can be difficult to escape the tourist trail in order to experience the ‘authentic/real’ country.

Nevertheless, SE-Asia remains a prime destination for a first time traveler. Be sure to take the best backpacking camera possible!

Japan is good for first time travelers.
A cosplayer in Universal Studios Osaka.

Have Fun in Japan

Japan is an intriguing and distinctive destination.

While it’s true that it could pose certain challenges to any traveler — from the language barrier, to frustratingly high prices, ‘alternative’ food menus, and complex social customs — the gorgeous beautiful natural landscapes, a fascinating history, and diverse, multi-faceted people make it all worth it.

If you’re hoping to encounter something entirely different and test yourself in a country with a long and proud history and heritage, Japan is a good bet.

Aside from Tokyo, head to the Kansai Region, where you can find Nara, the city of bowing deer, Kobe for the uber-delicious beef, and Universal Studios in Osaka for family travelers.

Appreciate Nature in Costa Rica

Welcome to what
looks and sounds like paradise on earth.

In lots of ways Costa Rica sounds idyllic. From its focus on sustainability to the disbanding of its army in the 20th century, Costa Rica seems a wonderful mix of progressive thinking and liberal ideology.

As far as first time traveling goes, it may not be the absolute simplest of places to start, but it shouldn’t be enough to put you off.

Speaking a little Spanish helps, but most people there speak some English too — language barrier shouldn’t be too tough. And, though I’ve read reports of muggings and pick-pocketing, you get this literally everywhere.

Like anywhere
else in the world, taking simple precautions can usually prevent such nasties
happening.

In return, Costa Rica offers amazing landscapes to explore, beaches to laze on and wildlife to observe. For all that, prices seem reasonable too, which is an obvious bonus.

Go Hiking in New Zealand

It’s fair to say that New Zealand must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. This country is honestly a dream destination for a first time traveler!

If you’re from the EU, it’s easy to get a visa. Its colonial past means that, culturally, NZ can feel very similar certain European destinations. Linguistically, English is the primary language, so no language barrier issues here.

The native
people of NZ are the Maori and their proud culture and traditions are imbibed
into NZ daily life. It’s a small country (the same size as the UK) and has only
4 million inhabitants…total.

Consequently,
it’s possible to explore it in a relatively short period of time.

Thanks to a thriving travel scene, meeting like-minded travelers is easy and the country is ridiculously straightforward to move around. NZ is also one of the safest places on earth; hitchhiking is common and free camping (though it’s not allowed in some places) is too.

There’s a
massive variety of things to do, especially if you’re into your outdoor
activities. In Spring/Summer the weather is ideal (November/December/January
time) but pack your sun lotion as NZ has one of the highest rates of skin
cancer in the world.

It isn’t
especially cheap, but, if you’re on a working holiday visa, it’s simple enough
to get a job to pay your way.

As far as pitfalls go, it tends to be a long way away from home, which may put some people off–especially if you’re not a fan of flying. It also makes the price of the ticket pretty significant.

If time and
money are short, heading somewhere closer to home might be preferable. However,
if you have the money and don’t mind the distance from home, there aren’t many
better places to travel for the first time.  

Explore the Outback in Australia

The land down under is another favorite destination for travelers.

The weather, the Great Barrier Reef, the BBQs on golden beaches, the adventure activities, the sense of humor and general way of life — there’s a lot going for it.

It’s easy to apply online for a visa and it’s so well traveled in the popular parts that there’s little to no struggle for accommodation and transport.

For an extended trip, Australia is perfect. The visa can be stretched to two years if you do three months farm work of your choice. Now, farm work may not be your idea of fun, but it’s paid ridiculously well (jobs in Australia are generally well paid and easy to find).

Okay, onto the
cons.

First, Australia is a massive country. And, obviously, this has an impact on the logistics of traveling around. For example, it’s far less feasible to hop in a bus or car to head to the next location on your agenda. Instead, it’s flights all the way.

If you want to see more than just the major cities and tourist attractions, give yourself enough time to explore. Stay in hostels in Sydney or Melbourne and connect with other solo travelers. You can then buy/rent a car and drive through Australia. Like other travelers, you can just sell the car when you’re done!

