Imagine lounging all day by the pool, lingering for hours at a museum, or rallying for a spontaneous adventure�all without having to crosscheck travel plans with someone else. Freedom to come and go as you please is just one reason solo travel is on the rise; a recent American Express survey found that 16 percent of Americans said they will take a trip alone, up 12 percent from last year. New to solo travel? Start by choosing cities that are safe, friendly and not too remote (bonus points for spots where English is spoken prevalently). For inspiration, Startle.com editors chose four prime places to start your solo world tour.
Somewhat underrated as a travel destination, Berlin is a hub of history and modernity, glamour and grit. Traveling alone is a great way to take in the magnitude of Berlin�s heady past, unfiltered and without distractions. For example, visiting stark memorials such as the Berlin Wall site or the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (an unsettling configuration of 2,711 concrete, coffin-shaped slabs) is a profoundly contemplative experience solo.
The city is also quite safe and its residents �ber-polite; travelers can get around easily via the zippy U-Bahn system, a clean, inexpensive underground subway convenient to major sites.
Don�t miss: Snap pictures in front of Brandenburg Gate, Berlin�s triumphant�and last remaining�arched gate. Also, KaDaWe (short for Kaufhaus des Westens) is Europe�s largest department store, and gives London�s Harrods a run for its money. The expansive sixth floor Food Hall is full of mouthwatering delights from German wurst and beer to French cr�pes and Asian noodles.
Stay here: Hotel Adlon Kempinski is one of Berlin�s most luxurious hotels and you�ll never bore of people-watching in the lobby. The hotel is known for catering to celebs and heads of state, as is its exclusive downstairs nightclub, FELIX Club (don�t worry, hotel guests get past the velvet rope). It�s also centrally located to major sites like Brandenburg Gate.
Eat here: Curry 36 is one of the best spots (and yes, a bit touristy) to experience currywurst�the spicy sausage-and-ketchup specialty of the German capital. Scarf it down with a beer while standing at one of the outdoor tables.
If there�s time: Take the U-Bahn to Charlottenburg Palace for a glimpse of how Prussian royalty lived. Construction on the impeccably preserved residence (the largest palace in Berlin) began in 1695 as a summer home for Sophie Charlotte, wife of Prussian Elector Frederick III.
Given Australia�s laid-back, anything-goes nature, this country is one of the most welcoming to solo travelers. Sydney is English-speaking, has a great walking culture and is full of exciting, active things to do on your own: beaches, museums, shopping. You�re bound to meet many locals along the way, even if you�re shy�Australians are known to introduce themselves.
Don�t miss: Go under the �sails� at the Sydney Opera House. Sure, the official tour is a bit cheesy, but travelers often race to the ticket counter after hearing a bit of the groundbreaking acoustics firsthand. Also, check out Manly Beach, which is the sporty stepsister to more glamorous (and hyped) Bondi Beach. Getting here is half the fun: Take the Manly Ferry from Sydney Harbour for a wind-snapped, 30-minute ride with stunning views.
Stay here: The luxe and recently renovated Park Hyatt Sydney is perched on the Sydney Harbour waterfront. Guest rooms are swathed in ivory and chocolate hues, and each features a private balcony with stellar views of the Opera House.
Eat here: Pull up a seat at the huge marble bar at Sushi-e, located at the Establishment Hotel. Take in the swank scene and order the super fresh local fish while marveling at chef Nobuyuki Ura�s work. Try the Sydney rock oysters (served with salmon roe, cucumber and ponzu sauce) and the eponymous �Establishment Roll� (silky tuna, avocado, mayo, and cucumber rolled with black and white sesame seeds).
If there�s time: Rent a car and take the scenic drive to Hunter Valley wine region and taste the area�s acclaimed shirazes. Stop at Tempest Two, the chic, modern winery complex that feels like a sexy lounge. It houses a restaurant and cheese shop, too.
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
From the ocean to the rainforest to the volcanoes, this lush locale is perfect for adventure-seeking travelers who want to embrace la pura vida. Solo travel here is all about living pressure-free. Costa Rica is the kind of place where surfer culture abounds and some �hotels� rent hammocks for $5 on the beach (thus, luxury accommodations are quite affordable). The rugged eco-destination offers ample opportunity for self-discovery and to step out of your comfort zone.
Don�t miss: Zip-lining in Manuel Antonio National Park. You�ll make fast friends with fellow group members as you fly through tropical treetops, surrounded by countless species of plants and wildlife�think sloths, iguanas and toucans. Note: If you happen to be there during rainy season (May to mid-November), canopy tours usually continue as planned, so just be prepared to don a garbage bag during your slightly slippery tour.
Stay here: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica is located on the Papagayo Peninsula on the country�s west coast. Near the beach and with comfortable rooms that capture the island�s exotic flavor, this luxury�and secure�hotel sits on a hillside overlooking sandy beaches. Keep an eye out for the monkeys that live nearby. (If you really want to detach from it all, the hotel�s new Disconnect to Reconnect program will take your iPhone and return it to you 24 hours later with a new phone cover.)
Eat here: If you�re up for a scenic road trip, head to the Mercado Central in capital city San Jose (it�s about 125 miles from Guanacaste). The market is a hectic maze of vendors and food stands, where you can sample local favorites like casado (rice, beans, meat, plantains, tortilla and salad), ceviche and arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Wash it down with an ice-cold Imperial beer and pick up some souvenirs.
If there�s time: Head to the shore and try a surf camp in Tamarindo�it�s one of the most popular places to surf on Costa Rica�s Pacific coast. For rookies, waves have among the world�s best learn-to-surf breaks.
You may have heard that it�s illegal to buy chewing gum in Singapore, and that�s mostly true (exceptions are made for �medicinal� gum sold at pharmacies). But that fact hints at Singapore�s immaculate cleanliness and orderliness�a much-appreciated backdrop for a solo travel experience. Given the melting pot population here, it�s also an ideal destination for submerging in a swirl of cultures�Indian, Malay, Chinese. Many of the city-state�s worldly locals speak English fluently, making it an accessible choice for first-time travel to Asia.
Don�t miss: Linger in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a living monument to the history of the country�s economy, trade and natural resources. The National Orchid Garden here is simply gorgeous. Also, save some energy (and money) for word-class shopping on Orchard Road, a retail hub where many shops stay open late.
Stay here: You can partake in Singapore�s nightlife scene at the Marina Bay Sands. Shows, glam casinos, dozens of restaurants and luxe accommodations are some of what this hotel has to offer. Plus, you just might meet some fashionable friends hanging out by the glitzy infinity pool.
Eat here: No trip to Singapore is complete without experiencing �hawker food,� the city�s version of street food. Chomp Chomp Food Centre is the place to taste local favorites, like fried carrot cake (which, amusingly, contains zero carrots) and barbecued stingray.
If there�s time: Get a ticket to September�s annual Singapore Grand Prix, which is usually a celeb-packed, festive event and the only race on the Formula One circuit held at night.