Traveling around the world is everyone’s dream. But choosing the best place for your first international trip is critical, since this experience can affect your future travels. I can still remember my first trip abroad. It was 13 years ago in Seoul, South Korea. I was 18 years old. My mom did the research for me, the planning, and even the packing of my bags. It was so overwhelming and confusing – like you have to remember a lot of stuff. And for an introvert like me, it was so hard. I bet my mom was more nervous than I was. She was always sending me text messages on what to do and how I was doing.
I know, international travel for beginners can be daunting. You feel scared, challenged, and intimidated. I would like to say that it gets easier with time, but you have to start somewhere somehow. This first step – your first travel abroad – will be the first day of the rest of your life. No matter which country you choose, you will be out of your comfort zone? But how far would you push it?
That’s why, I have reached out to other travelers to share their first trip overseas or what they think is the best place for first-time international travelers. There are several destinations to choose from depending on your budget, location, and how far you want to go.
Budapest is the ideal place to explore Europe for the first time. It’s centrally located with transportation available to the whole continent either by train, flights, or buses. Budapest is also one of the cheapest capitals in Europe, and it has an incredible amount of beautiful and historic buildings to explore.
There are hotels in every price range from budget to luxury and even a fair share of hostels. As a first-timer in the city, you should avoid getting a taxi everywhere because there are many taxi scams in Budapest, and you’re better of using public transportation anyway!
There are plenty of things to do in Budapest, including museums, shopping, eating local food, and strolling around the parks. Or why not pamper yourself in of the many spa facilities in Budapest? Budapest is also known as the spa capital of the world thanks to its large number of geothermal springs under the city.
My favorite attractions in Budapest are Fisherman’s Bastion, The Buda Castle, Heroes’ Square, Szechenyi Bath, Rudas Bath, Kiraly Bath, The Great Market Hall, and just the city by itself strolling along the Donau river and explore both sides of Buda and Pest. – Alex, Swedish Nomad
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
One of the best places for first-time international travelers is Amsterdam, the Netherlands. As a backpacker-turned-local, I can promise you that the Netherlands is great for those not familiar with languages, as the Dutch speak English extremely well (2nd best in Europe!) and almost everyone speaks English.
The infrastructure for public transit and biking is one of the best in the world, which makes it a breeze to get around Amsterdam without much effort! Amsterdam itself is a great city to visit as it’s quite walkable, so you don’t need to worry much about public transit and there are so many things to do.
Many people assume Amsterdam is just about the drugs and partying, but you’ll find much more culture without any effort at Amsterdam’s world-class museums! On my first trip to Amsterdam, I was a bit nervous, but it was easy to meet fellow travelers at my hostel and at the various tours throughout the city. Overall, Amsterdam is a fantastic city for your first solo trip! – Karen, Wanderlustingk
Salzburg is a perfect destination for first-time international travelers! On my trip to Salzburg, I set out with the main goals of seeing the Mozarts Wohnhaus, the Salzburg Cathedral, and filming locations of the Sound of Music, and I stumbled across many additional amazing places and king people along the way.
The bridge over the Salzach river carried me to St. Peter’s Abbey and its iconic cemetery filled with beautifully unique gravestones! Mirabell Palace and Mirabell Gardens are even more breathtaking in person than they are in photos! (It’s where they filmed the end of “Do-Re-Mi”!) Mirabell Schloss is a must-see!!
The enormous Fortress Hohensalzburg towers over Mirabell Schloss, the Alps, and the city of Salzburg. Though the climb to the top is steep, it is well worth the view of the Alps! Climbing the Fortress Hohensalzburg was the experience that solidified Salzburg as the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to! Near the fortress, you can take a stroll along a small road to a lookout hill called Kapuzinerberg with more incredible views!
Salzburg is now one of my favorite places in the world! Anyone planning to travel internationally for the first time should absolutely include Salzburg on their itinerary! – Allison, Alli’s Grade Escape
Vienna’s rich European culture and opulent architecture make it a great destination for first time international travelers. It’s a city that impresses you at every turn, with grand palaces, gilded coffee houses, and opera playing in the streets.
Vienna is known for three things: palaces, music, and coffee. Belvedere, Hofburg, and Schonbrunn are the most popular palaces, though there are literally dozens scattered throughout the city.
There’s no better way to spend an evening in Vienna than at a concert. The Opera Hall and Musikverein hold frequent performances, and you’ll find special shows hosted throughout the city’s churches and cathedrals.
Vienna’s elegant coffee houses play a big role in the city’s old-world charm. Here, tuxedo-wearing waiters serve delicious cups of coffee on silver platters, while locals read the newspaper or a novel.
