I never thought I’d find myself in search of the best ukulele. I’ve never been a good guitarist. Why would I want to join the many backpackers who already irritate the locals with their endless renditions of Somewhere Over The Rainbow? Well.. for many of us, travel comes at a cost. In my case, it’s the lack of access to my drum kit and piano. Something inside me needs to lose itself playing an instrument. Unfortunately, the instruments I’ve spent my life honing in on are not plausible travel buddies. The Ukulele, on the other hand, is exactly that.
What makes the ukulele such a good instrument for travel?
- Price – You’d be hard pushed to find a more affordable instrument, without limiting yourself to the recorder. For $50 USD you can find yourself a decent instrument complete with case.
- Weight – Ukuleles are light as light can be, weighing little more than your average book. Very good news if you’re going to be hauling your instrument around the world.
- Size – It goes without saying that size matters, at least when it comes to choosing what to take with you on your travels. A ukulele may not fit in your pocket, but for what it can do, it comes in a pleasingly small package.
- Versatility – With a little imagination, the uke can easily double up as a drum. If you don’t believe me, check out the video below where James Hill shows us exactly what the ukulele (or perhaps, he) is capable of.
How do you choose which size of ukulele to travel with?
Ukuleles come in various sizes. Traditionally speaking, you have the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Given you’re looking for an instrument to travel with, lets just cut the last 3 of those options out of the picture. If you want to play at home, by all means, explore the others, but for now, let’s just pretend they don’t even exist!
So… you’re either going to want a soprano ukulele (which is, by the way, the most popular size and what you almost certainly are thinking of when you bring the instrument to mind) or the increasingly popular (and even smaller) sopranissimo, which can be as small as 40cm long!
The Best Ukulele Brands
One aspect that comes into play when choosing your ukulele is the brand. While brand name doesn’t dictate everything, it can influence quality and reliability, so it’s important to keep in mind.
Here are a few ukulele brands to keep an eye out for:
- Malani is a brand that was created during the Ukulele revolution in 2010 by Dangleberry Music. Malani ukuleles are made in the UK by musicians who understand what makes a good instrument.
- Stagg was established in Belgium in 1995. Their mission is to provide reliable instruments to musicians of all levels.
- Mahalo is the world’s best-known ukulele brand and was established in 1999.
- Martin Smith started making ukuleles in 1916 and has developed a following of collectors who refuse to play ukuleles from any other brand.
- Tiger Music is a UK-based brand strives to source all of their products in an ethical manner.
- Kala is a California, USA brand known for the quality and value of their ukuleles.
- Lohanu is a brand from Canada, whose name combines the words ‘love,’ ‘ohana,’ and ‘unity’ to form their name, and offers unconditional lifetime warranties.
- Hola! Music is a brand that caters to musicians all over the world with their high-quality ukuleles.
- Donner creates their ukuleles with high-quality craftsmanship using carefully selected wood and checking each instrument with a hand feeling process.
- EVERJOYS is an online brand delivering quality ukuleles at an affordable price.
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about a collection of best ukulele brands, check out your travel options!
The links to online stores (like Amazon) on this page are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate South East Asia Backpacker earns from qualifying purchases. We always write our reviews before checking whether affiliate links are available.
What’s the Best Ukelele For Beginners or Advanced Players?
Top 5 Ukuleles on Amazon.com (USA)
1. Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele
To carry a piece of California with you wherever you go, choose a Kala soprano ukulele.
Even beginning ukulele players will appreciate the rosewood fingerboard and bridge combined with the satin finish. With fret position marks and geared tuners, playing your ukulele will be a breeze, so you can just let the music flow through you.
In line with the free feeling of California, the carry bag for this ukulele is more like a cloth sack than a proper case, so just keep in mind that you’ll need to handle your ukulele carefully, or invest in a separate case.
2. Ukulele Soprano Size Bundle from Lohanu
For a full setup that gets you ready to play, look to Lohanu.
For a reasonable price, you get your soprano ukulele, strap, strap buttons, tuner, case, 2 picks, pick holder and an extra set of strings! This is the best ukulele for beginners looking for value.
To top off your new collection of ukulele equipment, your new Lohanu instrument will have a beautiful and classic sapele and mahogany finish.
