Six Amazing International Destinations for First-Time Travelers


Written by Shannon O’Donnell on

Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008 and has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Barcelona, where she now calls home. She travels slowly and supports responsible tourism along the way, winning numerous awards for her work advocating for the communities impacted by travel and tourism.

First-time international travel can be daunting, but picking the right destination can make everything easier. These six international hotspots are ideal for world travelers testing their wings.

Even the most seasoned world travelers were, at one point, first-timers. There’s something magical about your first time abroad, outside the comfort and security of your home nation. And without a doubt, there are some international destinations that are more accessible to inexperienced travelers than others. These destinations offer lower crime rates, densely-concentrated attractions, proximity to other travelers, and, when possible, a lot of natives that speak English. These six destinations are perfect for singles, couples, or families heading overseas for the first time

The “Banana Pancake Trail” (Asia)

Less of a concrete destination than a series of them, the so-called BPT encompasses a number of beloved stops throughout Southeast Asia and South Asia popular with international backpackers of all stripes. The name comes from the guesthouses along this undefined route, which are famous for their yummy and sweet banana pancakes. Popular stops on the BPT include Bangkok, Thailand; Luang Prabang, Laos; Hanoi, Vietnam (all of which can be visited in one overland route); as well as Bali, Indonesia, McLeod Ganj, India; and Kathmandu, Nepal—among many, many others. These destinations offer nervous newbie first-time travelers name recognition status and tons of amazing food and culture to sample, as well as the presence of tons of travelers both green and experienced.


Iceland has become a “must-see” destination for every traveler with a duffel bag and a dream, but it is especially accommodating of first-time globetrotters. Offering stunning scenery—the Northern Lights, the Blue Lagoon—and a chill populace that largely speaks English, Iceland is the perfect, unforgettable stop for travelers just taking off their travel training wheels. There is very little crime, and a strong tourist infrastructure, plus hot springs. It doesn’t get better.

Overland Australia

In terms of English-speaking destinations, this is as wild as it gets. Cosmopolitan Sydney is heaven on Earth for the international traveler who wants a big city adventure, and the Great Barrier Reefs are right there for budding adventurers. (Plus, Aussie scuba diving instruction is second to none.) Those wanting to test their wilderness survival chops can get a taste of the untamed Outback at Kakadu National Park. A combination of clean, safe hostels, easy transport, and the thousands of explorable miles of a whole continent make this irresistible to the first-time traveler. Tip: An easily-toted carry-on will ensure that there’s no chance you lose your luggage.


Friendly people, lush green scenery, and unbeatable hospitality: What could possibly go wrong? There’s one catch: First-timer travelers might be forever spoiled by the winsome, welcoming beauty of the Emerald Isle. Not only is it one of the safest destinations in the world, but it has so, so many things that impressionable first-time travelers want: towering, craggy old castles, shimmering lochs, and quaint pubs where the beer flows freely. Whether you favor the big cities (Dublin, Cork) or the jaw-dropping scenery (Dingle, Connemara), Ireland is the gift that keeps on giving


For American travelers, this is the international destination closest to home. If you’re a traveler who’s willing to stick to places where other travelers hang out, Mexico is absolutely safe and welcoming to first-timers. Amazing food, an accessible language (Spanish), and multiple hotspots are all enticing to novice travelers. Playa del Carmen and Tulum offer not only proximity to Mayan ruins, but the presence of many other Americans, and a roaring party scene. Sayulita, on the other hand, tempts with a chiller vibe, lots of tasty cheap food, and Pacific waves.


For wide-eyed first-time travelers, Italia and France are often neck-and-neck in desirability. We’re going to give the edge to the Italians. Milan and Rome are just as glam as Paris, the history and architecture are even older and cooler, and the food is just plain amazing. A rich sense of European culture is pervasive. As a destination, it is very safe, minus some preventable petty crime and pickpocketing (which is why you should always use a money belt when traveling Europe). And the Insta pics will be stunning. We recommend packing light to catch those trains all the quicker: Packing cubes will be your best friend when trying to save space.

Clueless about how to pack for your first big trip? Our vacation packing list has you covered.