And it wouldn’t be a first time trip to Europe without visiting a few cathedrals. The stunning St. Stephens Cathedral with its unique tiled roof is a must-see. And be sure to stop by the Karlskirche at night, when you can see the illuminated facade reflected in the pool.
Luckily, the city is well-connected by public transit, making it easy to see the major highlights with only two days in Vienna. While German is the main language, travelers can get by with English (though a danke schön will go a long way). – Chelsea, The Portable Wife
For a first international trip, you want your experience to pretty stress-free whilst still being able to revel in the uniqueness of another culture. That’s why I think Stockholm, Sweden is the perfect city for your first international trip.
The public transport is easy to navigate, the city isn’t overwhelmingly busy and almost everyone speaks perfect English making communicating uncomplicated.
Despite all of that ease, Swedish culture offers plenty to be excited about.
Make like a local and discover the art of Fika, the practice of having coffee and yummy treats whilst usually being sociable with others.
Sweden is also the home of Abba, and what better way to indulge your inner pop star than take a trip to the Abba museum, where you can joyfully dance onstage alongside holograms of the supergroup.
If you want to find out about historic life in this Nordic country, then the giant open-air museum, Skansen is the place to visit. Here you’ll see animals local to Sweden such as reindeer, bears, and wolves. Also preserved for people to view are a wealth of old Swedish buildings that are ready to teach you about traditions from a bygone era.
So take a step into the land of the Vikings and discover the magic of Stockholm. – Rebecca, Rayner en route
Paris is one of the best cities for first-time international travelers. After all, it’s the capital of the world’s most visited country by international travelers, France. Paris isn’t a big city, which makes it easy to navigate for first-timers. With 18 million visitors yearly, Parisians are used to tourists. Despite the French reputation, most people working in tourism and hospitality can speak English.
Paris has charms and attractions to please everyone, with the world’s best sightseeing, shopping, museums, history, arts, nightlife, castles, parks, food, Disneyland… You’ll always find something fun to do in Paris, even when it’s raining.
It’s fantastic to visit iconic places that are so often featured in the movies such as the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, Montmartre, or the Champs Elysées. My best tip? Don’t try to fill up the day too much. Take the time to sit at a café to watch people passing by at the end of the day. It’s fascinating how the atmosphere changes along with the colors of the sunset. – Eloise, My Favourite Escapes
Portugal is located in the perfect spot in Europe and has some of the best weather all year round. In the summer the temperature varies depending on the region one may choose to go to. The Algarve coast, for example, has beautiful beaches and the cool breeze off the water makes it a great place to spend several weeks soaking in the sun and swimming in the Atlantic.
A few great cities to visit include Porto in the north, Lisbon on the west coast, and the entire Algarve coast along the south. The Algarve is known for its cliffs, natural beauty, and numerous beaches, some of which top the world’s most beautiful beaches lists. Some cities to visit in the Algarve include Lagos, Portimao, Albufeira, and Faro.
The country is relatively budget-friendly and the food is phenomenal. Accommodation in Portugal is very reasonable especially if you go any other time of the year other than the popular summer months and even during high season, it is still possible to find reasonable rates. – Diana, The Elusive Family
One of my favorite places from my honeymoon is Cordoba! This was one of the first cities we visited, and I think it is great for first-time travelers for three reasons.
Cordoba is a small city so you can easily walk everywhere you want to go which is a great way to experience it. It is also less crowded than some other destinations so you can interact more with locals, but there is still enough tourism infrastructure you won’t feel lost!
The food is amazing and cheap! The south of Spain is well known for its Tapas. These are small tasty dishes that come complimentary with your drink. Sometimes you can choose in others it comes fresh from the kitchen. I’d particularly recommend trying salmorejo which is like gazpacho, but much tastier!
The main sight in Cordoba is the Mezquita, this is a unique building which shows the diverse history of Cordoba, with a cathedral inside a mosque. It is breathtaking. As well as this there are beautiful gardens and a 2,000-yyear-old bridge! – Francisco, Frequent Flyer Hacks
Madrid is a lively city that combines the traditional and the modern perfectly. From museums and historical landmarks to the vibrant gastronomic scene to beautiful streets and parks, Madrid has it all.
While culture and history lovers will enjoy visiting art museums like El Prado or the iconic Royal Palace, foodies will love the authentic tapas bars as well as the trendy cafes and the Michelin-starred restaurants. Those who love to wander freely will be won over by Madrid’s gorgeous parks like El Retiro and neighborhoods like La Latina or Barrio de las Letras.
Madrid is also a safe city that’s incredibly easy to get around thanks to an extensive Metro system. Another huge plus is that you can enjoy everything it has to offer, no matter what your budget is. You can find accommodations and places to eat for any budget, and you can visit many attractions for free.
