Traveling solo around the world, I’ve felt comfortable in every hotel in which I’ve stayed, whether in big cities or the countryside. But some hotels are better suited to solo travelers than others. So how do you find them?
Start with a smaller boutique hotel. The modest size means the staff generally know guests by name, if not by interests and preferences, too. They’ll happily give you advice about what to see and do and sometimes even will provide transportation. Most boutique hotels provide breakfast, which is an opportunity to ease into your day and learn about the country you’re in, and perhaps meet fellow travelers.
Culinary-focused hotels also seem to welcome solo travelers. They’re accustomed to people coming simply for the food, so they understand that many guests might want to enjoy their meal with a book or sit at the bar and chat with the staff (bonus: at the latter, I find they often slip me samples from the kitchen).
I also find that countries with predominantly Buddhist and Muslim religions tend to have the greatest sense of hospitality and are most welcoming of solo travelers.
Here are a few of my favorite hotels for solo travelers in three countries that you should be sure to visit, whether solo or not. For other destinations, I have a list of hotels I’ve stayed at and reviewed (almost all solo) on my website, TravelEater.net.
Pavillion d’Orient in Siem Reap, Cambodia
This colonial hotel is just outside the main part of Siem Reap—the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor complex. Siem Reap can get loud at night, especially downtown near Pub Street. Only about 7 km from the Angkor temples, Pavillion d’Orient’s rates include your own tuktuk with driver, so you never have to worry about transportation to and from the temples or to the downtown shops and restaurants. This quiet boutique hotel has guests from all over the world hanging out at its two saltwater pools and in its open-air restaurant which features western and Khmer cuisine, with as many local, sustainable products as possible. I found the staff to be above and beyond kind and helpful, even by the already high norm in Cambodia.
Other Siem Reap choices:
The RiverGarden Hotel is a modest boutique hotel with great staff and delicious food. It has a cooking school and a street food tour, so if you’re craving company, it is easy to join in and find conversation and camaraderie. The pool and restaurant are open to outside guests, often expats in town working for an NGO or teaching English, so there’s plenty of interesting conversations to be had.
A high-end choice in Siem Reap is Heritage Suites. Its immense rooms have beautiful bathtubs and a steam shower, so you can create your own spa (or go to their Bodia spa, too). The saltwater pool has a chiller, which is very much appreciated when you return from a day touring the magnificent Angkor temples. Expats gather here on Thursday nights for live jazz, cocktails, and canapés, making it a great place to learn about living and working in Cambodia.
Finch Bay Eco Resort on Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos, Ecuador
Everyone should visit Galápagos at least once to marvel at the animals that are so unafraid of humans they seem to pose for photos. A cruise is the ideal way to explore, but can be expensive for a solo traveler (though Haugan Cruises offers a single room on some ships). Basing yourself at Finch Bay Eco Hotel is ideal, because you’re a 3-minute boat ride from downtown Puerto Ayora (Galápagos’ largest town, with about 12,000 residents). You’re in the mangroves, plus have a beach next door, complete with sea lions. The hotel has 2 yachts for day cruises so you can see most of the islands’ unique animals, but still sleep on land. Guests are friendly around the pool and in the restaurant, and staff even more so. When I arrived, César greeted me with, “This is your home, Miss Johanna.” He and the other staff members went out of their way to make sure I did feel at home and see every nearby animal. César even volunteered to take a few photos of me—something every solo traveler needs help with.
Other Ecuador choices:
Taking a short trip to Isla Isabela will reward you with another Galápagos experience. The penguins and sea lions in Isabela’s harbor love to snorkel with tourists—I had curious penguins looking to see if my hair had anything good to eat hiding in it, and sea lions copying my underwater somersaults. Isabela is a much quieter island than Santa Cruz. The best hotel on the island is Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel, the last hotel before a long stretch of golden sand perfect for a contemplative stroll. They’re very welcoming of solo travelers, and there’s a gorgeous pool, a terrific breakfast, and the lovely rooms have stunning views. You’ll see iguanas crossing the road, and a short walk away is a tortoise sanctuary.
To see Galápagos, you need to spend at least one night on the mainland, likely in the capital of Quito. Stay for a bit longer to explore this high-altitude city. Cultura Manor is a boutique property in a quiet area, an easy walk to the historical district (where you should keep a close eye on your valuables) and a nearby cluster of bars and restaurants. Each of the 26 rooms is different, and all are filled with bouquets of roses. At breakfast I was thrilled to taste new juices every day, including tamarillo (tree tomato). Staff members were happy to introduce me to Quito and Ecuador.
Dar Roumana in Fez, Morocco
This riad—a traditional house with an interior courtyard and roof terrace—is known for its food. The courtyard turns into a restaurant 6 nights per week, so you can feast in-house if you’re wary of finding your way home in the dark medina (no need, though: I learned the medina in a few days, thanks to Google Maps; it works without wifi). The staff is among the nicest I met throughout Morocco. There’s just 5 suites here, as well as 5 separate common areas where guests can relax. The rooftop terrace is ideal for breakfast and for admiring the views of Fez.
Other Fez choices
Karawan Riad was created by and for travelers. The owners—2 pilots and a former French diplomat—are frequent solo travelers, so they’ve created a boutique hotel with that in mind. The decor here is more subtle than at most Moroccan riads, thanks to designer Stéphanie Laskin, whom I met during my visit. Though you should get out and explore Fez, you’ll be tempted to stay in Karawan’s gorgeous library or in the hammam. The riad has 7 suites, an excellent restaurant, and, in the summer, a courtyard that magically turns into a reflecting pool.
Attached, through the kitchen, to one of the best restaurants in Fez, Riad Numero 9 is a micro hotel owned by the creative director of the Yves Saint Laurent Garden in Marrakech. There are just 3 rooms here and you’ll feel more like you’re staying at a friend’s flat than at a hotel. Solo travelers missing their pets will be happy to have Ruby the Cat purring next to them in the courtyard while they enjoy the best coffee in Fez. Be sure to dine at NUR, which offers a tasting menu that changes daily. Their cooking class is taught by women from the Atlas Mountains and includes a trip to the souk to choose ingredients.