Nothing beats the rush you get waiting on the tarmac for your flight overseas to roll down the runway. There’s the excitement of the unknown, the jitters that come with taking on something new and the anticipation of what’s to come. It is something we have all yearned for over the past two years.
Whether you’ve already begun to stretch your travel wings or have yet to take your passport for a spin, taking your first big trip is a rite of passage both life-changing and nerve-inducing. You can’t predict what is going to happen once you touch down, but you can ensure a softer landing by choosing the right place to begin your adventure.
Before planning your trip, make sure to check Lonely Planet’s Health Hub for the latest updates on the pandemic, 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.
Beach life doesn’t get much better than Thailand’s exotic isles © Natalia Siiatovskaia / Shutterstock
Choose: If you want a mix of culture, beach life, wilderness and cuisine.
You’ll most likely land in Bangkok and the zing of Thailand’s capital is just a taste of what the country has in store for you. Stroll the frenzied streets of Khao San Road, eat your body weight in pad Thai and explore Bangkok’s myriad magnificent temples; then head north for jungle adventures or south for brilliant beaches on paradise isles.
Thailand has a well-established tourism infrastructure making it easy to navigate, yet offers a strong dose of adventure; perfect for first-timers looking for a change of culture with a safety net.
Where to go next: Cambodia is great next stop after tackling Thailand. It offers plenty of those Southeast Asian draws – breathtaking temples, stunning landscapes, lip-smacking cuisine – but with a more off-the-beaten-track feel.
Spot elk amongst Canada’s epic wilds © Natalia Siiatovskaia / Shutterstock
Choose: If you want a lot of variety on one trip
Canadians are renowned for being a friendly bunch – don’t be shy, strike up a conversation and you might scoop up some insider tips from the locals along the way. Being such an enormous country, Canada offers a vast range of travel experiences: spot wildlife such as bears, bison, elk and moose in Alberta; catch the Northern Lights in the Northwest Territories; soak up a blend of North American and European city culture in Québec. Best of all, if you want to experience everything Canada has to offer all you need is time, as domestic flight, train and bus connections are plentiful and frequent.
Where to go next: With mountain ranges, desert-scapes, bustling cities, cool coastal towns, lost-in-time regions and plenty of ground to cover, the USA is the perfect one-stop-shop for a new traveler.
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Porto combines European city life with an old-world elegance © Diana Rui / Shutterstock
Choose: As a great entry point for a trip to the European continent
Portugal is easy to get around and relatively less-traveled in comparison to its neighbors, meaning fewer tourists and shorter lines for top-drawer attractions.
Capital city Lisbon and rising star Porto are attracting an increasing number of visitors so you’ll find plenty of like-minded travelers here. Start your Portuguese journey in one of these hubs for a taste of quintessential European city life, then head into the countryside for a slower pace and some off-the-beaten-track adventures.
Where to go next: Malta is another European gem perfect for new travelers. It’s laid-back and compact, making exploration a breeze. Plus if you come outside of the summer season, you’ll still find beautiful balmy weather without the crowds.
Choose: If road tripping is your thing
The highways in Germany (known as autobahns) are superb and road users tend to stay in their lanes and drive in an orderly fashion. Note that the speed limit is higher on autobahns compared to motorways in many other countries and everyone drives on the right side of the road, but once you’re used to it you’ll be whizzing along with the best of them.
If you want to swap the driver’s seat in favor of a stein or two along the way, you can easily explore Germany’s charming medieval towns, beer scene and buzzing cities via the public transport system – it’s simple to use and almost always on time.
Where to go next: Driving is a great way to see Norway’s many stunning landscapes. The road infrastructure connects plenty of sights, while car ferries and tunnels that weave in and out of fjords add to that epic road trip experience.
Fijian people performing the lighting of the beach torches © Ignacio Moya Coronado/ Shutterstock
Choose: If you’re looking for that paradise Pacific island getaway
Fiji resorts offer a plethora of options for every type of holidaymaker with couples, families and even solo travelers on a budget well catered for. Resorts are a great way to ease into island life and many offer the opportunity to experience the cultural aspects of Fijian life through song and dance performances. For your fix of wildlife and nature, you need to get in the water – the coral and sea life is 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 of the local wildlife.
Puerto Princesa underground river and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Philippines Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery
Choose: If you are a sun worshipper in search of the perfect beach
Tourism is on the road to recovery in the Philippines after COVID-19 closures and December’s devastating Super-typhoon Rai. The Southeast Asian archipelago of 700 islands offers under-the-radar tropical beaches, world-class surf spots, UNESCO World Heritage sites and arguably one of the best beaches in the world in 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 good place for travelers looking for a mix of easy exploration and exciting new experiences.
From middle-of-nowhere wilderness to Middle-earth, New Zealand abounds with incredible adventures © Blue Planet Studio / Shutterstock
Choose: If you want an epic adventure, whether mellow or action packed
New Zealand is reopening to visitors after a long period in isolation. A pocket rocket of all things travel, it offers an unbeatable array of activities for foodies, culture-lovers and thrill-seekers. And thanks to its relatively compact size and brilliant transport links, you can be hiking in spectacular wilderness one minute, hop in a car and be quaffing wines at a local cellar a few hours later and be in Middle-earth the morning after with a visit to some of the Lord of the Rings film set locations. New Zealand is a popular stop on the Southern Hemisphere traveler’s trail so you’ll find plenty of other travelers should you find yourself in need of skydiving, stargazing or oyster-tasting buddy.
Where to go next: New Zealand will have left an impression, so the next stop will need to pack one hell of a punch. With jaw-dropping landscapes, sizzling steaks, wine-tasting, tango classes and dance-till-dawn nightlife, Argentina delivers. It may take considerably longer to get from A to B, but once you get the hang of the transport system, you’ll be spoilt for epic experiences.
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This article was first published on November 24, 2017 and updated on February 18, 2022