With many more surprises up its sleeve, Madrid is the perfect destination for your first international trip and a must-see European capital. – Or, My Path In The World
Northern Italy can be the ideal destination for a memorable first international trip. It has everything from old cities where historic monuments meet modern architecture to lakes and even mountains. Italy has an excellent railways network. Even regional trains are nice and clean, and they always come on time.
Set Milan as your base camp for the trip and make sure you assign two days to explore the city and its main landmarks: the Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Sforza Castle, Parco Sempione, Santa Maria delle Grazie (this church hosts The Last Supper, one of the most famous paintings of Leonardo da Vinci).
Among the towns you can visit by taking day trips from Milan there are: Venice, Verona and Bergamo. Also, you can take day trips to four lakes: Lago di Garda, Lago d’Iseo, Como and Maggiore. Once you’re done exploring this area, you can move over to the mountains, to either Bolzano or Trentino. Book a few nights in a mountain resort to enjoy the scenery to the full.
Late spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Northern Italy, as the weather is good and there are less tourists than in high season. Remember to put shopping for shoes on your to-do list.
Bonus tip: Lugano, one of the most beautiful towns on Lake Como is in Switzerland; visit it to add another European country to your travel portfolio. – Violeta, Violeta Matei
My first international trip was to Rome, Italy, which is a great destination for your first time traveling abroad. I studied in Rome during my senior year of college for three months and its central location made it easy to travel to other cities not only in Italy but throughout Europe.
While Italian is the primary language in Rome, most people speak and understand basic English, making it easier for first-time international visitors to get around. There are so many things to do and see, like visiting the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the Vatican, plus delicious pizza, pasta and gelato to eat. There are also lots of great things to do in Rome at night, including visiting all of the historical locations in a completely different light.
First-time international travelers visiting Rome should plan to spend at least three nights in the city and can also travel from Rome to other Italian cities like Florence, Venice, and Siena while there. Since Rome is a popular tourist destination, visiting in the off-season can make the trip more enjoyable since there will be fewer crowds. The weather is quite pleasant during March to May and September to November and there won’t be near as many tourists compared to the hot summer months. – Andrea, One Savvy Wanderer
Venice is a perfect destination for a first-time international traveler. It is iconic, with a huge ‘wow’ factor; English is widely spoken so it is easy to get around; there is great food everywhere; and there are so many ways to enjoy the city.
Top things to do include taking a gondola ride (it is expensive, but totally worth it!); learning to row a gondola yourself (a great cultural experience); taking the #1 Vaporetto (ferry) along the length of the Grand Canal; seeing the Rialto Bridge and Bridge of Sighs; taking a ferry to the outer islands such as Murano and Burano; enjoying an Aperol Spritz or coffee at an outdoor café in St Mark’s Square; exploring the Doge’s Palace; soaking in the views from the front of St Mark’s Basilica; and climbing the Campanile (bell tower).
However, the absolute best thing to do in Venice is getting lost in the narrow streets and bridges that line and cross the canals. It is a beautiful city to just wander and enjoy. I wish I’d know before I went to Venice to not worry about getting lost – you will either eventually find a stream of people moving between St Mark’s and the Rialto Bridge and join them, or you ask a shop keeper and get directions. Getting lost is half the fun! – James, Travel Collecting
My first ever international trip without parents, was at the age of 18 with my girlfriend (now wife). After my high school graduation, we booked our plane tickets to Athens, Greece because we wanted to spend 10 days island hopping! As it was our first trip, we spend a lot of time researching and even booked our accommodation before we left (something we learned not to do again as we love the freedom to spend as little or as much time in a place as we want to).
We decided on three islands in the Cyclades: Naxos, Ios, and Santorini. All of them had easy ferry connections (Athens – Naxos, Naxos – Ios, Ios – Santorini, and Santorini – Athens). One thing we forgot as first-time travelers, was that a ferry isn’t a bus. We were very lucky that we could take the earliest ferry back to Athens in time for our flight home.
Especially Naxos and Santorini are gorgeous islands, with lots of things to see and do and a wonderful Mediterranean feeling. Santorini is pretty touristy, but as we were traveling in the shoulder season (September), the crowds weren’t too bad. – Babs, Travelgearforkids
Ireland is known as one of the friendliest countries in the world, thus making it a great first destination for any traveler. The walkable streets of Dublin are as welcoming as the people inside each pub. The laid back atmosphere and cobblestone streets make it easy to see a lot just by walking. You can easily walk from the Guinness Storehouse to Trinity College passing by St. Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals; with some rest stops at Dublin Castle and St. Stephen’s Green!