Australia’s
also a good place to go to challenge those phobias if, like me, you’re not a
fan of snakes and creepy crawlies!

Discover the Sights in Sri Lanka

Okay, so I’m a
little biased on this one.

Sri Lanka was the first country I ever traveled to and I fell head over heels in love with it.

Of all the places on this list though, I’d actually consider Sri Lanka one of the more challenging for a first time traveler. There’s the language barrier to consider, a significant culture shock to anyone who hasn’t been to Asia before, and a good degree of open-mindedness required to travel here.

However, I
would (and do) recommend it to anyone considering travel- even if it’s for the
first time. Sri Lanka is cheap (from a Western standpoint), relatively easy to
get around, and small enough to explore in a short time-frame.

It’s also
stunning, has a diverse range of sights and activities, and is full of
friendly, smiley people.

It’s also a good time to go. The tourist industry has boomed in Sri Lanka recently and growth is set to continue. Get in now before it becomes overcrowded and loses some of its unique charm.

Breidamerkurjoekull iceland
Breidamerkurjoekull, part of Vatnajökull, Iceland. Photo by ©Andreas Tille

Experience Iceland

Safe and
stunning.

I’d say those are two primary reasons why Iceland should be on any first time traveler’s radar. Iceland has been on my bucket list for such a long time and from all accounts, it seems to be growing in popularity.

Most people speak English there (so no pesky language barrier to navigate), the people are meant to be as friendly as any around, and it’s one of the safest places in the world.

This place is absolutely beautiful and if you enjoy the outdoors, traveling there will be a dream. However, the prices can be off putting, especially if you’ve never traveled before and become accustomed to the money saving techniques you pick up over time.

If you’re willing to sacrifice some creature comforts here and there, budget travel in Iceland is definitely possible. Check out this travel guide to Iceland that a local has written. 

Include Ireland in Your List

Ireland is a beautiful and, in my opinion, underrated country that should be on everyone’s list of potential places to travel.

There’s something
for everyone, whether you’re a city lover or country dweller. It’s small enough
that you can easily explore a lot in little time. It’s so close to other
European countries that flights to Ireland can be exceptionally cheap.

Friendly locals, beautiful and lively music, a rich and proud culture and an accent that’ll charm the socks off you, all make Ireland a must for travelers.

bruges belgium
The beautiful marketplace of Bruges, Belgium.

Indulge Yourself in Europe!

Okay, this one’s a bit cheeky: obviously an entire continent rather than a single country.

I thought I’d just bang this in as a whole, as a lot of travelers go backpacking in Europe.

In a lot of ways, traveling around Europe is ideal for a first time traveler, especially if you speak English (just make sure you take the best backpack for Europe with you!).

It’s straightforward to get around (most people take the train, flights or buses between countries), and there’s solid infrastructure that irons out common concerns that can prevail in more remote parts of the world (dodgy hospitals, poor accommodation, and public transport).

However, it’s all too easy to rush through each country. Obviously, time constraints and having to rely on the rail network can limit control over your destinations and the ability to explore a country in more depth.

All that aside, there are undoubtedly many appealing factors to traveling around Europe: the culture, the history, the architecture and the ease of travel between countries to name, but a few.

Aside from Iceland, here are some European countries you could prioritize: Belgium (beer, waffles, chocolates), Czech Republic (gorgeous architecture and relatively cheap), Denmark (Christiania in Copenhagen), Germany (beer, castles, museums), Greece (history and the romance of Santorini), Italy (the Vatican, Rome, and the beautiful Florence), and Spain (Gaudi, wine, and tapas).

Time to Wrap Up: Just Go and Travel

There you have it: the 11+ best countries to travel for a first time traveler.

The best country to travel to will vary entirely on your particular interests and desires. It’s about finding a destination that works for you.

The options on this list each boast a wide array of qualities that make them particularly suited to first time travel. Hopefully, it’s been a useful insight into some of the greatest countries to whet your appetite for future travel.

Know that wherever you end up going you’re sure to have an epic experience.

Text by Danny Newman. All photos by Aleah Taboclaon, unless otherwise stated. Featured photo by gregorioa via Shutterstock.

Which country sounds best to you? Let us know in the comments below!

Danny Newman
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