If you’re pondering the possibilities of putting your passport to good use with a first time trip beyond the borders of the USA, then this list is for you. Have a look (and dream big) as we share our 10 favorite countries perfect for folks traveling internationally for the first time.

Canada

Visiting America’s northern neighbor is an ideal way to establish some international cred quick and easy. And even though Canada is probably the country in the world that’s most similar to the United States, you invariably will be surprised by how different things can be up there (that’s especially the case in French-speaking Quebec). For the uninitiated, Canada’s vast natural beauty can surprise you as well. World-class skiing and whale watching in British Columbia, nights out on the town in cosmopolitan Toronto, tracing the ancient trails of Viking explorers in far-flung Newfoundland…what’s not to love, eh?

Chile

The border and coastline of Chile traces a long and skinny sliver along South America’s western shore. This means that this friendly and economically stable Spanish-speaking country is home to a variety of beaches and landscapes, including the high plains desert of Atacama, some of the most dramatic peaks in the Andes, and the wild and surreal Patagonia in the far south. Interspersed among all this natural beauty are Chile’s famed vineyards, scenic seaside towns such as Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, and the bustling capital city of Santiago.

France

Famous for its fine wine, haute cuisine, amazing art, rich history, and of course its own distinctive joie de vivre, France has been winning over the hearts of its foreign guests for centuries. From its rugged Atlantic coast to the west, its majestic Alps in the east, and the sunny Mediterranean coast to the south (and a whole lot of wine country in between), France is also one of the easiest countries to travel through (no matter how mal your Français might be) with good airports, rail links, roads, and ports of call. Whatever you’re into, odds are they’re doing it with panache in France.

Ireland

ireland countryside

For many Americans that “Old Country” experience they crave so much awaits them on the Emerald Isle. Whether catching an impromptu live music performance in a country pub in County Kerr, shopping for farm fresh treats in the famed food markets of Cork, or discovering Dublin’s ancient past, visitors to the compact Republic of Ireland are often astounded by the love and pride the Irish have for their culture and how cheerfully accommodating they are when sharing it with those visiting from abroad. An ideal time away from the US most certainly can be yours with nary a hassle had in Ireland.

Italy

As the saying goes, all roads lead to Rome. But why stop there when the same said autostrada also leads to the storied canals of Venice, the glamorous boutiques of Milan, the otherworldly beauty of the Amalfi Coast and…we could go on (and on) about all the fabulous places to visit in Italy. But perhaps it’s best to sum things up by saying no other country offers such accessible depth to understand European culture and “The West” than Italy. Plus, the food’s fantastic, the beaches are wonderful, and practically everybody walks around looking effortlessly like they’re fashion models.

Mexico

Similar to what we were saying a few paragraphs above about Canada, going to Mexico is an equally easy and affordable way to become an instantly international jetsetter. But surely there must be other reasons to head south of the border beside the opportunity to say you’ve traveled abroad? Well, amigo, how about some of the tastiest food on the planet, arguably the world’s best beach resorts, and ancient Aztec and Mayan ruins for starters? Seriously, for bang-for-your-buck, phenomenal hospitality and a memorable time away, it’s hard to beat Mexico.

New Zealand

Hey, if it’s good enough for Gandalf (and for all the LOTR and Hobbit films to be shot there), then New Zealand is good enough for you, especially if you’re an outdoors lover who likes a bit of adventure. The country’s mostly rural (and largely wild) South Island is New Zealand at its most scenic with ginormous mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rainforests. As far away and exotic as New Zealand may seem, they still speak English as the first language, have a coffee culture second to none, and most importantly, go out of their way to make visitors feel at home and welcome.

South Africa

If the wonders of an African safari isn’t reason enough to travel the world, what is? Sure, you’ll have plenty of options for unbelievable encounters with wildlife across the African continent with some of the best safaris going in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, and Botswana. But South Africa is probably the best bet for less experienced travelers still keen to have a safari experience. The country’s infrastructure is the most developed in Africa and there’s a quality, top-rated safari outfitter catering to almost all budgets and expectations. Beyond the chance to see lions, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, and more in their natural habitat, SA’s big draws include the fun-loving and panoramic city of Cape Town, the surfer culture of the eastern coast, and one of the world’s most stunning landscapes.

Thailand

It’s hard to think of a destination as welcoming as Thailand or hosts more gracious than the Thai people. The big city lights of Bangkok beckon those seeking urban thrills. Indeed, it often tops the list of most visited cities in the world. For a more meditative vacation, there’s the upland serenity of Chiang Mai. Thailand’s beaches are among the most gorgeous and beloved in Asia as well – whether you’re looking for a nonstop full moon party or a quiet get-away-from-it-all holiday. Wherever you venture in Thailand you’ll find a hospitality industry geared to making sure you have a lovely time enjoying all this friendly and fun country has to offer.

United Kingdom

With its many tiny villages and megacity London, England is one of the world’s most dynamic destinations. But that’s just one part of the United Kingdom equation. There’s Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to consider too. And all of them are definitely worth considering for your first overseas itinerary. As is the case with mostly anywhere, it’s the people who make the place. No matter if you’re in Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, or Cardiff, you’ll feel welcomed by the Brits. Nevertheless, the pretty countryside, eons of history, and a vast array of attractions mean the UK is ideal for any and all travelers looking for a memorable trip.

Ready to start filling your passport with more travel stamps? What are you waiting for? Your adventure starts right here!

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About The Author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.