While English is spoken, you’ll still have to work your way through a thick accent to truly understand. There are buses and some rail and tram lines, but walking or biking is the best way to see the city, relieving new travelers of the stress of figuring out subway lines, prices, and stops. Irish cuisine is different than Irish-American food (no corned beef and cabbage!) but you will recognize most of the menu – potatoes, lamb, goat, sausage, cabbage – making it easier to understand what you’re eating.
Whether Dublin is your first step into traveling or your 50th, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. – Pam, The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Edinburgh is Scotland’s Capital and it’s a city that is ideal for your first trip. The city center is compact and easy to walk around so it’s not difficult to find the attractions you want to visit. The local buses and buses from the airport are regular and cheap and there is also two train stations and a tram line. In the city center, there are heaps of things to explore in Edinburgh, including the mighty Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace (the official home of the Queen while she’s in Scotland), several fantastic free museums, the Scotch Whisky Experience and lots of traditionally Scottish shops.
It’s an extremely safe city, as long as you take the usual precautions that you would take in any city. The locals are friendly and helpful and you won’t struggle for a good meal, there are some amazing restaurants and cafes serving every kind of cuisine you would ever want. The architecture in Edinburgh is beautiful, the Old Town has some wonderfully gothic buildings and winding alleyways, whereas the New Town is more of a neo-classical and Georgian area with grand houses, black wrought iron railings, and well designed outdoor spaces. One tip to remember is if you aren’t planning on visiting the Edinburgh Fringe avoid going in August, it’s crazy busy! – Nicola, FunkyEllas Travel
Isle of Wright, England
The Isle of Wight is a great intro to what England has to offer. Far less crowded than London, it’s beachy, family-friendly and full of pretty fishing villages with that slow pace of life you’re looking for on holiday.
Before you go, it’s worth knowing that the island’s ferries go from Hampshire on the South Coast and that your hotel, campsite or whatever can probably get you a discount on the cost of crossing – so be sure to ask!
Thinking of things to do, there are several big theme parks like Shanklin Chine that kids are nuts about. And the beaches, these are on all sides of the small island and offer something for everyone.
The island is really not intimidating for first-time travelers because you can reach any point on it in max 3 hours by car and there are many ferries going back to England every day, should you need them. – Danni, Live in 10 Countries
Singapore may not have the first country that I traveled to but if anyone would ask me which country in Asia is the easiest to navigate through for a first-time traveler, then it is definitely one that hits the top of my list. The city is clean, has a great public transport system, is safe and is popular as one of the tourist spots on this side of the globe.
In addition to all this, you will find that Singapore has plenty of fun activities for couples, families, singles, adults, children, etc. From Universal Studios and the attractions of Sentosa island to the large sprawling parks, you will find that the activities are both indoors and outdoors which means that there is something to do irrespective of the type of weather during your stay. There are a couple of lovely museums that you can also visit.
At the end of the day, the ease and comfort that the city offers make it easy for a person to dip their toes into travel for the first time. – Penny, GlobeTrove
El Nido and Palawan hit me hard! When I did my research on the best places to travel there, I fell in love with El Nido (virtually) quickly.
El Nido is located in the islands of Palawan. It’s popular for its beautiful landscapes, pristine beaches, and amazing coral reefs. El Nido is usually dubbed as the Bacuit archipelago’s gateway. This archipelago is distinguished by its karst cliffs (which are really steep!).
What I loved about this place are its dive sites. A nearby island called Dilumacad Island has a long tunnel that leads to an underwater cavern. How cool is that?
Choosing El Nido is not just an easy choice of mine considering other beautiful places in the Philippines like Boracay which is one of my choices. One thing that made me choose El Nido in Palawan is that beautiful lagoons are located in this place and recently held the Red Bull Cliff Diving 2019 and one of the new 7 wonders of nature can be found in Palawan which is the Tubbataha Reef which located 150km Southeast of Puerto Princesa.
As a diving freak, it caught my heart right there and then. There are tons of activities and beautiful dive sites with liveaboard options too!
El Nido isn’t the easiest location to access, but those who take risks are rewarded amazingly. You can choose from a variety of water activities like cliff diving, caves, lagoons, and secret beaches that you can explore for a number of days and on the other hand Inland activities will also amaze you by doing hiking trails, visiting waterfalls. El Nido escapade will not be awesomely completed without trying authentic food and culture that will help you define the word paradise.
Overall, we had a very amazing experience and there are also lots of good people here who helped as amidst being a stranger. If you ask me if I’d go back? I surely will! – Julie, Dive.in
My first international trip was to Bangkok, Thailand on March 2018. Honestly, I picked the location because it was the cheapest flight at the time from LAX ($450 roundtrip). Little did I know I would fall in love with travel and this trip would inspire me to leave everything behind and travel for a year with my family (baby included). Thailand is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the beaches are second to none.
