By Jade Johnston
I’ve been to more than thirty countries, and in every single one of them, I have been an independent, budget traveller. So while this doesn’t make me an expert on indie travel in any means, I can say which countries I think (from experience) are the best for indie travel.
Of course I am going to be biased and say Canada. Canada is the world’s second largest country, so you will be hard pressed to not find something that floats your boat here. And the countries major artery, the trans Canada highway, is the perfect destination for road trippers. Whether you are into skiing and other snow sports, whale watching, music and culture, or just getting out and enjoying nature, Canada has got it.
Although there are plenty of places in the United States I wouldn’t mind visiting either. I have never been to drawn to the big cities – I tend to prefer national parks and road trips – but I wouldn’t be opposed to visiting some of the iconic and quirky tourist traps/cities.
Now I havn’t been properly to South America, but for the sake of argument, I’m going to also include Central America. My best indie travel experience was hands down in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is one of the world’s safest countries – they don’t even have an army! The country is small and skinny, meaning that you are never too far from a beach. (And yet despite that, I somehow never once visited a Costa Rican beach)
The opportunities for wildlife encounters are immense in Costa Rica. Howler monkeys used to wake me up every morning, all you had to do was keep a sharp eye open if you wanted to spot some tiny, colourful, and very poisonous little frogs. We even had a flock of Tucans living outside our house! However, my most exciting wildlife encounter in Costa Rica was definitely my fleeting encounter with the tapir. Tapirs are very rare to spot in Costa Rica, but I was lucky to be volunteering in a rainforest reserve when I spotted one.
Europe is special. Everything in Europe is so interconnected, that it is hard to separate the countries in order to rank them. Once you arrive to Europe, you don’t even need to show your passport to cross borders. (most of the time) But for the indie traveller, who really wants an authentic experience, you need to head straight to the East.
Visiting some parts of Eastern Europe is like going back in time. The people are genuine and friendly, and the food and drink likely to pack a few pounds on. There aren’t as many attractions per say, like you might find in Paris, but the charm of Eastern Europe comes from wandering the streets, visiting little hidden restaurants and cafes, and meeting the locals.
I have only been to Morocco, so I can’t really comment on the best African indie travel country. I’ll leave that up to you guys, to tell me in the comments!
For the indie traveller, the one who wants to get off the beaten path, and live for a while like the locals do – then head straight for Laos. In Laos, everything is an adventure, even taking the bus. It’s a land where 200 km’s can take all day to travel, where temples glint in the sun, ancient monuments are still puzzled over, and where an incredibly resilient people live.
Laos was heavily bombed during the Vietnam conflict, so much so, that in some areas of Laos people build their fences and prop up their houses with old shell casings. And yet, despite all the violence, and the devastating impact of left over unexploded ordinance, the people of Laos are surprisingly warm, friendly, and welcoming to travellers who want to explore their culture.
Want to read more about Laos – I wrote a whole article about 5 reasons to visit Laos here!
This, in my opinion, is the ULTIMATE indie travel destination. And I think anyone who has been there will agree with me. It is, of course, New Zealand.
New Zealand is a land of opposites, where there is something for everyone. From posh wine regions and cellar door sampling, to the Hokitika wild foods festival…. fancy a possum pie? From refined cities and amazing flat whites (coffee), to sparsely populated countryside where sheep outnumber people… easily.
New Zealand is a road trippers dream. Just buy an old camper van, throw a mattress in the back, and head out to explore. New Zealand is a small country, and it seems that around ever bend in the road, there was something new and amazing to greet you. If you hate stunning landscapes, then stay away from New Zealand.
Active travellers and thrill seekers will find everything they ever wanted here as well. Hiking? Check. Camping? Check. Surfing? Check. Bungy? Check. Seriously… get yourself to New Zealand quick.
What is, in your opinion, the ultimate indie travel destination?