Nothing beats the rush of waiting on the tarmac for your overseas flight to taxi on the runway. There’s the excitement of the unknown, the nervousness that comes with taking on something new, and the anticipation of what’s to come. It’s something we’ve all been striving for for two years.
Whether you’ve already started stretching your travel wings or haven’t yet taken your passport for a spin, taking your first big trip is a rite of passage that’s both life-changing and infuriating. You can’t predict what will happen once you land, but you can ensure a smooth landing by choosing the right place to start your adventure.
Before planning your trip, be sure to check Lonely Planet’s Health Hub for the latest pandemic updates, and always check travel restrictions and requirements for your destination. Here are some of our favorite countries for first-time travelers in 2022 and beyond.
To choose: If you want a mix of culture, beach life, wilderness and cuisine.
You will most likely land in Bangkok and the excitement of the Thai capital is just a taste of what the country has in store for you. Wander the wild streets of Khao San Road, eat your bodyweight pad Thai, and explore Bangkok’s myriad of gorgeous temples; then head north for jungle adventures or south for gorgeous beaches on island paradises.
Thailand has a well-established tourism infrastructure that makes it easy to navigate, while providing a heavy dose of adventure. perfect for beginners looking for a culture change with a safety net.
Where to go next: Cambodia is an excellent next step after approaching Thailand. It offers plenty of Southeast Asian appeal – jaw-dropping temples, stunning scenery, lip-smacking cuisine – but with a more off-the-beaten-track feel.
To choose: If you want a lot of variety on a trip
Canadians are renowned for being a friendly bunch – don’t be shy, strike up a conversation and you might get some insider tips from the locals along the way. Being such a huge country, Canada offers a huge range of travel experiences: see wildlife like bears, bison, elk and moose in Alberta; catch the Northern Lights in the Northwest Territories; immerse yourself in a mix of North American and European urban culture in Quebec City. Best of all, if you want to experience all that Canada has to offer, all you need is time, as domestic flights, trains and buses are plentiful and frequent.
Where to go next: With mountain ranges, desert landscapes, bustling cities, cool coastal towns, regions lost in time, and plenty of ground to cover, the United States is the perfect one-stop-shop for a new traveler.
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To choose: As an excellent entry point for a trip to the European continent
Portugal is easy to get around and relatively less crowded than its neighbours, which means fewer tourists and shorter queues for top attractions.
The capital Lisbon and rising star Porto are attracting increasing numbers of visitors, so you’ll find plenty of like-minded travelers here. Begin your Portuguese journey in one of these hubs for a taste of the quintessence of European city life, then head into the countryside for a slower pace and off-the-beaten-track adventures.
Where to go next: Malta is another perfect European gem for first-time travellers. It’s laid back and compact, making it easy to explore. Also, if you come outside the summer season, you will always find nice mild weather without the crowds.
To choose: If the road trip is your thing
Autobahns in Germany (called highways) look great and road users tend to stay in their lane and drive in an orderly fashion. Note that the speed limit is higher on freeways than freeways in many other countries and everyone drives on the right side of the road, but once you get used to it you’ll be riding with the best of between them.
If you want to swap the driver’s seat for a mug or two along the way, you can easily explore Germany’s charming medieval towns, beer scene and bustling cities via the public transport system – that’s simple to use and almost always on time.
Where to go next: Driving is a great way to experience Norway’s many stunning landscapes. Road infrastructure connects many sites, while car ferries and tunnels weaving through the fjords add to this epic road trip experience.
Pick: If you’re looking for that heavenly Pacific Island getaway
Fiji’s beach resorts offer a plethora of options for every type of vacationer with couples, families and even solo travelers on a well catered for budget. Resorts are a great way to learn about island life and many offer the opportunity to experience the cultural aspects of Fijian life through song and dance performances. For your dose of wildlife and nature, you need to get in the water – the coral and sea life are astounding.
Where to go next: Cool and breezy, Costa Rica has beautiful beaches and resorts as well as plenty of options for backpackers – and no one leaves without rave reviews about the local wildlife.
Pick: If you’re a sun worshiper looking for the perfect beach
Tourism is on the road to recovery in the Philippines after the COVID-19 shutdowns and the devastating Super Typhoon Rai in December. The Southeast Asian archipelago of 700 islands offers under-the-radar tropical beaches, world-class surfing spots, UNESCO World Heritage sites and arguably one of the best beaches in the world to visit. Boracay which, after closing in 2017 due to overtourism issues, is back with a new sustainable approach to tourism.
Where to go next: Oman is another otherworldly destination. And while it offers a completely different vibe to Japan, it’s still a great place for travelers looking for a mix of easy exploration and exciting new experiences.
Choose: If you want an epic adventure, either sweet or action-packed
New Zealand is reopening its doors to visitors after a long period of isolation. The pocket rocket of any trip, it offers an unbeatable range of activities for foodies, culture seekers and thrill seekers. And thanks to its relatively compact size and excellent transport links, you can hike through spectacular wilderness one minute, hop in a car and drink wines at a local winery a few hours later and be in Middle-earth. the next morning with a visit to some of the the Lord of the Rings filming locations. New Zealand is a popular stop on the Southern Hemisphere traveller’s trail. So you’ll find plenty of fellow travelers if you need to go skydiving, stargazing, or oyster tasting.
Where to go next: New Zealand will have left an impression, so the next step will have to be one hell of a punch. With breathtaking scenery, sizzling steaks, wine tastings, tango lessons and nightlife dancing until dawn, Argentina delivers. It can take a lot longer to get from A to B, but once you master the transportation system, you’ll be spoiled for choice for epic experiences.
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This article was first published on November 24, 2017 and updated on February 18, 2022