I believe the best thing to do in Bangkok is to visit an ethical elephant sanctuary. You learn so much about the animals but also how you can help change animal tourism. We went to WFFT and their mission and facilities are amazing. The next best thing is to visit the many temples around Bangkok, but you should have the reclining Buddha, Gold Buddha, and the Grand Palace. A tip that I wish I knew before going to Bangkok was that women are not allowed to touch or talk to monks. Remember, be respectful of the Thai culture and customs and when in doubt just ask. – Corritta, Itz a Family Thing
Tokyo is a great city to visit for your first international trip because it’s a perfect balance of somewhere that will take you out of your comfort zone, while still feeling safe. The bright lights, large crowds, and endless activities may feel overwhelming but the Japanese people are incredibly friendly and in Tokyo, most of them speak English so you won’t feel completely lost.
I loved exploring the different areas of the city. Head to Akihabara for electronic shops, manga, and arcades. Visit Harajuku to see eccentric fashion or Asakusa for more traditional shops. It’s a unique and fun city to explore with every neighborhood giving off a different vibe. It’s also easy to get around Tokyo. The transit system is vast and efficient so you’ll never need to think about driving.
The best part about Tokyo is that for a large city, I never felt unsafe. Even in the evenings, I felt like I could wander alone and I would be ok. If you’ve got more time, the Japanese bullet trains allow you to easily access other cities in Japan. Check out this itinerary for the perfect first-time trip to Japan. – Natasha, And Then I Met Yoko
Our first international trip was in Bhutan. Known as the world’s happiest country, Bhutan is truly a wonderful country to visit. Bhutan is not any ordinary place. It is said to be the last Himalayan kingdom, still ruled by the monarchy. Bhutan is a great example where traditional Buddhist culture embraces modernity and global development. The best part, however, is Bhutan believes in and practices sustainable tourism.
The best places to visit in Bhutan are Thimpu, the capital city, Paro and Punakha. These are the places usually visited by travelers. Haa Valley and Bumthang and Phobjika Valley. Visit the Dzongs at Thimpu, Paro and Punakha. And do not forget to hike to the Taktsang Monastery at Paro. Our first trip to Bhutan was an amazing one. The only thing we wished that we researched a little more about the country and included Haa Valley also on our trip. – Amrita & Agni, Tale of 2 Backpackers
Taipei City, Taiwan
Taiwan is a small country but a great place for first-time international travelers. Its capital, Taipei City, is where any first-time visit should start. Anyone could expect to have lots of unique experiences from this city. From street-food hunting at night markets, to riding a glass-bottomed cable car, to feeling tiny inside glorious memorial parks, and even witnessing cherry blossoms if you’re in time for the spring season!
Transportation is another great reason why it’s perfect for first-time international travelers. Its fast and efficient MRT system could take you around Taipei City without hassle. If you wish to explore outside the city, the THSR or Taiwan High Speed Rail train could be your best choice. It is one of the world’s fastest commuter trains that moves up to 250 kph; fast enough to take you to Kaoshiung within just 90 minutes. Kaoshiung is the southernmost municipality of Taiwan and the farthest from Taipei City.
Taiwan is also a budget-friendly destination, especially when compared to its equally developed Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In fact, we’ve only spent around 11,000 NTD or 350 USD for our 5 days and 4 nights trip. Food is quite cheap and it’s fairly easy to find a budget hotel within the city. – Andrea, How She Wanders
In Nepal, there’s a famous expression “Guests are Gods.” Because of this saying, it’s common for Nepali people to go above and beyond for visitors whether it’s a friend coming to their home for dinner or a tourist visiting their country. Nepal is by far the most welcoming place I’ve ever visited, and the love they show visitors is truly sincere.
Pokhara is one of the largest cities in Nepal which makes it the perfect place to stop if you’re new to foreign travel. It has all the modern conveniences from home along with spectacular views of the Himalaya. Most people in the city can speak basic English and the majority can speak it flawlessly, so it’s easy to communicate and navigate.
It happens to be the starting point for all of the treks in the Annapurna Conservation Area, but the city also has a lot to offer. There are numerous things to do in Pokhara including temples, viewpoints, day hikes, lake activities, zip-lining, paragliding, and more. If it’s your first time visiting a foreign country, you really can’t go wrong with this one. – Michelle, Full Time Explorer
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is one of the most diverse cities in not only the Middle East but in the whole world. This is the reason visiting Dubai is the best for any first-time traveler. A small city in the middle of the desert, Dubai has everything to offer to travelers. From an astonishing skyline, a happening nightlife and enormous adventure activities to do, Dubai is a complete package.