3. Hola! Music HM-121MG+ Deluxe Mahogany Soprano Ukulele Bundle
Wherever you find yourself in the world, Hola! Music has your back when it comes to investing in a new ukulele. Their soprano ukulele bundle comes with a padded carry case, strings, and picks so that you can pluck your favourite chords right after taking the instrument out of its box.
Made from smooth mahogany, the fingerboard and bridge of this ukulele are walnut, creating an aesthetically attractive tone contrast. With a thin layer of lacquer, the wood remains warm and natural-looking.
4. Donner Soprano Ukulele Mahogany
Complete with a carry bag, strap, and clip-on tuner, the Donner soprano ukulele supports seamless transitions for travelling musicians. The 21-inch size of this ukulele is balanced by the rich sound produced as a result of the mahogany body and advanced nylon strings.
With marked frets and a rosewood fingerboard and bridge, this Donner ukulele keeps your playing experience comfortable and convenient, no matter where in the world you are.
5. EVERJOYS Soprano Ukulele Beginner Pack
The best ukulele for beginner travellers may just be the EVERJOYS soprano instrument. Not only is the ukulele itself made from quality, eco-friendly wood, but the other elements of the pack are super helpful. You’ll be able to get up to speed with the included How to Play handbook and keep your ukulele shining with the microfiber polishing cloth.
Available in a variety of colours for a very affordable price, the EVERYJOYS pack may be just what you need to jumpstart your ukulele dreams.
Top 5 Ukuleles on Amazon.co.uk
1. Malani Best Black Soprano Ukulele with Bag
If you’re looking for a beginners ukulele to take with you on the road, consider the Malani Soprano Ukulele. Music should be enjoyable and the Malani beginner ukulele comes in a variety of colours to add vibrancy to your travels. Don’t be fooled by the size of this ukulele, its tone packs a strong punch.
One of the best ukulele brands, Malani even provides a carrying bag and a chord chart and songbook to get you started!
2. Stagg US10 Traditional Soprano Ukulele
Choosing the best ukulele depends on many personal preferences, so if you’re looking for a traditional style, check out the Stagg soprano ukulele. While it is available in other colours, the dark natural tone will inspire you to put your best ukulele skills on display!
This 21-inch ukulele with geared pegs for easy and stable tuning is perfect for hitting the road. Just put it in its carry bag and go!
3. Mahalo MR1BK Soprano Ukulele
When reputation is important to you, consider investing in a ukulele from Mahalo, the best ukulele brand in the world. Not only will you get sturdy quality and geared heads for smooth tuning, but you’ll be able to express your personality by choosing from a wide range of bright colours.
The new and improved model, released in 2015, is made with Aquila Super Nylgut strings and comes with a convenient bag for comfortable travels.
4. Martin Smith Soprano Ukulele – Natural Wood
With a cult following, Martin Smith has clinched the role of best brand for ukulele enthusiasts. Choosing this soprano ukulele means you’re getting an instrument crafted with a combination of history and customer satisfaction in mind.
Whichever Martin Smith ukulele you choose will come nylon strung and with a high-gloss finish. So, go for a pop of colour, if it speaks to you! The included carry bag will take you around the world.
5. Tiger Music Natural Soprano Ukulele with Bag
When it comes to ethics, in terms of material sourcing, Tiger Music produces a wonderful guilt-free ukulele. With your conscience clear, you will enjoy the natural tone and feel of this instrument, as you tune with the geared heads in preparation for your next overseas street performance.
You’ll find yourself playing comfortably for hours with this ukulele’s easy to grip neck and light strings. If and when you’re ready to pack it in for the day, zip up your uke in its carry bag and head back to base.
So there you have it…
Whether you’re an expert or just starting to dabble with ukuleles, choosing the right one to carry with you on your travels will set the tone for your musical experience. Remember to think about size, versatility, and brand when making your decision. Enjoy your search, the ukulele is a fun and charming instrument, so pick one that suits your personality and start playing!
Join Over 25,000 Happy Backpackers in Our Facebook Group!
Find travel buddies. Get advice. Have all your questions answered by travellers on the ground in Southeast Asia right now.