The mission statement of my blog: “Tis not too late to seek a newer world” is the one I believe with all my heart. This quote from the poem “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson always reminds me that anyone who has the desire and the physical ability to travel should probably consider it, But where should you go to, especially if you’ve never traveled abroad before? Well here are my suggestions for ten places to review.
Now, first of all, I know a lot of people have come up with a list like this. The last thing I want to do is just recycle a litany you have probably all heard before. So I tried to come up with a system for compiling this list. So before we start a brief explanation of the methodology I used.
I definitely factored in what other more experienced travelers have said. Also, since several of the countries that kept getting mentioned I have been to personally, I also took in to account my own personal views. Finally, I included considerations such as lack of culture shock, language barriers, tourist infrastructure, costs of traveling and ease of transportation. Based on this formula, here are my top seven best counties for a first time visitor.
I want to list reasons to consider each country’s advantages and possible drawbacks. I am labeling the pro reasons “Green Light” and the factors that need to be reviewed as “Yellow Light.” Really, all of these places are not difficult for a novice traveler, so there isn’t a need for a “Red Light.” So here we go, my highly subjective but still highly researched list of the best 7 places to visit for a newbie world explorer.
7) Iceland Iceland has indeed become trendy over the last couple of years. That could be enough to keep it off the list, but its popularity is deserved.
Green light: The natural beauty is unparalleled. It’s relatively small size makes it easy to get around in a few days. A large segment of the population is well-educated, and English is a widely spoken second language. You definitely will take a lot of pictures. Yellow light: Iceland is quite expensive, and the weather is fickle. It tends to rain a lot in the summer. It’s a cool place to visit, (literally) so you’ll need to pack warm.
6) Thailand, The land of a thousand Buddhas Thailand, is a significant backpacker destination, It’s path is well-worn with a highly functioning tourist infrastructure. The golden sand beaches are a tremendous draw.
Green light: Very inexpensive, friendly and generally safe. A wide variety of landscapes. Delicious (but often spicy) cuisine. Yellow Light: an initial ticket to get there from the US, UK or Canada is expensive. Very Hot during the dry season and wet during rainy season. Be aware of the local customs which are different from western society and essential to the Thai people.
5) Singapore Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia. Though small in area, it is densely packed with Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures. English is one of the official languages so getting by is easy. There’s also excellent mass transit and the consistently number one rated airport in the world. Green light: No significant language barrier for English speakers, a right mix of culture, very safe, being such a small nation, Singapore is just about an hour to Malaysia by bus or train and less than an hour to Indonesia by ferry. Yellow light: Singapore is STRICT. You will be fined for such offenses as chewing gum, eating or drinking on the public bus or trains, and even forgetting to flush in a public restroom. This nation takes etiquette very seriously.
4) Ireland For many Ireland is a dream vacation. Beautiful rolling green hills, some of the friendliest people you will ever meet, great music and no language barrier.
Green Light:: fantastic scenery, a raucous pub scene, generally safe, great locals Yellow Light: Limited mass transit, Roads are challenging outside of major cities, rainy or overcast a large part of the year.
3) New Zealand
If you put the fjords of Norway, the beaches of Hawaii, the highlands of Scotland and the Alpine splendor of Switzerland into a blender..well, you get the metaphor. This Southern Pacific nation is described by many travelers as the place where if he lost his lease on Heaven, this is where God would lay his hat. It’s so profoundly picturesque that I wasn’t sure to include it on a list of go-to places for first-time travelers. Not because it isn’t worthy of inclusion, but because I would be afraid it might spoil them for seeing the rest of the world.
Green light: Magnificent scenery, A vast amount to see in a relatively small country, No language barrier for English speakers, People are usually amicable. Yellow light: Very expensive to get to from everywhere except Australia. Being isolated means a lot is shipped in, so a lot of items are costly. The seasons are reverse that of the Northern hemisphere so you would need to leave in December or January to catch their summer. Probably the worst though is you may not want to go.
2) Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s days of being the best-kept secret are long past. They are on everyone’s travel radar. Despite this, this central American gem still shines brightly like the tropical emerald she is. Costa Rica has much to offer a first-time traveler. While it is a Spanish-speaking country, the tourist infrastructure is highly developed and quite accommodating to monolingual tourists.
Green Light: Safe to visit, Many English-speaking locals especially in the tourist areas, a rich variety of wildlife from painted frogs, to sloths to three kinds of monkeys. A vast Anglo-American expat community. Lush, verdant rain and cloud forests. Yellow Light: Can be very crowded in high season. Prices are high (for Central America) which means pretty much equal to the US. Rainy Wet Season. While vastly safer than any of the other central American countries, some dicey areas (especially the capital San Jose after dark.)
1) The UK Not just England, the UK is like getting four countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) for the price of one. Each Kingdom is in many ways vastly different from the others, with varied culture, traditions and in some areas, even language. The epicenter of much of the literature, history, movies, and music of the English-speaking world, visiting the UK is a bit like coming home. Green light: An effortless transition for many travelers. Very well-developed mass transit, railway, and bus lines. No matter you interest history, books, music, fashion the British are pretty much on top of it, and you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. London is usually the least expensive ticket to Europe and makes a great stopping off point for those wanting to dive deeper into the continent. Yellow light: Expensive. (As of this writing, the British pound to dollar rate is 1.40 dollars for each pound.) Very crowded during the summer high season (It’s better outside of London.) Some dodgy areas, but generally safe overall. Be very careful if you rent a car there, remember the lanes are opposite the US and Canada. Can be bit chilly and damp.
Well, there you have it. My highly subjective take on an excellent first-time country. What do you think? I would love to hear your comments and suggestions. If you have an alternate list, I would like to hear about it.