Though there is a lot to do in Dubai which the first-time traveler will surely love, however, some of the unmissable things to do in Dubai include a visit to the observation deck at the top of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Moreover, to get the essence of Arabia – a desert safari is a definite must! As the weather in the city can get immensely hot during the summers, some of the interesting indoor activities in Dubai include visiting a tropical rainforest, skiing in an artificial ski park and the IMG Theme Parks. – Rahma, The Sane Adventurer
Muscat in Oman is one of the safest cities in the GCC and a perfect first international trip destination, mainly because it is less crowded and very safe which makes a first-time international traveler pretty comfortable. The Omani people are extremely friendly and excellent at hospitality. Muscat is a capital city with a lot of natural beauty to enjoy including some calm, surreal beaches and rugged, dark mountains. It has a very lively waterfront area and plenty of traditional markets.
Muttrah Corniche in Muscat is a pure example of tradition and heritage fused with a contemporary way of living. There are many indoor attractions also and some very luxurious resorts. The Opera House in Muscat is one of the grandest and royal in the entire region and is an incredible piece of modern architecture.
However, the only thing I regret not knowing before visiting Muscat is the non-availability of efficient public transport. But with the passage of time, this is quickly improving and new methods of better and cheaper public transport are being introduced in the city. – Nabiha, Verses by A Voyager
“If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital”, Napoleon Bonaparte said. Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and ways of living; and it’s the only city in the world touching two continents, Europe and Asia. Modernity and antiquity live perfectly together in the various districts of the city.
You cannot miss Sultanahmet district if history is what you are after, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace will tell you the story of a grand city of the past. If it’s shopping you are after, Istiklal Caddesi with its old tram and its modern shops is your destination, but also the contemporary shopping centers around the city.
If you are food lovers, in Istanbul you will find amazing dishes and desserts. Try Lahmaçun, Simit, Baklava and Chai tea, and you will never leave again. The Spice Bazaar is also a must-see, the odors and the colors of this place will capture your imagination and don’t forget to cross Galata Bridge to see Galata Tower on one side and the Süleymaniye Mosque on the other. If you get a chance also take a cruise on the Bosphorus, Istanbul seen from the water is even more stunning. – Elisa, Eli Loves Travelling
Israel is an amazing destination for your first trip abroad! It strikes the perfect balance of interesting experiences with logistical ease. It was my first major international trip, but I’ve since been back four more times and have spent a total of several months visiting.
There are a few key highlights you won’t want to miss on your first trip to Israel. Make sure you take a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem and stop at the Western Wall to place a prayer in one of the cracks in the wall. Float in the Dead Sea, Earth’s lowest point where the water is so salty that you’ll be buoyant. Stroll the seaside promenade and grand boulevards of Tel Aviv. Eat all the hummus, falafel and pita you can get your hands on.
Before my first trip, I wish I had known just how easy it is to travel in Israel – especially as a young, single woman. You can take buses almost anywhere you want to visit (though often you’ll need to allow extra time in your schedule compared with a taxi or rental car). Nearly all Israelis speak English well and are happy to practice their skills with you.
The country is so welcoming that asking someone for directions on the street is more likely to result in a lengthy conversation or dinner invitation than an annoyed look. Israelis are proud of their country and happy for visitors from all over the world to experience it. Don’t miss these must-read tips for travel to Israel before you get on the plane! – Melissa, The Family Voyage
–NORTH & SOUTH AMERICA–
Las Vegas, USA
Las Vegas is a great place for first-time international travelers because there is so much to do there for people of all types and all personalities. The city’s known for its casinos and gambling, but it’s also a hotspot for nature, wildlife, art, museums, music, food, and endless entertainment. If you’re low on cash or on a budget, there are over 100 free things to do in Las Vegas that are perfect for a first-time trip. I particularly love watching all the shows on the Strip! Safety is also not a concern.
During my first stay in the city, I walked the entire 3 miles of the Las Vegas Strip all by myself, and I felt completely comfortable the entire time. Even the resorts in Vegas are like amusement parks. It can take a full day to completely explore each one. There truly isn’t anywhere in the world quite like Las Vegas, and I highly recommend it for a first-time international trip! – Jillian, Adventure Dragon
Newfoundland, which is something of a hidden gem in Canada, is the perfect place for your first international trip! Newfoundland is the most eastern province in Canada, which is convenient if you’re traveling from Europe. During my month on the island, I met nothing but friendly, interesting people and I had such an amazing time exploring the island alone and together with people I met along the way.
During summer, you can see both whales, puffins and even icebergs floating by along the island’s coast. Your best chance to see them all would probably be in June, but this tends to vary from year to year. I visited Newfoundland in early August and was lucky enough to see both whales and puffins – that was an incredible experience!
The only thing I wish I had known before visiting Newfoundland, is that public transport is quite limited. You will be able to go to some places around the island by bus, but definitely not to all of them – if you have the chance, rent a car! – Amanda, My Backpacker Life
Cartagena, a popular tourist destination in the country of Colombia, is one of the best first-time travel destinations in the world. Cartagena is touristy enough that some people still speak English but most of the locals no not. It is a mild cultural shock, enough to expand your views on the world but not so much that it will scar you from traveling internationally again. And I think that is exactly what your first international trip should be like. Shocking, but mysterious, just the perfect excitement to keep your curiosity going and going until you are taking your second, then third, and fourth trip.
Colombia has beautiful colonial buildings from back in the days, a diverse culture made out of three ethnic groups, and amazing forts that withstood the test of time and stand proudly in the city. It is truly a magical place. However, just be careful with the weather when you visit. They only have two seasons: hot, and very hot. – Sean, Living Out Lau
Nestled in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula and only 40 minutes from the coast, Merida is a fantastic destination for your first international trip. The historical significance of Merida is visible throughout the walkable city center, with plenty of parks, churches, historic buildings, and museums to enjoy.
Finding inexpensive things to do in Merida is effortless. The city hosts a free walking tour most mornings as well as a cultural event every night of the week. From the “Yucatan Serenade” in Santa Lucia Park to a reenactment of the Mayan ball game, Pok Ta Pok, you can always find something to do. And on Sundays, Merida’s most beautiful street, Paseo de Montejo closes for cars and opens for bikers to enjoy a leisurely ride, admiring the city’s most beautiful homes.
If you want a break from the city, there are fun trips to surrounding areas as well. You can take public transportation to see the flamingos in Celestun or to enjoy a beach day in Progreso. There are Mayan ruins to visit, cenotes to swim in, and haciendas to explore. Merida has truly become a favorite destination in Mexico. – Julien, Cultures Traveled
Tulum, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula makes a fabulous destination for first-time international travelers. It’s easy to reach and navigate, but doesn’t have too much of a language barrier. You can experience the thrill of discovery and exploration without going too far outside of your comfort zone.
To access Tulum, you just need to fly into Cancun and take a short bus ride down the coast. Flights into Cancun are inexpensive, plentiful, and often, non-stop from the US. Once you arrive, there is a direct bus from the airport to the tourist zone of Tulum.
From your base in Tulum, you can pick from a wide variety of day trips from visiting Chichen Itza to cenote diving. You can also relax on the beach and do nothing at all. The well-established tourist industry offers you plenty of choices as well as English speak guides and businesses.
For all these reasons and so many more, we think Tulum is an excellent choice for beginning travelers. – Ed and Jennifer, Coleman Concierge
Cusco, Peru is not only a great place for the first time international travelers, is also the perfect stop to start exploring Peru from. Perched in the Andes mountains Cusco is a vibrant city that loves to celebrate. Each time I’ve been – and I’ve been several times – there is some kind of party going on. People are dancing in the streets and there are always parades. And the Peruvian people are so warm and welcoming. It also helps that the center square, Plaza de Armas, is considered the most beautiful square in South America, which is where most of the celebrations take place.
Some of my favorite things to do include visiting the many churches and monasteries scattered throughout the city (I visit a new one each time I go!), hike, yes I said hike, up to Cristo Blanco for the best free view of the city, and grab dinner at the tiniest, but most delicious local restaurant Cultura Paraiso. To find more things to do in Cusco, check out my 3-day Cusco itinerary here. – Retha, Roaming Nanny
If you’re a European Union citizen, I’ve got a perfect option for you. Some of the best places for first time international travelers are actually in the range of… the formal EU borders. I mean here the overseas territories of European countries. When I planned my first big overseas trip in looking for exotism, I decided to go to Guadeloupe. Formally, it’s the part of the French territory. But in reality, it’s located in the Caribbean. Visiting it as an EU citizen is almost the same as visiting continental France – sometimes your European ID will be everything you’ll need.
And why Guadeloupe is a great choice for your first overseas visit? Besides the formalities, the island is inhabited by French people, so your first cultural shock will not be that big. Even so, you’ll be surrounded by paradise beaches, deep jungle, and the Caribbean chill. Guadeloupe is perfect if you want to experience the exotic climate. And it offers many awesome activities. From climbing a volcano, through searching for secret jungle waterfalls, and ending up with learning water sports, sailing, and diving, the island could become a paradise for your first international travel. – Dominika, Sunday in Wonderland
If you are thinking of taking your first international trip, I highly suggest going to St Lucia. This was my first Caribbean destination location, and I must admit it was one of the best times of my life. St Lucians are extremely welcoming, very friendly and from the moment I landed until I left, I felt right at home with the locals. This gave me the confidence to explore the island outside the beautiful resorts and really get to know St Lucia for the beautiful island that it is. English is spoken here, so language was no barrier for me.
I did not climb the Gros Piton as I visited during the extremely hot months but you should do it if you can. The island has beautiful blue and green beaches, so make a trip to any local beach and have a relaxing time. Sulfur Springs is also a popular destination for tourist so I made the trip down. If you want to really get to know the locals, Castries Market should be on your list of places to visit. I really enjoyed the nightlife in St Lucia and the Friday street party known as `Gros Islet Friday` is a must! I also really enjoyed my visit to Diamond Falls Botanical gardens as well as a walk around Marigot Bay!
Overall, the place is very friendly and peaceful and taking a walk around town is the safest thing you can do. My goal was to blend in and avoid the touristic areas and this made my trip more memorable! – Divine, Live and Earn Canada
The southernmost country in Central America is an amazing choice for your first international trip. Tropical islands, green mountains, sun, humidity and rain, thatched roofs, skyscrapers, old towns, colonial architecture, the vivid underwater world – Panama has such a variety of sights and experiences to offer.
For your first trip abroad, you can explore the mountains near Boquete, the Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro, the capital Panama City with its engineering wonder Panama Canal, the local community islands of San Blas. This will take about a week or up to 10 days and you will enjoy the memories for a long, long time.
People in Panama are super friendly. English is widely spoken at most of the places of interest, and you can use the opportunity to practice your Spanish or at least learn a few words. Panamanians know how to party and know how to present the best of their cuisine mixed with international flavors from all over the world. – Bistra and Nace, The Magic of Traveling
Merida, the capital city of Yucatan in Mexico, is a great spot for a first international trip. Not only is it incredibly safe and welcoming but it also truly has everything a visitor could wish for. The city itself is easy to get around on foot or with public transport. The vibrant center is full of culture and history and when you’re done with exploring the city, you can take advantage of public transport and tours to visit cenotes, ancient Maya sites such as Uxmal, the beach and so much more.
Merida is also a thriving gastronomic center, including awesome vegan options and an up-and-coming artisanal beer scene so if you enjoy eating and drinking, Merida would be a great choice for your first overseas trip. I love browsing the market and trying all the delicious dishes on offer there.
While many people do speak English in Merida, I guarantee you that a few words of Spanish will open many doors and you’ll soon wonder why you waited so long to visit Merida! – Cassie, Mexico Cassie
Queenstown, New Zealand
Whether you are looking for adventure or relaxation, New Zealand is the perfect place for first-time international travelers. I went there for my first trip as a solo female traveler, and felt safe the entire time. New Zealand is designed with travelers in mind – it is easy to get to each location with minimal planning, and everyone naturally travels in the same direction (from the North Island to the South). Whether you go with new friends you made along the way, or by yourself, the experiences are safe and unforgettable!
Things to Do:
* Cruise along the thousands of waterfalls in Milford Sound
* Go inside the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves.
* See where the two oceans collide at the end of 90 Mile Beach
* Go skydiving, bungee jumping, or white-water rafting – if you love adrenaline, the options are endless!
* Kayak in Abel Tasman National Park
* Visit Hobbiton – a Lord of the Rings filming location.
* Paraglide high above the seaside town of Paihia in the Bay of Islands
* Go hiking through lush tropical forests, and on top of glaciers – all during the same trip! – Natalie, Natalie Explores
Europeans are used to travel internationally thanks to the easiness of moving between countries in that continent. Visa-free travels and low-cost airlines are the perfect match for international travels since youth. Nevertheless, when they move from Europe, a whole new world opens in front of them. As a humanitarian, I spend a lot of time in Africa and I can see when someone is on their first trip in the Dark Continent.
I always suggest starting slowly when approaching new cultures. In terms of Africa, a very good deal would be Cape Verde. While people have many behavioral characteristics of their neighbors, the Portuguese colonialism left a strong legacy, which is all reflected into a mix of African and European customs.
If you have to choose an island, I highly suggest to avoid the most touristic ones and head to Santo Antao, the geographically most western of the archipelago. Here people preserved more of their cultural heritage and it is perfect to start learning African rhythms. Moreover, it is one of the best places to hike in Africa, due to its spectacular views on the sea and the other islands from the top of the lush mountains in the northeast. – Mario, Rest and Recuperation
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For you, what is the best place for first time international travel? Can you still remember your first travel abroad? Where did you go?
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